Nov 23, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL is a league, by-and-large, driven by quarterbacks. It is hard to win if a team’s signal caller is not up to par. Franchises that lack consistency under center are similar to trying to eat clam chowder with a fork. It is possible, but not the best way of going about winning or consuming such an exquisite dish.
The NFL has been completely parlayed into a league that values dual-threat passers. No longer, or rather hardly, do you see the “traditional” quarterbacks that move like they are stuck in quick sand when it is time to flee the pocket.
This list is a continuation of a countdown started last week pertaining to the league’s starting quarterbacks. The guys on this list are ascending in the right direction, well-established, or long for hardware to be slid onto their fourth finger. Statistics are hardly a factor as we work our way to the climax.
So without further ado, here are the quarterbacks that rank from 16 to 1:
16. Deshaun Watson
Watson played in seven games and had 19 touchdowns. He would have the chance to break Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson’s record of most passing touchdowns by a rookie (26) as well as set a new mark. It will be interesting to see if Watson plays with the same fearlessness in coming off a torn ACL, especially behind a leaky front. If he can play a full season, the Houston Texans should be a threat in the AFC South.
15. Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys starter is entering his third year and he is supposed to be in a situation where the offense is catered to his strengths. Thus far, Prescott has built a reputation as a winning quarterback as the Cowboys have finished with a record above .500 in his first two years. He moves the chains with short-to-intermediate throws and his feet. However, the quarterbacks ranked higher than him do more than the bare minimum to win games. In other words, he has to push the ball down the field more or find a way to string together more monster performances.
Yes, Goff is ranked higher than Prescott despite seeing one less year of action, essentially. The former Golden Bear showed he can win and perform at a high level with the prerequisite talent. Goff gets the nod over his 2016 draft peer, Prescott, because he throws with more conviction and assurance. It has nothing to do with stats or wins and losses, right now. It is simply about the eye test.
13. Derek Carr
Like Marcus Mariota, Carr broke his leg in week 16 of the 2016 oddly enough. Like Mariota, he spent the 2017 season looking very hesitant and unsure of himself. Carr can make every throw, use his legs, and he plays with that backyard football energy that is infectious. It will be interesting to see if he meshes well with Jon Gruden as his new coach is already challenging him to be great. The Oakland Raiders need a MVP campaign from their signal caller if they want to be the center of attention out West.
12. Kirk Cousins
Cousins is sixth among active quarterbacks in passing yards per game (261.4). It has never been about statistics for him as it simply comes down to performing in big moments. In a 2016 playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, Cousins threw for 300+ yards and was not backing down in a duel with Aaron Rodgers. However, when it mattered the most, Cousins and the Washington Redskins failed to generate points on their final five drives.
In the 2016 season finale, Cousins threw two picks in a game that would have got his team into the postseason had they won it. The New York Giants were playing with a “C’s get the degree” mind frame too having already secured a playoff bid.
Cousins wanted to be viewed and paid as one of the league’s upper echelon at his position. The Redskins chose another route while the Minnesota Vikings were eager for him to sign. Washington might have lacked the talent to help him succeed, but in Minnesota he will be expected to win and win big.
11. Matthew Stafford
Stafford is one of the more underrated players the NFL has to offer. He is top 10 among active quarterbacks with 216 touchdowns. He can make throws at just about any angle, even left handed if he desired to do so. The Detroit Lions all-time leading passer needs to muster up some wins as he is just 60-65 in his career.
The 2015 MVP would be a lot higher on this list had the Carolina Panthers won Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos. In 2016, we saw Newton revert as he lost his passion and fire for the game. He got back to having fun last year and even rushed for a career-high 754 yards. With a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner, Newton could benefit from a new scheme that is predicated on pushing the ball down the field. He has the arm and the skilled players out wide in Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, Curtis Samuel, and rookie DJ Moore to produce some magic.
9. Matt Ryan
Another NFC South quarterback who would be higher on this list had he won a Super Bowl. Nevertheless, Ryan is like a surgeon on the field as he knows all of the little areas of the opposing defenses to apply pressure. The Atlanta Falcons star is five wins away from the century mark and is fourth among active throwers with 35 game-winning drives. Why else would they refer to him as “Matty Ice”?
