Last year around this time I trotted out a list of the top-20 quarterbacks I’d want to start a playoff game for me at that very moment. It’s a somewhat timely thing to do. We can start to get a pretty good idea of which QBs will be in the post-season, and the Trent Dilfer cliche aside, it’s always nice to start with a competent guy under center. I’m sure you’ll be stunned, but I am no longer comfortable with last year’s list. Before we move on, a look back…
The “Um, That’s Too High” Guy.
I had Brett Favre at #4. Cute, huh? Four at four. This just puts into perspective how far the Vikings and Favre have fallen in a year’s time. The Vikings were cruising at this point last season and Favre looked great. Of course, he’d ultimately throw a backbreaking pick in the NFC Title game, but he did make the Final Four…
The “If He Wasn’t Retired, He’d Still be on the List” Guy.
I had Kurt Warner at #5. Warner was fresh off a Super Bowl season and the Cardinals were one of the league’s most potent offenses. Does Warner feel badly about what has happened in Arizona? Was God ok with him hanging Larry out to dry like this? If Warner came out of retirement tomorrow, he’d probably still make the top-20.
The “Guess it’s Time to Finally cough up Some Respect,” Guy.
I had Matt Ryan at #16 last year. I imagine he’ll make one of the biggest leaps. In my defense Atlanta was wallowing among the masses of the NFC at this point last year, and “Matty Ice,” was nowhere near his 2010 stats. I also admit the nickname “Matty Ice,” makes me prone to disparaging the Falcons QB. We’ll see where he ends up this year.
The “So, it wasn’t the Scenery,” Guy.
I had Jason Campbell at #14. I was lulled to sleep by Campbell’s nondescript play in Washington. I thought, this guy isn’t terrible. The team is terrible. He needs a change of pace. Well, Campbell got just that. And, I’m not going to make the argument the Raiders are loaded, but if you can’t keep Gradkow down, that about says it all.
Ok, I think that’s enough for the recap. Check out the whole thing. I’d say 4 or 5 of the 20 guys are in a reasonable position. Volatility of the NFL or one of my worst lists ever? Hard to know for sure.
The New Top-20.
1. Tom Brady (Last Year: 3). Brady has looked 100% this year after struggling through parts of the 2009 season. Brady fans talk about the return of his intensity, the haters claim he’s going soft with his UGGS endorsement. I don’t care about that. With Peyton not getting it done in the Super Bowl last year, and weighing the current state of everyone’s game, I put Tom back on top.
2. Drew Brees (Last Year: 2). The Saints had a vicious Super Bowl hangover. They couldn’t get in a rhythm against anyone. Brees doesn’t look quite as sharp as he did last year, but there are still flashes where the Saints score in 30 seconds and you are reminded of why they won the Super Bowl. Defending Champ settles in at #2.
3. Peyton Manning (Last Year: 1). I struggled with this one a little bit. The guy is coming off a “DA.” But, if you watch the games, you see that Manning still makes a ton of good throws. The Colts lack of skill at other positions looks like it is catching up with him. If that’s making him gun shy, that’s a problem. If it’s just forcing him into bad decisions (Favre style) then he’s still got to be one of the best if you have a winning team. For now, I’m giving old Manning Face the benefit of the doubt.
4. Aaron Rodgers. (Last Year: 8). Rodgers remains on the rise in my opinion. He may not be hanging the stats that some people expected, but he’s had a very good year. He can make all the throws, he’s surprisingly agile back in the pocket, but he hasn’t proven himself in January yet. I was tempted to preemptively bump him into the top-3, but it will probably have to wait another year.
5. Michael Vick. (Last Year: NR). Vick could be off this list next year. Who knows? But, right now I don’t know how you leave Vick out of the top-5. He has a 13:1 TD to INT ratio. He can significantly alter the outcome of a game with his scrambling. He changes the way a team plays defense, and here in Philly he’s showing the occasional sign of being a leader. Remember before he was in prison, Vick did make a NFC Title game appearance. (How great is that sentence?)
