One man's ranking of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL today ...
10. Eli Manning
Just to put an end to a debate that never actually started:
Since the start of the 2007 season, Tom Brady has thrown 25 interceptions in 1,646 pass attempts (with 114 touchdowns and two MVP's).
In 2010, Eli Manning threw 25 interceptions in 539 pass attempts.
There was an idea Out There that the Super Bowl performance vs. the Patriots was going to be the trigger that would lead Eli into the conversation of best quarterback in football. Hasn't happened -- he has won exactly zero playoff games since 18-1 (and he hadn't won a playoff game before). He's a better quarterback than he was three years ago -- his three highest passer ratings have come in each of the last three years -- but he's still closer to being a top 15 guy than a top-five QB. Put it another way: Even with what he managed to pull off in Glendale, would the prospect of playing Eli Manning in a Super Bowl strike you with any sense of fear?
9. Matt Ryan
Here's where Ryan and Joe Flacco are after three years:
Completions: Ryan 885, Flacco 878
Attempts: Ryan 1,456, Flacco 1,416
Yards: Ryan 10,061, Flacco 10,206
Touchdowns: Ryan 66, Flacco 60
Interceptions: Ryan 34, Flacco 34
Passer Rating: Ryan 86.9, Flacco 87.9
Career Record: Ryan 33-13, Flacco 32-16
Pretty much a push, right? So why Flacco over Ryan? Simple: Four playoff wins for Flacco, which is exactly four more playoff wins than Ryan. I understand it's not the perfect way to determine who is a better quarterback -- Mark Sanchez has as many playoff wins as Flacco and he's not on the list -- but it seems a fair enough as a tiebreaker.
8. Joe Flacco
Here's what you like about Flacco: Everything is trending the right way. He's played in the NFL for three seasons -- and hasn't missed a start -- and has improved in passing yards, TDs, interception percentage, TD percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating each season. It's worth watching to see if the loss of Todd Heap and Derrick Mason -- if not full-fledged binky guys at least at security blanket status for Flacco -- will mean a step back statically for the first time.
7. Michael Vick
I wouldn't give Vick $40 million guaranteed -- no chance he stays healthy with that offensive line -- but he played at a level last season (100.2 rating) that Manning, Ryan and Flacco haven't come close to for a full season in their careers.
6. Peyton Manning
If Manning's neck was completely healthy he might bumped up one or two spots, but he is 35 years old and coming off a season where he ranked 10th in passer rating (worst finish since rookie season) and threw 17 interceptions, most since 2002. He could prove me wrong and put together another MVP season, but I think we are squarely in the middle of Act III for Manning.
(Oh, and last year I put together a list of the 10 greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. I had Manning ranked third, Brady fourth, but with the proviso that the two could swap positions if Brady had a monster season. And I think 36 TDs against four interceptions qualify. So it's Brady at No. 3, Manning No. 4 now (Montana and Unitas at one-two). And same goes as last year -- it's still close enough that the two could trade positions again.)
5. Philip Rivers
Lots of black ink on the pro football-reference page of Rivers, and all of it in the last three years. He led the NFL in TDs in 2007, yards per attempt in each of the last three seasons, passer rating in 2007 (third in 2009, second last season) and yards passing last season. The reality is that Rivers has been the best quarterback -- statistically -- in the NFL the last three seasons. But ultimately this is a position judged by winning (and I'm not sure how fair that is, but these are the established rules), and Rivers needs to at least get to the Super Bowl before he can be considered for the title as Best Quarterback On The Planet. But he's as sure a bet as you'll get for 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards this season.
4. Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger is clearly a creep and might very well be in jail today were it not for that goober-buffet down in Milledgeville, but this isn't a list of the top 10 candidates for the 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. It's easy to simply label Roethlisberger as winner and move on, but he's more than that. This isn't Trent Dilfer with the Ravens, or even Brady in 2001. Roethlisberger is eighth all-time in passer rating, tops among active QBs in yards per pass attempt and yards per completion and 12th all-time in completion percentage. Sure, he's been lucky enough to have a terrific defense during his career (if you swapped Rivers and Roethlisberger, probably Rivers has two Super Bowls and Roethlisberger has none) but this is absolutely a franchise quarterback.
3. Drew Brees
If he never played another snap has he done enough to get in the Hall of Fame? It's pretty close, but I think I'd put him in … His interceptions were up last year (22, most in his career), but Brees still led the NFL in completion percentage for the second straight year and put up his fifth straight year with at least 4,300 yards passing and 25 touchdowns.
2. Aaron Rodgers
Look, if he matches his 2010 season (and postseason) again this year there is no question he'll be the easy No. 1 pick. And we know this isn't a guy that came out of nowhere last year -- Rodgers now has three seasons with a passer rating of at least 100 (his 98.4 rating is the best in NFL history). But he just wasn't as good as Brady last year (eight fewer touchdowns and seven more interceptions). One postseason run -- brilliant as it was -- isn't enough to knock Brady out of the top spot.
1. Tom Brady
Yup, he hasn't won a playoff game during the Obama presidency. And there's no way around this: When he's pressured in the pocket he isn't the same quarterback he was before the Bernard Pollard hit. But let's be fair: How many quarterbacks are going to put up a 111.0 passer rating (36 touchdowns against four picks -- that nine-to-one touchdown to interception ratio is easily the best in history) with two rookie tight ends, two undrafted running backs and your top wideout less than a year removed from ACL surgery?
I guess 2007 was his best season, but he was never better than he was down the stretch least year. His worst passer rating over the last eight weeks of the season was 107.0. (His 111.0 season rating was fifth-best all time. He's the only player to have two seasons in the top five.) During those eight weeks he has threw 22 TD passes and no interceptions. He was a no-brainer choice as the MVP and is still the pick for the best in the league today.