8. Russell Wilson
Wilson is as cool as they come under pressure, both literally and figuratively. He was sacked 43 times behind a Seattle Seahawks front that needs more than Flex Seal to stop a leak. His line was so woebegone that he had to use his feet more often than he would have liked. Wilson led his team in passing and rushing yardage a year ago. What more could you want from the guy?
7. Andrew Luck
The Indianapolis Colts top gun missed an entire season and is still a top 10 quarterback. Imagine if he could get some resistance up front with a consistent rushing attack. Luck could very well end up top three at his position by the end of the season if he is truly back and playing like his chipper self. The Colts have to tread lightly with him.
Rivers is one of four quarterbacks to throw for over 4,000 yards the last five seasons. He has been one of the league’s unheralded stars in the last decade, but he is starting to get more notoriety as his team’s expectations grow. The Los Angeles Chargers are being dubbed as a team that could thwart the New England Patriots in the AFC and maybe win a Super Bowl. Those are lofty expectations being heaped on a team that missed the playoffs a year ago. It starts and ends with their captain, their quarterback, and their heart-and-soul in no. 17.
5. Carson Wentz
What a perfect scenario it would have been if Wentz finished the year and led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl while receiving league MVP. However, destiny had other plans. Nevertheless, Wentz could rival other signal callers like Luck as heir to the throne once the guys ranked higher than him retire. He is built like Big Ben at 6’5 and nearly 240 pounds. He is as nimble as Wilson. Lastly, he has the improvisation of Stafford. As you can see, Wentz has a lot of features that exist with other upper level passers. Last year was simply a prelude of things to come for Wentz.
4. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben must have been a huge The Clash fan growing up as “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” seemed to percolate all season for the two-time Super Bowl champ a year ago. All of a sudden, he came to his senses when the Pittsburgh Steelers brass drafted a Big Ben prototype in Mason Rudolph. A sense of pride seems to exist now in Roethlisberger one that the Steelers hope will galvanize them to another ring. By the way, he finished top five in passing yardage in what was a “down year” by his standards.
3. Drew Brees
The definition of insanity is trying something over and over again and expecting a different result. At one point, the New Orleans Saints could have been considered an insane organization for repeating the same habits that inhibited their ability to win. Sure, Brees would hover at the 5,000-yard mark from 2011 to 2016, but they were predictable without a formidable rushing attack.
The Saints decided to develop a run game headlined by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Brees only had 4,334 yards, his lowest mark since 2007, but he set a new league record with a 72 percent completion percentage. Also, he only threw eight picks, which was his lowest total since 2004. As a result, the Saints went to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 with a reformed Brees. Will he stay true to his new form or revert back to old habits?
2. Tom Brady
Five-time Super Bowl champion. Three-time league MVP. Heck, Brady even led the league in passing yardage with 4,577 yards in 2017. However, the face of the New England Patriots’ franchise is NOT the best quarterback. The best comparison for Brady would be to Kobe Bryant when he was winning his rings with Pau Gasol. Despite it all, LeBron James was still the better individual player. That is just how the cookie crumbles here and with the next guy on this list missing significant time last year it is easy to be a prisoner of the moment when it comes to Brady. He tops nearly every statistic of both active and all-time lists, but there is another Super Bowl winning California native that is better than him.
From an individual’s perspective and at this point in time, Rodgers is better than Brady. Not all time, simply right now.
Rodgers is the Baba Yaga of the NFL and that is “The Boogeyman” for those that have never seen John Wick. When building a team and with the way the game has evolved in favoring dual-threat throwers, you would be hard-pressed to find many people not going with Rodgers. He can do it all.
The former Cal great can throw back over the middle late, throws into cracks and crevices that should not be thrown into, and steals a win or two with Hail Mary attempts. Those are just a few things Rodgers can do that are considered ill-advised or impossible. His arm talent is one of the best ever and when Rodgers smiles during a game it is usually an indication of bad things to come for the opposing team. Now, I am not clairvoyant, but another Super Bowl could make him “the greatest quarterback of all-time”. Ponder that.
Rodgers reigns supreme here on this list of the NFL’s elite. At the end of the day, the quarterbacks that rank from 1-10 are capable of winning on any given Sunday. Their legacies, however, vary.