Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Michael Vick: The Ultimate NFL Quarterbacks of 2010
The National Football League is unique. The intensity of each play, the technical intricacy and the complex rules make for a sport unlike any other on Earth. The game of American Football also created the ultimate leadership role in all of sports: the quarterback. There is no other position in all of sports history with the type of pressure and responsibility the NFL quarterback has placed on his shoulders.
They are modern-day gladiators, courageously leading teams representing entire cities and states. The way the NFL offensive dynamic runs is simple: Quarterbacks are field generals, and coaches are governmental. The brass may order a specific strategy, but the general must carry out the order and shoulder the weight of the call. This is the burden of the NFL Quarterback.
There is no sports duty like the NFL quarterback on Earth, and this must be celebrated. The 2010- 2011 regular season may be over, but I have something for all my fellow NFL addicts: a power ranking of the most brilliant and dominant Offensive Commanders from this past year. Let's commence!
Honorable Mention: Sam Bradford, Saint Louis Rams
Wha'ts not to like about this kid? He has the poise and the talent to steer this franchise back to its once- proud ways.
Honorable Mention: Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
There must be a reason the Houston Texans had the third most passing attempts in 2010. It's Matt Schaub, the unquestioned captain of the team. He is calm under pressure, has a rocket arm, and great chemistry with the most lethal wideout in the league, Andre Johnson.
Honorable Mention: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
I have been a fan of Joe Flacco since he entered the league in 2008. He has the arm strength, the tranquility and the balance to cement his spot as an elite NFL quarterback. I think simple blunders have kept the Ravens from greatness, despite enormous talent. Joe Flacco makes all of that greatness shine.
10) Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: The Comeback Kid
Alright, Alright, I know I'm going to catch a lot of flack for this.
Not just because I am a Miami Dolphin fan, but because his stats aren't upper-echelon. In fact, some of them are pretty abysmal. His 73.2 quarterback rating is ranked 27th in the league, and his 54.8 completion percentage ranked 29th. Even if you ignore these statistics, Mark Sanchez looked downright bad at times. This list is the for the regular season, so I can't even take his playoff heroics into account.
So why is Mark Sanchez number 10? Those heroics he has displayed in the postseason have spilled over into the regular season. In weeks 9-11, Mark Sanchez lead his team back in overtime or the fourth quarter for three straight games. The finales were electrifying.
Even more importantly, he showed poise, confidence, and leadership. The Jets knew they could put the game on his shoulders when the game was on the line. If his consistency would improve, he could become a very special player.
9) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Home Is Where the Heart Is
Matt Ryan, the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, has completely met and exceeded expectations in Atlanta. Ever since his first throw, a 62-yard bomb to Michael Jenkins, the Falcons knew they had their guy. Granted, the blowout loss to the Packers in the playoffs was embarrassing, but Ryan has all the makings of a great quarterback.
He may have slumped in 2009, but in 2010, Matt Ryan led one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFC, taking full advantage of the weapons around him. Michael Turner sets up the play action with his power running, then Ryan let's it fly. He has also developed a very nice chemistry with Roddy White.
However, by far, the most impressive Matt Ryan statistic is his 19-1 Home record. This is a historical feat, as no QB has ever done this before. Winning at home shows a connection to the facility, the fans, and the city. Most important of all, wouldn't you want that as the statistic of your QB?
8) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: The Title Defender
How could Drew Brees not be on this list? He has been absolutely elite for years, and it was great to see him finally win a Super Bowl in 2009. It was a special moment seeing such a great player and person lead a city like New Orleans to a championship after being terrible for years and devastated by the the horrific Hurricane Katrina. In 2010, he would have to defend it.
Even when the Saints were losing, Brees would put up monster stats in through the air. He threw for 4,620 yards, the third most in the NFL, and was second most in completions with 448. He is an enthusiastic and effective leader, making the players around around him better just by being near him. The Saints can contend for years to come, and a lot of that has to do with the calm and cool Brees.
7) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts: Even Legends Are Human
This wasn't Manning's best year, not by a long shot. He threw too many interceptions and made mistakes in critical situations. Analysts and pundits were very quick to write Manning off, to say he's declining, he's less inventive, he caused losses. However, when you're a four-time MVP tactical genius with a laser arm, being even semi-elite causes disappointment.
Make no mistake, though, Peyton Manning will be dominating this league for years, and an offseason doesn't signal any sort of decline. He still led the league in completions and attempts and was second in the league in completion percentage and passing yards.
Manning makes receivers look special. You can plug pretty much any wide receiver, running back, or tight end into that offense, and Peyton will make it work. His understanding of the game is unprecedented, his resume worthy of canon. When all is said and done in his career, I believe he will go down as the greatest field general to ever play the game (and that's a lot coming from a Dolphins fan).
6) Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Unsung Hero
There are a lot of reasons to be happy to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan right now.
