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RotoExperts Staff July 29, 2013 5:41PM EDT
For the second week in a row, my weekly Monday morning radio appearance with Scott Engel on Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio included a spirited discussion about Tony Romo. I won’t rehash my stance that Romo is barely a low-end QB1 (I think at the end of the season he will be ranked between 12 and 15), but Scott disputed my first reason why I don’t love Romo.

He’s 33 years old.

Scott insisted that 33 is not old for a QB. I insisted that it’s not young for a QB either.  What a great question to explore, I thought.  Let’s examine the 33-year old QB.

At age 33, Tony Romo is not Gus Frerotte; but let's not pretend he's Tom Brady either.  Photo credit: Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey

At age 33, Tony Romo is not Gus Frerotte; but let's not pretend he's Tom Brady either. Photo credit: Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey

Now before we search,  I’m not saying 33 is old. I am, however, saying the risk of injury and the chance as modest to significant regression should be considered at age 33. Romo has been the starter for six seasons in Dallas and failed to start all 16 games twice.

Those QBs  (of any age) who have started all 16 games in at least four of the last six seasons:

If we drop our 16-game criteria to 15 (minor injury or week 17 off) we are able to add:

We actually almost get to add Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck to the list.

So Romo fits into a group of 8 QBs on the stricter list and 13 QBs overall who have started at least 15 games four times in the last six seasons. It’s not easy to do, but you need to stay healthy, and it’s been done by almost half the starting QBs in the game today.

Now to the age 33 question.  I searched for QBs who were at least 33 who started at least 13 games; I limited my search to 2000 and later; although passing has soared in the most recent seasons, I thought 2000 was a good marker for the pass-happy era in the NFL and if we are making statistical comparisons, I thought it only fair to start there.

There have been 54 seasons by 33+ quarterbacks starting at least 13 games in the last 13 seasons, about four per season, or about 12 percent.  Favre himself accounted for nine of those seasons, but 24 other individual quarterbacks accounted for the other 45.

So age 33 isn’t necessarily old for a QB but it’s clearly the exception. Let’s look at performance:

First, a look at Romo’s age 32 season:

Completions Attempts Cmp% Yards TD INT
425 648 65.6 4903 28 19

Great numbers, for sure. The Cowboys threw the ball 2nd most in the NFL last season, and Romo’s attempts were almost 100 more than his previous career high. Logic says some regression is inevitable, but he still may top  4,000 yards and 25 TDs. I’m not too concerned with his 19 INTs; that’s largely a by-product of being pass happy. Romo does have a “choker” reputation — somewhat unfairly and undeserved in Fantasy Football – but he played from behind an awful lot last season (and thanks in part to his 19 INT)

Let’s stack that season up against the 33-and-over QBs from my search.  Here are the average numbers from that group:

Completions Attempts Cmp% Yards TD INT
315 509 61.75 3625 22 14

Now QBs who are older than 32 who start their teams games tend to be above average to excellent players (Kurt Warner, Favre, Brady, Manning), but this list includes such names as Rodney Peete, Brad Johnson,  and Gus Frerotte)

To try to normalize Romo’s stats against his career average, I took his average attempts in the three 16-start seasons previous to 2012: 531 attempts.  That’s an 18 percent decrease from last season’s 648. If we cut the other numbers by 18 percent, here’s what we get:

Completions Attempts Cmp% Yards TD INT
349 531 —- 4020 23 16

We see he’d throw more than our 33+ group, but he’d stack up more than favorably if he saw 18 percent regression.

Another look at our age 33 group, let’s look at the highs and lows in the above categories in those 54 seasons:

Completions Attempts Cmp% Yards TD INT
High 450(P. Manning2010) 679(P. Manning 2010) 68.83(P. Manning, 2009) 5235(Tom Brady, 2011) 43(Drew Brees 2012) 29(Brett Favre 2005)
Low 192(Chris Chandler2000) 327(Jeff Garcia2007) 52.02(Gus Frerotte2005) 2236(Chris Chandler2000) 9(Brad Johnson 2006) 4(Brady 2010 and Garcia 2007)

It’s safe to assume Romo will settle in between each of those highs and lows in 2013. I’m not sure we answered the question of is 33 old for a quarterback. I think we can say it’s the exception in the young man’s league that is the NFL, but those who make it to 33 have had a good deal of success, generally speaking.

Tony Romo is poised for a few nice seasons ahead. The debate about whether he is a QB1 in a 12-team Fantasy league, however, will continue. Probably next Monday morning at 7:30 Eastern on Fantasy Sports Radio, Sirius (Ch. 210) and XM (Ch. 87). Until then, enjoy those 7 days no matter what side of 33 you are on.

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