Young QBs Debate: Romo

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

With Tom Brady out for the season and Peyton Manning in the tank (by his standards), our friends at Scouts Inc. took on the task of naming their heir apparent(s). They looked at the under-30 crowd and quickly whittled it down to Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. I have no problem with this list, although I still hold out hope that Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell will enter the conversation at some point.

The esteemed panel ranked the quarterbacks in the following order: Big Ben, Eli, Cutler, Romo and Rivers. Now, I do have a big problem with that list. (Have I mentioned my immense respect for the panelists?)

Anyway, AFC North blogging phenom James Walker sent me a text message saying he wanted to explain why Roethlisberger is better than Romo. I haven't seen his blog entry, but here's my rebuttal:

First of all, Manning, Romo and Cutler will all end up being better quarterbacks than Roethlisberger. For starters, Romo is on pace to be the highest-rated passer in the history of the league. He doesn't have the 1,500 attempts necessary to be eligible for the record books, but through 28 starts, Romo has a 97.6 career passer rating. Steve Young retired with a 96.8.

Roethlisberger has more of a body of work because he has played since his rookie season in 2004, and yes, he led the team to a Super Bowl title in 2005. For some of you, that's where the argument ends -- and that's probably fair. But I'm trying to project what type of quarterbacks these guys will be over the next several years.

On that Super Bowl team, Roethlisberger was asked to be a caretaker quarterback -- and there's no shame in that. But from Day 1 in the Cowboys' offense (six games into the 2006 season), Romo has been asked to win games. In my mind, he faces more pressure every time he goes out. Roethlisberger was able to rely on the tandem of Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker early in his career. Romo had a struggling Julius Jones and a green Marion Barber early in his career.

In 2006 (the motorcycle season), Big Ben led the world in interceptions (23) against only 18 touchdowns. He bounced back, though, and was more accurate than Romo in 2007. That said, he threw 116 fewer passes than Romo. It speaks to my argument that Romo is asked to do more than Roethlisberger.

Yes, Romo had the second-highest number of interceptions with 19 last season, but he also had 36 touchdowns (four more than Roethlisberger). We also keep hearing about Roethlisberger's mobility. He does a nice job of moving around in the pocket and using his strength to brush away defenders. But wait, wasn't he sacked 47 times last season? Yes, I know so-called mobile quarterbacks end up taking a lot of sacks, but that's still a staggering number. Jon Kitna was sacked a league-leading 51 times, in part, because he had a madman running the offense. I think Roethlisberger has a tendency to hold the ball too long, a quality that will keep Drew Bledsoe out of the Hall of Fame.

Romo's the Houdini of this bunch. His improvisational skills are unmatched by the other four finalists, but he's also deadly accurate for a guy who takes a lot of chances. Roethlisberger probably has the stronger arm, although Romo's no slouch in that area.

What separates Romo from the other quarterbacks is that he's able to process information so quickly. Scouts will tell you that he goes through his reads at an amazing rate, which matches up well with his quick-fire delivery. Of all the guys we've mentioned, Cutler has the biggest arm. He also has an amazing release and is very athletic. He'll eventually surpass Roethlisberger in future Scouts Inc. roundtables.

If you held a gun to my head (some of you enjoy this image too much), I'd go with Romo, Manning, Roethlisberger, Cutler and Rivers at this very minute. I think Cutler has a chance to make the biggest move, though.

Manning and Roethlisberger have the ultimate scoreboards (Super Bowl rings), but it's too easy to make the argument on that basis. I encourage you to read James Walker's passionate defense of Big Ben.

Can't wait to see what you guys think. You've been a wonderful audience.

P.S. Vince, we'd love for you to join us in this conversation at some point.