Welcome to December, that magical month where NFL quarterbacks are judged.
Tony Romo is a dreadful 11-15 in December in his career. If you want to go deeper into seasons, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is 12-16 in December and January. These are stunning numbers considering Romo normally enters the month with success. He's 24-5 in November, including the past two games this season.
And while the Cowboys are tied for first place in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles, how this team finishes will depend on Romo. More than any other player, it seems, Romo's finishes in the NFL's last few weeks are magnified.
He enters this month needing to beat possibly Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears on the road next Monday night. After that, Aaron Rodgers could be ready for the Green Bay Packers game at home on Dec. 15. Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins and Nick Foles and the Eagles close out the season. In the next four weeks, Romo has two road games in places that are expected to be cold and windy.
Can Romo succeed?
He's 1-6 in win-or-go-home games, with the lone victory coming in the 2009 playoffs against the Eagles. Cowboys officials and Romo himself will say all these numbers are baseball stats -- like how a team fares against left-handed pitching.
What they don't realize is that these are the stats that matter.
December and January are the months that define Romo more than any other. Sure, he's got a below-.500 record in October, and yes, he's currently playing some good football. He should be credited for fighting through a stomach virus on Thanksgiving Day, and his leadership skills have improved greatly.
There's a lot of respect for Romo in the Cowboys' locker room and in the front office. He's been given more responsibility on and off the field by Jerry Jones, the team owner, whose legacy is his three Super Bowl rings. Jones is chasing a fourth ring, something he believes Romo can deliver.
In order for that to happen, December and January must change for Romo.
Forget about the stats if you want. Romo, with his team in first place and the final regular-season game at home, has everything in front of him.
Romo and the Cowboys control their fate. But if he can't produce, the criticism will remain.