Where does Joe Flacco rank among the best quarterbacks in the NFL?
Another NFL season has come to a close. After the Baltimore Ravens staved off a feverish comeback from the San Fransisco 49ers, Joe Flacco was named the game's MVP (the 26th quarterback to win the award) and was handed the keys to a brand new Corvette Stingray.
With Flacco taking home the MVP award, it now raises the debate of whether Flacco joins the group of elite quarterbacks. But whether Flacco is or isn't elite does not fully answer the question. Does Flacco's performance merit him a spot among the best quarterbacks in the NFL? And who is the best quarterback in the NFL right now?
Here is the ranking of all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The criteria was based mostly on statistics (courtesy of ESPN.com) from the 2012 season plus the player's potential for next season.
Arizona probably does not have its starting quarterback on the roster so Kolb, Skelton and Lindley were clumped into one unit.
Skelton began the year as the starter after finishing the 2011 season on a high note. Unfortunately for the Cards', Skelton was abysmal and was benched in favor of Kevin Kolb. Skelton completed 54.2 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Kolb actually played well in his six games as the starter. Kolb completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,169 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Just when the Cardinals thought they had a quarterback, Kolb was knocked out for the season with a sternum injury.
Skelton was given another chance but struggled once again. Skelton's poor play forced Ken Whisenhunt into giving Ryan Lindley the starting job. Lindley played just as poorly as Skelton. The rookie completed only 52 percent of his passes and threw seven interceptions. Lindley failed to throw a touchdown pass in the six games he played.
The combined Total Quarterback Rating for the trio was 20.6, which was enough reason to give Arizona's terrible unit last place in the rankings.
Since helping the Jets get to two straight AFC Championship games Sanchez has gone through a serious regression. Last season was easily Sanchez's worst in New York and head coach Rex Ryan had no choice but to swallow his pride and bench him in Week 15.
Sanchez completed only 54.3 percent of his passes and threw for 2,883 yards and 13 scores. Sanchez's 18 interceptions contributed to his 23 total turnovers. Sanchez was put in a tough spot with a wide receiving core that was mediocre even when Santonio Holmes was on the field.
Sanchez's biggest problem is his decision making. Sanchez continues to makes poor reads and tends to lose sight of defensive backs on deep and intermediate routes. Sanchez only had two games with more than one touchdown pass but had five games without a touchdown pass and four games with at least two interceptions thrown.
If not for the awful situation in Arizona, Sanchez would easily be the worst quarterback in the league. Sanchez will need to drastically improve if he wants to earn the $8.25 million he is owed next season.
Kansas City was a popular sleeper pick to make the playoffs this season but the Chiefs were brought down by their horrible quarterback play. Matt Cassel started the first nine games of the season before being benched by Romeo Crennel.
Cassel completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,796 yards and just six touchdowns. Cassel was extremely turnover prone, giving away the ball 19 times in his nine starts. Cassel's total QBR dropped from 51.2 in 2011 to 36.5 in 2012.
The Cassel and Quinn tandem was an absolute mess in 2012 and it will be interesting to see whether Kansas City addresses the position in the offseason via the draft or free agency.
This duo wasn't much better than the one before it. Jacksonville had no explosiveness on offense and much of that was due to the quarterback play.
Blaine Gabbert, the tenth overall pick in the 2011 draft, showed some small signs of improvement in 2012. Gabbert went 1-9 in his 10 starts and completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 1,662 yards and nine touchdowns. His stats were short of impressive but he threw only six interceptions and his total QBR improved from 20.6 to 40.9. Gabbert's season ended after a shoulder injury in Week 11.
Chad Henne replaced Gabbert in Houston and had a fantastic debut. The former Dolphins quarterback threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns, but it only got worse from there. Henne finished the season with 2,086 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in seven games.
The Jaguars struggled with Henne as well, going 1-6 in the seven games he played. Jacksonville finished 2-14 and it appears that Henne and Gabbert will compete for the starting job next season, but it is uncertain whether Jacksonville has any plans for either quarterback beyond next year.
Jake Locker was mediocre in his first season as the starting quarterback of the Titans. Locker completed 56.4% of his passes for 2,176 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Locker played through two shoulder separations and missed five games because of the injuries.
Locker was disappointing in his second season in the NFL and did not show many signs of improvement. Locker had two games all season in which he threw more than one touchdown. A bright side is that Locker has decent mobility and ran for 291 yards during the season.
