The 5 "Elite" Quarterbacks in the NFL 2011
When talking NFL quarterbacks, the word "elite" gets thrown around. Is this QB elite or isn't he? How many elite quarterbacks are there? What makes a quarterback truly elite?
For me, my criteria for calling a quarterback elite is simple. Elite quarterbacks should have good stats, which includes good yards per attempt, completion percentage and quarterback rating, along with touchdown to interception ratio.
Along with stats, elite quarterbacks should win games and have success in the playoffs. I know it's a team game, but take a look at the previous Super Bowl teams since 2003; they all had franchise quarterbacks, with the exception of the 2006 Chicago Bears.
Having a good quarterback automatically gives your team a big advantage, especially in today's pass-first NFL.
Some quarterbacks come close but are missing a key ingredient. They either have good stats but no playoff wins or have played poorly in the playoffs. Or they have a ring, but can't put together good stats on a consistent basis.
So without further ado, here are my five elite quarterbacks.
Honorable Mention: Eli Manning
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Eli Manning is very close to being an "elite" quarterback. He has a Super Bowl ring and has had back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons.
Last year, Manning threw 31 touchdown passes and 4,002 yards and completed 62.9 percent of his passes. That's elite; there's no doubt about it.
What wasn't elite was having 25 interceptions and seven fumbles for a combined 30 turnovers. That's far from elite. Eli's 58 percent completion percentage isn't elite, either. All of my elite quarterbacks complete 63 percent of their passes for their careers.
Eli has 39 interceptions in his last two seasons combined. That's dreadful.
How Eli can become "elite"
Manning can become elite by cutting down the turnovers drastically. I'm not expecting him to throw less than 10 interceptions a year, but he can't throw close to 20 every year. If Eli can clean up his statistics and lead the New York Giants back into the playoffs, he might very well deserve to have the elite title.
Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan
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I really like Matt Ryan. I had a feeling he was going to be a good quarterback when I saw him play at Boston College.
Ryan, who's entering his fourth season in the league, has started at quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons since day one of his career. He led the Falcons to the playoffs his rookie year and last year. Right now he has the second best wining percentage behind Tom Brady among active QB's.
Ryan had a big year last year, going 13-3 as a starter and throwing 28 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
Yet I can't put Ryan in the elite category yet. One reason is he's 0-2 in the playoffs. Again, it might not be fair to judge QB's on wins but I do. I just gave props to Ryan for having the second best winning percentage, so I'm gong to criticize him for not having any playoff victories yet.
Ryan has a Super Bowl caliber team around him and he's going into his fourth season. No more excuses for him.
How he can become elite:
Take the Falcons on a playoff run. If Ryan can play well in the playoffs and take the Falcons to the Super Bowl, he'll deserve to be called elite. I can't call a QB elite if they're 0-2 in the playoffs.
I would also like to see Ryan clean up his completion percentage. 60.8 percent isn't bad, but the elite quarterbacks complete 63 percent or higher.
Honorable Mention: Michael Vick
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Is there anyone more talked about in the NFL right now than MIchael Vick? Probably not.
The media and Vick's fans would like you to believe that he's an "elite" quarterback, but he's not. Vick is a big play quarterback, but he has big-time flaws and holes in his game and career keeping him from being elite.
Vick had a marvelous year last year, the best year of his career by far. He accounted for 30 touchdowns and was 8-3 as a starter.
However, I'm still not convinced that it was nothing but a fluke. Vick regressed towards the end of the season and threw a costly interception in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
All of Vick's career numbers are dreadful compared to the elite QB's of the NFL, including his awful 55.3 completion percentage.
Not to mention that Vick has a problem staying healthy. Last year, Vick missed five starts. He's only played a full season once in his entire career.
Vick is also just 2-3 in the playoffs. That's not elite. So what makes Vick elite? I'm not sure. Maybe it's how good he is in Madden?
How Vick can become "elite"
Vick needs a lot of things to become elite. He needs to learn to pass from the pocket consistently. Vick is 31 and injury prone; what good is he if he's always hurt?
Vick needs to complete passes at a higher rate. The name of the game is accuracy, and all of the elite quarterbacks complete around 63 percent of their passes. That's where Vick needs to be.
Win playoff games. Vick is on the "dream team," so they say. The Eagles are loaded, especially on offense. No more excuses for Vick. He has to take this team far and play well doing it to become elite.
Honorable Mention: Philip Rivers
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I know this will get people going, especially the fantasy football geeks upset. Philip Rivers is a statistical dream when it comes to the quarterback position. You can put Rivers' stats up from the last four years against any quarterback in the league, and his are probably superior.
Rivers is accurate and throws a good deep ball. He is a very talented passer.
That being said, I can't call him elite. For as good as he's been in the regular season, he's been almost as bad in the playoffs.
Rivers is 3-4 as a starter in the playoffs. He has eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in his playoff career, more interceptions than touchdowns. More importantly, Rivers has thrown an interception in all seven playoff games that he's played in.
Rivers also doesn't have that key moment. Last year, he and the Chargers had chances to win a lot more games. Five of their seven losses were by a touchdown or less. Rivers always seemed to come up short, especially against Seattle.
