Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Mariotti, You Dirty Old Man

I understand how someone like Jay Mariotti could write this. Most of his day is taken up by whining about whiny baseball players, campaigning for (Cubs GM) to be fired, and yelling at Woody Paige. That said it would be nice if he watched a football game now and then, maybe perused the box scores in the USA Today, or even on the internet where he, you know, writes his column.

Anyway, he apparently does read US Weekly, which at least gives him some info on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

I am at a newsstand, staring at the cover of a gossip magazine.

So Jay is one of those guys who walks into the 7/11 and ogles the not-quite-nudie magazines. I just want to get to the back cooler to pick up my Starbucks Doubleshot Energy+Coffee, but no, Jay Mariotti is standing there, rudely blocking the fastest path and forcing me to detour down the cat food/deicer aisle. Just great…

On it is a photo of Jessica Simpson, lamenting the breakup of her relationship with Tony Romo and gushing that she wants him back.

Yeah right. Like you "read the article." Uh huh.

Except the cover refers to him simply as "Tony,'' which is absurd in that it assumes "Tony'' is a major figure in Americana when, in fact, he's an erratic and overhyped quarterback who might be benched before you can say Daisy Dukes.

I was walking down the streets of Ft. Worth the other day (I’m too cool for Dallas. Ft. Worth is underground. It’s dangerous. You fly into Dallas/Ft.Worth and everyone’s like “Hey, I’m in Dallas! Yee Haw!” But not me. I’m all about the wrong side of the tracks. By the way, does anyone know anything fun to do in Ft. Worth?)

Anyway, while I was walking the streets of Ft. Worth I heard a faint rumbling in the distance. AS I approached what I’m sure is a bustling downtown area it grew louder until it became a deafening, Phil Spector-esque wall of sound. The people were shouting in unison, trying to evoke, by sheer force of will, their football savior.
They shouted “We Want Kitna!”

Seldom do I agree with the knee-jerk opinions of retired athletes,

Sorry to be breaking in so often, but this is just a lie. Mariotti does this all the time. He’s nothing but knee jerk. He wants everyone fired. Hell, he even got himself fired by being all super knee-jerky. When you think Mariotti, you think jerk. And that’s halfway to knee jerk.

many of whom are bitter cusses plagued by Contract Envy, Media Envy and other jealousies centered around today's stars. But when it comes to First-Name-Basis Tony,

So now the “first name basis” thing is out of line? Dude, you were quoting Jessica Simpson. She is/was on a first name basis with Tony Romo. Do you expect her to call him Mr. Romo in interviews? If Jessica would have called him her Sweet Baboo would you have extrapolated from that that the entire nation is referring to Tony Romo as Sweet Baboo? Maybe you will redeem yourself with rigorous statistical analysis.

who continues to fluctuate wildly in his fourth season as an NFL starter while smoother operators such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco excel as sophomores,

Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan appear to be pretty good and I don’t want to take anything away from them, but are we really going to rely on two games for our basis of comparison? A lot can go right and wrong in two games. Romo had a great game against a bad Tampa team, and a bad game against what is probably a great Giant defense. Flacco has been good, but one of those good games was against the Chiefs (The other was San Diego). Ryan has played against Carolina and Miami. The Giants probably have the best defense out of the group, and it’s not surprising that a QB might struggle against them.

Besides that though:

Completion Percentage, career:

Romo – 63.1
Ryan – 62.0
Flacco – 60.4

Yards per attempt, career :

Romo – 8.1
Ryan – 7.8
Flacco – 7.0

Romo does have a higher interception percentage, but his touchdown percentage also blows the other two out of the water:

Romo – 6.2%
Ryan – 4.2%
Flacco – 3.8%

it's hard to disagree with the harsh assessments of Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman. Considering all are Hall of Famers who've won Super Bowl rings when Romo has yet to win a playoff game, they have the credibility necessary to criticize Romo's considerable underachievement in one of pro football's most scrutinized jobs, QB of the Dallas Cowboys. And as each periodically weighs in, I find myself nodding at just about every shot taken at Jessica's ex.

As for Emmitt Smith, I think Mariotti may have debacled this argument.

"I don't know why on God's Earth Tony Romo has been anointed a superstar in the National Football League," Dorsett said in a FOX Sports Radio interview. "Tony is very young in his career. Not to say you can't be young in your career and be a superstar because you've got one up there in Minnesota in Adrian Peterson.

“Romo is too young, except he’s not. Because of Adrian Peterson.”

“Also, there was this guy named Tony Dorsett who rushed for 1007 yards and a 4.8 YPC with 12 TDs in only 14 games (and only 4 starts) in his rookie year of 1977, followed by over 1700 yards from scrimmage in his next season.”