Ever since joining the NFL in 1976, the Bucs wallowed in the mire of NFL obscurity, completely without relevance in a win-first league. Before 2000, The Bucs had only three winning seasons in 24 tear-filled years. Finally, in 2002, Jon Gruden led the Bucs to an improbable Super Bowl championship reminiscent of the 2009 Saints victory. With all due respect to Brad Johnson, he was never a franchise quarterback. In fact, the Bucs have never had one in their 35-year history.
Josh Freeman is a great leader, an accurate passer, and a fun player to watch. He had the sixth highest passer rating in 2010 and the third lowest interception count with six, just behind Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Not bad company to keep.
Josh Freeman is is a positive person who loves to play the game. He has all the tools to be elite for years to come and has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the brink of relevancy again. He was the third QB taken behind Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, and I wonder if he wasn't the best one of the class. However, he is horrendously underrated and overlooked.
He won't be in the coming years, I promise you.
5) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Black and Gold Redemption
Sorry about the picture Steelers fans, I just had to do it.
Before the 2010 season, Ben Roethlisberger was embroiled in the controversy surrounding the subject of off-field conduct, which basically means Big Ben likes to party. The Rooneys even considered trading him, which is unheard of for an elite QB with two Super Bowl rings. He was then suspended for the first four games of the season.
Everyone wondered: will he be able to shake off the rust and lead the Steelers once again?
He answered with a stellar season.
Big Ben reminded all of us why he is so special, throwing for more yards than 12 other starting quarterbacks despite the loss of playing time. He only threw five interceptions to 17 touchdowns and led his team with intelligence, resilience, and power.
The epic Raven-Steelers rivalry continued, and Big Ben led two comeback victories over a hated enemy with an extremely talented team. The Ravens probably should have gone further in the playoffs, and Big Ben and the Steelers are the main reason that didn't happen.
4) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: The Champ
Boy, are the Green Bay Packers fans spoiled.
They have the most championships, live in a place deemed "Titletown", and had Brett Favre before his apprentice, Aaron Rodgers, became an NFL star. Out of the shadow of Favre, Rodgers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers was plagued by injuries all year, even missing a game. He played through the pain to glory, throwing 28 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and ranking third in the league in QB rating with 101.2. He looked especially lethal and near-perfect down the stretch, which is a big reason for their playoff momentum and Superbowl championship.
He is a down-to-earth leader with a great attitude, comes through in critical situations, and never loses his cool. The Packers can most definitely repeat or even start a dynasty, and that's thanks to A-Rodge.
Finally, the victory belt celebration is the best in years.
3) Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: A Defensive Coordinator's Worst Nightmare
Now that I think about it, Philadelphia Eagles fans are pretty spoiled too.
They recently had three franchise, or at least quality starting NFL quarterbacks on their roster. Most teams don't even have one. They had Donovan McNabb, traded him because they had a quality unproven talent, Kevin Kolb. Kolb was injured, so they turned to the once-elite third stringer, Michael Vick. He proved to be every bit as elite as he was before his criminal actions sent him to prison. In fact, it may have been his best season ever.
Much like Big Ben, Vick is a controversial and polarizing figure. This season was very much a season of redemption for Vick as well. We see time and again with football fans, superior play usually means forgiveness for past trespasses. Some people will never forgive Michael Vick for what he has done, but on the football field, he reminded us all why he is one of the most exciting players to ever play the game.
Coming in with very few reps as the third string quarterback, Michael Vick replaced Kevin Kolb perfectly. Without skipping a beat, NFL fans sat in awe this season as Vick led amazing comebacks, threw stunningly accurate passes, and displayed an aerial/surface threat unlike any other in the NFL.
Vick can do it all, and it is almost certain he has usurped Kevin Kolb's position as the leader of the Philadelphia Eagles. It's hard to argue with a 100.2 passer rating and a TD/INT ratio of 21 to 6. We love stories like this, stories of redemption. It reminds us all that no matter what happens, we can overcome the tests of time. Perhaps Michael Vick had to go through the hardship to become a more complete leader and a more mature person.
Life is more about the challenges we overcome than the successes we have anyway.
Just don’t let him dogsit.
2) Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Mr. Invincible
What can't you say about the 2010 regular season for Tom Brady? He looked omniscient, omnipotent, Invincible. By putting him at number two, I'm sure I will get a few death threats. That is how good Tom Brady was this year.
Unfortunately, that ended abruptly in the playoffs, but the 2010 MVP award was well deserved for his spectacular throws and extreme accuracy. He went for 36 touchdowns and four interceptions on the year, which was the most touchdowns, least interceptions, and best quarterback ratio. He also moved into history. First place for all-time consecutive passes without an interception, with 338. That impressive feat was the highlight of quarterback play for the entire season.
