“The Quarterback is the most important position in all of professional sports.”
Those who consistently watch the National Football League have certainly heard analysts, commentators, coaches, and peers mutter that phrase. The 2011 season, which will certainly be remembered as the first post-lockout season, should instead be remembered as the season which proved that cliché to be true.
This season has seen entire franchises rise from the dregs of the NFL to become respectable, and also seen well-established franchises plummet into misery because of a single position on the field.
In Carolina, a team that won two games last year, the arrival of rookie quarterback Cam Newton has given a previously hopeless fan-base a team and a player for whom they can be excited for the next decade.
In Indianapolis, a franchise that has not seen failure since the arrival of Peyton Manning more than a decade ago, fans are being forced to reckon with not only a terrible season, but also an uncertain future—all because of the loss of Manning for an indefinite period of time because of a series of neck surgeries.
Amongst the less fortunate teams in the league, fans are clamoring for their respective teams to begin to throw games in order to win the “Luck Sweepstakes,” which refer to Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who is perceived by many to be the greatest quarterback prospect since John Elway.
However, for many more fortunate teams, the quarterback position does not present a concern. A team with an established successful quarterback always seems to succeed, regardless of the talent elsewhere (see: 2001-2004 New England Patriots).
Therefore, I decided to take on the responsibility to finally figure out who the best quarterback in the league is. However, I decided to do it based on a different set of criteria, because I believe that sometimes statistics and numbers do not tell the entire story of the quarterback position (Tony Romo, anyone?)
The criteria of this countdown are as follows:
1. Assuming that players at every other position on the field are identical, what quarterback would I choose to lead my offense for ONE GAME, with my life depending on the outcome?
2. What player do I believe would take it as their personal mission to make sure I lost the above game if I did not choose them as my quarterback?
3. If I had a discussion about which quarterback is the best in the league with a group of my peers, none of which having a vested interest or a personal bias, which quarterback would garner the least opposition?
With that said, here’s a countdown of the top 15 quarterbacks in the NFL based on those three criteria. I will divvy the 15 positions on the countdown into three tiers: third tier players will meet one of the three criteria, second tier players will meet two, and first tier players will meet all three.