But the thing is this: You have a guy who hasn't done much, and quarterbacks in the NFL, most of them go through this growing curve.

I think central bankers relying on the “growing curve” may have caused the recession.

He hasn't gone through that growing curve, but he was anointed this great player all of a sudden. Now he's having to live up to that. And obviously Tony has some deficiencies ... I think the media has given him too much credit for doing nothing. He hasn't done anything really in the NFL to deserve all the recognition and visibility he's gotten so far."

OK, this simply isn’t true. First of all, I don’t think anyone puts Romo up there with Manning and Brady (and I would include Brees too, but what has he ever won? Huh? Tell me!) And second, Tony has been a pretty good QB. Here, look.

He’s also ranked 4th and 11th in DYAR the last two years. I still think the reason that people view Romo as anything but a good QB is his botched hold in the playoffs. Something that really isn’t a starting QB’s job.


Maybe it's as much a commentary on the sizzle of the Cowboys and their P.T. Barnum owner, Jerry Jones. But any perception of Romo as a marquee player, as the TV networks like to sell him, is woefully wrong. He can't win big games, whether it's a critical late-season contest, a playoff game -- he's 5-10 in December and January -- or a game such as the one Sunday night.

I still think this goes back to the botched hold, as previously mentioned. That hold happened after Romo led a drive from the Dallas 28 to the Seattle 2 yard line, and they were only kicking because a replay overturned what was previously ruled a first down by Jason Witten. The review of that game on ESPN contains this sentence:

“Romo was a big reason the Cowboys even made it this far, having turned their season around by winning five of his first six starts after replacing Drew Bledsoe and blossoming into a Pro Bowler.”

In his second playoff loss, the Cowboys fell to the Giants team that would eventually defeat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Tough crowd.

A Week 2 meeting against the New York Giants was turned into a mega-event by Jones, who described it as "bigger than the Super Bowl'' because it was the opening regular-season game of his $1.2 billion, 73-acre colossus of a stadium. From the retractable walls that change from silver to blue (depending on the weather) to the 72-by-160-foot video board that hangs over the field like a high-tech cyclops, Jones rather ridiculously spoke of his new creation in orgasmic terms.

"I can't sleep at night,'' he said.

This leads to all sorts of bizarre questions about Jay Mariotti’s sex life which I think we should all just avoid. Agreed? Agreed. Good.

In other words, Jones wanted dearly to win the game and maximize his thrill.

Still no? Oh Ok. Are you sure? I have a good drug joke? Hutchence/Carradine?

No, I guess you’re right, I don’t want think about it either.

But Romo, who usually plays well in September,

Inspired by the fall colors, the cool breezes, and memories of times long since past…

Can we stop with the “he plays well during X” thing? It’s so very stupid. Maybe the Cowboys have just had better matchups early. Maybe it’s just random. Who knows? What it isn’t, is an arbitrary turn of the calendar. Tony Romo doesn’t wake up on October first having lost his ability to play football.

sabotaged his boss' dream with a dreadful performance -- 13 for 29, 127 yards, a 29.6 passer rating and three killer interceptions, all leading to Giants touchdowns in a 33-31 loss.

Yes, that’s bad.

It followed a strong outing by Romo in a Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay, against whom he threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns.

Wow, that’s pretty good.

This was supposed to be the year when he threaded together consistent games, grew up as a leader without any Terrell Owens distractions and took the Cowboys deep into the postseason. Instead, he already has planted a familiar seed that suggests he's doomed to a career of inconsistency. He lacks the dynamic efficiency and cool that has defined the greatest Dallas quarterbacks, Aikman and Roger Staubach.

I wasn’t really around for Staubach, but when I think Aikman, I think “maybe the greatest offensive line of all time” and “remember that one time when Jason Garrett played great behind said O-Line” and “it sure is easy to pass when Emmitt has you in 2nd and 4 all game.” But that’s just me. I guess. Also, everyone should keep in mind that leaders don’t throw interceptions. I hear Brett Favre was a great leader (the media told me!) and that guy never threw any interceptions.

"I think things happened so quickly for Tony -- in terms of obscurity to, all of a sudden, the national spotlight -- that he hasn't fully grasped what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about," Aikman said in the offseason.

Oh Troy. I know I sort of ripped on you above, but I actually think you’re a pretty solid Hall of Famer and appreciate that you try to bring smarter statistics to your broadcasts. So what gives? Is being the Cowboy quarterback like being a True Yankee? Does the Cowboy QB have to throw twice as far, uphill, while wearing stirrups?

Smith is challenging Romo to be a better leader, accusing him of not "demanding excellence'' from teammates. "I never saw him go snatch somebody up, and say, 'Hey, we can't win like this. We can't have guys jumping offsides. I can't have [a defender] coming at me unabated. Who is making the mistakes up front? Why aren't you picking this guy up? This is not going down this way. If you can't get your job done, get off the football field,' " he said.

