While a number of talented quarterbacks are present in the NFL, it is important to focus on which quarterbacks are actually going to see the field in order to rank each team’s strength at that position.
This article takes each NFL team’s current quarterback situation and ranks it depending on which quarterbacks from that team are most likely to see playing time in 2009.
If a team has a clear-cut starter (e.g. Peyton Manning from the Colts) then they are ranked according to him alone.
On the contrary, if a team is mired in a quarterback controversy (e.g. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson from the Browns) then both quarterbacks are taken into account when ranking their team.
Please read and react with what you think I got right and wrong.
With no further ado, here are the rankings!
32. Oakland Raiders – JaMarcus Russell
I’m not sure if this is commentary on the Oakland Raiders organization, JaMarcus Russell’s development as an NFL quarterback, or a depressing combination of both. Russell has been a disappointment so far in the NFL, mostly because the Raiders coaching staff is yet to let him open up the playbook (partially because, in all honesty, he isn’t quite capable of opening up the playbook). No worries though, because Al Davis drafted another 4.30 speed receiver for Russell to throw to… Yeah, that will help. Russell finished in the lower tier in nearly every passing statistic in 2008, and a repeat performance isn’t too far out of question.
31. Detroit Lions – Daunte Culpepper / Matthew Stafford
Daunte Culpepper is currently listed as the starter for the Detroit Lions. He has had some great seasons in the NFL, and is capable of winning, but his most important role now is teaching Matthew Stafford, or as the Lions’ front office calls Culpepper’s job, “making sure we don’t have another Joey Harrington fiasco.” Like they say, when you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback, and this will be the case in a number of cities in 2009, including Detroit.
30. New York Jets – Kellen Clemens / Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez is listed as the team’s starter on the Yahoo! Sports depth chart. However, the most recent reports out of Jets mini-camp have suggested that Clemens is outperforming Sanchez. The Jets know that Sanchez is the quarterback of the future, so it will be interesting to see how they handle his playing time in 2009. The reason that New York gets the nod over Detroit here is because both teams have a quarterback of the future, but in New York that quarterback will see the field a lot faster than in Detroit.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Byron Leftwich / Josh Freeman
This offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemingly purged themselves of any semblance of their 2008 late season collapse. Jeff Garcia was cut loose in the fray, leaving the Buccos with no clear option at quarterback for 2009. Veteran Byron Leftwich is listed as the team’s starter, but it’s possible that his main role will be mentoring quarterback-of-the-future Josh Freeman. Keep in mind that while Leftwich has been a journeyman, he is only 28 years old. It will be interesting to see how the Buccaneers handle their quarterback situation this season. Regardless of who starts, it’s unlikely that the Bucs bank on their quarterback for victory any time soon.
28. Minnesota Vikings – Tarvaris Jackson / Sage Rosenfels
They say that competition breeds success. This is only possible, however, when there is at least one ideal choice to settle on. In Minnesota, the coaching staff will have to choose between a mediocre Tarvaris Jackson or an unproven Sage Rosenfels to lead the 2009 team. Jackson is known as a rusher with limited passing skills, but threw the ball well towards the end of 2008. Rosenfels, on the other hand, looked strong in the pocket while starting in Matt Schaub’s place in 2008. No matter which way the coaches go with this decision, don’t look for the Vikings to get much production from under center. They should be fine, however, as long as whoever they choose can hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson.
27. San Francisco – Shaun Hill / Alex Smith
Note to whoever is taking snaps in San Francisco: look for Michael Crabtree, he’ll be open. Shaun Hill played well in 2008, throwing for 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns, and an 87.5 Quarterback Rating in a little more than half of a season. The question in San Francisco is, do you let the less-sexy choice in Shaun Hill keep the job or allow former No.1 overall pick Alex Smith to challenge him for it? Most likely, Hill will be under center for the Niners this year. However, the 49ers organization has made it clear that they have not ruled Alex Smith out of the Niners’ future quite yet. Hill has the talent to be an NFL quarterback (think Jon Kitna), and he might get the chance to prove it for an entire season.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco is a guy who got a lot of credit in 2008 for a lot of things he didn’t do. Flacco is a prototypical game manager quarterback, which fits perfectly on a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh, but doesn’t say much about his individual skill set. Flacco completed 60% of his passes in 2008, but threw for only 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while failing to top 3,000 passing yards. His 80.3 Quarterback Rating more accurately gauges his 2008 accomplishments, placing him 22nd in the NFL in that statistic. While he will not wow people in 2009, Flacco could grow more as a quarterback and become a potential threat by the end of the year.
25. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards
The good news if that the Bills got a talented receiver in Terrell Owens. The bad news is that the Bills also got a complete basketcase and quarterback-destroyer in Terrell Owens. Prior to the T.O. signing, Edwards would have held this same position in the ranks. He is a game manager who is most comfortable throwing the ball around 25 times a game. If he throws it more than that, he will most likely start throwing it to the other team. Edwards now has limitless talent to throw to with WR Lee Evans and the previously mentioned Terrell Owens, but don’t expect the world from him. He will produce good stats, but not great ones.
24. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
The good news is that Kyle Orton isn’t terrible. The bad news is that Kyle Orton isn’t good. Orton is a serviceable quarterback who can perform a Kerry Collins-esque game manager role in Denver, but the Broncos will soon learn that he is no Jay Cutler. Fortunately for Denver, Brandon Marshall makes playing quarterback easy, and if rookie RB Knowshon Moreno can get his feet under him quickly Orton won’t have to worry about passing very much at all. Chris Simms sits behind Orton on the depth chart. Don’t be too surprised if Simms ends up taking snaps by mid-2009.
23. Tennessee Titans – Kerry Collins / Vince Young
I know, listing Vince Young here might be folly. Most likely, Collins will start nearly every game of the 2009 season and Young will continue going on midnight strolls to alarm family and friends. I listed him here, however, because it’s not often that a team spends a top five pick on a quarterback and abandons him this quickly. If Young does not get at least one start this year, I will be genuinely surprised. Collins is a reliable starter with excellent fundamentals and an outstanding game manager mentality. Unfortunately, his game does not expand much beyond this due to Tennessee’s talented defense and running game. He remains, however, a better option at quarterback than a number of other starters, and definitely a safer choice than Vince Young.
22. Cleveland Browns – Brady Quinn / Derek Anderson
Brady Quinn is currently listed as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback. It doesn’t help that new head coach Eric Mangini has publicly expressed his dislike for Quinn, or that Quinn fell face first when given the reins in 2008. Current back-up Derek Anderson also struggled in 2008, but he remains the only quarterback on the roster who has a productive season under his belt, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2007. Quinn will most likely start and endure the growing pains of being an NFL quarterback, but as a tandem the Cleveland Browns have an awful lot of talent/potential on the roster at quarterback.
21. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger
Yeah, this guy has made the Pro Bowl before. Twice. Bulger was stellar from 2004-06, but his last two seasons have taken a turn for the worse. In 2007 and 2008, Bulger combined for 22 touchdowns and an astonishing 28 interceptions. Hard to swallow from a quarterback coming off of three straight seasons with a 90+ Quarterback Rating. In 2009, Marc Bulger’s success will hinge on the success of first round draft pick OT Jason Smith and the health of marquee RB Steven Jackson. If Smith produces, Jackson can run. If Jackson can run, defenses will be forced to respect the run and open up some passing lanes for Bulger. Will this happen? Probably not, but God, Bulger hopes so.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard
What happened to David Garrard? Jacksonville bought into David Garrard when they sent former starting quarterback (and younger) Byron Leftwich out the door in 2006. Garrard did not disappoint in 2007, producing a triple digit Quarterback Rating (102.2) while throwing for 18 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. 2008 was a different story, however, as Garrard was bitten by the turnover bug (13 interceptions, 3 fumbles lost) and saw his QB Rating drop over 20 points. 2009 is a wild card year for Garrard, as his 2007 or 2008 version could show up to play any given weekend.
19. Carolina Panthers – Jake Delhomme
For how painfully Jake Delhomme’s 2008 season ended, his regular season numbers weren’t that bad. Given, the numbers aren’t sending Delhomme to Hawaii any time soon, but an 84.7 Quarterback Rating, 3,288 Passing Yards, and 15 Passing Touchdowns are serviceable contributions. Consider that Delhomme’s career passer rating is 85.1, and that even in his most productive years (2003-05) he averaged around 3,500 passing yards with a QB Rating in the mid-80s, and you get a good gauge of what to expect in 2009. Delhomme was never built to impress, but he can provide serviceable production and strong leadership.
18. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
When Texans fans weren’t enjoying the Sage Rosenfels high-flying show against the Colts, they were entertained by emerging quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub’s numbers in 2008 didn’t blow anyone away, but that’s because he only played in 11 games. If Schaub’s numbers were projected for 16 games, he would have finished with just over 4,400 yards and 22 touchdowns. Instead, he played in only 11 games and still cleared 3,000 yards through the air. Don’t forget that Schaub finished with a 92.7 Quarterback Rating in 2008, good for seventh best in the NFL and better than Romo, Cassel, McNabb, and more. Sure, I could throw a touchdown to Andre Johnson (just lob it up there), but in 2009 Schaub could throw a lot of them.
17. Washington Redskins – Jason Campbell
The Washington Native Americans (see, I’m not racist) are in a precarious situation. They have a highly efficient former first round draft pick who boasts a career Quarterback Rating better than Eli Manning starting at quarterback… And Daniel Snyder isn’t satisfied. Jason Campbell has plenty of room to improve as a quarterback, but he seems to have settled into a game manager role with the Redskins. In time, he could develop into a star quarterback, but as it stands he seems content with minimal passing attempts and a high level of efficiency.
16. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan had a dream season in 2008, leading a Falcons team who was destined to finish last into the playoffs in his rookie year. Despite this success, Ryan’s statistical output was nothing spectacular. En route to becoming America’s Sweetheart, Ryan failed to land in the top ten in Quarterback Rating, Passing Yards, or Passing Touchdowns. Obviously his rookie season was productive, but Ryan still has much more room to grow as a quarterback before being considered one of the league’s best.
15. Miami Dolphins – Chad Pennington
Chad Pennington had an outstanding 2008 season, leading a once left for dead Dolphins team to the NFL Playoffs. Pennington finished first in the league in pass completion percentage (67.4%), and more importantly he rarely turned the ball over. Pennington was one of three quarterbacks in 2008 to play all 16 games and finish with a single digit interception total, throwing only 7 all season. Pennington is never going to blow the opposing team away, but he is efficient and consistent, which is enough to lead the Dolphins to victory.
14. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
Matt Cassel was certainly the surprise story of the 2008 regular season. His emergence as an impact quarterback in New England led to a high-profile acquisition by the Kansas City Chiefs. While Cassel was never projected as an NFL starter, his 2008 season was productive to say the least. Most impressive was Cassel’s final five games of the year, in which he threw 14 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, while registering a triple-digit Quarterback Rating four times. It is yet to be seen if Cassel can produce outside of the New England Patriots system. Since the 2009 season will show whether he can thrive in another system, a productive year could shoot him significantly up the quarterback ranks, while a disappointing year could drop him just as much.
13. New York Giants – Eli Manning
Many fans who think of Eli Manning as a top-tier NFL quarterback get lost in Eli Manning lore rather than Eli Manning statistics. While his playoff performance against the undefeated Patriots was heroic, his career performance has been barely over par. Consider this: Manning has never broken 4,000 yards, never thrown for more than 24 touchdowns, and never had a single-season Quarterback Rating above 90. In fact, before last season, Manning had never had a single-season Quarterback Rating above 80! His career QB Rating of 76.1 is more of an indicator of his skill set. While he may throw for a decent number of touchdowns (23 TD/yr over last four seasons) he will also throw a lot of interceptions (16.25 INT/yr over last four seasons).
12. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
Hailing from the far-away Pacific Northwest, many experts have been quick to write off Hasselbeck after an injury-plagued 2008 season. Those same experts forget that in his last two full seasons Hasselbeck earned a Quarterback Rating over 90 while averaging over 3,700 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, and only 10.5 interceptions. At only 33 years of age (critics will have you believing that he is 40), Hasselbeck is reportedly healthy and joined in 2009 by emerging TE John Carlson and newly acquired WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. A return to Pro Bowl form is not as far fetched as most would believe.
11. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
No, he doesn’t wear No.4, but Aaron Rodgers quietly enjoyed a stellar 2008 season. While most Green Bay fans criticized Rodgers for the Packers’ 6-10 record, many overlook Rodgers’ significant statistical production. Rodgers passed for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, good for fourth best in the NFL. Even if Packers fans were upset about Rodgers first season, they should remember this much: Rodgers finished ranked better than Brett Favre in Quarterback Rating, Passing Yards, Passing Touchdowns, and Interceptions Thrown. Rodgers has all the tools to be a top-five quarterback in the future.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger
I’m probably going to get barbecued for putting Big Ben this low, but consider that this isn’t a list of “best game managers.” Roethlisberger throws a fantastic short ball, and is excellent at eluding pressure in the pocket. However, in terms of passing efficiency, many quarterbacks have produced better numbers in recent years. Had it not been for a memorable postseason, Big Ben’s 2008 season was forgettable. He threw for just over 200 yards per game, with only 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Most forgettable, however, was his 80.1 Quarterback Rating, which was good for 24th in the NFL. Roethlisberger has the physical tools to succeed, but with Pittsburgh’s run-first mentality and his inexperience at taking over football games, it’s difficult to place him higher on this list. He is the best game manager in the NFL, but he is a game manager first and a quarterback second.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
Prior to an injury-plagued 2008 season, Carson Palmer was one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL. From 2005-07, Palmer played in all 48 games, producing no less than 3,816 yards and no less than 26 passing touchdowns in that three year stretch. As Palmer returns from injury in 2009, it is fair to assume that he can return to form.
8. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler
Josh McDaniels’ nemesis turned into one of the few 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterbacks to ever land on the trading block. The Chicago Bears won the Jay Cutler Sweepstakes, and became the instant favorite in an ever-so-mediocre NFC North. Cutler had a phenomenal 2008 campaign, finishing with over 4,500 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. Cutler did experience some problems, however, throwing for a near league-high 18 interceptions while missing the postseason due to one of the most notable late-season collapses in recent memory. With the Chicago Bears defense in tow, Cutler could have a very successful 2009 season.
7. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo
If the NFL regular season ended in November, Tony Romo would be a god. As it stands, he is forced to annually punt, pass, and kick the Dallas Cowboys offense into the ground to close out the season. Despite a growing reputation as a choke artist, no one can dismiss Romo’s regular season success. Statistically, Romo is one of the most productive NFL quarterbacks in recent years, but his inability to perform in big games has dropped him a few pegs on this list. Unfortunately for Romo, Jessica Simpson’s hotness could not factor into this equation either…
6. Philadelphia Eagles – Donovan McNabb
Despite Philadelphia Eagles fans’ complete dissatisfaction with the status quo, Donovan McNabb remains one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. After the Kevin-Kolb-might-be-good-but-wow-he-blew-in-the-one-game-he-played debacle, McNabb put together a string of five stellar performances. In the final five games of 2008, McNabb led the Eagles to a 4-1 record, throwing for nine touchdowns, one interception, and a 98.7 Quarterback Rating, culminating a 44-6 romp over the Dallas Cowboys in a win-or-go-home season finale. McNabb is one of the most efficient and accurate passers in NFL history, and clearly ranks in the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks.
5. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
If personal bias had anything to do with this list, Philip Rivers would be dead last. As much as I hate his personality, he seems to get better every year. While he was initially fostered by all-world back LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers was forced to produce his own offense in 2008, a task which he executed quite efficiently. In 2008, threw for over 4,000 yards while leading the NFL in Quarterback Rating (105.5) and touchdowns (34). Rivers had led the Chargers to three consecutive postseasons and may not have reached his full potential yet.
4. Arizona Cardinals – Kurt Warner
In 2008, the ageless wonder had an outstanding season. He finished top three in Passing Attempts (2nd), Passing Completions (3rd), Completion Percentage (2nd), Passing Yards (2nd), Passing Touchdowns (3rd), and Quarterback Rating (3rd). Warner has a roller-coaster resume, featuring time spent as a grocery clerk, Arena League all-star, Super Bowl Champion, one-touch fumble machine, Eli Manning Backup, and now resides as an Arizona Icon. He is the essence of a pure passer, and seems to thrive in only one kind of offense: the kind that says “We’re throwing! Try and stop us!”
3. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
Drew Brees flirted with history in 2008, falling just short of Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a single season. His season numbers were phenomenal nonetheless, as he threw for over 5,000 yards and a league-leading 34 touchdowns. Brees’ career numbers are just as impressive. He sports a 63.9 career completion percentage and 1.69:1 career touchdown to interception ratio.
2. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
If I were ranking quarterbacks based solely on prior accomplishments, Brady would occupy the top spot on the list. If I were ranking quarterbacks based solely on what I expect from them in the 2009 season, Brady would be somewhere in the middle of the pack (ask Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb how their first season back from the same injury went). This list, however, is gauging the overall best quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Tom Brady is a proven winner who throws the most accurate short ball in the entire NFL. His skill set, coupled with his mastery of the New England playbook, easily makes him one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
The top spot on this list came down to the upper echelon of current NFL quarterbacks; Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. While Brady’s accomplishments cannot be understated, Peyton Manning has done more-with-less than any quarterback in recent history (for an excellent summary see this article).
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the read.
Please comment on this article as you see fit!