Monday, September 3, 2012
Top 15 NFL Quarterbacks Heading In to 2012
15. Jay Cutler, Chicago - Cutler is supremely talented but has never turned in to the star that the Broncos thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2007. The Vanterbilt product has a cannon arm and has used it to throw for 4,500 yards once in his career and at last 3,200 in every full season he has played. Unfortunately, he also throws a ton of interceptions, with a career 117-86 TD-INT ratio that is less than stellar. He takes unnecessary risks and can get his team into trouble with bad decisions, but Cutler can still sling 'em with the best.
14. Philip Rivers, San Diego - Rivers, at one point arguably a top-10 statistical quarterback, took a nosedive last year with a below average season, especially in the interception department. The 30 year old signal caller threw away 20 balls last season, by far a career high, and set four-year lows in touchdowns and completion percentage. He still threw for 4,000 yards, as he has each of the last four campaigns, but the Chargers came up with another mediocre season. Simply put, Rivers has to do it when it counts now.
13. Joe Flacco, Baltimore - I'm not wacko for Flacco, but I give him credit for putting up better than average numbers in a run-first offense. Flacco has thrown for between 3,610 and 3,612 yards each of the last three seasons and has also had 20 or more touchdowns in each of the last three campaigns. Flacco also wins games, never failing to make the playoffs and twice reaching the AFC Championship game. Still, he has yet to win a ring and has not put up the game breaking or even significantly better than average numbers in any individual categories. Can he with the Ravens? I doubt it.
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh - I cannot stand Ben Roethlisberger, who is an average quarterback who has been carried to glory by the excellence around him. In his career, Roethlisberger has never had a season that anyone would qualify as "elite" - the closest would be 2009 when he barely eclipsed 4,000 yards and had 26 TDs to 12 picks. He has a career TD-INT ratio of 165-100 and threw 14 picks against 21 scores last season. In his two Super Bowl wins, he has thrown for a combined one touchdown, three interceptions, and 370 yards. He often manages not to make the big mistake, but is a decidedly average player on a great team with a great defense.
11. Matt Schaub, Houston - Over the last three seasons, Schaub has thrown more than twice as many touchdowns than interceptions, thrown for 4,000 yards twice, and has had a completion percentage over 60 each time. He is a very good game manager and can also throw a nice deep ball - made easier by the fact that he had superstar Andre Johnson catching the ball for his two 4,000 yard seasons. Schaub is 31 and coming off a bad injury, so he may be declining. But he's still safe, smart, and effective.
10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta - Ryan, who has gotten steadily better in each of his four pro seasons, may finally be poised to take advantage and break out this year with the Saints crippled by their bounty scandal. Never in his career has Ryan thrown more than 14 picks, and has thrown for more than twice as many scores as interceptions in each of the last two seasons. Throwing for over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career last season, Ryan is bordering on elite but needs to bring his team to the next level to climb on this list.
9. Michael Vick, Philadelphia - There may not be a better gamebreaking player in football than Vick, a physical freak with size, speed, and a cannon arm. After an exile that lasted two seasons, Vick exploded back on to the scene in 2010 but crashed back to earth in 2011, suffering injuries and taking terrible care of the ball (19 total TDs and 19 total turnovers). Turnovers will always happen with Vick because he carries the ball like a beer can and throws with reckless abandon, but his raw skills make him top 10. He has to stay on the field, however, in order to realize his potential again. That health is the difference between him and a higher ranking.
8. Tony Romo, Dallas - Any and every Redskin fan on the planet will probably tell you that Romo "sucks," but one look at his numbers tells a completely different story. Romo has thrown for 4,000 yards in each of his last three full seasons, and probably would have had a fourth if he played three more games in 2008. He's had a quarterback rating higher than 94.1 every season of his career, a completion percentage higher than 61 every season of his career, and threw three times as many touchdowns as interceptions last season. Tell me again why this guy is so bad? Oh right, he fumbled a kicking hold. Which has nothing to do with his ability to be a very good quarterback.
7. Cam Newton, Carolina - Despite Merril Hoge, Mel Kiper, and every other NFL bigwig telling Newton he couldn't be a good NFL quarterback despite being picked first overall, Newton shut everybody up with an amazing rookie season in 2011. Setting rookie records for passing yards in a game, passing yards in a season (passing Peyton Manning), total touchdowns, and others, Newton established himself as one of the best young players in football. He's a threat in the pass and in the run and is almost impossible to bring down; he's like a goal-line back who can throw for 4,000 yards. The sky is the limit for Cam. Even though he went to Auburn.
6. Eli Manning, New York Giants - Though his two Super Bowl wins have been aided by some incredible luck, credit should be given where it is due - the younger Manning seems to just get the job done. His two Super Bowl MVPs speak to this. It is impossible to ignore, however, that Eli also seems to make boneheaded errors almost as often as he makes great plays. He's only twice in his career had a season in which his TD-INT ratio was better than 2:1, and threw 25 balls away one year. But he's smart, has a great arm, and has come up big when it counts and helped lead the Giants to their rings - unlike Roethlisberger.
5. Peyton Manning, Denver - Yes, I know he missed last season with neck surgery. He's Peyton Manning. The dude has thrown for 4,000 yards every season but two in his career. He's won four MVP awards, has a career TD-INT ratio better than 2:1, and as soon as he got hurt, the Colts went from a perennial contender to literally the worst team in the League. Few have had a greater impact on the game in the last 20 years than Peyton, but this season is a huge test. Can he handle the hits? How will he react to Denver's climate and thin air? Time will tell, but you're kidding yourself if you think a healthy Peyton Manning isn't a top-5 NFL quarterback.
4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit - As soon as he got healthy, he exploded - 5,016 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just 16 picks for a dominant Detroit passing game. People try and discount Stafford because he has Calvin Johnson, but why can't Johnson have Matt Stafford? The Georgia product has excellent instincts in the pocket, an outstanding arm, and poise at age 24. As long as he and Megatron can stay on the field, they will be one of the best tandems in football and could develop into one of the best of all-time.
3. Tom Brady, New England - The NFL's most decorated active player, Brady has won three Super Bowls, been named MVP in two of those games, thrown a record 50 touchdowns in a season, and won two MVP awards. One of three 5,000 yard passers in the NFL last season, Brady threw 39 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions, continuing to dominate defenses with his precise, lethal passing offense. In fact, Brady's 5,235 passing yards would have broken Dan Marino's record if Drew Brees hadn't gotten there first. Now 35, Brady shows no signs of slowing down and has cemented his status as an all-time great.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans - Brees, arguably the most important player to any team in the NFL at this moment, set the all-time passing yards record this past season with an amazing 5,476 and a 71.2% completion rate. Brees threw 46 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions on that campaign and has thrown for 5,000 yards twice in his seven seasons in the Bayou and at last 4,000 every other year. He is the beating heart and soul of a Saints team crippled by a scandal that has seen their head coach suspended for an entire season and is needed more than ever for New Orleans to stay relevant.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay - The reigning NFL MVP, Rodgers has a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP, and every other award imaginable for a quarterback. Last season, though he failed to top 5,000 yards, he threw more than seven times as many scores as picks (45/6) last season while leading the Packers to a 15-1 regular season. He can also run, scampering for at least 200 yards in each of his four years as a starter and 300 in two of them. Rodgers has also thrown for at least 3,900 yards and 28 touchdowns in every season he's played as a starter and gets the top spot on this list primarily because of age. What can't the man do?