Unlike Troy Aikman, who routinely yells at Starbucks baristas for a certain lack of professionalism. Does anyone think that Marion Barber would run harder if Tony Romo was more inspiring? Does DeMarcus Ware fall asleep in the corner after every practice?

Grouchy, old Cowboys, they are not. Having survived and thrived in the Dallas pressure cooker, they know what's required to win championships.

That’s right. You can’t beat a great offensive line, the all-time leading rusher in NFL history, Charles Haley, Deion Sanders in his prime…

No one is seeing a title aura in Romo,

Or, new age bullshit. That's good too. His helmet also violates several tenets of Feng Shui, and his horoscope indicates that stupid, angry scribes will unfairly denigrate his accomplishments.

who takes too many chances and doesn't manage a game as much as he mismanages it. Last year, he has 21 turnovers in 13 games.

Romo threw 26 TDs last year and threw 14 picks. He also fumbled a lot, which is bad. To be specific, he fumbled 13 times. However, he was also incredibly unlucky as his team only recovered 3 of those fumbles. Research (by Football Outsiders) has shown that while creating fumbles is a repeatable skill, recovering them is not, and that fumble recovery tends to regress to the mean. Romo put the ball on the ground too much last year, but he was also terribly unlucky.

This year, he's on the same pace. "There are some throws that you shouldn't attempt to make when you are playing certain teams," Aikman said this week. "We've seen him try and do that from time to time. When you play a team like the Giants, who match up pretty evenly talent wise, you have to be smart about those throws. Interceptions happen more in the playoffs and in bigger games in December. When the games are close, you have to be smart with the football and that has been a problem with Tony. I know the coaching staff is trying to eliminate those mistakes."

Tony Romo has problems, but he’s not exactly an interception machine. He’s always thrown more TDs than picks, and usually a lot more. In 2007 when he threw a career high 19 picks, he also threw a career high 36 TDs. Aikman’s advice is good, but there are many QBs who are far more careless with the ball than is Romo. And when a QB fumbles it’s often not the QBs fault, especially if he’s blindsided. In his glory years, how often did Troy Aikman get pressure from the blind side? Never?

Said Dorsett: "He's not going to be on top of his game week in and week out, because this game is a very fast-moving game and he makes some decisions sometimes -- he's like a gambler man, he takes chances and sometimes those things, he gets bit in the butt by that.''

This is true of every QB. Let’s just move on.

Their reactions are far more severe than his own. After every stumble -- nine times, he has had passer ratings of under 60 -- he flips his cap into backward mode and says he'll try better the next time. "I'm sorry that I wasn't able to play up to the level the rest of the other guys did," Romo said Sunday. "I have to get better at the mistakes I made and I will."

Brett Favre had a passer rating under sixty 55 times. Troy Aikman had a passer rating under sixty 39 times. It happens.

It's undeniable that Romo, as the Cowboys QB and by virtue of some strong performances in less-pressurized moments, has been anointed by the media before proving he deserves top billing. Remember, he emerged from obscurity, signing with Dallas as an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois. Just as major college programs in the Midwest ignored him, so did every NFL front-office boss but Jones. Is it possible the scouts had it right in the beginning?

I really hate crap like this. First of all, if you are on a contending NFL football team, every game is pressure-filled. There are only 16 of them. Sure, some might be more important, but none are unimportant. Second, here Mariotti is making what I call the “Peyton Manning” error. The rub on Manning used to be that he couldn’t win the big game. The error is that once you get late in the season and into the playoffs every game is a big game, and unless you win the Super Bowl, every player on a contending team will, at some point, lose the big game. While it’s true that Romo has been less than stellar in the playoffs, and indeed, late in the season, he has won big games. And if not for the botched hold, he would have a last second game-winning playoff drive under his belt.

He was supposed to flourish under offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but Romo keeps making the same mistakes in the games that matter most. Since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starter in 2006, he has been enabled by Jones, who sorely wants Romo to become a dominant player to validate his oft-doubted status as a talent evaluator. As always, Jones is dabbling in fantasy when reality says Romo might not be a better idea than Jon Kitna, the veteran who wisely was signed as a backup. To no one's surprise, he defended Romo on his radio show this week.

I feel bad for what I’m about to do, because Kitna is actually not a terrible QB, and by all accounts he’s a pretty good guy, but he’s not in Romo’s league in terms of talent or production. Kitna’s career completion percentage is 59.8%. He’s thrown almost as many picks (151) as TDs (152). His career rating is 76.6. He’s had a few good seasons in the past (1999, 2003) but also a ton of absolute stinkers (in 2001 he threw 12 TDs and 22 picks).

