It’s a weird time in the NFL. When the conversation arose about who the best quarterback in the NFL was, for nearly the past 20 years, it often came down to a heated Peyton Manning against Tom Brady argument. Aaron Rodgers and his insane dislike of throwing interceptions would enter the mix, Andrew Luck and his rising star power would find his name in the conversation and Drew Brees is, well, Drew Brees.
It’s a different day. Manning is retired. Brady is likely missing four games this season. Luck is a huge question mark in how — and if — he will bounce back from injury with a much less talented roster than he once had. Rodgers is coming off arguably his worst season of his career. And Drew Brees is, well, Drew Brees. He’s 37-years old and at some point, you have to think he’s going to lose it, right?
So in this day and age, where Blake Bortles is already entering the debate of the Top Ten QBs in football, who is numero uno?
This isn’t just about stats. Eli Manning isn’t even in the conversation in my opinion because every good season comes with a year that he leads the league in some of the ugliest picks thrown, aside from 2010, where he may have been one of the unluckiest QBs ever. Just watch this compilation I found on YouTube:
Matt Ryan has the skill set, but a horrific offensive line has made it very hard for him to play the past two seasons and we have seen a decline in his play, whether it be of his own doing or not. Tony Romo? Romo is a fantasy football dream, but the best QB he is not.
Brees is coming off yet another season in leading the league in passing, the sixth time in his career doing so. It’s unreal when you think about it (and I have, numerous times, especially in this old article “The Sad Plight of Drew Brees”). He also missed a game for the first time in over five years. The sad truth is Brees is consistently one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but for some reason is never considered the best, even though he may be. So now — entering his age-37 season and with a lot of new faces on offense — hardly seems the time to anoint him the best, even though he may be.
Rodgers is always going to be in the conversation. The guy throws more than 30 touchdowns annually while throwing less than ten interceptions a year. Last year was likely an anomaly; Jordy Nelson was hurt, Randall Cobb didn’t seem healthy at all, and Eddie Lacy is as hit or miss as they come. If he can get all his pieces back to normal, watch out, but last year saw him throwing his worst completion percentage in his career. That may not be a good sign of things to come for one of the most accurate QBs in the history of the game.
Brady is Brady, and the Patriots are the perfect system built for him to succeed. But you always have to be weary of a guy who misses four games, especially when said player is 38. Is it likely that in 12 games Brady puts up better numbers than half the quarterbacks in the league this season? It sure is, especially when names like RGIII, Tyrrod Taylor and Geno Smith may actually be starting QBs, but nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.
Where does Big Ben fit in? Ben Roethlisberger is really one of the most unheralded quarterbacks of all-time, isn’t he? We’re talking about a guy who has the 13th most passing yards of all time and the 15th most touchdown passes all time all while being sacked more than any other current active quarterback. He has those two Super Bowl rings as well.
He also happens to have two of the best offensive weapons in the league on his side (Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown), but it’s always the same story with him. He’s one hit away from missing half the season and he has a tendency to throw a lot of picks when he holds on to that ball for what seems like days trying to extend plays.
People are going to want to hand it to Cam Newton after the Carolina Panthers magical 2015 run to the Super Bowl. Let’s face reality, though. Brian Hoyer and Teddy Bridgewater — two pretty pedestrian quarterbacks — all passed at a higher completion rate than Newton. Both were starting QBs in the playoffs as well. Newton was one of the worst quarterbacks in yards per game. But he willed his team to wins, whether it was on the ground or through the air. Winning is often correlated to the greatness of quarterbacks, so Cam definitely has that on his side.
Where does that put Russell Wilson, as he is both a proven winner and now becoming a statistical beast? Wilson is entering his fifth season and the Seahawks have never had a losing record or missed the playoffs over his tenure. The whole world knows he was one horrendous play call away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls, which in quarterback lore, boosts you to the top of many lists. This season, he barely had Marshawn Lynch, he barely had Jimmy Graham, and that Seahawks defense wasn’t the same for the first half of the year… and Wilson had his best year ever.
His 110.1 quarterback rating was the best in the NFL and gives him a career 101.8 mark. He broke 4,000 yards for the first time in his career, and it wasn’t simply because he threw it more, as he crushed his previous career-best passing percentage by posting a 68.1-percent mark (third in the NFL, in case you were wondering). Oh and he still ran for over 500 yards for the third season in a row.
Wilson doesn’t have your prototypical QB build, but neither does Brees. He doesn’t have your typical wide receiver arsenal, with hardly a standout wide receiver in the lot aside from Doug Baldwin — who has a long way to go before he is considered elite — but neither does Brady. Yet there is Wilson every year, seemingly improving some aspect of his game and proving the naysayers wrong, much like Brees and Brady did earlier in their careers.
Honestly, this isn’t a click bait article, pronouncing that I have the answer to this question, because I’m not sure that it is Wilson. The truth is, I just don’t know. In a sport that has been dominated by quarterback play for so long — and legendary quarterback play at that — we are seeing a changing of the guard.
Think about it. Montana, Marino, Elway, Favre, Manning, Brady. If you couldn’t narrow it down to just one, there were a Big Three that made it easy to at least hold an exciting debate. The majority of the new wave simply doesn’t have that star power, at least not yet. Let’s face reality, the Broncos and the Jets don’t even have a real quarterback ready to start yet.
So, just who is the NFL’s best quarterback?