Much has been made lately about NFL player rankings in respects to the “Top 100 players of 2011.”
The NFL Network has been running an official “player-voted” countdown over the past few weeks, revealing 10 selections every Sunday until the No. 1 player is announced on July 3rd.
Thus far, it has been assumed that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick will be the remaining seven quarterbacks to be counted down within the top 50.
To help pass the time, NFL.com’s writers recently revealed how they would rank the seven aforementioned quarterbacks amongst the top players of 2011.
Naturally, each writer’s personal selections are purely subjective; and the purpose of this article is not to debate the rankings themselves as being either right or wrong.
To be fair, each writer appeared to only be given a limited amount of space to justify their selections; but even if that is the case, one would expect the NFL’s top writers to make accurate use of the space provided.
Disappointingly, Bucky Brooks failed to do that.
Disappointing because I respect Brooks as a writer; but even more disappointing because the impressionable masses who visit the NFL’s official website actually place stock in the “expert analysis” provided, regardless of how inaccurate it may be.
Brooks ranked Tom Brady at No. 1, ahead of Peyton Manning at No. 2.
Many would respectfully disagree, but that’s not the point. It’s the justification provided in defense of the ranking. In regards to placing Brady at No. 1, Brooks stated the following:
“As a three-time Super Bowl winner, Brady has repeatedly demonstrated that he is the ultimate clutch performer. Given his exceptional production and outstanding record in the post-season, it's hard to pick any quarterback over Brady.”
Before I continue, allow me to emphasize that the purpose of this list is to rank the top 100 players of 2011—not the top 100 players of all time, which was already done a few months back.
Past accomplishments should certainly be taken into account, as they help to constitute a resume that testifies to the likelihood of the player in question continuing to achieve similar success in 2011.
But how far back are we talking?
Let’s analyze Brooks’ four points made in favor of Brady.
Point No. 1: Three-Time Super Bowl Winner
Indeed he is; the last time being over six years ago.
You know, back when Sam Bradford was a high school junior prepping for the SATs, Emmitt Smith sported bright Cardinals red, they still called Chad “Johnson” and Jerry Rice was selling Raiders jerseys for Al Davis.
And this of all things is the first reason mentioned in defense of Brady being No. 1 on a list that has been so “what have you done for me lately” that Vonte Leach was ranked ahead of Eli Manning, the quarterback that defeated Brady in Super Bowl XLII—the last time “Tom Terrific” had the opportunity to live up to Brooks’ second justification.
Point No. 2: Ultimate Clutch Performer
I’m not going to say that Brady isn’t a clutch performer, but an “ultimate” one?
The same Tom Brady who led the highest-scoring team in NFL history to 14 points against the Giants' 17th-ranked scoring defense in Super Bowl XLII?
Yes, the Giants were playing incredible football and may have “won” the game more than the Patriots “lost” it, but wasn’t Super Bowl XLII the most defining “clutch” situation in recent memory, where Tom Brady had the opportunity to solidify the 2007 New England Patriots as the greatest team in NFL history?
They love to credit Brady with “inspiring” his teammates to rise to the occasion as a result of his unquestionable leadership; they just conveniently tend to forget that Super Bowl XLII even existed, instead opting in favor of re-visiting point No. 1.
Point No. 3: Exceptional Production
Do not ever confuse “efficiency” with “production” because no matter how much people might choose to blend them together, they’re not the same.
Matt Cassel for instance, had a higher quarterback rating than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan last season; problem was that his production helped lead the Chiefs to the league’s 30th-ranked passing offense.
That’s an extreme of course as Brady’s league-leading 36 touchdown passes help to justify his claim; I just doubt that it even crossed Brooks’ mind that 10 teams ranked ahead of New England in passing last season.
I don’t necessarily disagree with point No. 3 as much as I question Brooks’ devotion to taking the claim into context in respect to productive totality; as there were a number of quarterbacks that ranked ahead of Brady both in terms of “production” and “efficiency” as recently as 2009—a time far more relevant to this list than the “five-plus years ago” era used to justify Brady as being a “clutch winner” as detailed in points No. 1 and No. 2.
Point No. 4: Outstanding Record in the Postseason
Yes, Brady’s 14-5 postseason record is the best in NFL history.
Pause for a moment as I pop in a CD to listen to “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent—Billboard’s No. 1 single around the time Brady won his last Super Bowl.
I thought this list was supposed to be ranking the “Top 100 players of 2011”?
Since his clutch days of dueling with Eli Manning in Arizona, Tom Brady has compiled an 0-3 postseason record; the worst winning percentage among active quarterbacks.
Some would say that the bad times began on New England’s “date of destiny,” but I’d argue that they began during one of Brady’s 14 playoff victories—the 2007 AFC Championship Game—when throwing three interceptions to post a 66.4 quarterback rating “lifted” his Patriots to another clutch postseason win.
Losing a Super Bowl to the underdog Giants in 2007, throwing three more interceptions to the Ravens in 2009, and “out-clutching” Rex Ryan’s defense in 2010 account for Brady’s most recent postseason successes.
Tom Brady (Last Four Postseason Games)
103-of-168 (61.3 percent) for 928 yards (5.5 YPA), 7 TD, 7 INT, 72.7 Passer Rating
No one sees that there might be a problem with Brooks’ ironclad justification of ranking Tom Brady ahead of another quarterback ranked as though this list was drudged up six years ago?
In regards to ranking Peyton Manning in the No. 2 spot, Brooks had to say the following:
"He comes in a close second behind Brady, but Manning's postseason failures prevent him from being No. 1. Manning is the model of consistency at QB, and his iron man status will put him on the fast track to finish his career with nearly all of the league's passing records."
For as much as it was valid to completely ignore Tom Brady’s postseason performance over the past half-decade or so, Brooks reached back even further into his time machine to develop a justification to detail what it is that prevents Manning from "being No. 1" on his list.
We could talk about Manning’s actual performance as of late in the postseason, but why would that be relevant?
Peyton Manning (Last Four Postseason Games)
105-of-154 (68.2 percent) for 1,181 yards (7.7 YPA), 7 TD, 2 INT, 100.6 Passer Rating
So as of late, Manning posts a playoff quarterback rating higher than Joe Montana’s (95.5), but it is Tom Brady whose “outstanding record in the postseason” pushed him ahead of Manning even though during the time he’s credited for being “clutch,” he’s posted a lower quarterback rating than that of Gus Frerotte (74.2)?
This is the kind of “expert analysis” that is deluding the minds of impressionable NFL fans the world over.
It’s a small example, but one that captures the essence of popular thinking these days. If you’ve read this far by now, no doubt that you’ve experienced an inebriated football fan justifying Brady’s spot ahead of Manning for the exact same reasons.
And that’s the problem.
It has reached the point in which alleged “experts” have resorted to explanations that just sound right as the foundation of their analysis.
Those who possess the wherewithal to research and comprehend history for themselves may reach more accurate conclusions; but it’s those who depend on “expert analysis” to derive their own opinions who are in danger of missing out on reality, as long as flawed justifications continue to be force-fed through the media.
I thought we were ranking the top seven quarterbacks of 2011?
Even Tom Brady wouldn’t credit his recent postseason performances as a reason to rank him No. 1.
But I guess it’s more fun to stay inside the time machine.