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ESPN should have picked Tony Romo, not Eli Manning, for NFC East QB of ‘10s

ESPN came together and picked an inferior option when they selected Eli Manning over Tony Romo for their quarterback on the NFC East All-Decade team
Credit: AP
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) chat after their NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

DALLAS —

It's 2020, which means everyone and their burner accounts has a 2010s NFL all-decade team.

The latest entry in the genre is from ESPN. All four of the sports network's NFC East beat writers produced a 2010s NFC East all-decade squad. Some selections are undisputed: Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox, Washington CB DeAngelo Hall, or Cowboys TE Jason Witten. But the beat writers may have made the wrong decision at quarterback.

The New York Giants' Eli Manning was chosen as the quarterback. Where the team could have made an improvement is with the selection of the Cowboys' Tony Romo.

No explanation is given from the writers as to why they chose Manning; we're only left with Jordan Raanan's writeup for why Manning was the all-2010s Giant. The caption will have to do:

"Manning played the entire decade and earned a Super Bowl MVP during that time. How many other Giants have that on their résumé? Answer: None. The end of the decade — and Manning's career — wasn't pretty, but the first few years of the 2010s were the best of his professional life. Manning's 8.4 yards per attempt in 2011 were by far the best of his career. So were his 308.3 yards per game. He made three of his four Pro Bowls during this 10-year span and was the unequivocal face of the franchise. A pretty easy selection considering the accomplishments."

The highest yards per game Romo posted were 306.4 in 2012. Kind of like Manning's 308.3 in 2011, Romo's yards per game were inflated by two 400-yard performances in losses (although, to be fair, Manning had a third 400-yarder against the Cowboys in 2011). However, Romo bested Manning in yards per attempt with an 8.5 figure in 2014, which was also the league leader among qualified passers.

Guess where else Romo bested Manning in the 2010s.

Manning never had a higher passer rating than Romo in the 2010s, ever. Even when factoring out Romo's collarbone seasons of 2010 and 2015 and the emergence of Dak Prescott in 2016, Manning never had a higher passer rating for the season. Meanwhile Romo posted a 102.5 passer rating in 2011 and led the NFL with a 113.2 rating in 2014.

The only seasons Manning had more touchdown passes than Romo were in the collarbone years and Prescott's rookie season. Only in 2012 did Romo not have more touchdowns than Manning, and that was because they each threw 28.

Manning had 24 game-winning drives compared to Romo's 19 through the decade. However, when adjusting for 2010-15, Romo's 19 would have been greater than Manning's 15.

By 2013, coach Jason Garrett was transitioning the Cowboys into more of a ball control offense driven by the running game, which is why Romo's passing yards never went above 4,000 after the 2012 season. Nonetheless, the only seasons Manning had more passing yards than Romo in a complete season were 2011 and 2014. Manning had the best year of his career in 2011, and so did Dallas running back DeMarco Murray in 2014, which cut into Romo's passing attempts.

There is one statistical category where Manning outright had a higher tally than Romo: interceptions. The former 2004 San Diego Chargers first-round pick led the NFL with 25 interceptions in 2010 and 27 in 2013. The only season Manning didn't have double-digit interceptions was last year, when he got benched. In fact, the only time of their careers Manning had fewer interceptions than Romo was in 2008 when the Cowboys' quarterback chucked 14 and the Giants' field general threw just 10. Strangely, that was a season where Romo missed time due to injury, too.

Perhaps Manning represented NFC East quarterbacking the best because of his 147 starts through the decade. It still doesn't indicate he was the best throughout the decade. Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz were the best in the division in 2010, 2013 and 2017. Robert Griffin's flash rookie season made him king of 2012, and his Washington teammate, Kirk Cousins, thrived in 2015. Prescott owned 2016 and 2018. Manning was consistently second fiddle in the NFC East, except for that magical 2011 season.

The only area where Manning has Romo bested is postseason accomplishments. In 2011, the Giants won the Super Bowl while the Cowboys began their first of three consecutive 8-8 seasons. If they were voting based on a team accomplishment, then picking Manning makes sense. If the merits were strictly position based, it's a dubious pick.

Do you think that Tony Romo had a better decade in the 2010s than Eli Manning despite not winning a Super Bowl? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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