Sorry, Joe Theismann: The Right GM Should Absolutely Gamble On Romo
Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann has been saying that Tony Romo should quit football for months now; and seeing as he suffered one of the more gruesome career ending injuries in the history of football, he can hardly be blamed for wanting to see guys retire before they get irreparably injured. Here's what he had to say recently when asked about Romo again:
"Let's put this Tony Romo stuff to bed, OK?" Theismann told Bleacher Report Radio. "The man's had three back surgeries, he has a collar bone that's been broken twice, he's 36 years old, he plays behind - the last couple years he played behind probably the best offensive line in football [and] hasn't finished a season in the last five."
Yikes. Tell us how you really feel...
"Any general manager that would make a deal for Tony Romo shouldn't keep their job as general manager. It's a bad business decision plus what offensive line is going to be the same one he has in Dallas? I think Tony Romo stays a Dallas Cowboy. He's got a $24 million cap, you negotiate that down to a number that's palatable for the team. If Dak gets hurt, he goes and plays, and you put incentives in if he does play. To me, Tony Romo's got to be a Dallas Cowboy to the end of his career."
Interesting strategy, Cotton. There's a lot wrong with this theory though, beginning and probably circling back around to end with the fact that the pool of Super Bowl-caliber talent at the quarterback position is incredibly small. It requires the the right combination of luck and balls in order to get someone under center who can lead a team to championship.
And yes, I mean those kind of balls.
There is a very popular econmoic principle known as the risk-return spectrum, or "risk-reward." If you've ever heard people talk about investments of any kind in any industry, you know the basics. Risk-reward is the relationship between the total benefit of an investment and the amount of risk undertaken with said investment. The main principle of risk-reward applies whether you are playing roulette at the Bellagio or trading for a starting quarterback: a higher return requires a higher risk.
For example: considering my middle-class salary, let's say that in the preseason I wanted to bet $100 on the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. I would make very little profit from that bet were they to win because they are the odds-on favorites. It's a very low-risk, low-reward bet. If I were to bet $20,000, that would be a higher risk, but the reward would still be low because there were so many other people betting on the Patriots.
But if I were to bet my money on the Los Angeles Rams to win the Super Bowl, that would be a low-risk, high-reward bet. The chances that I win are statistically stacked against me, so the winnings are much higher because the probability of return is so low. Consequently, if I bet $20,000 on the Rams to win the Super Bowl then that is high-risk, high-reward. It's most likely that I will lose $20 grand; but if the Rams do win, then all of the sudden I'm a millionaire.
Now think about those principles and imagine that you are the billionaire owner of an NFL team that has all of the pieces that you need to become a Championship-caliber team except for a starting quarterback.
The window for a franchise to keep a Super Bowl-winning roster all together is about two to three years. If you stick with the crappy, underdeveloped or over-the-hill guy that you know can't get the job done, then there is no reward. No Super Bowl win. Just another season wasted. That's low-risk and low-reward. It all but guarantees that you don't win a ring.
Now ideally you'd go get a quarterback in the draft that can come in NFL-ready and win a championship within their first two seasons, like Ben Roethlisberger or Russell Wilson. That would be a relatively low-risk, high-reward approach. But as we know, low-risk high-reward situations are improbable and rare.
So that leaves you, the NFL billionaire, with only one more option: Tony Romo. His age and recent injury history increase his risk factor dramatically. The wrong hit at the wrong time will take him out, and then you're left with no viable options and an expensive failure. But the reward is huge, and if you have a closing window of opportunity, it's not as improbable as striking immediate gold in the NFL draft at the exact right time would be.
So let's consider Romo's upside.
Romo is one of 19 quarterbacks to start 65+ games since 2011, and is one of 13 to start 120+ games since 2006. Of those 12 other quarterbacks, 11 are starters in the 2016 NFL season; the exceptions being Romo and the retired Peyton Manning. Seven of the 13 have won a Super Bowl.
Here's how Romo stacks up against the other 11 most veteran, active starters in the NFL in terms of career averages:
Completion %: 2nd (65.25) - behind Drew Brees
Touchdown %: 3rd (5.70) - behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady
Passer Rating: 4th (97.1) - behind Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees
Romo hangs in there statistically with some of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. So there is massive upside to this player in terms of what you can get from him on the field. And despite the risk surrounding his durability, he's still one of just a dozen guys that have been viable starting quarterbacks for the majority of the last ten seasons.
Now let's return to you, the NFL owner. Your GM tells you that there is a very small chance that you could get a talented, healthy draft pick capable of winning a Super Bowl in the next ten years. Your best option is to hope that Tony Romo, like Peyton Manning before him, has one or two more prolific seasons left in him as long as he can get the protection he needs. You have the opportunity to go high-risk, high-reward in the most high-stakes professional sports league in North America.
Does it really sound that crazy?
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