Last weekend, the Dallas Cowboys beat the 4-1 Atlanta Falcons rather convincely. Before the game, you have your normal mix of pundits who believe the Falcons will win, or those who believe that the Cowboys will somehow scrape together a victory. Mixed in with these prognostications are commentary, and a favorite of some is, "Tony Romo has never won a big game."
What constitutes a big game? I think most people would acknowledge a playoff game as such. Manning had several playoff victories under his belt but was still saddled with the "Can't win a big game." because like everyone else in the league, he and the Colts were unable to beat the Patriots.
So that brings us to Tony Romo. He took over as the Cowboys quarterback on October 23, 2006. While he struggled to bring the Cowboys back against the Giants, he played well against good teams like Carolina and Washington. Then came what most rational people would consider a big game. Undefeated Indianapolis comes to Dallas and Romo plays a conservative, but effective game to beat the Colts 21 to 14. OBVIOUSLY that wasn't a big game since Romo has yet to win a big game.
On December 3, 2006, Romo and the Cowboys play the Giants in New York in a game that very well may decide the division title. The Cowboys beat the Giants 23 to 20. Again, not a big game for the aforementioned reason.
Admittedly, the Cowboys lost to the Saints and then later the Seahawks, but the whole team played horribly against the Saints, and if Terry Glenn didn't fumble into the Cowboys endzone for a safety, or an overturned first down, the game would have ended under different circumstances. Romo obviously was wholly culpable for those losses.
On September 23, 2009, the 2-0 Dallas Cowboys play the 2-0 defending NFC Champion Chicago Bears. It was this game that eventually forced Grossman to the bench and the Cowboys not only beat the Bears, but they broke them. The Bears suffered so many injuries, they weren't the same team for the remainder of the season. Admittedly it was way too early in the season to be considered a big game, but it was a game between two teams projected to be the class of the NFC.
In a clash between two undefeated teams, the Patriots were simply and offensive juggernauts. Undoubtably, Romo playing safety for the Cowboys was a mistake. Maybe if he only played on offense, he would have been more productive.
In what can only be considered a small game against the Green Bay Packers to man the reigns for home field advantage in the playoffs, the Cowboys knock Brett Farve out of the game, and Romo outplays both Farve and Rodgers. But in no way was this a big game, with significant playoff implications involved.
Admittedly, the Cowboys lost to the Giants in the playoffs. So did the Packers and the Patriots, the greatest team to not win a Super Bowl. Romo was obviously responsible for all three of those losses... somehow. If the defense could tackle Toomer who was covered in grease, or if they would stop a 70 yard drive in less than 48 seconds before the half, or Crayton would catch a first down pass (which had the potential for a TD), maybe the game would have ended under different circumstances.
In 2008, there were few big games. Early victories were unimpressive and against teams that eventually had poor seasons. Late in the season, they played 3 of four conference championship participants and they went 0-3. Of course, Romo was responsible for the the lack of passing protection, the poor running game, the myriad of injuries, the questionable route running, and of course the malcontent veterans.
And in 2009, just minutes before the Cowboys played the Falcons, commentators bring out old faithful, "Romo has never won a big game." That is true. A team wins a big game. More importantly, what is a big game? With "a big game" being subject to such a subjective criteria, Romo will never win a big game. It seems as allusive as a greased pig. Just when you think you have it in your grasp, people decide, "That wasn't a big game." Romo has played in about 10 big games that weren't (winning several).
Romo will never win a big game, because those who comment on the game will keep changing the rules until he wins the inarguable big game, the Super Bowl.