In all the Super Bowl coverage, Chase asked if we could cite Ben Roethlisberger’s Hall of Fame chances. It’s too soon to do that (he’s only 5 years into his career), but it’s not too soon to play football relativity with the quarterbacks in the NFL for 2009 and beyond. We’ll do this on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best in the league right now, and 1 being a marginal starter (the ultimate 2008 example is J.T. O’Sullivan). We’re not rating shouldn’t-be-starters like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Ken Dorsey or Dan Orlovsky.
10 – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger. Normally, I would have put Brady and Manning on a level by themselves, but I think Ben is on their same level this year for a couple of reasons. One, Ben took a step forward this year by winning a second Super Bowl and performing so well in the clutch. Plus, there are questions about Brady (health) and Manning (is his prime ending?). So I’m putting the three together and calling them the elite.
9 – Kurt Warner, Drew Brees. Warner showed this year that his fastball is back, and when he’s at his best he’s an elite QB. Brees puts up crazy numbers but turns the ball over just a little too much to be on the elite level. The fact that Brees has no ring also keeps him from going any higher.
8 – Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb. McNabb’s stats don’t bear out this ranking, but his consistent performance and his playoff W/L record nudges him above a few other quarterbacks. Rivers had a breakout year and has played well in the playoffs the last two years. He’s not elite yet, but he looks to be a top-5 QB in the next two years or so.
7 – Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo. This the level at which it’s possible to start poking holes in a quarterback’s resume. Manning has a ring, but his playoff performances otherwise have been spotty. Romo and Cutler put up big numbers, but they’re still inconsistent. Ryan had a great first year, but 2009 could move him way up or way down the list.
6 – Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Matt Cassel, Chad Pennington. Pennington is the one vet on this list; when he stays healthy, he’s solid. Rodgers, Flacco, and Cassel were all first-time starters in 2008, and all showed that they have the potential to be above-average starters. We’ll put them here knowing that any of the three could take another step forward or a step back next year.
5 – David Garrard, Brett Favre, Carson Palmer, Jeff Garcia, Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins. Favre, Palmer, and Hasslebeck would all have rated higher in the past, but injuries or age (Favre) have limited their potential. We’ll see this year if any of the three can move back up the scale. Garcia and Collins are both acceptable starters, but neither can put a team on his back and carry it for more than a game or two. They can win with good teams, but can they make a full playoff run anymore? Garrard seems to be like a newer model of Garcia – a guy who can lead you to the playoffs, but who is unlikely to make a three- or four-game playoff run.
4 – Matt Schaub, Jake Delhomme, Jason Campbell, Trent Edwards. Schaub and Delhomme are hot-and-cold guys. If Schaub could stay healthy, he could move up at least one level. Campbell and Edwards have won some games, but their potential seems limited. Neither is going to win big unless the team around them is dynamite.
3 – Tyler Thigpen, JaMarcus Russell, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Shaun Hill, Marc Bulger, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Orton. Thigpen, Russell, Anderson, Quinn, and Hill can go on good streaks, but they haven’t stayed there long enough to be solid NFL starters. Leftwich wasn’t a starter in ’08, but he’s good enough to be at least a caretaker with a bit of upside. That’s what Bulger is at this point in his career, and that’s what Orton showed himself to be in ’08. None of those three is a long-term answer at this point, but teams could also do worse.
2 – Tarvaris Jackson, Seneca Wallace, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, Daunte Culpepper, Rex Grossman. All of these guys show flashes that they can be productive starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but none can sustain those flashes anymore. I’d take these guys as backups, because they might bring a spark, but as a No. 1 they just aren’t going to be the answer.
1- Brodie Croyle, J.P. Losman, J.T. O’Sullivan, Jon Kitna. There is an excuse for starting one of these guys in a single-game situation. (Somebody else got hurt, or, more likley, two somebody elses got hurt.) There is not an excuse for making any of them part of your 2009 plan, even in setting up a quarterback competition.
Thoughts? Anybody I missed that you’d like to see rated? Share them in the comments below.