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Grading the 'Boys in 2010, Part X: Quarterbacks | The DC Times

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Grading the ‘Boys in 2010, Part X: Quarterbacks

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Jonathan Bales

Already graded: Defensive lineinside linebackersoutside linebackerssafetiescornerbackstight endswide receivers, running backs, and offensive line.


Tony Romo Passer Rating by Location

Thus far, I have dissected the 2010 play of the Cowboys players at every position other than quarterback.  I saved the best for last.

Grading quarterback is much different than doing so for the other positions in that statistics, while plentiful for the position, are less indicative of a quarterback’s success than for other players.  The primary responsibility of a quarterback is to lead his team to victory, no matter what it takes.  Some quarterbacks put up huge numbers, but simply are not winners.

Tony Romo is not one of those quarterbacks.  Yes, he has the ability to put up flashy stats, but he is also a tremendous leader.  While that statement is far from a consensus opinion, particularly among ill-informed fans, I whole-heartedly believe Romo leads by example and is even more vocal than most realize.

Romo’s detractors will point to the success of Jon Kitna this season as evidence that Romo thrives because of the offense, not any elite ability of his own.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Cowboys were successful with Kitna this season because they made acquiring a top-notch backup quarterback a priority.  Kitna is superior to many of the starting quarterbacks in the league, but he’s not on the level of Romo.

Nonetheless, I have compiled a wide range of statistics and analysis on both Romo and Kitna.  Some of these numbers are taken from previous articles, and some are unique.  The stats (representing on-field play), though, will only make up half of my final grade  for the quarterbacks.  The other half will consist of leadership and intangibles.


  • Tony Romo

On-Field Play: B

There’s no doubt that Romo struggled some during his 5+ games in 2010.  He threw seven interceptions–just two less than his 16-game total in 2009.  Still, it wasn’t as if Romo was horrible.  He was on pace to set a career-high for completion percentage (by far, at 69.5 percent).  Despite the pedestrian 11:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Romo’s 94.5 passer rating was on par with his 95.5 career rating.

Here are a few other notes on Romo’s 2010 play:

  • Romo was the most inaccurate when throwing over the middle of the field this season.  That stat seems to be susceptible to fluctuations, as he was actually the most accurate over the middle during the prior season.
  • His lack of accuracy over the middle is reflected in his location-based passer ratings.  The highest passer rating Romo recorded in zone over the middle of the field was just 96.0, compared to 118.2 on the left side and a perfect 158.3 on the right side.
  • Romo wasn’t very successful with his checks in 2010.  The offense averaged 0.72 extra yards-per-pass on Romo’s pass audibles, but a full yard less per carry on Romo’s run checks.

Leadership/Intangibles: B

Romo reportedly put in just as much time after his season-ending injury as he did before it.  He helped Kitna in any way possible.  Let’s not forget this guy also tried to return to the field just minutes after fracturing his collarbone.

  • Jon Kitna

On-Field Play: C+

Jon Kitna Passer Rating by Location

People tend to mold their interpretation of events based on preconceived notions.  I talk a lot about how fans tend to overvalue the play of rookies/undrafted players/backups due to low expectations.  Meanwhile, high-profile players get devalued because people think they should be at their peak at all times.  This phenomenon is why many have written off Anthony Spencer and, inversely, overvalued Kitna.

Don’t get me wrong–Kitna was really good in 2009 and proved he’s one of the premiere backup quarterbacks in the NFL.  But he’s not Tony Romo.  Not even close.

Kitna put up just a 4:3 interception ratio and 88.9 passer rating.  Let’s be real. . if Romo put up those numbers fans would be calling for his head.

Here’s more of Kitna’s stats in 2010:

  • Kitna was by far the most inaccurate when throwing to the right side of the field (27.2 percent of passes that way were off-target).