Locker has respectable receivers around him in Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Nate Washington but he still struggled to find a groove. Locker will most likely need to stay healthy and show improvement during the 2013 season or else his future in Tennessee could be in jeopardy.
Unlike fellow rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Weeden was not the game-changing quarterback that Cleveland needed in his first year in the NFL. Having said that, after a four interception debut against Philadelphia, Weeden played decently in his rookie campaign.
Weeden had the second most pass attempts out of all rookies with 517 throws. Weeden completed 57.4 percent of those passes for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Weeden threw for more yards than both Wilson and Griffin III did and showed signs of potential in several spurts during the season. Any quarterback would struggle with the weapons Weeden was stuck with and Weeden will need some help before he can progress into a great quarterback.
Foles wasn't bad after stepping in for the turnover plagued Michael Vick in Week 11. Foles had a 60.8 completion percentage and threw for 1,699 yards and six touchdowns. Foles averaged 243 yards per game and threw only five interceptions in his first seven starts of his career.
Foles had a mediocre 45.3 total QBR and won just one game for the Eagles. It's hard to criticize a guy who was put in a horrible situation, but Foles didn't make many big plays despite having some nice weapons around him.
New head coach Chip Kelly hasn't announced whether Foles or Vick will be his starting quarterback. Foles looks like the better option right now and could improve under an offensive guru like Kelly. We haven't seen enough of Foles to determine whether he can be a long-term option in Philadelphia and his future as a quarterback will probably depend on how he performs this season.
Ryan Tannehill was able to beat out Matt Moore and David Garrard in training camp for the starting job and performed well as a rookie. Tannehill completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 3,214 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Considering his best reciever all year was Brian Hartline, Tannehill did pretty well with what he had to work with. His 52.3 total QBR was impressive as a rookie and Tannehill finished the season strong, throwing only two interceptions in his last six games.
Tannehill, like Weeden, will need more help around him before he can vastly improve. Tannehill only had one game in which he threw for more than 290 yards but should put up better numbers in his second season in Miami. If the Dolphins can bring in some legitimate threats to catch the ball Tannehill could develop into a franchise quarterback.
The Buffalo Bills were a sexy pick to make the playoffs in 2012 but couldn't overcome poor quarterback and secondary play. Fitzpatrick is much to blame for Buffalo's 6-10 season because of his lackluster performance. Fitzpatrick completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3,400 yards, 24 touchdowns and 16 picks.
Fitzpatrick has not shown much improvement since becoming the starter in 2010. Fitzpatrick's total QBR was his lowest in three years at 45.8. Fitzpatrick averaged only 213 yards per game and struggled to find much consistency.
Fitzpatrick has been extremely turnover prone lately and has thrown 64 interceptions in the last three seasons. Fitzpatrick probably is not the answer to Buffalo's quarterback woes and newly hired head coach Doug Marrone could make a switch at some point next season if Fitzpatrick does not impress him.
Palmer's 2012 season was average at best. Palmer completed 61.1 percent of his passes and threw for over 4,000 yards but tossed only 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Palmer improved in most statistics after a rough debut in Oakland last season but his total QBR dropped from 62.6 in 2011 to 44.7 in 2012.
Palmer hasn't been what the Raiders expected when they traded for him a year ago. The Raiders are a mess and although Palmer hasn't been the biggest problem, his play has not been good enough to guarantee him a starting job in 2013.
Bradford hasn't played up to his draft potential quite yet, but he did improve under head coach Jeff Fisher. Bradford completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Bradford was 11th in the league in pass attempts with 551 passes and had a QBR of 51.6. Bradford bounced back nicely from his injury plagued 2011 season and is beginning to show signs of improvement. Bradford achieved career highs in touchdowns, pass attempts, yardage and total QBR.
St. Louis is an improving team and could be on the verge of making the playoffs. The Rams' chances of clinching a playoff spot hinge on Bradford's development as a passer. Expect Bradford to take the next step with another year under Fisher as long as he stays healthy.
Ponder had a fairly pedestrian season for Minnesota in 2012 but was good enough to help Minnesota make a surprising playoff run. Ponder completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,935 yards. Ponder threw only 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and had a decent total QBR of 52.8.
Despite his lame statistics, Ponder played efficiently during the final four games of the season. Ponder was awesome in Minnesota's Week 17 victory against Green Bay throwing for 234 yards and three scores, a 94.6 QBR.