The worst loss last year came against the Cincinnati Bengals. Leading up to the game, Rivers said the game was a playoff game. Rivers, of course, threw a pick, and the Chargers got beat.
How Rivers can become elite
It's simple: Perform better in the playoffs. If he's really as good as Tom Brady and the other elite quarterbacks, he should be able to carry the Chargers to the Super Bowl.
Right now, Rivers looks like a choke-artist. Great in the regular season, bad in clutch moments and dreadful in the playoffs.
If Rivers can show that he can play in the playoffs like he has in the regular season then he'll finally be elite. Until then he's the sixth best quarterback in the league and not elite.
Elite: No. 5: Drew Brees
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Why he's elite:
Not really that hard to figure out why Drew Brees is considered an elite quarterback. He has the total package with stats and a Super Bowl ring like all of these elite quarterbacks.
Brees is a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Super Bowl MVP and 5,000 yard passer. He wins and puts up big fantasy numbers. That's what elite quarterbacks do.
Brees' best attribute is his accuracy. Since he's been in New Orleans, he's completed over 67 percent of his passes! That's insane. For his career, he's completed over 65 percent, which is still impressive.
The only blemishes on Brees' career that I see are this:
Brees was not as good when he played for the San Diego Chargers. A lot of his success is due to hooking up with head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans.
Also, Brees tends to throw a good amount of interceptions. Last year, he threw 22 picks, and has six total seasons with 15 or more interceptions.
But no QB's are perfect, and Brees is not only an elite quarterback, he's well on his way to being a first ballot Hall of Famer if he keeps the stats up.
Elite: No. 4: Aaron Rodgers
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Aaron Rodgers might be the most talented quarterback in the NFL. He has great feet, a great release, pin-point accuracy and a good arm. In three years as a starter, Rodgers has thrown three times as many touchdowns than interceptions. That's remarkable.
Rodgers, who led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory last year, has only been a starting quarterback for three seasons.
In those three seasons, Rodgers has thrown for 3,900 yards or more and at least 28 touchdowns.
Rodgers was remarkable in last year's playoff run, earning the Super Bowl MVP.
Rodgers has few flaws. Sometimes, he gambles with throws, and sometimes, he holds on to the ball too long. I'd also like to see him win more games, especially in the clutch. Rodgers and the Packers have lost a number of close games since he's been the starter.
That being said, Rodgers might actually continue to get better, which could be scary for the NFL. Right now, he's well on his way to becoming the best quarterback in the NFL.
In three years, he has put up great stats, won a Super Bowl and is a Super Bowl MVP. Elite.
No. 3: Ben Roethlisberger
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Yes he plays for a good team. Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had some good running games and some good defenses, but there's still no doubting Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback.
Roethlisberger is 69-29 as a starter, has been to a Pro Bowl, and has won two Super Bowls and three AFC Championships in his first seven seasons as a quarterback.
When you compare Roethlisberger's stats to the other elite quarterbacks, he holds his own.
- Drew Brees: 65.2
- Peyton Manning: 64.9
- Aaron Rodgers: 64.4
- Philip Rivers: 63.7
- Tom Brady: 63.6
- Ben Roethlisberger: 63.1
Yards Per Attempt
- Philip Rivers: 8.1
- Ben Roethlisberger: 8.0
- Aaron Rodgers: 7.9
- Peyton Manning: 7.6
- Tom Brady 7.5:
- Drew Brees: 7.3
- Aaron Rodgers: 98.4
- Philip Rivers: 97.2
- Tom Brady: 95.2
- Peyton Manning: 94.9
- Ben Roethlisberger: 92.5
- Drew Brees: 91.2
Then you take into consideration that Roethlisberger has played behind a bad offensive line and has never had an elite receiver to throw the ball to. He's done quite well for himself.
Most stat geeks won't put Roethlisberger in this category because of his lack of total touchdowns and yardage.
Fact is, Roethlisberger has shown that he can be a 4,000 yard passer, and a 30-plus TD pass guy. On top of that, he's won two Super Bowls and is 10-3 as a starter in the playoffs.
1.A 1. B. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning
I chose to save you all time because you knew these two were shoo-ins to be on this list. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, let alone right now.
Brady has three Super Bowls, two league MVPs and two Super Bowl MVPs and holds the record for most touchdown passes in a season.
Manning is the only four-time MVP, previously held the single-season touchdown record, has more Pro-Bowls than fingers and a Super Bowl to boot.
I give the edge to Brady over Manning because of his play in the playoffs, and the Super Bowl. Brady is 14-5 in the playoffs, while Manning is just 9-10.
Both of these quarterbacks are all-time great passers and leaders and are shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame.
The only question is how much longer can they stay on top. Manning actually started to show his age last year and isn't even healthy right now.
Brady won the league MVP last year but didn't play well in the playoffs and hasn't wan a playoff game since the 2007 AFC Championship.
Have these guys already accomplished everything they're going to? Will Rodgers, Big Ben and/or Brees start to pass them up for rights to be named best QB in the league?
Only time will tell.
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