6. Philip Rivers. (Last Year: 7). Rivers is having the statistical MVP year. He’s doing what Brees did last year, and garnering all the Marino comparisons. When ranking Rivers, though, you have to weigh his considerable playoff experience with the fact he’s never gotten to the big game. For this year, number six is what I came up with.
7. Ben Roethlisberger (Last Year: 6). Roethlisberger is the first guy on the list that doesn’t have the eye-popping stats or some skill that completely sets him apart. He does win a lot of games, though, and on playoff experience alone he’d be in the top-3. All I know is that come playoff time the Steelers are going to be a tough out, and Big Ben plays a part in that.
8. Matt Ryan (Last Year: 16). I think this might be a tiny reach for “Matty Ice,” but maybe I am overcompensating for last year. Is the team as a whole better, or has Ryan taken a big leap? I think he’s definitely improved. And, add that to the fact that he’s come up big at the end of two playoff atmosphere type games recently and I’m ready to boost Ryan into the top-10.
9. Joe Flacco (Last Year: 13). Flacco is a tough case. I think he got a little too much credit early for just being the quarterback on a good team, but this year he’s played pretty well and I’m not sure people have noticed. Just like Ryan, he’s moving toward veteran status and for a guy who has never had a ton of weapons surrounding him, Flacco has done a nice job in Baltimore.
10. Eli Manning (Last Year: 11). Of course it pains me to put Eli in the top-10, but I think this season Eli has proved to a certain extent that if he has people to throw to, he can be very effective. And, even though his playoff success is limited to one good run, he still has plenty of big game experience.
11. Matt Cassel (Last Year: NR). This one makes me nervous, but the pickings are getting very slim, very quick. Cassel is having a big year. Now, maybe his success is contingent on Dwayne Bowe, but the guy has 22 TDs and 4 INTs this season. That’s a pretty good compliment to KC’s running game. I wouldn’t want any part of Cassel long-term, but I’m not afraid to play the hot hand here.
12. Kyle Orton (Last Year: 12). Looks like the 12-spot is the time each year I get around to including Orton. Hard to know what to make of him. He’s shown the ability to put up points, he doesn’t turn the ball over too much, but in Denver he’s now saddled with a terrible team. I’m willing to bet that Orton could do better elsewhere.
13. Sam Bradford (Last Year: 13). Why not? Look at this Rams team and who Bradford is throwing to. In his rookie campaign, despite that, Bradford has 17 TDs against 9 picks. He’s got no playoff experience to speak of, but the kid looks legit. Getting down to this point on the list, he’s worth a shot. Upside, people.
14. Jay Cutler (Last Year: NR). Cutler has rebounded somewhat from his pick-fest that was the ’09 season. He’s still a top-10 talent, and he’s not blessed with much of a supporting cast in Chicago. He hasn’t shown the ability to consistently overcome that, but he certainly has flashes. Until his next 5 INT game, I’m ready to put him on the list.
15. Mark Sanchez (Last Year: NR). AFC Championship game last year. The Jets are 9-2. Why is their QB in the 15 spot? Well, I firmly believe every other QB on this list could have done the same thing for the Jets. Sanchez puts up ugly numbers, and really the best thing you can say about him is that he wins, and he doesn’t kill his team. But, do we know enough to give the Sanchize credit for this yet? I don’t think so.
16. Donovan McNabb (Last Year: 9). This is ninety-percent a courtesy.
17. Josh Freeman (Last Year: NR). Best Career Win? Still the Rams.
18. Matt Schaub (Last Year: 15). Something is wrong in Houston. Is it Schaub?
19. Matt Hasselbeck (Last Year: 19). It’s Seattle, winning any game is a miracle.
20. Fitzy. (Last Year: NR). If you need one QB to make up a 20-point deficit against the Bengals….
*Just a note Tony Romo not included do to injury and Vince Young was also not considered due to being on IR.