Ponder was greatly helped by MVP Adrian Peterson and averaged only 183 yards per game. His progression as a quarterback could be limited by Minnesota's reliance on Peterson. Ponder needs to consistently play like Week 17 Ponder before he could crack the top 20.
After 10 weeks, Greg Schiano's Buccaneers were 6-4 and Josh Freeman was playing great. Through the first 10 games, Freeman had thrown 21 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. But in the final six games of the season Freeman imploded and so did the Bucs. Freeman threw only six touchdowns and got picked off 10 times as the Buccaneers finished the season 7-9.
It was a tale of two seasons for Freeman, who finished with a completion percentage of 54.8 percent, over 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Many are unsure of what to think about Freeman who could have had a spectacular season if not for his collapse in the final six games.
Freeman has fluctuated from franchise quarterback to mediocre passer throughout his career. In 2010, Freeman threw 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions but followed that season with 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 2011.
Freeman is entering his final year of his contract with Tampa Bay and will need to establish some sort of consistency if he wants to get the big bucks. Freeman is one of the biggest question marks entering 2013 and how he plays next season could determine his long-term future in the league.
Rivers wasn't spectacular in 2012 but he was slightly better than a year ago. Rivers was helped more by Ryan Mathews and the running game which cut down on his pass attempts. Rivers completed over 64 percent of his passes for 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Rivers has been trending downward since 2010 and his QBR decreased from 62.7 last season to 40.6 in 2012. In the past two years, Rivers has thrown a combined 35 interceptions. Rivers fumbled 13 times last season and is second in the league in turnovers in the last two seasons.
Rivers needs to work on his tendency to force passes and needs to turn off the turnover machine that he has been the past three seasons. Unfortunately, Rivers' best weapon in San Diego is a declining Antonio Gates, which could keep Rivers moving in the wrong direction.
Stafford was extremely disappointing after what appeared to be his break out season in 2011. Stafford led the league with 727 pass attempts but his stats decreased in most categories. Stafford threw 41 touchdowns in 2011 but threw just 20 in 2012. Stafford completed under 60 percent of his passes and threw 17 interceptions.
Stafford was second in the league with an average of 310 yards per game but struggled to find his 2011 form. Stafford didn't get much help from his running game but he also didn't help himself with his mechanics. Stafford sometimes throws with a side-arm delivery which hurts his accuracy.
In his four NFL seasons, Stafford has thrown 54 interceptions. Stafford needs to have a rebound season in 2013 and he can start by limiting his turnovers. If he wants to become elite, he will need to show more consistency as a passer and help bring the Lions back to the playoffs.
The Chicago Bears started the season 7-1 but failed to make the playoffs after the defense cooled off. Cutler had an average season with a 58.8 completion percentage, 3,033 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Cutler threw only 12 touchdowns during Chicago's hot start and threw only seven touchdowns in the final eight games.
The Bears' offense was in disarray for parts of the season and some of this was to blame on the quarterback. Cutler had only one game with more than two touchdown passes and had eight games with fewer than 200 yards.
Cutler has failed to bring out some of his great potential. He has the ability to lead Chicago to a championship but hasn't had the coaching or weapons to do it. Last season, general manager Phil Emery brought in Brandon Marshall, Cutler's former teammate. This season head coach Lovie Smith was fired and Emery brought quarterback guru Marc Trestman to the Bears.
If Chicago can improve its wide receiving core and pathetic offensive line, Cutler could flourish under a coach like Trestman. Although his numbers were disappointing in 2012, next season could be a coming out party for Jay Cutler.
Andrew Luck was a part of the biggest turnaround of the season in Indianapolis. Luck led last year's 2-14 Colts to an 11 win season and a playoff appearance. As a rookie, Luck led seven game-winning drives which inflated his total QBR up to 65.
Luck's stats were decent, but not outstanding. Luck completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 4,374 yards and tossed 23 touchdowns. The downfall to Luck's numbers was his 18 interceptions, which was the most among the rookie quarterbacks. His 18 picks might have cost him the Rookie of the Year award.
Obviously the sky is the limit for Andrew Luck. He revitalized Reggie Wayne's career and made a play-maker out of T.Y. Hilton. If Indianapolis can build more around him Luck will quickly become a top 10 quarterback. Expect Luck to build off his first-year success and become an elite quarterback in the future.
Andy Dalton had an impressive sophomore season, throwing for 3,669 yards and 27 touchdowns. Dalton improved in most statistical categories including total QBR, which went up to 50.7. Dalton did throw three more interceptions in 2012 (16) than he did in his rookie season (13).
