There are no perfect quarterbacks. Even Peyton Manning throws a pass to the other team from time to time. It happened Sunday, but, as his Denver Broncos' 51-48 victory over the Dallas Cowboys demonstrated, there are interceptions and then there are interceptions from hell. If every turnover were equal, the emotional damage would be easier to endure. It's the killer pick that leaves the deepest scars -- deep enough, sometimes, to make the long-criticized "game manager" seem attractive by comparison.
Of course, a cautious game manager wasn't going to suffice in the type of shootout Tony Romo and the Cowboys lost so painfully to Manning's Broncos. The late interception Romo threw hurt so much precisely because he had been so dynamic to that point. The play will only harden Romo's reputation as prone to the critical mistake, but he was not alone Sunday. Killer interceptions stood out for losing quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert.
Romo and Schaub have become known for breaking hearts. Eli Manning has had his moments, as well. Categorizing interceptions by corresponding changes in team win probability gives us a context for just how much each turnover hurts. For example, the pick Romo threw against the Broncos reduced the Cowboys' chances by 25.9 percentage points, an unusually large drop for a single play. It was the ninth time since 2008 that a Romo pick reduced Dallas' chances by at least 20 percentage points. But, if you forget Romo's reputation for a second and look at the numbers you'll find that Schaub is an even worse offender. That fact begs the question: Can Schaub survive his early-season mistakes in Houston? Or, more to the point, should he?