Power Ranking the NFL's Best Quarterbacks: Aaron and Ben and the Top 10

Matt GoldbergCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2011

Power Ranking the NFL's Best Quarterbacks: Aaron and Ben and the Top 10

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    Only about 100 hours stand between us and Super Bowl XLV, and chances are you've already analyzed this game every which way but Sunday. Well, maybe you’ve included Sunday in your analysis.

    The NFL has evolved into even more of a quarterback's league over the last decade, and both teams—the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers—have two of the best in the league. But, how high do they rank…in this man’s opinion, of course?

    There are several ways to go about such an analysis, and keep in mind that anybody who says that his/her ranking is completely objective is kidding himself. But obviously, a worthwhile opinion must be generated by some numbers, and I have attempted to do so without boring you with all the math.

    What I am looking for is the answer to this question: If I were choosing one current NFL quarterback to build a team around for next season, who would I choose?

    I’m not basing this on career achievement (although that Top 10 list is included as well) nor am I looking for which (young) QB may be the best to hold onto for the next five-plus seasons.  Now obviously, track record means something, but if picking a franchise quarterback for one season, a three-tear track record is often as good as a 12-year one.

    This list may also differ ever-so-slightly from my pick of the one quarterback I would pick to play for me if my life depended on it. That sounds too morbid, anyway.

    So, please enjoy the show, see where I’ve placed Aaron, Ben, Tom, Peyton and others, and feel free to agree or disagree—preferably in a civil, but passionate fashion—at the conclusion.

Some Honorable Mentions

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    Many pundits speak of how the NFL has become a watered-down league, as there are 32 teams to stock with talent. Perhaps, this is a justifiable concern at some positions, but please consider that my Top 10 does not include any of the following fine signal callers, listed alphabetically:

    Sam Bradford

    Matt Cassel

    Jay Cutler

    Joe Flacco

    Josh Freeman (pictured)

    David Garrard

    Eli Manning

    Carson Palmer

    Mark Sanchez

    Matt Schaub

    Add these 10 to my Top 10, and you can make a case that there at least 20 good (to excellent) quarterbacks playing in today's NFL.

    By the way, you may call me an easy mark, but I'm taking Brett Favre at his word this time. As a retired player, I'm not including him in this slideshow. Other than just now, of course.

Top 10 QBs -- Career Value

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    In the introduction, I promised a list of the Top 10 quarterbacks, based on their career value.

    Since I am not running for office, I intend to keep that promise. You may not like the list, but here goes.

    My criteria is this:  Without projecting future achievement, who has had the best career so far. In ascending order, these are my picks, with an evaluation of their chances to make the Hall of Fame.

    (There is not a single stat to define a career, or a season, but I have posted each QB’s regular season and playoff won-loss record, along with any Super Bowl activity, or a horseshoes approach to same.)

    10) Tony Romo:  39-22; 1-3 playoffs.  He turns 31 in April, and has lots of work to do.

    9) Aaron Rodgers: 27-20; 3-1 in playoffs; one Super Bowl appearance. Has all the tools; just 27, he’s off to a Hall of Fame start.

    8) Eli Manning: 60-43; 4-3 in playoffs, with one championship. Give me 4-5 more good years, and then we’ll talk. Not out of the question, but I really don’t think he’s a Hall of Fame player.

    7) Philip Rivers: 55-25; 3-4 in playoffs. Rivers needs to either keep winning at this percentage, keep playing like he did last year, or achieve much more playoff success to have a shot. At 29, he’s got a decent shot at Canton.

    6) Michael Vick: 46-31-1; 2-3 in playoffs with one NFC Championship Game appearance. Vick turns 31 in June, and already has four Pro Bowl selections and some compelling stats. Let’s see what the next five years bring.

    5) Drew Brees: 79-58; 4-3 in playoffs with one championship. At age 32, two or three more good years should get him enshrined.

    4) Donovan McNabb: 97-57-1; 9-7 in playoffs, one Super Bowl appearance, and four NFC Championship games. I think he’s in, but it would not hurt for D-Mac to have a good season or two to erase the stench of his last, lost season in D.C.

    3) Ben Roethlisberger: 69-29; 10-2 in playoffs; 2-0 in Super Bowls. While he is blessed with a great defense and system, the guy has a phenomenal winning record and a rep for clutch play (among other things, I guess.) Almost a lock already.

    2) Peyton Manning: 141-67; 9-10 in playoffs, with one championship in two Super Bowls. Obviously, he waltzes in upon eligibility.

    1) Tom Brady: 111-32; 14-5 in playoffs, with three titles in four Super Bowls. The best quarterback of his era, only the details of his acceptance speech need to be worked out.

10. Back To The List -- Donovan McNabb

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    Did that Redskins uniform ever seem to fit McNabb?

    I'm not alluding to his weight, as he appeared to get into very good shape, and then...the Shanahan/Shanahan/McNabb offense never really got going.

    Call me crazy, but I think that if freed from the dysfunction of D.C., that McNabb is still a top 10 QB for one more season, which is my guideline for this list.

    He played too well in Philly the previous year, leading a very young team (with a bad offensive line) to an 11-5 record.

    I truly think that this six-time Pro Bowler, who has led his team to the playoffs in seven of his healthy nine seasons as a starter deserves this spot, and apparent mulligan.

    (Good thing we don't call a do-over a Shanahan.)

