NFL Power Rankings Week 9: The Top 10 Quarterbacks
Every couple of seasons I feel the urge to publish my thoughts about the NFL's top quarterbacks. With that in mind, 2010 has not been a banner year for the men at the most talked about position in professional athletics, a fact that makes this list particularly difficult to finalize.
Before I get into the actual rankings, I feel it's necessary to (briefly) explain my criteria. Let's see if I can do this in one sentence...
I emphasize physical ability, accuracy, IQ, preparation, leadership, pocket presence, statistics, and most importantly, results.
Please note the following: for ranking purposes, I do not focus entirely upon the year at hand. The previous two seasons are also given legitimate consideration.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get it poppin'...
Honorable Mention: Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos
As you can probably surmise from the photo, Kyle is pissed that he didn't make my top 10. I understand his pain.
Orton is currently second in the NFL in passing yards (2,509) trailing only Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers. During his time with the Chicago Bears, Orton was known as a "game-manager," a distinction that is essentially synonymous with "someone who dinks and dunks and tries to keep the score close."
My how things have changed.
Denver's head coach Josh McDaniels saw the upside in Orton's underrated ability, and Kyle has rewarded McDaniels with his quick-release style of quarterbacking. Orton runs the offense the way McDaniels draws it up, unfortunately that hasn't resulted in much success in the standings.
Kyle's statistical production is strong this year, but he'll have to show me that he can carry his team in big games before cracking the top 10.
10. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
I've never been one to bite my tongue, so I'll just come out and say it...
Matt Schaub looks great on paper, but crappy during live action. Every time I watch a Texans game I can't help but wonder, "How does this guy put up such astronomical stats?"
I'm sure the most common response would be, "Andre Johnson."
And fair enough, but does Johnson deserve all of the credit for Schaub's league-leading 4,770 passing yards in 2009? What about his 29/15 touchdown to interception ratio?
I guess Schaub deserves a little credit of his own. He has happy feet in the pocket and appears to be struggling through a dead-arm stage in recent weeks, but there's no denying the fact that he's been one of the absolute best quarterbacks in the NFL over the course of the past three seasons.
He's come down to earth a bit in 2010, nonetheless he's earned a spot on the latter portion of my list.
9. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
From day one I've been an "Aaron Rodgers guy." I agreed with the Packers' decision to part ways with Brett Favre and I felt, at the time, that A-Rod had showcased a considerable amount of ability despite limited opportunities (preseason, and one regular season game against the Cowboys).
Since taking over the reins as the full-time quarterback in Green Bay, Rodgers has continued to display that ability -- an extremely strong arm, above-average mobility, and the guts to stand tall in the pocket and be aggressive down the field.
However, Rodgers has been unable to take the step from borderline Pro Bowl QB to superstar. If anything, like Matt Schaub at the No. 10 spot, A-Rod has digressed a bit in 2010. Part of that has to do with the losses of RB1 Ryan Grant and TE1 Jermichael Finley, but I doubt Aaron would want us to make excuses for him.
Simply put, I'd like to see more consistently excellent play from Rodgers before I move him up the ranks.
8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
I know Tony is out for quite awhile with a serious clavicle injury, and I thought about moving him to the "Honorable Mention" section, but was I really going to put Kyle Orton in the top 10 based upon one, strong half-season?
I don't think so.
When he is out there, Romo is one of the most versatile players at his position. He has been plagued by an inconsistent offensive line throughout his career as a starter, but Romo makes the best of it with his mobility and knack for feeling the rush.
My favorite aspect of Tony's game is his ability to extend the play and give his receiving options the opportunity to create some space in the open field. To some extent, that ability is responsible for Tony's gaudy statistics over the years.
Unfortunately for Mr. Romo, like his predecessors on the list -- Orton, Schaub, and Rodgers -- he has little-to-no playoff track record. He's been a flashy, high-octane quarterback during the regular season, but his Cowboys have fallen flat when the pressure hits its highest point.
Considering that reality, Tony can't be any higher than No. 8.
7. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
This man is the exception. I like to emphasize recent track record, but I have no choice but to give Michael a pass. He's missed a few games this season, wasn't a starter last year, and was a jailbird before that, and yet he's the seventh-best quarterback in the NFL.
In all honesty, he's probably better than a couple of the QBs I'll rank ahead of them, but I have to be fair when it comes to durability.
On the field, what can't Vick do? He has one of the strongest arms in the game, is one of the fastest runners at any position, and has drastically improved his pocket-passing skills. Recently Vick came out publicly and said he's "going to be more careful" with his scrambling, but he shouldn't be too careful.
