Saturday, September 4, 2010

5 comments John Clayton Ranks The Quarterbacks In the NFL...It Doesn't Go Well

I am getting married this weekend so I will not be around for the next week. I do have some posts I have scheduled to post this upcoming week, so check back if you would like, but due to the fact I would not like to get immediately divorced I will not write anything next week on my honeymoon. If anyone is Hawaii over the next week, look for me. I will be the pale white guy with two cameras in his hand, binoculars around his neck, black sandals with socks, and a Hawaiian shirt.

The definition of elite is, "the best or most skilled members of a group."

John Clayton makes a list ranking the best quarterbacks in the NFL and then puts them in sub-categories. He lists 14 quarterbacks as being "elite" with a couple others being close to this level. That is 43.75% of the quarterbacks in the NFL that he considers elite. I realize quarterbacks who start in the NFL are elite because few get the opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL, but there aren't 14 quarterbacks that are considered the elite because that's just too many to fit the there aren't 14 elite quarterbacks in the NFL at this point.

If John Clayton was in the military and he wanted an "elite group of soldiers" to perform a mission, he would pretty much want to choose every other soldier in each least based on his quarterback rankings.

The Golden Age of NFL Quarterbacks continues to evolve.Bubble screens make it easier for quarterbacks to continue drives through the air. More talent is moving into the slot in three-receiver sets, giving quarterbacks even more passing options.

So quarterbacks aren't really getting any better, it's just that offenses are becoming more sophisticated and the offensive talent is becoming more and more talented? So it is the Golden Age of Offenses and not really the Golden Age of Quarterbacks?

For the past couple of years, I've preached how the league is divided into teams with elite quarterbacks and those without them. To win in this league, you must have an elite quarterback. Without one, the season can be long and frustrating.

Trent Diler, Mark Rypien, Doug Williams, Brad Johnson have an argument with this statement. Other quarterbacks who have made the Super Bowl with their team, but not won it, also beg to differ. A great quarterback helps a team make the Super Bowl, but it isn't a "must" for some teams.

In ranking the league's starting quarterbacks, I have three categories. The first is the Elite level, which includes quarterbacks who can carry teams into the playoffs.

So not only does John Clayton not understand the definition of elite, he lowers the standard to say if a quarterback can led his team to the playoffs, he is elite. I can't think of a worse definition for an elite quarterback other than "a guy who throws a football with his arm to where the receiver can catch it."

An elite quarterback is one who can complete better than 60 percent of his passes, has the potential to throw for 4,000 yards and has fourth-quarter comeback ability.

At least he has a consistent standard he measures the quarterbacks against I guess.

The next category is what I call the Chad Pennington Division.

Chad Pennington has completed 60 percent of his passes, led his team to the playoffs and has fourth-quarter comeback ability. If only he had thrown for 4,000 yards he could be considered elite.

Pennington, a former starter who's now a backup with the Dolphins, doesn't have the strongest arm but he once was good enough to take a team to the playoffs with a good surrounding cast or a favorable schedule.

So being "elite" hinges mostly on throwing for a lot of yardage? The elite quarterbacks need a good supporting cast around them to get to the playoffs and I don't know how I feel about saying a quarterback has to take his team to the playoffs to be considered elite. That would put non-elite quarterbacks in the running for being elite and take out some elite quarterbacks. Not to mention unless John Clayton knows something we don't and the NFL is planning on putting 14, and not 12, teams in the playoffs this year all of these elite quarterbacks John Clayton named won't lead their team to the playoffs this year.

A good supporting cast helps every quarterback. Elite quarterbacks are greatly benefited by a good supporting cast also.

The third category I call the Hit-Or-Miss Division. It is filled with young QBs -- hello, Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb -- who easily could climb my ladder or veterans who have reached their ceiling (Jake Delhomme) and have no chance of moving up.

Delhomme has taken his team to the Super Bowl and has reached 60 percent of his passes, thrown for close to 4000 yards, and has shown himself to be capable of a fourth quarter comeback. I am not saying he should be moved up, I am just mentioning this. I wonder what time frame John Clayton is measuring a quarterback to say he is elite? It appears that one year of meeting his criteria puts a quarterback in the realm of "elite," while one bad year doesn't seem to take him out of the category, though sometimes it does.

In the Pennington and Hit-Or-Miss divisions, I rate the chances those QBs have to reach elite status. Some have a greater chance than others because they have not reached their ceiling. Others (Alex Smith, Byron Leftwich) have hit their head on the ceiling and have no chance to reach elite status.