  • Kitna’s passer rating was generally superior to Romo’s on short throws, and vice versa on deep throws.  This seems to fit with the respective skill set of each quarterback.  Kitna is a more accurate quarterback who likes to drop back, plant his foot into the ground, and deliver the football in rhythm. It’s difficult to be incredibly accurate 20+ yards downfield, however.  Romo’s accuracy and passer rating is best on long throws not because of his arm, but his legs.  Romo’s mobility allows him to buy time so receivers can get wide open down the field.
  • Amazingly, Kitna threw nearly the exact same number of passes to the left, middle, and right portions of the field.
  • Kitna checked into a run the exact same number of times as a pass.  The ‘Boys averaged nearly a full yard more per rush on Kitna’s checks, but 0.40 less yards-per-pass.

Leadership/Intangibles:  B+

Kitna’s fire is contagious.  Nearly immediately after taking over the starting gig, Kitna became a much more vocal player.  This isn’t a criticism of Romo, but it sure is fun to see that sort of energy from your quarterback.

2010 Overall Quarterback Grades

1. Tony Romo: B (85.0)

  • 2009 Grade: A (94.0)

2.  Jon Kitna: B- (82.0)

  • 2009 Grade: None

I didn’t hand out a grade to third-string quarterback Stephen McGee, but I did see some positives during the season.  He’s very mobile, making things happen with his feet, and his arm is of adequate strength.  He needs to improve upon his decision-making and must become a more accurate passer when in the pocket, but there are signs for optimism.

Still, he’s not ready for extended playing time.  Everyone loves the bench players until they actually have to play.  I’ll leave you with the same Michael Irvin quote I posted in last year’s quarterback grades:

Can we get Drew Bledsoe back out here (for) just a week so you guys can really fall back in love with Tony?  Let’s put Drew Bledsoe back out here, because sometimes when you have a pretty girl for awhile, you forget how pretty she is. But when you throw the ugly girl next to her, you say, ‘No, I’m really doing well.’ Maybe we need to bring Drew out so we know we’re really doing well.

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17 Responses to Grading the ‘Boys in 2010, Part X: Quarterbacks

  1. Vince_Grey says:

    Tough season to grade the QB’s but overall I think you did a great job here.

    I agree with your under/over high pick vs low pick/FA values thought. Personally, I think Kitna got such rave reviews from many because:

    (A) I think many expected the worse after such poor QB play from the backup the previous year.

    (B) Kitna did get us several wins, and the offense did play well overall while he was in there.

    On the second point, IMO the better offensive play and more wins was due to Wade’s exit far more than Kitna’s QB’ing, but I was pleasantly surprised with his play overall.

  2. JJ says:

    JB – I find the Romo bashing at many levels laughable. My only concern with Romo is that he is not 25. Yes, he had some errant passes this year and he’s not as emotional of a leader as Kitna but he wants to win and can win. I still think there is room for growth in Romo and he has not hit his ceiling. And, one of the reasons, (this is for Vince), why I think Wade Wilson falters. Romo can be even better.

    The Kitna pickup was outstanding. He’s a team guy. He’s tough. He’s passionate and a pretty good QB. His overall demeanor provides a spark to the team whether he’s playing or not. Of course, he’s not going to play forever and I hope he can hang in there for a few years.

    Of course, as Romo and Kitna age, I do not believe the next great QB is going to be McGee. A serviceable backup perhaps? Sure. Yet, this may not be an issue for the next 2-3 years but no one wants the Cowboys to tank to be able to draft a QB.

    The Eagles and Packers come to mind when thinking of teams that had good fortune without having to “hit the skids” but it was also the foresight which I truly hope that under the Garrett regime becomes one of the staples (having a plan and executing it) rather than a year by year seat of the pants philosophy (i.e. drafting for backups on a draft year because you over valued the team or drafting for need but miscalculating ability).

    I suspect that an improved defense and OL will do wonders for Romo and have most appreciate what he and Kitna did in 2010 considering how poorly the defense played and with a questionable offensive line.

