Mention the names of Tony Romo and Jay Cutler to fantasy football owners, and you’ll see cringes followed by some sort of negative comment. But both are entering crucial seasons in their careers this year, so they are perfect candidates for my “Face-Off” series. Without further ado, here is my case for each guy and then I’ll make my choice.
The Case For Tony Romo
Romo missed the 2013 regular season finale with a back injury that required offseason surgery, but his 31 touchdown passes tied for the second-most in his career and his 10 interceptions tied his second-lowest total in a season he started at least 10 games.
Romo’s status as a lightning rod obscures the fact he has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback in five of the last seven seasons. In one of the two seasons he did not reach that level, 2010, he played just six games.
The hiring of Scott Linehan as “passing game coordinator” is sure to keep a pass-heavy offense in Dallas this year. Couple that with a historically bad defense from 2013 that does not look likely to improve, and Romo will be throwing plenty. Romo has Dez Bryant and Jason Witten as his top two targets, and Terrance Williams is in line to emerge as a consistent third option in his second season.
The Case For Jay Cutler
Cutler missed essentially six games with groin and ankle issues, but in the 10 games he saw the most action he completed close to 64 percent of his passes while averaging 259 yards per game. Seven of his 12 interceptions last season came in just three games, and Cutler threw multiple touchdowns in a game seven times.
Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman is a noted quarterback guru, as most recently evidenced by how Josh McCown performed when Cutler was out last season. Cutler’s physical tools rival anyone Trestman has worked with, so with another year in the same offense and hopefully better health career-highs across the board could come this year.
Chicago has two top-tier wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league (Matt Forte) and a tight end (Martellus Bennett) that is in his prime. That group of skill position talent rivals any in the league.
Cutler has not played all 16 games in a season since 2009, and Romo had two back surgeries in less than a year. So durability is a concern for both, and their average draft positions (Romo-eighth round; Cutler ninth or 10th round) reflect that. That puts both of them in the low-end QB1/high end QB2 range in terms of when quarterbacks are going off the board.
Romo and Cutler are both high-risk/high-reward options for 2014, which is nothing new to fantasy owners. This choice comes down to who has less health risk, and thus less downside coupled with high upside potential, so Cutler gets the slight edge.