It all started when Bart Hubbuch @NYPost_Hubbuch started riffing on Pro Football Focus’s exclusion of Tony Romo in their top 100 (Top 100 shows are popular now. It’s a way to get some buzz after the draft and before training camp). Somehow this became a back and forth between Hubbuch and Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I piped in, mostly because I don’t care much for the Pro Football Focus passer formula (original discussion here, a cleaner narrative here). Later my clutch of fan contacts made it clear to me that the PFF passer formula ranked Romo #6, so that wasn’t the reason for his exclusion from PFF’s top 100.
But this somehow morphed into a discussion of the whole ‘loss of faith’ narrative, how during crucial situations, Jason Garrett wasn’t letting Tony Romo ‘do his thing’. The notion is that Jason lost faith in Romo and that two circumstances, in particular, demonstrated that Jason didn’t trust Tony. The first was a shovel pass during the NE game, and the second was the end of regulation in Arizona.
I’ll note these topics are difficult thing to discuss in the limits of Twitter, and not least in that the games that Bart was arguing about I never saw. I had real life issues on those days, and had no eyeball memory of either game. I followed some of the New England game on NFL.com towards the end, and never saw any of the Arizona game, but looked a bit at some play by play later.
As a term like ‘loss of faith’ implies some understanding of the mind of Jason Garrett, it can’t be disproven. Likewise, it can’t be demonstrated or proven either. Someone with familiar with Jason, someone more like Clarence Hill Jr, has a better chance to infer states of mind, but proof?
Bart writes articles for the blue collar newspaper in NYC, and pushes an emotional hook in many of his articles. As an example, I see words like ‘dirtbag’ used to describe the Falcons offensive line. I’m more an analytics guy, happier when I can let the numbers tell the story. I don’t need charged rhetoric to make the case for me.
So it was interesting. Bart is missing some points in his determination to ‘demonstrate’ his case. Strategically, the end of the Arizona game is almost a carbon copy of the end of the 2nd Washington game. Same tactics, same strategy, just badly performed. What Bart sees as a loss of confidence in Romo I see as a poor 2 minute drill with Jason Garrett relying too much on kickers.
The odd call in the New England game.. that wasn’t an end of game call, was it? It was late in the second quarter, if I recall. And to note, Jason Garrett is capable of some really odd calls at crucial times of the game: witness his reverses in red zone situations, where it’s pretty obvious the opposing team will be shooting gaps. And a lot of that can be ascribed to Jason’s newness as a head coach — perhaps.
But, to make the important point, was the game on the line in the second quarter? The NE-DAL game could have been won or lost on single plays at multiple points in the game. The more appropriate comparison – Arizona for that matter as well – is to the first New York Giants – Dallas game, which turned on the execution of single plays.
In my mind, all three games are too closely played to lend themselves to a dissection of the Romo/Garrett relationship. You might as well ask what Tom Landry thought of Bob Hayes after the 1966 championship game, when he was left to block David Robinson.
To ask and answer one last question: if Bart has a more thematic, emotional interest in football, and I have a more analytic interest, why even follow the guy? I’d argue that he’s a worthwhile follow because of his live tweeting of events. His reactions seem genuine, not as emotionally charged as his longer articles or more considered narratives. In moments like those, he’s just a guy, one with .. media credentials, who can get into events I can’t. In those moments, having his feed is like having another pair of eyes. I’m grateful for the immediacy of his reactions.
Update: late at night on May 5, Bart replied in substance to this post in a series of tweets. We’ll quote the 4 most pertinent of these, reordered so they read like a paragraph:
Saw your blog post. NE play was 5:22 left in 4th — not 2nd. 3rd & 5 from NE 5 in a tie game, JG calls shovel to Choice. Cowboys settle for FG and 16-13 lead, giving Brady more than enough time to produce 20-16 win. Also, “dirtbag” was a quote from Justin Tuck about the Falcons, not my invention. Lastly, I’m from Dallas, used to cover Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News and have known Clarence Hill for 20 years.