Tuesday, January 4, 2011

16 comments This Never Ends In Agreement

ESPN has labeled this past year as the year of the QB. Based solely on the recent success of the pass-happy Drew Brees and the proliferation of the passing offense, I begrudgingly agreed. Allowing the Mothership to somewhat dictate and impact my views never pleases me. But then I looked at the QBs around the league and was, for the most part, unimpressed. With the disappearance of the "defense wins championships" philosophy, one would assume it to be a result of the improvement of QBs around the league. But that simply does not seem to be the case. The NFL QB power structure resembles that of the Eastern Conference of the NBA: completely top heavy.

Clearly Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady sit atop the list as the upper-most echelon. (Put them in whatever order you like. That is an endless debate that will only lead to frustration and personal preference as opposed to any semblance of fact and substantiation.) I would even throw Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers into that category as well. Although this is a dubious game to play, imagine the Packers and Chargers with health and talent, respectively. Both teams would probably find themselves awaiting their divisional round opponents as they sip on a cold brew and smoke a celebratory I-don't-have-to-do-anything-for-a-week cigar

Barely below these stand outs sits Vick and Roethlisberger. As some of you are sure to argue, these guys belong among the names above. My only issue with Vick is that teams seem to have figured him out recently (including the Giants, minus the last 8 minutes). Rothelisberger, while he has clearly proven his late game/scramble-for-13-seconds-until-someone-gets-open ability, does not inspire the "we can only hope to control him, not stop him" mentality for opposing defenses.

The final echelon of quality, Super Bowl potential QBs is Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub. While I have already aired my anti-Ryan ramblings, I'd still take him. But after these 5 guys, we're clinging to scraps. Sure, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman have potential, but I'm not buying any of them yet as Super Bowl caliber QBs as of yet. But it's not fair to make judgments quite yet, so let's revisit these guys in three years. Although I see Mark Sanchez's career playing out like that of Darko Milicic and Jon Kitna. In the Milicic stage, teams (in this case, analysts and fans still promoting his potential) keep taking a chance on him, hoping he emerges into a superstar. In the Kitna stage, he develops into a steady, serviceable QB who will hold teams together in their transitional periods (contender to rebuilding).

So outside of these 12 QBs, the rest of the league is full of maybe's and hopefully's. Only 1/3 of teams have a realistic shot at Super Bowl each season. While that far outdoes the NBA and MLB, it contradicts the supposed parity in the NFL. Do you really trust Jay Cutler or Carson Palmer? Jason Campbell? I hope not. SportsCenter had it right calling it the year of the QB, just in the wrong sense. The QB is at its most important in today's NFL. No high quality QB, no Super Bowl. But this need for QBs has only demonstrated its dearth in the NFL.

Just for kicks, here's my full list of QBs. For teams with no real QB, I'm ranking their total team QB play. Let the arguments begin.

1. Tom Brady
2. Peyton Manning
3. Drew Brees
4. Philip Rivers
5. Aaron Rodgers
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Michael Vick
8. Matt Schaub
9. Tony Romo
10. Joe Flacco
11. Eli Manning
12. Matt Ryan
13. Matt Cassel
14. Kyle Orton
15. Donovan McNabb
16. Jay Cutler
17. David Garrard
18. Josh Freeman
19. Mark Sanchez
20. Carson Palmer
21. Vince Young
22. Jason Campbell
23. Shaun Hill
24. Sam Bradford
25. Matt Hasselbeck
26. Ryan Fitzpatrick
27. Colt McCoy
28. Chad Henne
29. San Francisco 49ers
30. Arizona Cardinals
31. Jimmy Clausen
437. Brett Favre


Nunyer said...

With the disappearance of the "defense wins championships" philosophy, one would assume it to be a result of the improvement of QBs around the league. But that simply does not seem to be the case.

I would assume it's due to rule changes more so than a golden age of passers. Offensive lineman can basically do everything short of tackle a pass rusher. Quarterbacks are protected from getting hit anywhere except for about 18 inches between the waist and neck. Pass interference is everywhere. Bubble screens to WRs are replacing the old off tackle rush as a 1st down staple.

