Hot Button: Defending Tony Romo

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
3:26
PM ET

With the Chicago Bears set to visit the Dallas Cowboys this week on "Monday Night Football," the folks who run our local sites thought they'd hook up a Hot Button debate about the topic that drives so many Hot Button debates -- quarterbacks.

Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com and Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com are discussing which quarterback is better -- the Cowboys' Tony Romo or the Bears' Jay Cutler. Jon believes Cutler has the better arm and has shown more of an ability to produce in spite of lesser talent around him, while Romo has been the beneficiary of playing with better receivers. Tim thinks the issues go well beyond supporting cast:
We're really talking about quarterbacks from two different class levels. Romo ranks right behind the elite active QBs who have won Super Bowls. Cutler is just a bit above average despite his rocket right arm.

Cutler, the NFL leader in interceptions and sideline hissy fits, has actually been awful the last two weeks.

Their critics have focused on two areas: decision-making and leadership. Romo has made major progress in both departments in recent seasons; Cutler has regressed.

I think that last part is key. Even if you presume Romo and Cutler to be relatively equivalent talents, the difference in the way Romo operates in his locker room and in his huddle versus the way Cutler operates in his creates a clear separation. Romo is professional and focused and daily earns the respect and admiration of his teammates for his on-field toughness and leadership. Cutler pouts and complains about his blocking and criticizes teammates. That is not NFL quarterback leadership. Romo may not always have been the kind of quarterback-leader fans wanted him to be, but there's little doubt that he's evolved in a positive and productive direction in that department. Cutler remains the surly kid who gets mad when things don't go his way. Ultimately, they'll be measured by whatever success they end up having in terms of wins, losses and postseason performance. But right now, while neither has much of the latter to speak of, Romo seems clearly to be the guy you'd prefer to have running your offense.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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