What a difference a couple years makes.
Over the last two seasons, Aaron Rodgers has gone from a 6-10 quarterback to an 11-5 quarterback and with that, has ascended media, fantasy football and fan rankings at an alarming rate.
I've heard the term "elite" used for Aaron Rodgers. I've seen quarterback rankings that have him ranked as high as No. 2 behind only Peyton Manning. And most recently, I've seen him as the front-runner for the NFL MVP, NFL Offensive Player of the Year and his team as the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
At the same time, Tony Romo has gone from 13-3 to 8-5 to 11-5 and yet the media and fans are saying that he is a "top 10" quarterback. The media and fans alike are acting as if Tony Romo isn't even in the same league as Aaron Rodgers. Is this true? Is there any statistical evidence that can back this up?
In the NFL, quarterbacks are judged by regular season wins and losses, division titles, playoff victories and Super Bowls. That's the order of importance so let's begin by comparing these key statistical categories.
Since taking over the Cowboys in the second half of the Cowboys sixth game of the 2006 season against the New York Giants, all Tony Romo has done is dominate the regular season. In 55 regular season starts, Tony Romo has compiled a 38-17 record.
In his three full seasons as the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback, Romo has managed to win the NFC East twice. The knock on Romo is his perceived inability to win in the playoffs which he finally put to rest in the 2009 NFC playoffs with a win versus the Philadelphia Eagles. Even with that victory, Romo's playoff resume leaves much to be desired with a 1-3 overall record.
Aaron Rodgers took a very similar path then Tony Romo on his way to starting in the NFL. He, like Romo sat for several years before finally getting his chance to prove himself. The problem is, the results have been far from the same. In two seasons starting for the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers regular season record (much like Tony Romo's postseason record) has left much to be desired.
In two seasons as the full time starter, Rodgers has compiled a 17-15 overall record in the regular season. In those two seasons, he has yet to achieve a NFC North division title. In 2009, Rodgers did help his team improve from 6-10 in 2008 to 11-5 in 2009 but failed in a similar fashion then Tony Romo in his first playoff game by fumbling away a victory.
Now, records don't always tell the whole story. There are so many factors that come into play, most importantly: strength of opponents. Because of this, we must compare how each quarterback does against the good and not so good teams of the NFL.
When looking back at Tony Romo's career, he has been average against the good teams of the NFL (I have defined good as teams with a final regular season record of .500 or better). In 32 games against teams with a .500 or above record, Tony Romo has won 17 games or 53% of the time.
When facing below .500 teams, Tony Romo is almost unbeatable. In 23 games against below .500 competition, Tony Romo has only lost two times and both losses came in 2006 when he came in, in relief of Drew Bledsoe in the middle of the season. In the last three seasons as the Cowboys full-time starter, Romo is 18-0 against below .500 opponents.
Aaron Rodgers has not been what most would even call average against .500 or better opposition. In 20 games against .500 or better opponents, Rodgers has only managed to win 7 times or 35% of the time. What's most alarming about Rodgers inability to win against this level of opposition is that he is 1-7 away from Lambeau Field and his only win came against the Arizona Cardinals in week 17 of the 2009 season, a game in which Arizona didn't play the majority of it's starters and used a very vanilla game plan.
Much like Romo, Rodgers does excel against the below .500 teams of the NFL. In 12 games against this level of competition, Rodgers has achieved 10 wins.
What have we learned so far? We have statistical evidence that Romo (69%) wins at a much higher rate then Rodgers (53%) during the regular season. We have statistical evidence that Romo is more capable of winning his division (twice in three full years starting) then Rodgers (zero in two full years starting). We have statistical evidence that Romo fares better against both .500 and above opposition (53%) and below .500 opposition (91%) then Rodgers who only wins 35% of the time against opposition with a .500 or above record and 83% of the time against below .500 opponents.
So what else is there? Well, there's always personal accomplishments. Since neither has won an MVP or Player of the Year Award, we will compare their statistic accomplishments: Completion percentage, passing yards per game, touchdowns per game, interceptions per game, quarterback rating, sacks taken per game and fumbles per game.
The statistical categories is where these two quarterbacks are truly comparable. Tony Romo edges out Aaron Rodgers in the passing yards per game (274 yards to 265 yards), touchdowns per game (1.95 touchdowns to 1.81 touchdowns), sacks taken per game (1.8 sacks to 2.9 sacks) and fumbles per game (0.69 fumbles to 0.72 fumbles) categories.
Aaron Rodgers edges out Tony Romo in the completion percentage (63.9% completions to 63.4% completions), interceptions per game (0.625 interceptions to 1.00 interceptions) and quarterback rating (97.2 QB rating to 95.6 QB rating) categories.
So what did we learn from comparing Romo and Rodgers personal accomplishments? Not a whole lot. The two quarterbacks are almost identical in almost every category. They both average a lot of passing yard per game. The both complete about the same percentage of passes. Romo throws more interceptions but Rodgers is more prone to fumble. Rodgers does hold the higher quarterback rating by a slight margin, but sacks (which he takes quite a bit more of) don't adversely affect a quarterbacks rating so I don't take much stock in this difference.
After providing all the statistic evidence that has been compiled throughout Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers careers, I don't understand why the media and fans alike view Aaron Rodgers so highly and then call Tony Romo an "above average" quarterback.
So far, in their careers, this race isn't even close. I think fantasy football has skewed the definition of elite to the point where personal statistics are viewed as more important then wins and losses.