Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Jan 2007

Cowboys Claim Slick Ball Contributed to Romo's Blunder

The internets are all abuzz in the wake of Tony Romo's botched hold on a potentially game-winning field goal late in the Dallas-Seattle game. From today's Star-Telegram: "Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones contends -- and he wasn't the only one -- that the ball quarterback Tony Romo lost control of on the hold for a 19-yard field goal was brand new and wasn't worked in properly." Um, okay. At least Romo didn't make excuses, however: "Obviously the reason I dropped it...it was a slick ball...It doesn't matter, though; you still have to catch it." (Free registration/bugmenot required.)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 08 Jan 2007

52 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2007, 8:03pm by PantsB


by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 5:08pm

That would be a pretty valid complaint if using new K balls weren't standard practice across the league. All holders need to be able to handle the new, slick K balls.

by dbt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 5:14pm

And they've been using K-balls since when, 2002? Romo's been holding almost that entire time.

Gotta wonder if someone went looking for the slickest ball left in the box when they got the call for a K-ball. Yet another homefield advantage...

by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 5:24pm

The balls were clearly unacceptable. No ball should be deemed worthy for play until T.O. has dropped it at least twice.

by Jesse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 5:24pm

Wilson contends that the "slick covering" that players like rubbed off is actually a special resin or something that's supposed to help improve grip (according to an article I read a few months ago, anyway). Regardless, he was able to catch it, setting it down on the ground shouldn't have been any harder

by Matt Bruce (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 5:45pm

Longtime reader, first-time poster. Surely someone has already mentioned this (site acting up a bit) but the Cowboys could have brought their own balls with them to Seattle (remember Mike Tanier's column about Alex Smith's balls?), and should have realized how important it was to take no chances (compare to the Eagles signing Koy Detmer).

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 5:51pm

#5: Absolutely. I said the Cowboys should've signed Koy Detmer to hold months ago. Foolish of them to not heed my wisdom.

by Tyler (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 6:25pm

When did Mike Tanier write about Alex Smith's balls?

(O.K. I'll grow up now)

by ArizonaCardinalsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 6:30pm

Didn't I just read an "Any Given Sunday" about the Lions/Cowboys game that said Romo drops the ball too much? You FO guys should pat yourselves on the back...you saw this one coming.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 6:44pm

I never really understood the NFL's decision to use the K-Ball. I guess they decided that to make the game more exciting, it needed more botched field-goal attempts and shorter kickoffs.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 6:49pm

remember Mike Tanier’s column about Alex Smith’s balls?

Pics, now!

by Tom C. Huskey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 6:50pm

Anybody know a legal link to video of that play? Because I was watching it at gametime, and it honestly looked like it might not have been a proper fumble. Of course I was hoping Dallas would lose so I was sitting there going "Don't review it, please don't review it..." but a few people I've mentioned it to wanted to see what I was talking about...

by Geoff (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:16pm

In related news, Ray Finkle claims the ball was held with the laces facing in.

by Jeremy Billones (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:18pm

Re: 9

Exactly. Same reason they moved kickoffs back to the 30. Touchbacks are boring -- they want runbacks.

As it is, they can't move the kickoff any farther back than the 30, otherwise

a) PFs on a touchdown would be less than 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, and

b) The free kick from a safety would actually be better than a kickoff.

Maybe they could just eliminate the tee?

by james (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:19pm

slick ball????

The friggin snapper wouldn't realize this?

head smoking

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:19pm

Proper fumble? What do you mean? And why would you have been worried about a review? Dallas couldn't have ended up with the ball - the only other outcome I could imagine would be if they ruled that Romo fumbled the ball forward. He was the fumbler, so his recovery and advancement were legal.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:30pm

As much as I hate the Cowboys (just like any other respectable football fan), I have to say that I kinda feel sorry for Romo. Luckily, anytime those feeling start to bubble up, I just think about Owens, and Williams, and Parcells, and then I'm all better.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:34pm

15: A review could have resulted in a ruling that Romo crossed the first down marker before he was down, and was down before he fumbled, which would have given the Cowboys 1st and goal.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:37pm

Re 11

I'm with zlionsfan on this -- what do you mean? What review could possibly have taken place to give the Cowboys the ball back?

