The top tier. Where everyone wants to be (unless you are in prison, of course, as if you happen to find yourself shanked, the paramedics have to go up all the stairs and haul you all the way back down.)
Quarterbacks face a mentally and physically demanding struggle. Not only do they have to run the offense on the field, but they are expected to be locker room leaders as well. They also take a lot of punishment.
Throughout the course of a QBs career, he may find himself wearing a number of different hats, from journeyman to back-up to starter to champion and back again.
Only a few quarterbacks have fully entrenched themselves in "top-tier" status. Manning, Brady, Favre, and most recently, Brees. These are the guys who will most likely still be in the forefront of Top QB ranks and lists for years to come, or at least until Favre retires five or six years from now.
There are a great many quarterbacks who are currently at the peripherals of the top tier, and who must produce strong showings in 2010 in order to keep themselves from filling in the blanks of a "What happened to--?"
There are also a few young guns who have proved themselves to be talented signal callers, but have not yet proved that their achievements were not flukes and can break into the heralded "elite" ranks with strong performances in 2010.
We will start with five QBs who are at risk of losing their coveted elite status with mediocre seasons, and five QBs who could fill their shoes if they prove themselves in 2010.
You'd think a guy with two Super Bowl rings wouldn't be in trouble of falling off of the top. If we were just speaking about pure game performance, he wouldn't be. In fact, Big Ben put up some of his best numbers in the 2009 campaign with a 66.6 completion percentage and a 100.5 quarterback rating.
But then came the offseason and that dreaded, dust-bunny swarmed Shamwow he tried to pass off as a beard. While he has lost 13 fumbles in his short career, Roethlisberger chose a bad time to display the tight grip he had been working so hard on all offseason.
Roethlisberger's classy antics earned him a six game suspension and his loss of 'cooler than my dad' status for many young football fans across the country. Now we will see how the Steelers, who have provided a very solid supporting cast for Roethlisberger on both sides of the ball since he was drafted in 2004, play without him. Now we will see just how important of a cog Big Ben really was. To avoid becoming a pariah and eternal face of "just coppin' a feel" Big Ben needs to let his play do the talking this season and keep sharp physically and mentally to impress fans in his shortened season.
This one should be pretty obvious. McNabb, for the first time in his career, is on a new team.
Now it's time to either quiet, or concede to, his critics.
McNabb had the fortune of stepping into fairly strong squad, and could flourish. He has to flourish. This is a make or break season for him. Should he fail, it would be a crippling blow to his self-esteem and his league-wide regard as an elite quarterback.
Should he succeed--and not necessarily with a Lombardi trophy--he will prove that he is an accomplished and multi-faceted quarterback and not, as some say, flawed.
At least McNabb will have some nicer critics in Washington, who have spent years without a quarterback of any true talent.
Eli Manning has tried everything humanly possible to get out from under big bro Peyton's shadow. Guess what? Your brother is 6'6". His shadow is bigger than yours. It's science.
There is no doubt in my mind that Eli Manning is one of the better quarterbacks in the league. So Giants fans please don't hate yet. I'm just saying if he wants to STAY in the top tier. He has to have a good, and most importantly, consistent 2010.
While Eli showed flashes of brilliance, he also seemed uncharacteristically flustered in some games. Eli exudes the calm, cool intensity of his older brother to a point.
Even when under fire, Eli seems un-shakeable. However, if defenses keep up the pressure and continue attacking him, just like that, for whatever reason, it seems like enough is enough for little E. He starts checking down quicker, missing reads, and throwing ill-advised balls.
Manning's QB rating was all over the place during 2010. Reaching as high as 158.3 and dropping as low as 47.5. Sure, everyone has a bad game now and then, but Eli posted ratings under 80.0 in five different games. To be a true elite QB, he's gotta keep focused, stay consistent, and win games.
Although the Bengals surprised everyone with a very solid season, many wonder just how vital Carson Palmer was to their success.
Palmer is a player who has baffled many so far in his career. He's got a strong arm, he's pretty accurate, he's got a healthy football IQ, so why isn't he the star that those talents should equate to?
Highly touted out of USC's QB Factory, Palmer is a guy who was on the verge of being a "never really made it" kinda guy until the Bengals themselves really started seeing success on the gridiron.
After strong 2005 and 2006 seasons, it had appeared that Carson Palmer had arrived. However, during the 2006 postseason Palmer suffered a tear to his ACL and MCL (yikes.)
He has never had as stellar a season as his 2005 run, but began to show signs of his former self.
In 2008, he suffered a torn ligament in his elbow and only played in four games for the season.
He had a solid campaign in 2009, and led the Bengals to the playoffs, but faltered in postseason play.
Coming off that disappointment, a healthy Palmer must prove that he hasn't lost the talent that has taken him to two Pro Bowls.
Michael could never lose his elite status.
Ok. So Matt Hasselbeck isn't really considered elite anymore. He kind of was at one time, though, and I needed five because my next slideshow will be five young QBs on the verge of attaining elite status in 2010, and I have OCD so would be in pretty bad shape if I only had four who could lose it.
Not much to say about this guy. He's old. He's bald. His last even subpar season was in 2007. Unless he pulls off a miracle, this guy will be considered even less of an elite than he already is, which isn't saying much.
He does have a hot wife, though. So at least he will be remembered for that.
Join me for my next installment: Five Young Guns on the Verge of Attaining Elite Status