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Cowboys QB gets raw deal in Romo-Rodgers comparison

  • By Elliot Harrison Special to NFL.com
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Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers are comparable in many ways, but not in how they are perceived by fans and media.


Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo have been in the news a lot this week -- Rodgers because of a concussion that puts his status for this week in some doubt, and Romo because he's the face of Super Bowl contender that is sitting at 1-3.

For some odd reason, these two get linked together quite often by fans, broadcasters and analysts, including NBC's Tony Dungy this week.

Dungy said "part of being a leader at the quarterback position is protecting the football. You've got to do that to be a great quarterback."

That comment is emblematic of what people don't like about Romo, and the unfavorable comparisons to Rodgers always seem to appear a few sentences later. It's easy to see why. Both are NFC quarterbacks in their early prime who had to sit on the bench for three years before getting a shot. They also play for two of the NFL's flagship franchises.

Highest career yards per attempt* (active QBs)
Player Team(s) Yds/Att
Tony Romo Cowboys 8.07
Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 8.01
Philip Rivers Chargers 7.97
Matt Schaub Falcons, Texans 7.81
Peyton Manning Colts 7.67
Drew Brees Chargers, Saints 7.35
Tom Brady Patriots 7.32
*Minimum 1,500 career attempts (Aaron Rodgers has 1,304 attempts for a 7.70 yards-per-attempt average.)

Perhaps the biggest reason lies in the fact that Romo reminds so many people of the guy Rodgers replaced: Brett Favre. He's a fun-loving gunslinger, who sometimes throws hairbrained interceptions. He comes off as somewhat of a diva, and they say he's not as good as A-Rodg.

Too bad the latter is totally wrong. Ain't no way Rodgers is better than Romo. No way.

This is not to say Rodgers isn't a great quarterback. He has a sterling career passer rating of 96.4, while having thrown 68 touchdowns to only 27 interceptions. He also averages 7.7 yards every time the ball leaves his hands. Those are great numbers.

Let's take a look at that "gunslinger" Romo: 95.3 passer rating, with 114 touchdowns and only 60 interceptions -- very close to Rodgers. But Romo gets more bang for his buck, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt during his career. That's higher than any quarterback in the NFL. Higher than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and yes, Rodgers. Give me a quarterback who throws the ball down the field over a dink-and-dunker any day of the week.

Still, Rodgers and Romo have nearly identical numbers. That said, stats have never been the measure of a great quarterback. Wins have. Surely, Rodgers must blow away Romo in this category, right? Wrong. Romo has won two out of every three starts, while Rodgers is hovering around .500.

So Romo's stats are comparable to Rodgers, and he's won a far higher percentage of his games. That's great, but it still might not be enough for his detractors. The all-too-common epitaph on Romo's career was this Einstein-esque factoid: Romo hasn't been a winner in the playoffs. True that. He's 1-3 as a starter in the postseason. But Rodgers hasn't won any.

Romo vs. Rodgers: W-L as a starter
Player Record Pct.
Tony Romo 39-20 .661*
Aaron Rodgers 20-17 .541
*Sixth among active QBs with at least 30 starts

Of course, Rodgers has only played in one playoff game. But that brings up another point of contention: Part of being a great quarterback is getting your team to the playoffs, or at the very least, having a winning season. Rodgers went 6-10 in his first season as a starter, after having all offseason and training camp to prepare. Romo went 6-4 his first season as a starter, despite being thrust into the lineup when Bill Parcells decided to bench Drew Bledsoe at halftime against the Michael Strahan-led Giants. To that point of the season, Romo might've gotten 10 percent of the snaps to prepare, as opposed to Rodgers, who had an entire playbook built to his strengths.

The success of Romo's initial season and Rodgers' first has little to do with the talent around them. Those 2008 Packers had Donald Driver, Ryan Grant and Greg Jennings. Green Bay went 13-3 the prior year under Favre's direction, before going 6-10 with Rodgers. Can you imagine if that had been Tony Romo? Lieutenant Aldo Raine would've taken a cheesegrater to his head.

Same deal with the playoffs. Rodgers put up very impressive stats in his one and only playoff game vs. Arizona last season, throwing for 423 yards and four touchdowns. But he missed a wide-open Greg Jennings in overtime on a play that easily could've gone for a touchdown, and his fumble deep in Green Bay territory lost the game. Few fans pinned the loss on A-Rodg, blaming the Packers secondary instead for not covering anyone all game -- rightly so. But what if that had been Romo? He could have Marino'd the Cardinals into oblivion with 600 yards passing and nine touchdowns, but if he committed the same mistakes Rodgers made, he would've gotten a plyboard to the face from David Spade and NFL analysts alike. Their situations are totally different.

Situation, or the environment in which these two great players started their career, has everything to do with why Rodgers is perceived so positively and Romo lukewarmly (at best). When Favre retired for the 37th time, fans were so ready to move on that they gave the likeable, polite, Rodgers a free pass. Despite being a first-round pick, and given every chance to succeed, fans were pleased as punch when Rodgers proved to be a productive quarterback in 2008.

Conversely, Romo was given every chance to get cut. In fact, had Quincy Carter not failed a drug test, Romo would've likely been released in 2004. The Cowboys already had Carter (the starter), Vinny Testaverde (a Parcells guy), and Drew Henson (a highly touted prospect). Romo was the odd man out. But history played out as it did, and Romo outplayed everyone. The undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois took the team to the playoffs and made the Pro Bowl, setting the bar so high that he ensured himself of never getting a free pass.

The dropped snap in the wild-card game vs. Seattle in the 2006 season didn't help. Nor did going to Mexico with Jessica Simpson the weekend before the divisional playoffs. But how many starting quarterbacks are asked to hold for kicks these days? And no one would care if Rodgers started hanging out with Meryl Streep, or Merril Hoge for that matter.

Dating Simpson is where a lot of the Romo-hating started, with much of the venom coming from fans who have the vacation time but no Jessica to spend it with. But don't forget, Dallas had a bye that weekend, and Romo had to spend it listening to Jessica talk about Golden Retrievers and Prada bags. Not exactly a vacation.

That said, everything but Romo's performance as a quarterback on the field sticks to him. He has the same numbers as Rodgers, has won a sizably larger percentage of his games, and like his Packers contemporary, makes unbelievable plays.

These guys should be spoken of together, but only in the sense that they are two of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL, with plenty of good days ahead of them.

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