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Pompei: Cutler, Romo not exactly mirror images

CHICAGO (MCT) — At this stage in their careers, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo often are portrayed as the same quarterback in a different uniform.

But if you look behind the face masks, they don’t have as much in common as you might think.

Perceived similarity: They are about equally productive.

Difference: There is no question Romo has been a more efficient and dynamic quarterback.

Romo has a considerably better passer rating (96.6 to 83.6), average per attempt (8.03 to 7.23) and completion percentage (64.5 to 60.8).

What’s more, Romo’s passer rating is third highest all-time, behind only Aaron Rodgers’ 103.2 and Steve Young’s 96.8. He also has the sixth highest yards per attempt all-time, behind only Otto Graham (8.98), Sid Luckman (8.42), Norm Van Brocklin (8.16), Aaron Rodgers (8.13) and Cam Newton (8.08).

Perceived similarity: Both have been defined by postseason failures.

For Romo, it was a botched hold against the Seahawks in 2007, a fourth-down interception in the end zone as the clock was winding down against the Giants in 2008 and three fumbles and an interception against the Vikings in 2010. His record in the playoffs is 1-3.

For Cutler, it was throwing an interception and missing wide-open receivers before sitting out most of the second half with a knee injury against the Packers in the NFC championship game in 2011.

Difference: Even though Cutler actually has one more career start in the regular season than Romo, Cutler has had only one crack at the postseason; Romo has had three.

Perceived similarity: Both can take a beating.

There is little doubt these are two tough hombres.

Last Sunday, Romo was pummeled by the Bucs. You may have seen the video of him on his back with his eyes closed after one hit. A year ago, he played for six weeks with a broken rib and a punctured lung. He previously played with a broken collarbone and a broken finger.

Since 2010, Cutler has been sacked 86 times — more than any quarterback in the NFL.

Difference: Romo is better at avoiding pass rushers and buying second chances. He makes more throws on the run than Cutler and is better able to use broken plays to his advantage.

Perceived similarity: Both are gunslingers.

Since Cutler became a Bear in 2009, he has thrown more interceptions (55) than any player in the league other than Eli Manning, who has thrown three more in seven more games.

In that span, Romo has thrown 26 fewer interceptions than Cutler in three fewer games. But when Romo does throw interceptions, he sometimes throws doozies.

For instance: In the first game at Cowboys Stadium, Romo threw three picks in a two-point loss to the Giants. Last year the Cowboys jumped out to a 27-3 lead on the Lions before Romo threw two pick-sixes in a five-minute span in the third quarter, and the Lions came back to win.

Difference: Romo is a better caretaker than he’s given credit for, and a better caretaker than Cutler. “Tony likes to create and make plays and he has a knack for it,” said Stephen Jones, Cowboys vice president. “Every now and then you might have a turnover. But he knows how important it is to take care of the ball.”

But Cutler can make an impossible throw better than Romo. No quarterback can squeeze a pass into a ridiculously tight spot better than Cutler. The fact that he knows it sometimes can work to his detriment, however.

Perceived similarity: Both are about to be paid like elite quarterbacks.

The contracts of both players expire after the 2013 season.

Difference: It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Romo is going to get his money. Cowboys management has made that clear, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Romo signed a new deal at any time.

“Tony is our quarterback for the foreseeable future,” Jones said.

It appears the Bears still are trying to determine Cutler’s value to the team.

Perceived similarity: Each has one of the most high-profile jobs in the NFL, given the team each plays for.

Difference: Romo may always be in the shadows of former Cowboys Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Cutler, meanwhile, has a chance to become the greatest Bears quarterback since Sid Luckman.

Perceived similarity: The leadership of both players has been questioned, and both have been called aloof at times.

Difference: Romo is more of a quiet, humble, leader by example. Cutler can be a very vocal, forceful leader.

Cutler is not always sensitive to people he works with. Romo is known for his collegiality and appears to be respected by all corners of the Cowboys locker room.

The world will see just how similar, and dissimilar, these quarterbacks can be Monday at Cowboys Stadium.

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