Due to rule changes and conservative "quickly hit the WR in space and let him make people miss" passing offenses, throwing the ball is becoming a more and more attractive option from the risk vs reward standpoint... and QBs might be getting slightly overrated because of it.

Bengoodfella said...

I love the ranking of Aaron Rodgers by the way. I want him to be #1...but alas that is unrealistic.

I am offended Clausen is #32. He should be lower than that. I would probably put him below a few wide receivers and possibly a running back or two. They are better quarterbacks then he is.

Nunyer, I think you make good points. I think the passers in the NFL are being brought up now to throw the ball more using the plays you described, so I think it is a combination of both. Quarterbacks are coming into the league used to the rule changes in the passing game and have thrived accordingly.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Giants fan, and even I think Matt Ryan Should rank higher than Eli.

Martin said...

I agree in that it's the rule changes that have lead to an artificial "Golden Age". Guys who aren't all that good are now throwing for 3,000 yards. If Shaun Hill had played the entire season for the Lions, he'd have 3,000 yards, 25 TDs.

Bengoodfella said...

Yeah, Dylan I think you may have missed on the Eli/Matt Ryan thing. I didn't notice that at first glance. I would take Ryan over Manning. I know Manning has won a Super Bowl but still...

Martin, are you making fun of Shaun Hill? He's a star!

I am obviously kidding, but what you stated tells me enough about how passing has become slightly easier in the NFL over time.

Nunyer said...

Making a list is tough beyond the top six. I don't see a huge difference between Schaub and Cutler to keep them eight spaces apart. I don't think either one played in a meaningful game since high school, but at least Cutler will finally get his chance this year. Romo has wilted under the spotlight more times then he has shined, in good conscious, I'd have to keep him just out of the top 10. McNabb was benched for Rex Grossman, which should place him about 200 spots farther down your list than Favre.

Of course, this just highlights Dylan's main point... Once you get past that obvious top tier, it's a crapshoot.

Guys I would move slightly up Dylan's list: Ryan, Cassel, Cutler, Bradford (I think a good 4 or 5 teams listed above would take him in heartbeart over what they have now.)

Guys I would move slightly down Dylan's list: Eli, Schaub, Romo, McNabb

Bengoodfella said...

Nunyer, it is kind of a clusterfuck once you get past the "elite" quarterbacks. That's why a list is fun and will never end in agreement. Some people use postseason numbers as part of their analysis and others don't do this.

I would move Ryan up the list and long term probably put Bradford there as well. I really like Schaub so I would be tempted to leave him where he is.

Dylan said...

Here's my thing on the Eli/Matt Ryan argument. It's not that Eli has won a Super Bowl and Ryan has not. That is an unfair argument to make simply based on how long each has been in the league. I'm simply looking at it from a, "which QB can carry the team offensively" standpoint. Eli has proven he can do that on a number of occasions, while Ryan has not. Will Ryan be better than Eli down the road? Most definitely.

Also, this year's numbers for Manning are an unfair gauge of what happened. If the Giants defense, not offense, does not collapse against the Eagles, the Giants potentially win the division are are the #3 seed in the playoffs. Also, of his huge interception total, at least 11 were off of tipped passes by Giants WRs. That may seem like a weak argument, but for those of you who watched the Giants games this season, it was ridiculous how many times Eli got screwed by this.

In defense of Schaub, it was not his fault that his defense was awful. Offense has never been the problem in Houston, so I try not to knock him for his team's record.

Nunyer, I agree that Bradford and Cassel could be moved up. BGF, I agree that in a few years Bradford may be in the top 5. However, I'm extremely anti-Cutler. Anytime a team's hope is that their QB won't go crazy and throw terrible INTs, I don't think it's fair to consider him a good QB. A good game from Cutler is one in which he does not commit turnovers. A good game from a top NFL QB is one where 0 or 1 turnovers is just a small part of the equation.