The scrambling is what makes him the most dangerous quarterback in the world.
With WR1 DeSean Jackson (if healthy), WR2 Jeremy Maclin, RB1 LeSean McCoy, and TE1 Brent Celek in his arsenal, Vick could lead Philadelphia to the very top of the NFC.
Exactly how far will Michael take his Eagles?
That will most certainly depend upon his ability (or lack thereof) to stay on the field.
6. Eli Manning, New York Giants
He has the patented "Manning" name, but does Eli truly get the credit he deserves?
I'm not sure he does.
Eli Manning is a handful of mental lapses away from being one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. He has all of the necessary tools to become a QB that carries his team whenever they need him to, but he doesn't display the mental consistency of the elite signal callers.
With 11 interceptions, Eli is tied for the league lead with Drew Brees and Brett Favre (a dubious distinction). At this point in the season, that's far too many picks for a leader who has intentions of grandeur.
On the other hand, he's in the top eight in passing yards (1,785) and is fourth in touchdowns with 14. Like his older brother Peyton, Eli prepares extremely well for the opposition and is particularly adept at the two-minute drill.
And, once upon a time, he played in the Super Bowl. I believe that tale had a happy ending.
5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
When they came out of college the unavoidable question around the league was, "Eli Manning or Philip Rivers?"
Now, six years later, I'm faced with the very same question...and I'm going with Rivers.
This was the most difficult decision to make for the following, simple reason: Rivers has the stats and Manning has the ring.
More often than not I'll side with the ring, but Rivers has earned a change of heart. I wasn't a big fan of his early in his career -- thought he had a chicken arm and whined too much -- but he has sealed my trash-talking mouth in recent years.
Rivers currently leads the NFL in passing yards, is third in QB rating (98.9), has one more TD than Eli (15), and four less interceptions (7).
In 2009, Rivers also had a higher QB rating, more passing yards and TDs than Eli.
Let's not forget the fact that Rivers has done an outstanding job this season without WR1 Vincent Jackson, top offensive lineman Ryan McNeil, and former franchise player LaDainian Tomlinson. Core WRs Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis have battled injuries as well.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben's lucky that off-the-field idiocy doesn't factor into these rankings.
On the other hand, I don't think he gives a crap about my list.
Anyhow, Ben's one of the premier pressure quarterbacks of the past decade. He's only 28 years old and already has two Super Bowl rings, and his Steelers have to be considered one of the favorites to win it all again this year.
Like Tony Romo at the No. 8 spot, Big Ben is nifty when avoiding the rush. He's the absolute best in the league at stepping through the pocket and allowing the defensive pressure to fly by. His savvy mobility extends the play and is especially helpful in the clutch.
Roethlisberger isn't a pure passer, and he's certainly not a poster boy for the league, but neither changes the reality of the situation:
Big Ben makes plays when it matters, and he knows how to win.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Coming off an incredible Super Bowl season, Drew Brees has disappointed me in 2010. I see a noticeable decrease in velocity and he seems to be gambling down the field with much greater regularity. His play has reflected an attitude that says, "Well we just won a Super Bowl, so what's the worst that can happen?"
I'm sure that's not truly the case (at least, I hope it isn't), but Brees has definitely been more careless this season. Perhaps the explanation is that he misses the running back combination of Pierre Thomas (ground guy) and Reggie Bush (screen option).
Nevertheless, Drew clearly remains one of the top three quarterbacks in the world. I don't think the Saints will make another Super Bowl run this year, but I can't take anything away from Brees' efforts in '09.
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Some may be shocked by this development, but this is a pretty easy decision for me. Peyton Manning has been to the postseason 10 times and has one Super Bowl ring.
Tom Brady has been to the postseason seven times, and has three Super Bowl rings.
Both quarterbacks have maintained their physical skills and mental toughness over time, so I'm giving Brady the nod because of superior results.
I'm not trying to take anything away from Peyton -- not by any means -- as he is the best precision passer in the game. No one runs the No-Huddle Offense better than No. 18, and he'll go down as one of the top three QBs in the history of professional football.
If he gets a ring this season and the Patriots fizzle out, I'll transfer the power at the top of my list.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
As you can see, Tom is far from bashful about celebrating his victory.
I'm not going to go on and on about No. 12 because I'm a die-hard Jets fan. I have to maintain a little hometown pride.
I'll leave you with this:
If the Jets were in a tie game with two minutes remaining in the Super Bowl, there's only one quarterback that I'd want calling the signals...
And that's Tom Brady.
(John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston 's popular GM Theo Epstein. Check it out on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble online. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)