Who Are the Top 5 Quarterbacks in the NFL?

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2011

Tom Brady is still number one
Tom Brady is still number oneRick Stewart/Getty Images

With apologies to the original author, the four things in life that are guaranteed in 2010 are life, death, taxes and an NFL analyst saying, “You know the guy we're watching isn’t quite as good as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but you know he is among the top five quarterbacks in the league.”

Of course, if you are an NFL fan and watch more than a couple of games on the weekend you realize that the NFL analyst can’t be right, or if he is right, he must be using some type of new math that accounts for 12 guys to be ranked among the top five quarterbacks in the league.

Which begs the question: Who are the top five quarterbacks in the league in 2010?

The obvious first step is to look at the six quarterbacks who were voted to the Pro Bowl.

The six Pro Bowl quarterbacks in 2010 are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Mike Vick, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan

Tom Brady and Mike Vick have had such great years in 2010 that most people concede that they are the only two players that can win the MVP award, and that they have to be among the best five quarterbacks in the league.

Phillip Rivers should be added to the short list with Brady and Vick, as he has connected on 67 percent of his passes and he is on pace to throw for more than 4,500 yards without having the help of a 1,000-yard receiver or a 1,000-yard rusher.

However, a case can be made that the remaining three players should not be on the list of the top five quarterbacks this year.

Peyton Manning has thrown for more than 4,400 yards this season and 32 touchdowns and completed 66 percent of his passes.

However, Manning has thrown 17 interceptions, and his quarterback rating of 91.4 is lower than every playoff-bound quarterback in the AFC with the exception of Mark Sanchez

Brees, similar to Manning, has thrown for more than 4,400 yards this season, tossed 32 touchdowns and completed 68 percent of his passes.

Similar to Manning, Brees’s quarterback rating of 92.2 is lower than every playoff quarterback in the AFC with the exception of Mark Sanchez, and Brees has thrown 22 interceptions on the season.

Ryan has emerged as a very good quarterback in his second year, but his quarterback rating of 89.9 is lower than Manning's and Brees's, and he has thrown for fewer yards, 3,469, than either quarterback.   

Ryan has also had more support than Manning and Brees, as Roddy White has more than 1,300 receiving yards and Michael Turner has more than 1,300 rushing yards.

Of course, Ryan can claim to be worthy of being on the short list, as he has thrown only nine interceptions on the season and his team is tied for the best record in the NFC.   

The second most obvious list of quarterbacks to examine to determine if they are among the top five quarterbacks are the field generals of the playoff teams with winning records.

Sam Bradford, Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Sanchez are quickly eliminated from the discussion, as none of the three players have a quarterback rating over 80, and each as thrown almost as many interceptions than touchdowns.

Here are the three best quarterbacks from the AFC who are not going to the Pro Bowl.

Matt Cassel has put up fantastic numbers, as he has thrown 27 touchdowns against only five interceptions. Cassel also has a 98.8 quarterback rating.

Cassel likely didn’t make the Pro Bowl because he has ‘only’ thrown for 3,000 yards and connected on 60 percent of his passes. 

Also, Cassel and his Chiefs will have defeated only one playoff-bound team during the season, and that team will be the winner of the moribund NFC West.

However, the key fact that separates Cassel from the rest of the competition is his decision making, in that he has only thrown five picks during the year.

Joe Flacco has a quarterback rating of 95 and a completion rate of 62 percent. Flacco has 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season, and four of Flacco’s interceptions came in his second game of the season against Cincinnati.

Joe Flacco has been 4-2 against playoff bound teams this year.

Ben Roethlisberger has a solid quarterback rating of 94 to go with his completion rate of 62 percent. Ben’s numbers of just 15 touchdowns and 2,920 passing yards are also very good once they are adjusted to reflect his early season suspension. 

Curiously, Roethlisberger is only 1-3 in games against playoff-bound teams this year.

In the NFC, here are the best quarterbacks not going to the Pro Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers has a quarterback rating of 102, a completion rate of 66 percent and 27 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions.

Rodgers doesn’t have as many passing yards as Brees, but he has been just as effective as Drew.

While neither Rodgers nor Brees has had a running game to help him, Brees has had more weapons available to him, and thus the nod for accomplishing more with less goes to Rodgers.

Josh Freeman may be the best unheralded quarterback in the league. Freeman has a quarterback rating of 94, has tossed 23 touchdowns, thrown just six interceptions and has a completion rate of 60 percent.

Similar to Cassel, Freeman has notched only one win against a playoff-bound team. A win over the Saints today will increase Freeman’s stock.

Jay Cutler may be the hottest quarterback not named Brady over the past five weeks, as his quarterback rating has been over 104 in four of his five past games. 

Cutler, however, holds the ball too long to be considered among the league’s best, having been sacked 46 times on the season.

Eli Manning has had some good games during the season, but with 24 interceptions on the season, he can’t be in the discussion of one of the five best quarterbacks in the league.

Here are my five best quarterbacks in the NFL: Brady, Vick, Rivers, Peyton Manning and Rodgers.

Yes, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger all have Super Bowl hardware, and I understand from Terry Bradshaw that the ring has its privileges, but right now Rodgers is the better quarterback.

The next best five quarterbacks in the NFL for me are Brees, Ryan, Cassel, Flacco and Roethlisberger, and the proverbial quarterback of the future is Freeman.