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:40pm

Re 17

Did Romo ever cross the first down line, before or after fumbling? I don't remember it being open to debate.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:44pm

re 15, 18: I believe he's referring to Romo's run after the fumbled hold, when he was tripped up from behind and tried to dive for the first down/TD. I believe it was ruled down by contact at the two (short of the first down), and not a fumble, which looked like the correct ruling to me.

by Alan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:45pm

re 17

No, he was clearly down around the two, but it was close

by george (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:05pm

I think it's time for the NFL to get rid of the laces. Contrary to popular belief, the laces are useless to throwing a football. The kickers hate them and it would probably be easier to handle and catch the ball without them. It would also be nice if the CFL stopped using a turkey for a football.

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:24pm

Re: 22

The laces are NOT useless to throwing the football. While they may or may not help you acutally throw the ball, they have a very definite effect on the path the ball takes. They create turbulence around the ball, which leads to Magnus force effects.

You can remove the laces from the football, but you should expect noticeably different flight paths from the ball. For instance, throwing the ball very hard and having it take a leveller-than-ballistic path may not work anymore - the turbulence that allowed the ball to sail above it's "natural" path might not be there anymore.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:29pm

Why do people keep bringing the "fumble" up?? It was never ruled a fumble on the field, it was always ruled down by contact, and it's always been clear he was short of the first down.

by BillWallace (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 9:27pm

re: 24

Yep on the replay from the back you can see as soon as Romo loses the ball the side judge is running in pointing repeatedly at the ground, ruling Romo down by contact. Also from the side view he's obviously almost a full yard short. A review may have been in order just because of the importance, but it wasn't that close.

by JMK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 9:28pm

Aw....poor wittle guy

by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 9:32pm

The official reason for the K ball was to stop kickers from manipulating the condition of their balls prior to the game.

Seriously. I guess Morten Anderson, e.g., liked to pick a few balls and run them around in the dryer until they were nice and soft.

by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 10:09pm

Before the new K balls, the kickers used to do stuff to them in anticipation of the game, I remember Gary Anderson claiming he'd put it in an oven or something...

by sicksock (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 10:46pm

Re: 4 I used to kick in college. Your refering to what use to happen in college a few years ago. Very small amounts of pine tar was used on the balls (an idea probably stolen from baseball). However, the sheen that was on the ball in the video is exactly the sheen that is on brand new balls. When pine tar is on a ball it looks dull and doesn't reflect light.

But this only matters to people throwing and catching the ball. It doesn't effect kicking the ball at all. However, a new ball is very hard to kick. It's stiff and doesn't flex around your foot. (So yes they would put them in the dryer to soften them up #27)

And #22, laces definitely effects the path. It's one of the reasons you see some pretty crazy curving out missed FGs.

by Tighthead (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 11:12pm

#22 - the CFL ball is much closer to the NFL ball - they switched quite a few years ago.

by Mr. Obvious (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 12:14am

#7 and #10:

I don't think Mr. Bruce was actually talking about Alex Smith's testicles. I believe "balls" in this context refers to the america football, also known as a "pigskin".

by oldnumberseven (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 12:40am

It is kind of comical to me that the quarterbacks get to use their own footballs, but the kickers don't. Also most rule changes benefit quarterbacks, kickers not so much. Of course, kickers are a dime a dozen.

by Dan R. (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 2:14am

Re: Alex Smith

Small hands = small testicles?

by Francisco (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 2:22am

7, 10, 31:

If I remember correctly, Tanier's article was about Smith's genetalia in general, not just his balls.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 2:46am

Whether it was a slick ball or not, holders should be able to handle it, and they do all the time, but for a site that was earlier in the season pointing out that two 60+ yard field goals within a few weeks wasn't a monumental change in kicking efficacy, I'm very surprised at the reaction to this. The biggest factor in the screw-up is that it was random chance. It's been treated as something different because it had been preceded the week before by the Bengals gaffe, but if people are really, truly amazed at two botched kicks in two weeks then my guess at how long they've been watching the game would be about two weeks.

