At 34, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s best years are probably behind him


(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Tony Romo has played 10 seasons in the NFL — all for the Dallas Cowboys — throwing  for 29,565  yards and 208 touchdowns during the regular season. He is also recovering from injury.

“We know his back is everything we would want it to be at this time,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We feel very strong about the edge our quarterback gives us and it a great place to build.”

Coach Jason Garrett would take it a step further and say Romo was in the “prime of his career.”

A 34-year-old quarterback coming off back surgery in the prime of his career? I don’t think so.

I looked at all quarterbacks who started at least one NFL game since 2000 and took the average of their Approximate Value for each season.

[Approximate Value] is not meant to be a be-all end-all metric. Football stat lines just do not come close to capturing all the contributions of a player the way they do in baseball and basketball. If one player is a 16 and another is a 14, we can’t be very confident that the 16AV player actually had a better season than the 14AV player. But I am pretty confident that the collection of all players with 16AV played better, as an entire group, than the collection of all players with 14AV.

The chart above shows that quarterbacks peak at 30 and then decline rather steadily. After age 33, things start to roll downhill quickly. There is some survivor bias with the sample size, but other studies confirm a quarterback’s peak is at age 29, with 26 to 30 better classified as the prime of a quarterback’s career.

“To me, [Romo is] a very young player,” Garrett said.

Maybe he meant young at heart?

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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