Dalton is an underrated quarterback. He and A.J. Green have become one of the best combinations in the league. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis was an upgrade in the running game and Dalton has a solid tight end in Jermaine Gresham.
Dalton needs to work on limiting his turnovers in his third season. Dalton was also sacked 46 times, which was the third most in the league. The Bengals must improve the offensive line and add one more weapon for Dalton to throw to. Dalton will probably fly under the radar again next season but could become a top quarterback in the future.
The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs once again but Tony Romo does not deserve all of the blame. Statistically Romo was astounding, throwing for a career-high of over 4,900 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Cowboys' passing game was strong but the offense eventually became one-dimensional especially when Demarco Murray was hurt.
Romo's 648 pass attempts was the most of his career and led to more interceptions. Romo tied a career-high with 19 interceptions in 2012. Romo had three games with at least three interceptions including a five interception performance against Chicago. Romo's total QBR was harmed by his susceptibility to turnovers, dropping from 71.4 in 2011 to 62.7 in 2012.
Romo isn't quite a top 10 quarterback but had some awesome numbers this season. If Dez Bryant and Miles Austin can stay healthy Dallas could have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL next season. Romo must limit his turnovers and try to find a clutch gene if he wants to be an elite quarterback.
Matt Schaub had a solid 2012 season but his numbers were limited by Houston's excellent running game led by Arian Foster. Schaub completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,008 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Schaub may not have flashy statistics, but he is as steady as they come. Houston had one of the most balanced offenses in football and Schaub's consistency is a big reason for that. His touchdown totals have been decreasing, but that is due in part to Foster's emergence as one of the best running backs in the game.
Schaub was 12th in the league in pass attempts and if he wants to become a top 10 quarterback he will need to take advantage of the opportunities he gets to throw the ball. Schaub is a respectable quarterback who might have potential to be better with one more weapon.
Newton had a small setback in his sophomore season in Carolina. Newton completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 3,869 yards and 19 touchdowns. Newton ran for 741 yards but only eight touchdowns, compared to 14 last year.
Newton doesn't have a great team around him but still managed to put up solid numbers. Newton is one of the biggest play-makers in the NFL but still has room to grow as a passer. His completion percentage needs to improve and he must continue to limit his turnovers.
Many said Newton struggled in his second season as a Panther. He wasn't outstanding but had a better year than people gave him credit for. Newton needs to work on his composure on and off the field. Newton could be a top 10 quarterback by the end of next season if he gets his mind right.
Colin Kaepernick is the first dual-threat quarterback to crack the rankings. Kaepernick had an excellent season after replacing Alex Smith. If not for the small sample size, Kaepernick probably would have been ranked higher.
Kaepernick completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also ran 63 times for 415 yards and five touchdowns. In his 13 games played, Kaepernick had a combined 1,062 all-purpose yards. Most impressively, Kaepernick only threw three interceptions.
Kaepernick proved that the dual-threat quarterback can be successful in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how he does in his first full season as the starter for San Francisco in 2013. Kaepernick has a strong arm and could make another Super Bowl appearance next season.
The top 10 of the quarterback rankings begins with one of the biggest surprises at the position. Russell Wilson was an efficient rookie passer who was able to make big plays with his legs. Wilson completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Wilson was surprisingly accurate for a rookie and only threw 10 interceptions during the season. Wilson ran for 489 yards, a 5.2 yards per carry average, and four touchdowns. Many argued that Wilson should have won the Rookie of the Year award for the season he had with Seattle.
Wilson could be an excellent talent for years to come. He is efficient, accurate and doesn't make many mistakes. Like the other dual-threat quarterbacks, it will be interesting to see how defenses scout against him, but Wilson has great potential and could be one of the best with the right weapons.
Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but he is not elite. Flacco had a decent regular season, completing 59.7 percent of his passes for 3,817 yards and only 22 touchdowns. Flacco's tremendous performance in the playoffs boosted his ranking.
Joe Flacco is very much like Eli Manning. He is decent in the regular season but steps up when it matters most. Flacco has nine postseason victories and now a Super Bowl ring in five seasons as a Raven.
Flacco had a lousy regular season total QBR of 46.8 despite throwing only 10 interceptions all season. Flacco made the game-changing plays in the playoffs but not in the regular season. Flacco has a career 83.6 QBR rating in the playoffs, which is tough to argue against.
