A good number of people probably laugh at this because Eli won two Super Bowls and Tony Romo won none, but it’s the truth. Eli had two great postseasons, but outside of that would you honestly say Eli was good? Those two performances were huge; however, could those two teams have accomplished the ultimate goal with a QB other than Eli? Was Eli just a right-place-right-time guy? The answer to all those questions is yes and in this article, it will be made clear that Tony Romo was better and that Eli wasn’t anything special.
Manning played from 2004-2019 and Tony Romo from 2004-2016, but Romo didn’t see meaningful playtime until 2006. Eli was the first overall pick from Ole Miss while Romo was undrafted and went to Eastern Illinois. The starting points couldn’t have been more different but both would find a place where they could experience their own forms of success and failure.
In Eli’s first three years of action (2004-2006), he threw 54 touchdown passes against 44 interceptions and his best TD% was 4.6%. 2007, the year of his Super Bowl victory, Manning threw 23 TDs against 20 interceptions with a high 3.8% INT%. During the playoffs, Eli’s TD% increased to a good 5.0% and INT% plummeted to 0.8% and he averaged 213.5 yards per game. A good performance, but not unmatchable by multiple QBs from Eli’s era that he’d be compared to – not just Romo.
Let’s also keep in mind his team won the Super Bowl because pure luck allowed Eli to turn one of the dumbest decisions a QB can make into an even luckier helmet catch that extended the drive that would ultimately win the game for the Giants. That really is the big thing with Eli is his “legacy” comes down to that one lucky play. Imagine how different he’d be discussed if that play didn’t happen and the Giants didn’t win; he’d be more accurately ridiculed for sure.
In Eli Manning’s career, he finished with the eighth-most passing yards and ninth-most touchdown passes, but that’s a result of him playing a long time in a pass-happy era. Manning’s career TD% is only 4.5% and his INT% is high at 3.0%. Eli had the 12th most passes intercepted in his career. Eli also had a more average 84.1 career passer rating.
With a minimum of 3,500 snaps played from 2004-2020, Eli ranks 22nd in EPA/play at 0.079. Eli’s average PFF grade which goes back to 2006 is 18th and his average DVOA is 19th. The numbers and film both show a QB who isn’t very good, so the argument that Romo is better shouldn’t be much of a stretch.
Romo in his career was best as a passer but could scramble when needed. 2006-2014 was Tony Romo’s prime, and it was a stretch that someone actually watching and not ring counting would say was better than Eli’s. Trent Dilfer has a ring after all. In Romo’s first three seasons he threw 81 touchdown passes against 46 interceptions with strong TD%s of 5.6%, 6.9%, and 5.8% to go with. In the playoffs, Romo’s TD% was 4.3% and INT% was 1.1%, but the Cowboys as far as a team and coaching went held back what could’ve been for multiple talented teams in Dallas. Romo would have benefitted from having a Tom Coughlin as Eli did, and those Giants teams were great in January. A better QB could’ve helped them get the job done as well. Basically, if the Giants could win two with Eli then why couldn’t they with a genuinely better QB?
In EPA/play since 2004 with a minimum of 3,500 snaps played Romo ranks 6th at 0.185. PFF passing grades from 2006-2014 have him 9th on average. Football Outsider’s DVOA had Romo 7th during the same span. Romo’s career TD% rate is 5.7% and INT% is 2.7%. All of those numbers are much better than Eli’s previously listed numbers and again it must be wondered what Romo could’ve accomplished with a better coach or in Eli’s shoes.
Tony Romo in general was a more effective quarterback and threw touchdowns at a higher rate while also throwing interceptions at a lower rate. Romo never had a good coach in his career and that absolutely held him back in the winning department particularly in January. Eli had Tom Coughlin to help lead the way and just wasn’t a very good quarterback and his career likely comes down to one play of sheer luck.