Tom Brady also led the league in passer rating with 111.0, nearly 10 whole points above any other quarterback. A very important thing to note is that Tom Brady spread the ball around to the entire team and does not have a dominant No. 1 wideout. In the diverse New England Patriots offensive philosophy, Brady managed to throw multiple touchdowns to seven different receivers. The only one to reach double digits is Rob Gronkowski, a rookie tight end. So much of the offensive dynamic is due to that fact that the Pats have Tom Brady under center.
With his inspired play and leadership, why isn't Tom Brady number one? That answer has to do with the entire New England Patriots team and the genius of Bill Belichick. While the quarterback position is the most intense leadership role in all of sports, it carries too much of the credit and blame for the success of a team because football is the most team-oriented sport in all of history.
Remember when Brady went down and Matt Cassel had to step up? The Patriots went 11-5 that year. Tom Brady is undoubtedly the figurehead of the New England's' incredible dynasty, but Bill Belichick is the architect.
The Patriots have a man at the helm who may be the best NFL coach in history. Every year, no matter who is playing each position, the Patriots are dangerous. This was supposed to be a "rebuilding" year for the Pats, and Bill's schemes and Tom's amazing play added up to what should have been a deep playoff run.
I have all the respect in the world for Tom Brady, and this decision does not come lightly. However, with the best coach in football and the massive wealth of talent around him, Brady's stats and win count are not all Mr. Invincible. They are also a by-product of the great empire of talent the New England Patriots have created.
Brady even said so himself: "The MVP award is just for the best quarterback on a hot team. I don't even know why there is an MVP award in such a team-oriented sport."
That's just Tom Brady. All class.
1) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: Incarnation of Atlas
Do you remember the mythological Greek figure Atlas? He was always shown with the world on his back, supporting the weight and responsibility of all the Titans. He carried the most massive burden, yet had the patience, power, and protective nature to fulfill his duty.
Today, we call that mythological figure Philip Rivers.
In short, the San Diego Chargers do not have a team without him. Don't get me wrong; there are many good players down in San Diego: Shaun Phillips, Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill, Quentin Jammer. The lightning of Darren Sproles and the thunder of Mike Tolbert make for a good rushing corps. The feature back and the future of the Tomlinson tradition, Ryan Mathews, was injured this year but will be special in the coming seasons. However, Ron Rivera has left, one of the most important keys to the vaunted San Diego offense. He will most definitely succeed with the Carolina Panthers.
Don't worry, Chargers fans, for you have Philip Rivers.
Rivers is one of the eminent quarterbacks of our day, certainly considered elite. However, he is still underrated and overlooked far too often. He only received five votes for offensive player of the year. Which, however, is a popularity contest for a QB on a hot team going into the playoffs, as Tom Brady said. Even so, five votes is not enough recognition for the best pure leader in the game today.
Why is Philip Rivers number one? Because, just like Atlas, he carries the entire weight of the San Diego Chargers. Tom Brady is an excellent quarterback, but his coaching staff and the players around him make for a complete and efficient team effort. That is the New England Patriots system, and it is a better one. Rivers does most of it on his own. Imagine if, on your team, you had a star left tackle and a true number one wide receiver. However, they missed most of the season. Wouldn't your quarterback's play suffer?
Normally it would, but not if your quarterback is Philip Rivers.
Without Marcus McNeill, his blind side protector, and Vincent Jackson, his most lethal weapon, Philip Rivers led his number one ranked offense with audacity and confidence. He threw touchdowns to 11 different receivers during the season. It didn't matter who was catching it, as long as Rivers put it in the air. Also, the running game was mediocre at best. No running game? No problem.
Rivers led the league in passing yards with 4,710 while extending his marvelous career streak of never throwing more than two interceptions in a game. He also ranked second in the league in passer rating (101.8), first in passing average (8.7) and first in yards/game (294.4).
What makes Philip Rivers truly special is his combination of accuracy and big play ability. He ranked third in completion percentage with 66 percent, showing a precision level reserved only to the games greats. Accuracy on big plays is even more lethal. Rivers easily led the league with plus 40 yard plays with 14 and plays over 20 yards with a stunning 65. He is the master of the big play, and watching him is to watch the most explosive player in football.
Without Marcus McNeill, the San Diego offensive line play truly suffered. Rivers was sacked 38 times, third most in the NFL. We all know he isn't a quarterback to hold onto the ball too long. With porous pass protection and lacking a number one receiver, Rivers carried the San Diego offense brilliantly.
I often feel like Philip Rivers gets an unnecessarily bad reputation. People say he's a hothead, a smack talker, but all I have ever seen is a quarterback who is intense in his desire for victory. Rivers truly cares about his team, his fans, and his city.
That's the kind of quarterback I want playing on my team. Complete desire to win, an unmatchable intensity, and pride in his football team. He's intelligent, gutsy, and resilient. In the 2007 playoffs, he played the entire AFC championship game with a torn ACL. Are you taking notes, Jay Cutler?
Rivers carries the weight of an entire franchise, an entire city. That's what a quarterback is truly all about.