Data Viz Done Right

December 14, 2015

Makeover Monday: You Don’t Know What Tony Romo’s Got Till He’s Gone

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Anyone that knows me knows that I despise the Dallas Cowboys and, in particular, their golden boy Tony Romo. As a lifelong Eagles fan, I’ve been indoctrinated into the hatred for anything associated with that ugly blue star. It drives me nuts to hear how much all of the NFL pundits love Tony Romo. He’s never won anything and chokes in the playoffs every time they make them.

So when I saw this article by FiveThirtyEight, it caught my attention. Was I not giving Romo his due? Does that matter anyway? In the article, the author looks at a metric they call WOWY (or With or Without You). In its most basic sense, this metric measures the impact that a particular player has on their team by measuring the Elo rating when that players plays and when they do not. For this piece, they considered quarterbacks that were the primary QB for at least 50 games and missed at least 20 games. They then pared that down to the top 10 based on what they called the WOWY ∆ ELO.

The result is this table:


The table clearly shows Tony Romo as the 3rd most important player to their team based on this metric. Ok fine. But is there more to the story? Can this simple table be made more intuitive for the readers to understand?

I created the barbell chart below. This view makes it much easier to see the difference between the With and Without You metrics. I also added a metric to the view that calculates the difference between the two. I then created a drop down to allow you, the reader, to sort by the metric you find most interesting. In essence, I’ve turned this simple table into four stories:

  1. WOWY ∆ ELO - This metric shows Romo as the 3rd most missed player in NFL history when he’s out injured. 
  2. Games With - Sorting the chart by the Games With Elo rating, suddenly Romo is only 5th on this list, yet he’s ahead of Peyton Manning. This view also shows just how amazing John Elway was when he played. Elway’s Elo rating is nearly 50% higher than the second best.
  3. Games Without - Interesting…the teams that Rex Grossman played for actually performed better without him in the lineup. Clearly he was quite terrible as an NFL quarterback. You can also see Romo down in 6th position; the Cowboys are definitely much worse without him.
  4. Difference - I added this metric to show the variation between the With and Without You values. Now Romo is back in the 3rd position, and look at that gap for John Elway…wow! 

Give it a play for yourself. Do you see anything else interesting?


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