The NFL's newest Sunshine Superman
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 07, 2008
About 40 years ago a British pop star named Donovan had a huge international hit with "Sunshine Superman." Being the 1960s, and LSD being the dose of the day, the lyrics really made no sense. Here's a sampling:
Superman or Green Lantern ain't got a-nothin' on me
I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yeah!
Hell ... here's the whole song.
show video here
We don't know what Donovan meant by "Sunshine Superman." It was about a girl apparently (and foxy little blonde 1960s vixen Sue Lyon at that, at least if this video is any indication).
But we do know what we mean when we use the term "Sunshine Superman": it's the big star who always performs well in the warm, sunny days of September and October, but then curls up into a fetal ball when the weather turns cold or the opponent gets tough or the pressure rises high in December or January.
For years Peyton Manning was the NFL's Sunshine Superman, putting up big numbers against lousy teams inside a dome, and then collapsing like Iranian housing in an earthquake everytime the playoffs rolled around. Of course, Manning went out and won a Super Bowl, which ended that reputation right then and there. After all, one of the hallmarks of Sunshine Supermen is that they rarely win playoff games, let alone championships.
Since then, there's been a vacuum in the quest to claim the title of the next Sunshine Superman. But no more. The void has been filled by one Antonio Ramiro Romo.
The Cowboys quarterback rolled another gridiron gutterball Sunday against Pittsburgh when Dallas needed him to throw strikes against the league's top defense. In fact, no sooner had we used the term "Sunshine Superman" to describe Romo during an appearance on Gerry V.'s show on WRNO in New Orleans Sunday morning that he went out and lived down to the billing.
The Steelers beat the Cowboys, 20-13, with the winning points coming from a Romo INT late in the fourth quarter that was returned for a TD by Pittsburgh's Deshea Townsend. The Cowboys, at 8-5, are now locked in a dogfight for a wildcard spot after being big pre-season favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Yes, everything was stacked against Romo: he was on the road, the opponent fielded the best defense in the league and the weather was uncomfortably cold (8 degrees with the wind chill).
But it's precisely in those moments that the elite quarterbacks rise to the occasion. It's precisely in those moments that Sunshine Supermen fall to new depths -- which is exactly what Romo did Sunday, plummeting so low that he might get the bends if he tries to stand up too fast this morning.
He played is worst game by every single measure. His completion percentage (52.8), yards per attempt (5.8), INTs (3) and passer rating (44.9) were all his worst of the season.
He started poorly (three turnovers in the first half) and ended even more poorly. In fact, it wasn't just the raw stats that were bad ... it was the way he completely disintegrated and misconnected with his teammates in the most critical stretch of the game, with his team clinging to a hard-fought 13-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
In fact, on Dallas's last three drives, Romo completed just 2 of 7 passes for 19 yards and 1 INT. He was also sacked once. (Those who describe Romo as "Favre-like" couldn't have been more accurate.)
At one point in the final moments, tight end Jason Witten was shown walking off the field, tapping himself on the chest, as if taking blame for a blown route that caused an incompletion. But that was one of about a half-dozen bad passes at the end of the game, and doesn't justify the entire implosion.
Romo might deserve a free pass, considering all the circumstances. But here's the problem: we've seen this act before, haven't we? We saw it last year in the divisional playoffs, the biggest game of the year for the 2007 Cowboys.
Following a 13-3 season in which Romo was the second-coming of Roger Staubach, and Dallas captured the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the quarterback fell apart against the Giants. In fact, he displayed the happiest feet this side of Mr. Bojangles in the fourth quarter. He completed 6 of 15 passes in the final frame (and 10 of 22 in the second half), and was sacked twice.
Romo was positively awful in the closing seconds of both games. Last year against the Giants, he had 1:50 to drive the Cowboys 52 yards for a game-winning score. He gained 29 yards in a poorly managed 1:20, and then threw two incompletions and a pick to end the game 23 yards from the game-winning score. Against Pittsburgh Sunday, his final four passes on his team's final drive fell incomplete, most of them badly overthrown. It was a dismal, frustrating end for the Cowboys ... and for their fans.
Romo has certainly put up some spectacular numbers at this point in his career, as CHFF reader David Hickey outlined so eloquently in his argument last week for Romo as MVP. But his reading on the Clutch-O-Meter remains extremely low and his big-game resume is thinner than than the cloth in a mesh bikini.
Until evidence proves otherwise, Romo is not even close to the same class of the likes of Tom Brady, the modern standard of clutch quarterback, no matter what the stats say. He's not even Ben Roethlisberger, who never looks pretty but seems to come through in clutch moments as much as anybody.
Big Ben didn't look pretty Sunday, either. But after a frustrating day he drove the Steelers 67 yards in the fourth quarter and tied the game with a 6-yard TD toss to Heath Miller with two minutes to play. Most importantly, Roethlisberger, who's struggled this year, did not throw a single INT on a day when even one might have cost his team the game. To bring it closer to home, Romo's certainly not one of those pillars of the Cowboys dynasty to whom he's drawn comparisons, Staubach and Troy Aikman.
In fact, until evidence indicates otherwise, Romo is nothing more but the NFL's latest Sunshine Superman. But at least Donovan's proud.
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