  3. Sounds cliche, but a QB’s best friend is an effective running game, which we sorely lacked this season. Also, regarding Romo passing completion percentage really doesn’t take into consideration dropped passes. I recall a couple of INTs that were tipped off of the receivers hands as well. Oh and for all the Romo-haters out there, give the “wears his hat backwards and smiled on the sideline, so he can’t be a leader” bullsh*t a rest

  4. Vince–Like I said, I think Kitna did a great job, but if Romo put up those same numbers we’d be killing him for it. If I judged Kitna as a backup, then he probably would have gotten an ‘A.’ Can’t expect much more from your No. 2.

    JJ–Interesting you bring up the Eagles. I was just having a conversation with someone about their ability to “reload” without much of a hiccup. I hate to say it because I despise the Eagles, but their foresight (as you mentioned) is unbelievable. While Philly fans want Andy Reid gone, he’s actually an incredible coach during the game week. Tremendous game plans, awesome schemes…he struggles in-game with clock management and so on, but he’s really an innovative guy. Again, still hate the Eagles :)

  5. beWARE says:

    to me, one of the best examples I’ve seen of Romo’s leadership was in an interview vid of Jason Garrett on the Cowboy website.  It was one of their Cowboy Huddle shows…the first one with Garrett after he was named head coach.

    During the interview they are showing clips of plays/players.  In one of the clips, you see Romo (in street clothes since he’s hurt) talking with Ware/Spencer.  You can’t hear what he is saying but you can tell he’s telling them something he is seeing in the game and he’s got their undivided attention.

  6. OmarJ says:

    i think kitna deserved a better grade

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  8. OmarJ says:

    maybe an 85 equal to romo

  9. Mont Seventeen says:

    I’m sorry but didn’t Kitna lose 16 games in one season, isn’t he 39 or 40? To say he is better than most starters is homerish at best. Say he is a vetran QB that knows the nuances of the game, okay but don’t say he is very good bc he proved in Detroit that he is not!

    Kitna is a broken down QB with some leadership skills that played for a loaded offense, he was on his last leg in Zona and shouldn’t have started.

    a QB is judged on winning… Romo went 1-5 as a QB!

  10. Mont–
    1) In the season Detroit went 0-16, I believe Kitna started four games.

    2) I said he was better than MANY starting QBs, not most. Anyone who frequents this site knows I am far from a homer. But which of these starting quarterbacks is better than Kitna: Delhomme, Alex Smith, Clausen, Campbell, Brohm, etc….

    3) Winning is important, but surely isn’t the sole manner by which we should grade QBs. Is Dilfer a better QB than Marino? Only one won a SB. . .

  11. Mont Seventeen says:

    That Dilfer argument is so stale… One QB out of the entire history of football, that’s your defense for Romo going 1-5, since the Vikes blueprinted how to beat Romo. So we have Dilfer and Brad Johnson, I guess the QB play around the league had nothing to do with that? But that’s not the point… The issue is Kitna and his value. If Kitna was that good he would have fetched more than a broken down CB in return…

    I understand the Romo-lovers have to support Kitna bc he outplayed Romo in 2010 and we all know it can’t be Romo… It has to be the resurgence of a 39 year old QB.

    Well the excuses are getting old… But it looks like Romo-lovers will have the lockout to blame next season.

    Let me ask this… If Kitna was so good, why aren’t teams offering Jerry something for the guy? Why isn’t Jerry trying to get draft picks to improve his 6-10 squad? Its not like Romo is injury prone or McGee shouldn’t be rdy in year 3!

    Kitna sucks, his success in 2010 was predicated on the talent around him and his knowledge of the game… Romo-lovers will never admit that bc it opens up questions ab Romo’s mental approach to the game.

    Saying Kitna is a student of the game is saying Romo is an idiot, bc the talent level is not even close…. So Romo-lovers go with Kitna is better than most QBs.

    Its all good

  12. Mont–No one offered (or are currently offering) anything for Kitna because of his age. He’s still good, but no one is going to give much up for a player that would halt experience of a future franchise QB. And once again, I said he is better than MANY starters, not MOST. I think you’d also prefer Kitna to Delhomme, Brohm, Alex Smith, Jimmy Clausen (right now), etc.

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