Ryan said...

Do not sleep on Freeman. The kid is a killer, and that team is filled with young talent. He is going to be the Joe Montana of his generation, while Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are the Elway and Jim Kelly respectively. I hate Tampa, so I hate to say it, but Freeman wins multiple rings if there isn't some fluke Theisman accident.

Bengoodfella said...

Ryan, I did sleep on Freeman when he was coming out of K State. I didn't like him at K State and he didn't show me much his rookie year in the NFL. I didn't think he would be great. I was completely and utterly wrong. After watching him play this year it is clear that he should be at the head or near the head of the class of young QBs.

I don't know if I call him Montana for this generation compared to Flacco and Ryan, but I like him. You got that right and I missed on Freeman. I didn't see what he is showing now his first year or his time at Kansas State.

Martin said...

Ewwwww. I'm just not a Flacco fan at all. He never seems to come through in games I watch. When the team wins he has a Trent Dilfer, managed a quiet game, kinda thing going on....and when it loses, he's Cutler-esque it seems to me. I have probably only seen about 6-8 Flacco games, so it's not the best sample saize, but man, just not impressed with him at all.

Dylan said...


I agree that Freeman will be strong. How strong he ends up being is a crapshoot, but I believe that within 3 years he's at least a top 10 QB.


Completely agreed on Flacco. I do not understand why everyone is so high on him. Sure, he's won some playoff games but they have an amazing defense, okay receivers (and now amazing receivers) and a pro bowl) running back. Yet they're in the middle in terms of NFL offenses.

Ryan said...

Yeah, I guess my comparison to Montana (vs. Elway/Kelly/Marino) is that he doesn't put up the stats that the other big young guns put up, yet is always in the game, and always finds a way to win the close ones at the end of the game. I didn't like him outta Kst either (my best friend is a Kst grad and kept telling me to watch out, even though he only played like 16 games there). He finds a way to both distribute the ball well and find his big man when it matters. And he seems cool in the clutch (though it often seems like he just gets lucky, but when it becomes a pattern we have to take notice I guess)

Dylan said...


I couldn't agree more about Freeman's 4th quarter abilities. For whatever reason, he seems to turn it on when you least expect it. I've been promoting this same idea the whole season in my picks column and he's the only reason why I almost always picked Tampa to cover large spreads. He never seems to let games get away (except for the Pittsburgh game) and is always a threat to completely change the game's momentum.

Martin said...

I'd actually compare Freeman more to Elway, in that he seems a bit hamstrung by the teams offensive philosophy (or maybe his own play sometimes) early in the game...but then the coach let's him turn it on late, with more improvising.

Another reason I prefer analysis like the one here vs. that on ESPN or the NFL Network...pundits claiming that defenses figured out Drew Brees this year by dropping back 7 and 8 men and having him throw into these coverages. That Brees threw his 20+ interceptions because he was forcing the ball through these coverages. Hey, "experts", Brees had to do that this year because by about Game 6 they were about to call up Ben and Dylan to be the starting running backs. If the Saints have any kind of run game at all, Brees isn't trying to throw the ball 40 times into 8 man coverage! Could you maybe point that out and take it into consideration?

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, what's irritating for me is the fact ESPN has these experts, yet they seem to be lazy in their analysis. You are exactly right. Teams haven't figured out Drew Brees just like teams haven't figured out the Colts offense. Injuries have caused adjustments to be made to both. These aren't good adjustments either.

When Brees doesn't have a running game at all the defense doesn't have to respect the running game, so they play off the line of scrimmage more and can get into Brees passing lanes more. I hate it when ppl say teams have "figured" out a player. Most of the time, it just isn't true.

I have been so impressed with Josh Freeman this year. I would love to see Tampa open it up a little more. Freeman had a 25:6 TD:INT ratio. That's a 2nd year QB throwing to Mike Williams and Sammie Slaughter as his receivers. If he keeps working as hard as he seems to be then he could be great. If he played in a bigger market people would be going apeshit for him.