Tiki Barber: Dallas Cowboys Have a Tony Romo Problem

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Growing up in southwest Virginia, my football loyalties laid with the team that was closest in proximity to me, the Washington Redskins. Joe Gibbs was the best coach ever, the “Hogs” were mean, and Doug Williams was my hero in Super Bowl XXII.

As you can imagine, though, spending my entire professional career with the New York Giants turned my blood blue and my loyalties changed. However, the one constant through all these years has been the same – my dislike for the Dallas Cowboys!  They were the greatest rivalry in football with us during my impressionable years in the mid-80′s and 90′s and provided 20-plus heated intra-divisional sparrings with “Big D” during my playing days.

Although I’ve always rooted against the Cowboys, I’ve developed a slight fascination with their current starting quarterback, Tony Romo. Maybe it was because his first real game action as an NFL player came against my Giants in 2006. Our defense had just systematically dismantled, sacked and essentially ended Drew Bledsoe’s season and career, when Romo replaced him in the second half of our first meeting that year. Or maybe it’s because everything seems bigger or more hyped in Dallas, including the ascent of Tony Romo.

I’ve actually enjoyed watching Tony grow, and stumble, into a quarterback in this league. Some of the things that he does are amazing – the spot on throws, the resiliency after getting pounded, Jessica Simpson… Some of the things he does, though, are downright baffling. Week 4 with three INT’s including two pick sixes to lose to the Detroit Lions, the paparazzi vacations, Jessica Simpson…

In truth, I do think that he does have the makings of an elite signal-caller in the years to come, but, and this is a big but, he’s got to have play-calling help because if you put it in his hands too much, you’re dialing up disappointment.

There’s an old axiom in football that you need offensive balance to win football games. Too much passing (unless you’re Peyton Manning) and you risk turnovers, too much running and you can’t move the chains or score points. Too often over the last two years, Romo’s throw ratio has far exceeded the Cowboys’ run frequency, and it has proven itself in the “L” column.

This season, in three of the Cowboys’ four losses, Romo has thrown the ball on 63% or more of their offensive downs. In three of the Cowboys’ four wins this year, Romo has thrown the ball on less than 60% of their offensive downs. To the layman, that may not seem like a big deal because it only averages out to roughly two plays or so depending on the number of offensive snaps in the game. However, NFL games are literally decided by two or three plays a game, and in Dallas’ two biggest point differential wins this year, Romo has only thrown the ball 41% and 51% of the offensive plays.

What if just two of Romo’s passes against the Lions were running plays instead of those two pick sixes, especially since they were winning by 24 points before their lead started to collapse? Sounds crazy? Think about it for a moment, the concept is not so far-fetched.

No NFL coach has a prism that can tell him the exact ratio that will work to help his team win, but when I watch the Dallas Cowboys, whether it be with ire or admiration, I see a quarterback with a ton of upside potential. It’d be a shame to wipe out all of Tony Romo’s good qualities because when asked to do too much, he drops the ball…

Tiki Barber is a former running back for the New York Football Giants. He played 10 seasons with the Giants, and holds every major team rushing record, amassing a total of 10,449 rushing yards and is one of only three running backs in NFL history with 10,000 yards rushing, 500 receptions and 5,000 yards receiving (Marcus Allen and Marshall Faulk). Tiki has a long history in broadcast and internet media, with stints at Fox News, NBC News and Sports, and Yahoo! Sports. You can contact / follow Tiki on his new Twitter account @Barber_Tiki