So let the arguments begin.

Ranking quarterbacks is a losing proposition as it is. I am sure it leads to a lot of email for and against certain picks. No one will ever be happy with it. I am not happy with 14 elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Don't call the quarterbacks "elite" if you use a criteria that nearly includes 50 percent of the quarterbacks.


1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

Analysis: At 34, Manning doesn't show any signs of slowing.

Arrow is pointing: Up

I have no problem with the ranking, but John Clayton thinks Peyton Manning is going to get better this year? That's hard for me to believe. Maybe he will stay the same, but getting better would be hard to do. He had a great year passing last year, but it was because he had no running game and his interceptions were higher than usual.

3. Drew Brees,
New Orleans Saints

Analysis: The combination of Brees and Sean Payton is scary. Brees is a master at finding the open receiver, and Payton is one of the best playcallers in the business.

Arrow is pointing: Up

Sean Payton should have nothing to do with this ranking. This is a ranking of quarterbacks in the NFL, not a ranking of best quarterback/coach combinations. If Payton is any way responsible for Brees success, I may argue that should knock him back a few spots in favor of quarterbacks who are elite no matter who their head coach is or at least don't have their coach's playcalling skill as part of the candidacy for his eliteness.

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

I can buy this ranking based on the Super Bowl wins, even though the Steelers won the game in spite of him. Roethlisberger threw for 4,000 yards for the first time last year.

5. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings

Arrow is pointing: Slightly down

Favre's arrow is pointing slightly down? He is 40 years old, injured, and has been pretty hit and miss in regard to his performance over the last 10 years. Does anyone really think he can come close to his performance from last year?

6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

This could be the season Rodgers passes Favre as the best quarterback in the NFC North.

If by "this season" John Clayton means "last season" then this is a correct statement. Rodgers did extremely well behind a mediocre offensive line last year. I take Rodgers over Favre, which I am sure everyone could probably guess.

7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

He's the biggest reason the Chargers stay ahead of the other AFC West teams.

That and the fact the other AFC West teams are just outright terrible most years.

9. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins

I don't think McNabb is still an elite quarterback in the NFL. He has never thrown for 4,000 yards so he doesn't even meet that criteria at all and he is constantly straddling the 60 percent pass completion marker. The elite quarterbacks ended at #8 with Tony Romo. Yet, John Clayton finds a way to throw a few more undeserving guys in there.

10. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals

The additions of Terrell Owens, Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley could allow Palmer to relive his 4,000-yard days.

Those days were in 2006 and 2007. Carson Palmer while still a good quarterback is not an elite quarterback anymore. He has more weapons this year, but an elite quarterback should not need two good receivers (Johnson and Owens), a 1000 yard rusher (Benson) and a potentially great tight end (Gresham) to be considered elite. If the supporting cast has to improve dramatically for a quarterback to be even sniffing elite status, that quarterback isn't elite.

11. Eli Manning, New York Giants

Arrow is pointing: Flat

So 34 year old Peyton Manning will improve and 40 year old Brett Favre will slightly not improve this year, but 29 year old Eli Manning won't get any better?

12. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Neither of these quarterbacks have a 4,000 yard season, mostly because they have been in the NFL for such a short period of time. That's also my point. These two are great young quarterbacks, but they don't meet Clayton's criteria and they aren't elite quarterbacks as of yet.

14. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Schaub finally moved into the elite group by staying healthy and throwing for a league-high 4,770 yards in 2009. (By the way, that was 270 yards more than Peyton Manning had last season.) The next step for Schaub and the Texans? Win in the AFC South and make the playoffs for the first time.

I like how Schaub will be a better quarterback in John Clayton's mind once his team makes the playoffs. So either John Clayton is handing out individual rankings based on how the team performs or he thinks Schaub needs to play better for his team to make the playoffs. The Texans haven't missed the playoffs because of anything Matt Schaub has done wrong, other than get injured.


15. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Analysis: Cutler was an elite quarterback in 2008 when he played for the Broncos, but 26 interceptions for Chicago in 2009 moved him out of my top group.

It's perfectly fair to judge Cutler negatively based on the fact he had a shaky offensive line, no running game and young receivers to work with. That's all his fault. He's not an elite quarterback and he may be ranked in his correct spot, but I have a few qualms with the reasoning.

With Mike Martz calling the plays, Cutler should regain his 4,000-yard form and re-emerge as the elite quarterback the Bears thought they acquired in a trade with Denver.