We've seen Flacco make it to the mountain top and he is one of the best in the game, but until he translates his postseason play into the regular season, he won't be elite.
Last year's Super Bowl MVP had a disappointing season. Yes, Eli is a spectacular postseason quarterback, but like Flacco, his regular season statistics don't merit him as elite, just darn good.
In 2012, Manning completed just under 60 percent of his passes for 3,948 yards and 26 touchdowns, his lowest total since 2008. Eli had a 67.4 QBR but went through a five-game slump during which he threw two touchdowns and six interceptions.
Eli's numbers aren't always outstanding, but they are good enough to give him a top 10 spot. If Eli wants to be elite, he needs to throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns annually. Another ring or two in New York wouldn't hurt either.
Robert Griffin III had a spectacular season for the Washington Redskins and earned the Rookie of the Year award. Griffin completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. Griffin was just as awesome with his legs, running for 815 yards and seven touchdowns.
Griffin can change the game on any play and is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. Griffin is electrifying, but not reckless, throwing only five interceptions all season.
Griffin's biggeset concern is his health. Griffin had surgery to repair his ACL and LCL and should be ready for the regular season opener. The important question is whether Griffin will be the same player he was this season. The Redskins would be wise to limit his carries in the future to preserve his health. If Robert Griffin III can come back to the same form next season, he could move into the top five.
Ben Roethlisberger isn't a dual-threat quarterback but he is one of the best at keeping plays alive with his legs. Roethlisberger missed three games that probably cost Pittsburgh a playoff spot but still had one of his strongest seasons in the league.
Big Ben completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,265 yards and 26 touchdowns despite problems with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Roethlisberger also had to deal with one of the worst running games in the league and was forced to throw more than Haley wanted.
Ben's numbers never warranted him as elite but he is still one of the best and toughest quarterbacks when he is healthy. His durability is always a question as he has played only one full season. When Big Ben is on the field, he makes the Steelers better and he will come back focused to try to get Pittsburgh back into the playoffs.
2012 was a breakout season for Matty Ice. Ryan completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. Ryan was the leader of one of the most explosive offenses in the league with the help of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
Ryan did have some blemishes on an excellent campaign. Ryan had a five interception game against Arizona and a three interception game against Oakland. Other than that he threw six interceptions the rest of the year.
If Ryan can become a better decision-maker and limit his turnovers, he could be on the verge of bringing a title to Atlanta as well as becoming one of the few elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
Let it be known that Brees is the first of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Despite the distraction of the bounty scandal and the loss of head coach Sean Payton for the year, Brees had a pretty good year. Brees completed 63 percent of his passes for over 5,100 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Brees threw 19 interceptions during the season but it could be argued that was due to the loss of Payton. Brees also had a five interception game against Atlanta, which broke his record-breaking streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
The New Orleans Saints will be a team to watch next season with Payton returning. Brees will certainly throw less interceptions and should come into the season very focused. Brees will play with a chip on his shoulder and could have one of the best seasons of his career.
Tom Brady had the type of season that we should expect from an elite quarterback. Brady completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns. Brady also had to play without star tight-end Rob Gronkowski for much of the season but wasn't hurt by his absence.
Brady is rock-solid in the regular season and always ranks among the best in the game, but his playoff numbers have been a little shaky at times.
Expect Brady to be Brady again with at least 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. The Patriots are not leaving anytime soon and Brady will be considered elite until his play dictates otherwise.
Peyton Manning didn't miss a beat after missing all of the 2011 season with a neck injury. Manning had a spectacular comeback on a new team, completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns. After early struggles and adjustments to a new team and offense, Manning played outstanding and won the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Manning turned receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker into stars and turned the Broncos into a Super Bowl contender in just one season. If Manning stays healthy, he has plenty of years left in the tank.
Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL.
Rodgers' numbers were bound to fall after his outstanding MVP-caliber performance. Having said that, Rodgers still had an awesome season. Rodgers completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 4,295 and 39 touchdowns.
Rodgers did all of this with an awful running game and an offensive line that got him sacked 51 times, the most in the NFL. Rodgers was excellent even without star wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson for chunks of the season. Great players make others around them better and this is just what Rodgers did with James Jones and Randall Cobb.
Rodgers is the cream of the crop of NFL quarterbacks and is only 29. With a better running game and defense on his team, Rodgers could win several championships in Green Bay. He may not always be the top player on this list, but he will certainly be among the top three or four for years to come.