In addition, how does Vince Young get applauded for tackling someone on an interception he threw but Romo doesn't get credit for the heads-up attempt he made at a first down after he screwed up the hold? I live in San Antonio (for the moment), and for an area whose team has found their QB of the future this year, they're handling one bad play like a bunch of stark raving morons.

by BillWallace (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 3:01am

re: 7, 10, 31, 34

I think you're mistaken, that article was referring to the formal dance parties that Alex Smith hosts every Friday night.

I hear they're big.

by Digit (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 3:18am

John Clayton's blog entry for Jan 8th, 2007 says:

"Still, there is a little known rule change enacted two years ago that allows a team's equipment man to work on the footballs before the start of the game."

So basically, both teams had the option to work the balls over.

Clayton goes on to say:

"If they don't break in the footballs, they can't complain that the balls were too difficult to handle for a holder or a kicker. That's a coaching issue."


and now I've got a mental image of Bill Belichick ordering the equipment man to go handle those balls.

by Light Todd (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 4:29am


Thank you for the correction. How could I forget about Smiths formal balls? He is somewhat conceited about those balls, always rubbing them in peoples faces. And they are very well put together, those balls, some would even say they are a slick production. Has anyone ever seen any pictures of one Alex Smiths slick balls? I heard they look like Iraq close up (Arrested Development anyone?)

by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 5:10am


by Lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 5:59am

Quite related :
I'd love to see the cowboys trade for Leftwich.
Any chance to happen ?

by Yowza (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 6:22am

Leftwich? He might be the only QB in the league "more Bledsoe than Bledsoe".

by paytonrules (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 10:13am

#40 why would you want that? Romo is the future.

Now my Bears....

by Lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 10:20am

Yes, he is a statu, but Bledsoe enjoyed a lmittle success there, and Leftwich avoids sacks even if he's not very mobile. And Byron to Glenn or to Crayton or To Witten would be great. And TO would be an invaluable mentor for the Jax WR corps.
And Romo isn't the future. He was.

by Dean (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 10:23am

Some balls are held for charity
And some for fancy dress
But when they're held for pleasure they're the ones that Alex Smith likes best.

His balls are always bouncing to the left and to the right,
It's Alex Smiths belief that his big balls should be held every night.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 10:33am

#36,#38 - Quite so. I hear that in Bay Area upper-class high society, Smith's achieved a certain ballroom notoriety. He always fills his ballroom: the event is never small. The social pages say he's got the biggest balls of all.

Of course, Martin Gramatica, with his hot latino style, throws quite the formal too I hear. His balls are always bouncing, to the left and to the right; it's his belief that his big balls should be held every night. Preferably not by Romo, in future.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 10:34am

Damn, Dean got there first.

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 11:14am

Leftwich to Dallas makes more sense then my brother's pipe dream of Eli Manning to the Vikings. He said something about a three team deal and Matt Birk, but it was light on specifics.

by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 11:27am

Man, all this talk about Alex Smith's balls, but nothing about Jeff Reed?

Click my name for details.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 12:14pm

Re 37:
John Clayton's wrong. Before the game a ref will mark new, just opened balls with a K inside a circle. I think they mark 15. Those 15 are then used for every kicking situation. Teams may soften up a number of balls, but those are only used during regular play.

by Paul (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 2:02pm

Can't help but think that Bledsoe got some form of satisfaction from Romo's botch.

by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 4:33pm

The snapper is responsible for making sure the ball is dry, right? Not the referee?

by PantsB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 8:03pm

Funny thing - if you look at the stats, (removing the NYG game since each played, both sucked, Romo was worse) the offense got worse under Romo, they had a worse winning % under Romo and there were more QB turnovers a game under Romo.

"In addition, how does Vince Young get applauded for tackling someone on an interception he threw but Romo doesn’t get credit for the heads-up attempt he made at a first down after he screwed up the hold?"
He didn't facemask anyone?