So he is not an elite quarterback, he just needs a good play caller? I am getting confused.

16. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos

Chance of being elite: 10 percent

No. Kyle Orton has much less than a 10% chance of being elite. Even if he meets John Clayton's criteria, he is still not an elite quarterback as shown by his performance every other season in the NFL. His "elite" year would be an outlier over his entire career.

17. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Hasselbeck lost his elite status because of two seasons getting rocked behind bad offensive lines.

Hasselbeck isn't as good of a quarterback because his offensive line isn't very good? I agree with Clayton's conclusion Hasselbeck isn't an elite quarterback, but you can't blame Hasselbeck and knock him down a few rungs on the quarterback ladder because he has had a shitty offensive line. That's ranking his skill based on the skill level of another position.

18. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans

Analysis: He's a 66 percent winner as a starter even though he struggles to complete 60 percent of his passes. Young isn't a great thrower, but he finds ways to win.
Chance of being elite: 10 percent

Vince Young has the same chance as Kyle Orton of being an elite quarterback? Young is a great example of why Clayton's 4,000 yard/lead his team to the playoffs/60% completion criteria is not a good judge of an elite quarterback.

21. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

22. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs

We all know how I feel about Matt Cassel, but he has shown himself to be a better quarterback than Alex Smith. Ask ten coaches which quarterback they would rather have and I bet the majority say Matt Cassel.

Analysis: Cassel showed in New England that he can be a playoff-caliber quarterback if he's surrounded with pass-catchers with yards-after-the-catch ability. He lacks the downfield arm to stretch a defense, but if the Chiefs get him more playmakers, Cassel could thrive.

What quarterback couldn't be a playoff-caliber quarterback if he is surrounded with pass-catches with YAC ability? Give any quarterback worth a shit a bunch of playmakers and he will all of a sudden turn into a great quarterback. Again, Clayton is judging Cassel solely on the ability of the offense around him. If Cassel doesn't make his receivers better and they have to make him better, that doesn't mean he is a playoff-caliber quarterback. It means he is a quarterback lucky enough to have a good team around him.


23. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

24. Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles

I think these quarterbacks should be switched.

25. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins

Henne has a strong arm and a flair for fourth-quarter comebacks, giving him a chance to be a top-level quarterback. It did seem as though defenses figured him out in the second half of the season, but Henne is smart enough to adjust. Plus, he now has Brandon Marshall as his main target.

The addition of Brandon Marshall doesn't mean Henne is a better quarterback than he used to be. It means he has better receivers on his team. It's a thin line, I realize that, but a quarterback isn't better simply because the people around him are better.

26. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers

Didn't Clayton already rank a Steelers quarterback? Why does Pittsburgh get two quarterbacks on this list ranked separately? East Coast Bias!

30. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

31. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills

32. Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers

I realize Matt Moore isn't a great quarterback, but he has shown he can complete 60% of his passes in limited chances to start. Trent Edwards wouldn't start for any team in the NFL except for Buffalo. Fine, don't rank Matt Moore above Sam Bradford, but you have to rank him above Trent Edwards. Not only is a better quarterback, but Clayton even gave him a higher chance of being elite (5% chance for Moore, 0% chance for Edwards). So Clayton's ranking of Moore and Edwards doesn't even make sense given the information Clayton based it on.

So if you don't rank Moore above a guy who is a backup at best (Leftwich), a failed starting quarterback and a quarterback that is going to be traded/cut soon (Anderson/Leinart), and a rookie (Bradford) who has done nothing in the NFL yet, Clayton has to rank him above Trent Edwards.

33. Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns

This just makes me sad for him.

Like I said, any list of starting quarterbacks is a losing proposition from the start. Unfortunately, this was a list that never even had a chance since John Clayton listed nearly half of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL as elite. A quarterback can't be elite if half of the NFL is as good as he is.


ivn said...

even though the Steelers won the game in spite of him

so you didn't watch Roethlisberger take the Steelers down the field against the Cardinals 2 years ago?

I agree with Clayton's conclusion Hasselbeck isn't an elite quarterback, but you can't blame Hasselbeck and knock him down a few rungs on the quarterback ladder because he has had a shitty offensive line

I can see his logic, even though he did a terrible job of explaining himself. as a result of the Hawks' terrible offensive line play the last two years Hasselbeck has taken enough shots that he's only one good hit away from getting his back fucked up and missing 5 or 6-plus games. which in turn makes him rush a few of his passes and makes him less likely to try to make plays with his feet (which he has been able to do in the past). so yes, in a roundabout way the Hawks' offensive line has made him less elite.

at least I think that's what he was trying to say.