9. Tony Romo

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    Of course, I'm assuming that Romo will start the next season healthy, and ready to roll up some big numbers.

    Romo's career has been marred by disappointing playoff losses and off-the-field gossip, but the guy is a very talented quarterback.

    Like him or not, he's mobile, strong-armed and accurate, and has a knack for extending plays long enough to put lots of stress on a defense.

    A No. 9 slot for No. 9 seems fair.

8. Matt Ryan

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    I'm not as high on Matty Ice as some, but it's hard to argue that he has not had an excellent first three years in the league.

    Ryan is not spectacular, but he appears to have full confidence of his team and coaching staff, and one would predict that he will be even better in his fourth year.

    His 33-13 career record shows that he's doing a lot of good things.

    I think of him as a game-manager-plus. He won't make a bunch of dazzling plays, but he is more than capable of being cool and talented enough to lead game-winning drives.

7. Michael Vick

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    While Michael Vick usually engenders much more extreme opinion—and I'm only referring to his play on the field—my placement is kind of a compromise.

    One can make the case that he was a Top 3 quarterback this year, and i rated him third on my final MVP ranking, behind Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

    At his best (Consider the Monday Night virtuoso game at Washington, or his insane fourth-quarter comeback against the Giants) he looked like the most irresistible force in the game, and even his worst wasn't too bad this year.

    He had some problems late in the year (and playoffs) dealing with blitzes, but if he stays healthy (and sticks to the script) his 2011 may be even better than his remarkable 2010 comeback campaign.

6. Philip Rivers

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    Tough, accurate, strong-armed and fiery, Rivers was an MVP candidate for a team whose supporting cast betrayed him with holdouts and injuries all year.

    The former Wolfpack is only 29, and there is no reason to project anything but another big year out of him in 2011. Well, there could be a lockout, but let's not go there.

    While passer rating is not everything for a quarterback, Rivers is the only QB in the NFL to exceed a 100 passer rating each of the last three years.

    I'd rate him even higher, but he has not yet tasted much playoff success.

5. Peyton Manning

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    Could Peyton Manning have been placed higher on this list? Perhaps.

    Could he have been even lower?  Yes, I thought of placing Philip Rivers ahead of him.

    Manning will turn 35 before next season, but there is every reason to believe that a guy who prepares so well for each season, and every game, will find a way to play well for another few years.

    While I still would project a Pro Bowl-like year for him, I do feel that other quarterbacks are playing the position better than him right now.

    A lot has been made of Manning's 9-10 career postseason record, and truthfully, I don't think that he has been a very good postseason quarterback.

    But let's not ignore all of the things he has accomplished in his marvelous career, including leading the Colts to the playoffs 11 times in 13 seasons.

    Still one of the best.

4. Drew Brees

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    The Saints never quite looked like a Super Bowl team this past season, but did anyone expect them to bow out in Seattle?

    I wonder if any of those yammering Hasselbecks even expected it, but it happened—not that it was Brees' fault.

    Brees, once again, showed his leadership and command, while playing with a team that needed him to have a  big game each week for them to have a chance.

    He threw more picks than in his magical 2009-10 season (that should have culminated in an MVP award), but I would easily accept him as my franchise quarterback, if behind three other guys...

3. Ben Roethlisberger

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    Would I rather have Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger as the face of my franchise? Brees, in half a heartbeat.

    Would I take either as my quarterback in a must-win game? Absolutely.

    Who would I choose down by six with two minutes left in a playoff game?  Again, I'd like either, but my choice would be Big Ben.

    Ben does not have huge personal stats, although his career passer rating (92.5 percent) is quite good, and his win-loss percentage only trails Tom Brady in the regular season. In the playoffs, his record is fast approaching that of the man from New England.

    Roethlisberger, to his credit, is building a reputation to rival Brady's, as the best big game QB on the planet. Whether he makes a play with strength, agility, or a laser throw from the pocket or on the run, Ben usually makes the right play at the right time for the black-and-gold.

2. Aaron Rodgers

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    Is there anything that this three-year starter does not do exceptionally well on the football field?

    Well yes, his tackling is sloppy, and his kickoffs aren't deep enough.

    As a quarterback?

    While Michael Vick may possess the most eye-dropping pure talent, I would rate Rodgers' overall skill set as the best in the league.

    If you witnessed his clinical destruction of the Falcons (in Atlanta, a very tough venue for visiting teams) in a 48-21 division round romp, you'd be hard-pressed to think of a quarterback who ever played a better playoff game. He was that dynamic.

1. Tom Brady

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    The season did not end well for "the hair", "the hood" and Patriots Nation, but the season that Brady put together this year earns him the top slot.

    Now, if Rodgers gets to another Super Bowl next year, and Brady can't find that playoff magic again, I may revise this list at that time.

    I just can't yet displace a man who led his team to the best record in the league, with the best offense (by a healthy margin), and the best passer rating, featuring an insane 36:4 touchdown to interception ratio.

    That he did so breaking in an almost brand-new cast of no-name players, and sometimes in blizzard conditions, defies belief.

    Brady did not play very well in the playoffs against the Jets, but I must give him a pass after the season of near-miracles he performed this year at Lourdes...I mean, Foxborough.

    For my money, in an era that features some very good quarterbacks, Brady is still the best.


    That was one man's opinion; feel free to share yours below.


    For more information on Matt Goldberg’s books, other writings and speaking engagements, please contact matt@tipofthegoldberg.com