NFL Quarterbacks Who Deserve More Respect: The Kids Are All Right

Kevin RobertsSenior Writer IDecember 22, 2010

NFL Quarterbacks Who Deserve More Respect: The Kids Are All Right

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    Rodgers has the playoffs closing in on the playoffs yet again.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Sometimes it takes a quarterback a few years to totally grasp an NFL offense, mesh with teammates or simply find the right organization or system to best put their talents to use.

    Often times a quarterback gets their first (and only) chance to prove themselves because of an injury to the original starter, and of course, sometimes when the original starter under-performs.

    The guys on this list are guys that may be respected by some, but should be respected by all. They put up stats, they win games, and should be the future of their respective franchises.

    All but one of the five passers on this list has their team headed for the 2010 NFL Playoffs, while the other has his team in nearly every game they play.

    While a few of these guys arguably do get the respect they deserve, they also deserve to be recognized for their improved play in 2010.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo Bills)

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    Fitzpatrick has the Bills competitive again.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    What do you get for going to Harvard? Not much if you're a football player. Ryan Fitzpatrick has gone from late-round pick to fantasy football sensation, as he's taken over the once inept Buffalo Bills passing game, and made the Bills a competitive team for much of the 2010 season.

    It was no coincidence that the Bills immediately started giving opponents a run for their money when they made the switch from Trent Edwards to Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, after stints in St. Louis and Cincinnati that were less than convincing, it was still a surprise to see Fitzpatrick do so well.

    Fitzpatrick has been a stats guy in 2010, throwing for over 2,700 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, while also rushing for over 250 yards on the ground. But it's more than just the numbers, as Fitzpatrick has guided the Bills to four wins on the season, while helping to keep them in the game in several other contests.

    And his competitive nature didn't just help the Bills against easy opponents, either. Fitzpatrick helped Buffalo to five losses by eight points or less, with four of those games coming against potential division winners or playoff contenders in Pittsburgh, New England, Chicago and Baltimore.

    His excellent 2010 season still hasn't quieted down the talk of Buffalo drafting a quarterback early in the 2011 NFL Draft, but perhaps it should.

Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs)

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    Cassel has been excellent in 2010.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Cassel has bounced back from a disappointing 2009 campaign with MVP-caliber numbers, as he's thrown for over 2,800 passing yards, along with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

    While he's been heavily aided by a strong rushing attack, an improved offensive line, and a solid defense, Cassel has still made the necessary adjustments and strides to guide his team and raise his level of play.

    He's developed into a consistent, reliable quarterback, and has his Chiefs ready to take the AFC West division crown.

    He still has to prove himself in the playoffs, but he stellar 2010 season has already displayed his talent, and shown his 2007 season with the Patriots was no fluke. Cassel is here to stay.

Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)

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    Ryan has the Falcons thinking Super Bowl.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    They don't call him "Matty Ice" for nothing. Ryan has been exceptional from day one, as the first pass he threw in his young career went for a long touchdown, and his first season ended with the Falcons in the playoffs.

    With Ryan under center, the Falcons are constantly in every game they play, and with the great weapons around him, he also has no trouble putting up solid numbers.

    Ryan has taken on more pressure and responsibility in his third season, throwing for a career high in pass attempts in touchdowns, topped his previous impressive completion percentage of 61.1 percent, and is on pace to shatter his previous high of passing yards in a season.

    He has everything needed to be a productive (if not elite) NFL quarterback for years to come, and in the present, has his Falcons starting at a matchup with the New Orleans Saints that could give Atlanta the NFC South division crown.

    This could be the season Ryan finally takes the next step, wins the big game, or at least wins a playoff game. Either way it ends in 2010, Atlanta fans know their future is in good hands.

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)

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    Rodgers can say hello to super stardom.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Rodgers should have been on this list a year or two ago if you ask a lot of people. However, I still didn't truly believe he had what it took to lead a team to a Super Bowl. I felt he was a statistics quarterback who held onto the ball too long, took too many sacks and didn't perform as well as he could late in games.

    Some of that is still true, but when you look closely, Rodgers actually succeeds despite his team in many games. His coaching can be inconsistent, his receivers can leave him out to dry, his running game is pathetic and his vaunted defense can fold at the completely wrong time.

    When it's all said and done, Rodgers has a huge arm, great accuracy, good mobility and a huge chip on his shoulder. He's also a great leader that won't quit. The Packers weren't right in the way they went about inserting him as the new franchise passer, but they had it right in terms of him being the right choice.

    It should only be a matter of a few years before Rodgers brings a title back to Green Bay, which will easily crown him as the best quarterback in the league once the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are aging or retired.

    He had the stats the past two years and made the playoffs in 2009. Now he just needs to take that final step and win a playoff game. But even if he doesn't, he has my respect, as I know it's only a matter of time before he's dominating the entire league.

Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)

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    Cutler has the Bears in the playoffs.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Is there a more criticized quarterback in the league that possibly doesn't deserve it? Cutler was marked arrogant and cocky from day one in Denver, and after butting heads with then head coach Josh McDaniels, he was seen as much the same when he came to Chicago in a trade.

    No matter how you label his attitude, there's been no doubt during his short career that he's a risk taker, and that he possesses a great arm and elite talent. The question has always been about accuracy, control and leadership.

    With failed playoff runs with late-season collapses to start his career, 2010 finally had Cutler delivering the type of controlled play analysts, writers and fans alike were looking for.

    Cutler is on pace to throw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns for the fourth consecutive season, while guiding the Bears to a 10-win record, a division crown and a trip to the playoffs.

    It remains to be seen exactly what Cutler does with this excellent opportunity when the playoffs come, but as he stands now, he appears vindicated.

    Against a wall of critics, Cutler has performed extremely well, as he's thrown 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions on a 6-1 run to this point in the season.

    He probably needs to win a Super Bowl to truly rid of all of his naysayers, but considering Eli Manning is a borderline elite quarterback, has a ring and still gets heavy criticism, it's clear even that won't ever be enough.

    But Cutler's place in this list suggests it should be, and even if he doesn't get a ring this year, he's clearly playing at a level that leads us to believe he one day will.

The Wild Cards: Honorable Mentions

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    Sanchez still has a lot to prove.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    You could argue a few of these guys (most notable the first one) to be among the top five of this list, but at least they'll get an honorable mention here:

    Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)

    He's been excellent and seems to only be getting more comfortable and better. However, I still get the feeling he's been living off the success of his defense and ground game. I'd like to see him do some more damage on his own before he'd crack this list's top five. He's close, but just not there yet.

    Mark Sanchez (New York Jets)

    Some would argue he gets too much respect for really not having done anything yet, and I'd agree. He'll always get more credit or blame than he deserves as a Jet, but he still has a lot to prove. He showed he still has two faces to his game this year, with a hot start and then a horrible slump over 4-5 games. He seems to have snapped out of it, but for how long?

    Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

    He's a true gamer and a gritty performer, generating several late-game drives that led to victories. He'd probably be in a lot better shape if it weren't for an at times suspect rush attack and bendable defense, but he's still got "elite" written all over him. He's not there yet, but he'll only get better.

    If a passer isn't on here that you think should be, leave a comment. However, before you do, think about the fact that many quarterbacks aren't on this list because they've already received the respect they deserve, or simply don't deserve any.

    Hence, Eli Manning and Tony Romo are not on this list, while Manning should have your respect, but it's arguable if Romo should or not.