Mac Engel

Only the ring separates Aaron Rodgers from Tony Romo

AP

Up here in America’s northern nether regions, where temperatures have dipped into an inhumane minus-minus, the condition of Ndamukong Suh’s favorite calf is an area of major concern.

For the record, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ strained left calf that he suffered in Week 17 was bad enough to keep him out of practice Wednesday. There is no way Rodgers will not play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field, but the reaction and the media attention to this injury borders on mass panic.

“I’m goin’ Sunday,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “It’s just a matter of how.”

Know this: In the upcoming Battle of the Crippled Quarterbacks, Tony Romo’s back is considerably worse than Aaron Rodgers’ calf.

Also know this: While the MVP voting is completed, the winning quarterback Sunday should be the real 2014 NFL Most Valuable Player. Romo may not win the NFL MVP award over Rodgers, or Tom Brady, but beating Rodgers and the Packers is another “to-do” item on this, his season of Great Alterations.

There are so many similarities between the two this season — from the way they smirk, their calm demeanor, celebrity significant others, their dry personalities down to their statistics — yet if you ever need a study in how one more win can create a world of altered perceptions, examine these two. Rodgers has that ring, and Romo has yet to reach an NFC title game. As a result, the way we view these two, despite how close they are, is world’s apart.

Rodgers can get away with it whereas Romo still quite can’t.

For years, Romo was ripped for what was perceived as a glib and flippant attitude toward the results when his actions said he cared.

This season, Rodgers instructed the rabid Packer nation to “relax” after his team dropped two of its first three games. He said on his radio show back in September, “Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be OK.”

If Romo had said that — ever — he would have been crucified. When a Super Bowl winner says it, it becomes a catchphrase complete with T-shirts.

“I guarantee you I never saw any of that money,” Rodgers said.

The Packers quarterback is younger, but if Romo is to be put in the same sentence with Rodgers, Big Ben, Peyton and Mr. Gisele, he must slay the Packers in Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood. Romo is closer to this sentence than he’s been before since 2007, while Rodgers has been there for a few years.

Rodgers won the Super Bowl when the Packers defeated the Steelers at JerryWorld back in 2011. He was named the game’s MVP. I asked him if he felt that changed the way people viewed him, and treated him.

“Yes, there are different expectations and different treatment,” he said. “But it comes with it.”

Rodgers is likely not that much better of a player had he not defeated the Steelers, but the way he is treated and viewed swung entirely on that one win.

This season, Romo has played the best ball of his life and continually cleared so many of the previous obstacles that had defined his play. (That he will make the mistake at the worst time, and that when the game gets big against a big opponent he will drop from a Size 12 to a Size 2.)

“Tony’s had a great season. He’s battled through an injury — a significant one with a surgery on his back,” Rodgers said. “He’s a really talented guy. I enjoy watching him on film. He’s had a phenomenal season.”

Despite Romo’s clean season — 69.9 percent completion percentage, 34 touchdowns, nine interceptions — not every perception has been altered.

“He’s good,” Packers veteran receiver Randall Cobb told me.

Not great?

“He’s good,” he said.

For Rodgers, there is no debate. He is great. He threw all of five interceptions this season and, with Romo and Tom Brady, had one of the most effective and clean seasons a quarterback could ever have.

Rodgers did not necessarily need this season to make his case. We already knew it.

Romo needs this.

These two are not that much different, but how we view them is based largely on a few more wins.

Romo has changed many perceptions this season, and he needs to slay Rodgers at Lambeau on Sunday to continue this, his season of Great Alterations.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof

2014 Statistics

Tony Romo: 12-3, 69.9 completion rate, 3,705 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, 9 ints.

Aaron Rodgers: 12-4, 65.6 completion rate, 4,381 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, 5 ints.

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