In the land of a million narratives, the man with one career playoff victory is king.
Contrary to popular belief, Twitter did not invent the “narrative”: A convenient, tidy explanation for a series of events that may or may not be interrelated. Just ask William Randolph Hearst or John Elway. It did perfect it, however. Now anyone can conjure and share evidence to reinforce their preconceived notions in the time it takes you to hit “refresh.” Find the stat you want it, frame it in the right manner and share it with all your friends, preferably with some CAPITALIZATION and exclamation points thrown in. There’s a narrative about pretty much everyone these days. Every last athlete must be ordered and sorted into a one-word distillation of their career.
Tom Brady? Clutch. Cam Newton? Immature. Darren McFadden? Fragile. Some narratives are more true than others. Fewer still are spot on. Most have no basis in reality. That doesn’t mean the internet writ large is going to stop painting technicolor issues with a black and white brush. It’s simply too easy, too irresistible when any semi-cogent observation can be favorited and retweeted without so much as a second thought.
This brings us to the defining football narrative of our time: Tony Romo is a choker. It’s a narrative so prominent, so pervasive and so polarizing that it’s sparked a nearly as ubiquitous counter-narrative: Tony Romo is not a choker. Supporters of the choker narrative can point to any number of game — or season — sealing interceptions to “make their case.” Supporters of the counter-narrative can bring up things like fourth-quarter quarterback rating or, say, the fact that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are just a few of the quarterbacks to toss costly interceptions in the past week, let alone year. Who’s “right”? Does it matter? Is the truth not somewhere in the middle, as it is with most things hotly debated?
My take: Tony Romo seems to throw a lot of costly, spectacular interceptions. My other take: Tony Romo plays for a team that’s always on national television, and usually in close games. Maybe Dallas’ games wouldn’t be so close — thereby magnifying every mistake — if owner/GM Jerry Jones put together a better roster. Maybe we wouldn’t remember every Romo interception like it was the moon landing if the Cowboys weren’t always on Sunday Night Football or the featured 4:25 ET game.
I have no earthly clue if in the deep, dark recesses of Tony Romo’s soul lies the heart of a “choker.” I do know that we’ll never know, and that narratives are only narratives until they’re not. Chances are you’ll remember the next time Tony Romo throws an interception. The chances are even greater you won’t have the time or patience to consider everything that came before it, like Dallas’ decision to employ a 73-year-old defensive coordinator who was recently fired by his son, or a supporting cast that gives new meaning to the phrase “stars and scrubs.”
You’d rather bask in the glory of Romo’s latest ignominy, which honestly, is OK. Sports are supposed to be fun, and Romo’s misery has an undeniable appeal. But that doesn’t mean there’s a deeper meaning to it. What will happen when we close the book on the Romo Narrative, either via a Super Bowl title or Romo’s retirement? We’ll say good day and move on to the next one, having learned little but said very much. It’s a debate full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
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1. Jamaal Charles
How did Week 15’s consensus No. 1 running back outstrip expectations? By having one of the greatest fantasy days of all time. Like Doug Martin before him, Charles ran all over the Raiders and into the record books, posting the sixth most fantasy points in the history of football. Only Charles didn’t necessarily run all over the Raiders so much as gain air superiority. Charles became the first running back in NFL history to catch four touchdown passes in a game. His 195 receiving yards were the most by a runner since 1999. Charles took three screens and one wheel route to the house, notching scores of 49, 39, 16 and 71 yards. He added a one-yard plunge on the ground for good measure. Charles would be garnering serious MVP consideration were he doing this in any other year.
2. Danny Amendola
This is the player the Patriots paid $28.5 million. Nevermind the fact that Amendola’s 10 catches somehow didn’t lead the team. He put his body on the line time and again, making the kind of tough and dangerous grabs that made him worthy of a five-year deal in free agency, but also quite susceptible to injury. Three of Amendola’s receptions came on New England’s desperation final drive, with one moving the chains on 4th-and-8 from the Patriots’ own 45-yard line. Amendola is on the field far less than the Patriots and fantasy owners would like, but earns his keep the hard way when he plays.
3. Kirk Cousins
It was not a complete effort from Cousins in his first start of 2013. He cooled off after a scorching first half, and committed three of Washington’s seven turnovers. But he did what he was supposed to do against a bad team in a dome, dropping dimes and restoring order to an offense that had been slipping toward oblivion. We’d typically say buyer beware — this was one of the worst defenses in the league, after all — but Cousins has an even better Week 16 home matchup in the Cowboys’ laughingstock of a defense. Forget the offseason implications for Cousins’ play, and focus on what he’ll be for the fantasy finals: A high-upside QB2.
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