Don't Chase Shiny Things, Episode 52: Why the Romo/Cutler Meme Must Die

Some dumb memes won't die.  Now, everywhere it seems, we see Dallas shoved into the Jay Cutler discussion, with Tony Romo proposed as trade bait for the unhappy Bronco.  Proof positive that fantasy football really does distort people's eyes.

Setting aside the fact that trading Romo's salary would be a cap killer, let's look at their sample sizes:

  • Romo -- 39 career starts;
  • Cutler -- 37 career starts;

These guys became starting QBs at roughly the same time.  Cutler started earlier in his NFL career, but he never had to change systems.  Mike Shanahan, the desired replacement of so many here, nutured young Jay from day one.  Romo has made the shift, however slight, from the Todd Haley passing playbook to Jason Garrett's

That said, they've been QBs for the same amount of time.  And for all the talk of development, we should be able to put their developmental curves side-by-side, to see how they're doing.  To my eyes, one stat says "forget it" better than any other -- bad decision percentage.

Scientific Football tracks bad decisions by QBs, which KC Joyner defines as,

"something [the QB] does with the football that leads to, or nearly leads to, a turnover.  The most common bad decisions are forcing passes into coverage or staring at a receiver."

What's the biggest complaint among the Romo rippers?  That he forced too many passes to T.O.  That he didn't protect the football.  That he threw dumb passes early in passing sequenes, especially on first down. 

Okay, so why then would anybody contemplate trading him for a guy who's even worse at this?  Here's Cutler's entry in SF '08:

Jay Cutler has been an NFL quarterback for two seasons now.  In that time he has shown one overriding characteristic -- forcing passes into coverage.  Cutler had a bad decision rate of 5.8% in 2006 and 5.0% in 2007... Those rates are incredibly high (Cutler ranked dead last in bad decision percentage in 2007) and they show he's much more of a gunslinger than Jake Plummer ever was.

Romo's BD percentages, by comparison, were 1.9% in '06 and 4.0% in '07.  He got a lot sloppier with the ball in '07 but his '08 numbers, as much as they were bashed, improved just slightly over '07.

I don't have the full '08 numbers, but I spoke to Joyner about Cutler mid-season and was told that after a strong September, he was back to his bad decision tricks.  And for the apologists who want to talk about his poor running game, give it up.

Culter has had Shanahan holding his hand every step of the way.  (Raise your hands if you're still clinging to the hope that Mike will be Dallas' HC next year.  Come on, don't be shy.)   Cutler may not have had the best running backs behind him, but he had the best pass-protecting line in football last year, something Romo didn't enjoy.  Cutler also had Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely and Tony Sheffler to catch his passes, so he had options.  Yet he's still the most mistake-prone QB in the NFL.

Stop the myopia.  You may hate Romo's gunslinging ways, but trading him for the biggest gunslinger of them all won't solve any problems.  It's simply creating change for its own sake and hoping for something better.  Hope, as the military folks are fond of saying, is not a plan.  

There are plenty of real problems for the Cowboys to attend to and for us to obsess about. Focus on some of those, please.

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