Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennet, who is no stranger to controversy, made waves in the news lately for declaring that he felt Tony Romo should have to compete with Jon Kitna for the team’s starting quarterback position.
“I loved playing with Kitna,” Bennett said last week on ESPN 103.3′s Ben & Skin Show. “Kitna is one of my favorite people to play with. Just being out there on the field with that guy just makes you play even harder. He made some things happen in limited time, so I think if he got a longer chance, he’d be able to do more.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ infatuation with Romo will probably keep Kitna from opening the season as Dallas’s starter. However, the Cowboys were better with Kitna under center than with Romo. Statistically, both quarterbacks were very similar in 2010. The difference between their completion percentages was less than two percent, the difference in their Yards per Attempt average was only 0.1 yards, and the difference between their quarterback ratings was only 6 points.
Although statistics don’t show much of a difference between the two quarterbacks, game film certainly does. Romo is easily more physically gifted than Kitna – he’s seven years younger and can make a lot more deep throws. However, Kitna’s ball placement is much better, especially on short crossing routes. Kitna can throw the ball so that his receivers are able to catch it in stride, which allows them to pick up more yards after the catch. While Romo can provide more big plays, Kitna can consistently move the chains and keep the offense on the field.
Considering the Cowboys’ personnel, Kitna is a better fit as the starting quarterback. While Romo can lead a high-octane, hit-or-miss offense that throws 40 times per game, that style of offense would be a waste of Dallas’s depth at running back. Marion Barber’s high salary will probably force the Cowboys to trade or release him whenever the lockout ends, but Tashard Choice and Felix Jones can be more than adequate cornerstones of a run-based offense. At this point in time, the Cowboys need a game manager more than anything. Kitna is the best fit for that role, and the Cowboys can groom the promising Stephen McGee behind him for the next year or two.
Romo fans will likely come out in droves saying this idea is ridiculous, and will claim that the Cowboys are “his team,” and that he is the Cowboys’ unquestioned leader. If the Cowboys were really Romo’s team though, nobody in the locker room would have questioned whether he should start for the Cowboys. After all, no members of the Patriots suggested that Tom Brady should compete with Matt Cassell for the starting job after the 2008 season. The time has come for Garrett to open up the Cowboys’ starting quarterback position to competition and allow the best quarterback to line up under center on opening day.
Hank Koebler is an NFL Writer and On-Air Personality. Hank's work as a journalist has been widely published and he's received numerous citations for his NFL coverage. You may email Hank @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @HankKoebler