Simmons came out with a similar column and he ranks the QBs slightly better, even though he gives absolutely no analysis for it.

Martin said...

I think Ben was talking about the first Super Bowl, which Ben R. had little to nothing to do with the victory.

Elite QB's. Manning, Brees, Brady

Tier Two. Rivers, Rodgers

Tier Three. Big Ben, Mc Nabb, Romo, Schaub, Favre

Everybody else. At least that's how i see the NFL QB's.

rich said...

I am getting married this weekend so I will not be around for the next week.

Congratulations man. Have fun with the wedding and honeymoon. I'll pour part of a beer out for you.

He has never thrown for 4,000 yards so he doesn't even meet that criteria at all and he is constantly straddling the 60 percent pass completion marker.

You know what makes this even more amazing to me? The fact that people rip on Reid for not running more and McNabb still hasn't had a 4,000 yard season. When a good portion of your running plays are short passes, to never throw for 4,000 yards and to flirt with 60% completion isn't exactly stellar.

Despite recording his first 4,000-yard passing season in 2009 and already owning a Super Bowl ring, Manning doesn't get the respect he is due.

Because the Giants won the SB b/c he went into full Dilfer mode? Because he throws a lot of interceptions? Because he constantly throws lame ducks or over/underthrows his receivers? He had a 4,000 yard season, but it was because the Giants couldn't run the ball worth shit and were (seemingly) playing from behind a lot. When you play from behind you tend to pass a lot.

re-emerge as the elite quarterback the Bears thought they acquired in a trade with Denver.

"re-emerge?" I wasn't aware Cutler had actually accomplished anything besides not meeting expectations. Cutler is a crappier version of Big Ben. I say this because Big Ben has no offensive line either, but uses his size and (what little he has) mobility to make plays. Cutler stands in a collapsing pocket and just chucks the ball. Cutler will never be the QB people "thought" he'd be. He's the new Jeff George: huge arm, arrogant and never quite able to put it all together.

Young isn't a great thrower, but he finds ways to win.

That way to win? Defense and Chris Johnson. When your job description is to throw something and you aren't a great thrower... you're not very good at your job.

What quarterback couldn't be a playoff-caliber quarterback if he is surrounded with pass-catches with YAC ability?

This question pretty much sums up my feelings about Clayton's rankings. It's really easy to rack up "elite" stats when you have really good players around you or a system that encourages/requires you to throw.

26. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers

Had Leftwich not gotten hurt, he'd be by far the worst starting QB in the NFL. He's immobile, inaccurate and has the mental capacity of a 5 year old. Delhomme at least had a few good years, Leftwich maybe had one "okay" year.

Basically what makes this article awful are the "stats." A good chuck of the players with "elite" stats play in pass first offenses with (pretty much always) really good players. Whether those players are the offensive line (Brady) or WRs (Manning) or RBs (Rivers) it's really stupid to say well player X had 4,000 yards passing; player Y only had 3500 therefore X is better than Y.

Similarly, the whole 60% completion rate is stupid in this context too. Players who are in west coast systems should have higher accuracy rates; players who play in domes should, likewise, have higher than average completion rates.

Facebones said...

1) Congratulations on the wedding and have a great honeymoon! If you are on Oahu, make sure you get out of Honolulu and check out the North Shore. Better beaches, and you get a more local flavorof the place.

2) Apparently, "elite" now means "above average." After Brady, Brees, and Peyton, I wouldn't call anyone in this league elite. (And frankly, Brady is on the edge.) Farve can't be considered elite anymore due to his age, injuries, and penchant for INTs. Rodgers hasn't earned it. Romo? Puh-leez.

FJ said...

Did you just have nothing to say about Brady at #2? Figured you'd attack Clayton's reasoning here:

"2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Analysis: I resisted the urge to put Drew Brees ahead of him, but Brady, with three Super Bowl rings, is still the master. The knee injury slowed him a little in 2009 (4,398 yards, 28 TD passes), but I expect his numbers to be much better this season.
Arrow is pointing: Flat"

Hmm...arrow is pointing flat? Didn't Clayton just say in the previous sentence he expects Brady to have a much better season than 28 TD passes and 4400 yards... huh??

Personally, I think Brady has always done more with less than any QB in the game...I think the ranking is appropriate but John Clayton's magical arrow seems to have some flaws...