NFL Best of the 2000s: Top 20 Quarterbacks
The 2000s has seen its fair share of great players and moments in the past 10 years. In Part I of this series, I look at the top 20 quarterbacks.
Just to reiterate, these are not fantasy football rankings. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me explain the criteria and attributes I looked at to rank the field generals.
Accuracy: Being able to fit the ball into tight windows, hit the receiver in stride, timing, touch and arm strength. Being able to slide and step up in the pocket and still put the ball on the money.
Leadership: The quarterback position is the most important position in football. When a team faces adversity, can he instill confidence in his teammates to get through the chaos?
Intelligence: Being able to read the defense pre-snap and after, make the right decisions, audible into the correct play, feel and anticipate the rush.
It: Competitiveness, toughness, poise in two-minute situations.
20. Michael Vick
Before his demise in the dog fighting saga, Vick was one of the most exciting quarterbacks of the decade. At one point he was the highest paid quarterback in the league.
His scrambling ability transformed the position.
19. Chad Pennington
He didn’t have the strongest arm, but he simply got the job done with his knowledge and accuracy. Led the Jets and Dolphins to playoff appearances.
18. Trent Green
He will always be known as the guy who got hurt in the preseason in 1999. This led to Kurt Warner being named the starting quarterback in St. Louis. We all know what happened afterwards.
Green had some very respectable seasons with the Chiefs.
17. Brad Johnson
Nicknamed "Checkdown Charlie" because he consistently played it safe and checked down to get quick completions. He led the Bucs and that fantastic defense to a Super Bowl win in 2002.
16. Carson Palmer
His knee injury in the 2005 Wild Card game against Pittsburgh really seemed to derail his career. He hasn't been the same since.
15. Daunte Culpepper
How do you rank this guy? With Randy Moss, Culpepper was great; without him, not so much. You still can’t take away his season in 2004: 4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
14. Eli Manning
Peyton’s little bro finally silenced some critics with an improbable win over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
13. Matt Hasselbeck
The former backup to Brett Favre in Green Bay finally got a shot with the Seattle Seahawks in 2001. He led the Seahawks to Super Bowl XL, where they fell short to Pittsburgh.
12. Tony Romo
This undrafted QB took over for an unpopular Drew Bledsoe in 2006. Since then, Romo has made three Pro Bowls.
He may always be known by fans as the man who let a wild-card win slip through his fingertips in 2006 against Seattle on a short field goal attempt.
11. Philip Rivers
He's currently one of the best deep ball passers in the league. He was put in a tough spot as the successor to fan favorite Drew Brees in San Diego. He had an NFL-leading 34 touchdown passes in 2008.
10. Jeff Garcia
Before anyone chuckles, take a look back and really look at what he did.
Garcia was one of eight quarterbacks in history to throw for back-to-back 30-touchdown seasons when he was in San Francisco. What he did in Philadelphia in 2006 when Donovan McNabb went down was extraordinary.
9. Ben Roethlisberger
Arguably had the best rookie season for a quarterback ever. A two-time Super Bowl winner: Super Bowls XL and XLIII.
8. Rich Gannon
He's sort of overlooked by many. He led the Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII, although he threw five picks in that game. Won MVP award in 2002.
7. Steve McNair
McNair, McNabb and Vick early on in their careers reinvented the quarterback position with their arm and legs. He was so tough to bring down, no play was ever over when he was scrambling. Co-MVP in 2003.
6. Kurt Warner
You know his story. While it looked like his career was over in St. Louis, Warner went to Arizona and led the Cards to an NFC title in the 2008 season. He had three Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl win.
5. Donovan McNabb
I have never seen a quarterback so unfairly criticized ever. While he didn’t win a Super Bowl title, he had one Super Bowl and five NFC Championship Game appearances.
The infamous image of him shuffling his legs on a run against Washington in the regular season simply shows not only could he throw, but as a youngster he could really scramble with the best of them as well.
4. Brett Favre
The “Cal Ripken” of the NFL had many ups and downs during the decade. Arguably he had his best season in his career last season at age 40 with Minnesota.
3. Drew Brees
Scouts said he was too small. He started out in San Diego until the Chargers picked Rivers over Brees after the 2005 season. Brees went to New Orleans and still did his thing.
He finally got his due with a Super Bowl win, although technically it didn’t happen in the previous decade.
2. Tom Brady
The “Joe Montana” of the decade: three Super Bowl titles for the GQ man. So calm and collected under pressure. Don’t give him the ball with under two minutes. Just look at Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII. Don’t forget about the infamous “Tuck Rule Game.”
1. Peyton Manning
What can you say? He’s a coach on the field. The four-time NFL MVP may be the most intelligent and accurate quarterback ever. Some may say Brady; I say Manning.
Notable Mentions and the Future
Notable Mentions: Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Drew Bledsoe, Mark Brunell, Brian Griese
Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett, 13-year-old fella committed to USC