Romo is a 63.1% passer. He’s never been anywhere close to throwing as many picks as TDs in a season, and his career mark of 85 TDs/49 Picks is very good. Romo is good for 8.1 YPA, whereas Kitna comes in at 6.6. It’s embarrassing that I have to write this. Jay Mariotti should walk around with a bag over his head and a giant scarlet M on his lapel so that everyone knows he's a moron, for writing this. This guy used to write for a newspaper? For money?

"We have all the confidence in the world in Tony Romo," Jones said. "You'd like for him not to have a day like that, but when everybody is pointing fingers, when it didn't go good, then you want someone who can walk into that huddle in the next snap at practice, the next snap in the ballgame and walk out there and cut and shoot and play like they just won the Super Bowl. That's a great quarterback."

On cue, Romo's coaches and teammates also keep supporting him. "Tony's a fighter," coach Wade Phillips said. "He's going to keep after it."

Sounds like his teammates and coach like him. Almost like he’s some kind of leader or something…

"I know you guys don't see it from our perspective, but he takes a lot of things he does wrong very, very hard,'' center Andre Gurode told reporters. "I can't just imagine how he felt [Sunday] night when he went home. You see the guy [Monday], pat him on the back and say, 'Hey, we're going to correct our mistakes and get better.' ''

That smells like leadership to me…

"The bad thing is when we win, it's all the quarterback, and when we lose it's all the quarterback," cornerback Terence Newman said. "There's times he's played bad and we've picked him up, and there's times we've played bad and Tony's picked us up."

Wow, he really seems to have the locker room. Do you think Jay has now rambled on for so long that he forgot about the first part of this column?

To his credit, Romo often has bounced back from poor games to deliver solid performances the following week, which will be expected Monday night when the Cowboys host reeling Carolina. Last year, he answered a wretched game in Pittsburgh with a 113.8 passer rating in a win over the Giants. "[Quarterback] is certainly a physical position, and you've got to have the physical skills. But, at the end of the day, it's got to be someone that has a tough skin, that's got a high level of willpower,'' Jones said. "Someone that can say, 'Look, I didn't play well that play, that game,' and come back and play outstanding. The greatest of them all had many days as rough as Tony had Sunday.''

Sounds like a solid guy. A warrior, even. Shrugs off the bad, goes out there, yada blah bklsf;af…

But not nearly as many. This far into his career, Romo isn't nearly as accomplished as those with comparable years of NFL experience, including Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning.

I’m sick of dumping stats into this Gorgon of a column. You already know that going by stats Mariotti is wrong. You know that Roethlisberger is “accomplished” because the Pittsburgh defense is so awesome that they won him his first Super Bowl even though he put up the worst QB rating in Super Bowl history. They carried him a bit last year too.

You know that much the same is true of Eli Manning, though he has improved greatly in the last year and a half. Rivers probably has better numbers, but basically the same "accomplishments" as Romo. The fact is that Romo is, at the very least on par with these guys, and he’s better than at least a few of them.

No, the ups and downs of the Cowboys aren't all his fault, not as long as Jones stands by the overmatched Wade Phillips as his head coach and the defense -- zero sacks so far after amassing 59 last season -- gets pushed around as one of the league's worst. But in a quarterbacks league, Romo is a maddening case of having no idea what's coming from week to week, especially when Manning burns the Cowboys for 330 yards and two scores.

1. Blame defense for loss.
2. Hold Eli Manning’s monster day against Tony Romo, not against defense referenced in point one.
3. Follow rabbit down rabbit hole where this may make sense.

"It's frustrating," he said Wednesday. "I'm really disappointed in myself right now. I'm really not okay with my play right now." But not disappointed enough to stop wearing the damned backwards cap, I'm sure.

And get off the lawn! Rapscallions bringing their floozies around here with their caps and saggy pants. Consarnit.

In the final analysis, he has the look of a heartbreaker. Jessica Simpson knows that much.

Out of my way Mariotti. This isn’t a library. If you want to “read” the magazine, buy it. I need my Starbucks Doubleshot Energy+Coffee. And hey, maybe pick up one of these football magazines while you’re at it.


Jon said...

Nice, keep the FJM stuff coming! That guy is hysterical, never heard of him except for occasionally seeing him in the same context as Skip Bayless and Woody Paige, so i figured he was a complete moron and a-hole.

PaulNoonan said...

If I find something FJM-worthy I really can't help myself.

Mariotti used to work for the Chicago Sun Times and actually had a very public fight with Roger Ebert when he left. His columns were the worst. Either absurdly contrarian or wanting everyone fired.

I think he's actually gotten crazier on Fanhouse.

tracker said...

Dang, you're good, Noonan. This is my second all-time favorite beatdown of Mariotti, ranking just behind the time Ozzie called him a faggot.