NFC East Top 20: No. 7 Tony Romo

In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post.

No. 7 -- Tony Romo, Cowboys QB

Romo may be the ultimate example of a player whose reputation fails to jibe with reality. His inability to elevate the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl contenders during his time as their starting quarterback has come to define him. Critics ignore the facts of poor offensive line play and substandard defense and blame Romo for failing to win more than one playoff game to this point. Games such as last year's in which Romo helped blow second-half leads with interceptions against the Jets and the Lions don't help.

But the easy criticisms and unfair reputation obscure the reality that Romo performs pretty consistently as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. His career passer rating of 96.9 ranks among the greatest quarterbacks in league history. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning are the only active quarterbacks with a higher career completion percentage. His career fourth-quarter numbers are excellent. And for all of the talk about interceptions, Romo only threw 10 of them last year against 31 touchdowns. His career TD/INT rate is 2.07 to 1.

Romo deserves to have a lot of the same things said about him that are said about quarterbacks with better reputations. He moves well in the pocket. He keeps plays alive, makes something out of nothing. He has shown an ability to overcome poor line play and a revolving door at running back and still deliver top-level production. He has shown an ability to help make receivers better. He deserves to be ranked among the current greats at his position and, obviously, among the best players in the NFC East. And if he ever does find a way to lead the Cowboys to a championship, the reputation might finally match up with the reality.

Rankings so far:

8. Justin Tuck, DE, Giants

9. Jason Babin, DE, Eagles

10. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

11. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins

12. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles

13. Tyron Smith, T, Cowboys

14. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins

15. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

16. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles

18. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants

19. Evan Mathis, G, Eagles

20. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants