Welcome to the other side. If you haven’t read part 1 of Pegboard’s First Annual QB Series, then please read no further and go back to part 1 (I’d give you a link but we are cheap bastards and haven’t upgraded to a premium account on WordPress yet). If you’re still here, I’m assuming that you already read part 1 or you just don’t give a shit about spoilers, in which case read on!
21. Josh Freeman
Jesse: This is supposedly the beginning of the competent half of this list, but it’s not all late game heroics and endorsement deals in part 2. There are several QB’s who we are about to discuss that are very much on the hot seat this year. First man up is Josh Freeman, who’s had an extremely up and down first four years in the league. He’s been terrible, then great, then mediocre and then back to being solid. Sure he’s had a couple of different head coaches, but you’d like to see more consistency from a first-round pick. Freeman gets to hand off to Doug Martin and heave it to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, so it’s not like he doesn’t have any weapons at his disposal. The good news for Bucs fans is that Freeman is in a contract year and should raise his level of play. That’s also the bad news, because if he doesn’t deliver the goods then you are going to have to start over again at QB. In a division where you have to deal with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and a steadily improving Cam Newton every year, that would basically amount to a death sentence.
20. Phillip Rivers
Kevin: Philip Rivers probably moved up and down this list more than anybody in our initial discussions. In fact I am still not certain this is the right spot for him. At first my gut said move him down, then my gut said move him up. His passing stats the last few years aren’t too atrocious and he has managed to start every game for the last 7 seasons which is quite a feat. But lately he has developed a bit of a fumbling problem. He fumbled 15 times last season. 15! If he fixes that problem then the Chargers could be quite a surprise this season. It is impossible to know what we are getting from Rivers. He has a new coach, a slightly upgraded offensive line and that’s about it. The weapons around him are about as inconsistent as he is. Luckily his new coach came via the Denver Broncos (who apparently have a goal to supply all of the AFC West with head coaches). Mike McCoy has seen a lot of different QBs in his time and he managed to find success with both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. Talk about range. McCoy is a master at forming his offense around his players so if Rivers fails this season then it is all on himself. This is a make or break season for the former QB stud.
19. Jay Cutler
Jesse: Oh boy. This was one QB I was really hoping not to draw for two reasons: 1) I detest Jay Cutler. 2) Kevin hates Cutler even more than I do, so hearing him tear Mr. Cavallari to shreds would’ve been a real treat. Unfortunately, as the Rolling Stones once said, you can’t always get what you want, but this list has to go on so I’m going to give you what you need. I really thought Cutler would be a far more established player at this point. The Bears have been competitive with the guy under center, even advancing to the NFC Championship game back in 2011. But how much of that is Cutler’s doing? If you look at the stats, not very much; he’s only thrown for more than 3,500 yards once in his tenure with the Bears and last year he barely even eclipsed 3,000. Add in just 19 touchdown passes to go along with 14 picks and you have the makings of a fairly underwhelming season. Sure, he’s been playing behind a pretty awful offensive line, but I think the Bears expected a little more when they parted with two first-rounders to bring him there. Like Freeman, Cutler is in a contract year, and with the Bears defense going through a bit of a makeover, you’ll know exactly who to blame if Chicago misses the playoffs. Personally, I blame Cutler for everything bad that happens in the world to anyone, but that’s just me.
18. Cam Newton
Kevin: The star of my favorite NFL commercial from last season. Well actually that kid was the star but whatever. Cam Newton went from the toast of the NFL to the overrated section of the NFL in one season. Newton torched the NFL in his rookie season and had a minor statistical drop in year two. His “sophomore slump” included one more win, 182 less passing yards, two less passing touchdowns, five less picks, 1.7 increase in his passer rating, 35 more rushing yards, and six less rushing touchdowns. His attempts for passing and rushing stayed about the same as did his averages. The two seasons are as identical as you can get except for TDs and fumbles. He had eight less touchdowns and five more fumbles. Those are the driving factors behind everyone jumping ship on Captain Newton. My point being, that talks of Newton’s demise have been greatly over-exaggerated. He simply set his own bar too high his rookie season. I feel great about Newton’s season on an individual level but his team does have quite the difficult division to deal with which could hinder his ability to eclipse his rookie stats again.
17. Matthew Stafford
Jesse: Let’s be serious for a minute; it’s not easy being the quarterback of the Detroit Lions. That’s a job that has consumed nearly everyone foolish enough to accept it, starting with supposed “franchise QB’s” like Charlie Batch and Joey Harrington before mowing down veterans like Jon Kitna and Jeff Garcia. There’s been others, sure, but they are hardly worth mentioning and you wouldn’t know most of them anyway. The point is that on top of being forced to actually live in Detroit, you also have to cope with the identity of a franchise that has known nothing but failure. Yeah I know, there isn’t a receiver in the league you’d rather be throwing to than Calvin Johnson, but even Megatron at the peak of his powers couldn’t save the Lions from another putrid four-win season. That didn’t deter the front office though, and before you know it Matthew Stafford received a lucrative contract extension despite only making one playoff appearance since they drafted him. I can only imagine they moved so quickly to get that deal done because they see what I see when I look at Stafford: an ultra-talented, tough as nails competitor who has as good of a chance as anybody at finally taking Detroit to the promised land. That potential hasn’t translated to much success though, and I refuse to move Stafford any higher up until he makes that happen.
16. Matt Schaub
Kevin: “Kevin, don’t forget to mention we forgot Schaub initially. –Jesse” That is the note that Jesse left me in our rough draft. So yes, we initially had a list of 42 quarterbacks. We had already ranked them all when I noticed we had missed a starter somehow. We took a few minutes to then remember poor Matt Schaub. And then Jesse had to remind me to not forget that we forgot about Schaub. That sums up Matt Schaub to both of us pretty well. Schaub is serviceable in every department. He does not shine in any column but he doesn’t have a fatal flaw. He is just kind of hanging on for the ride. I’m pretty sure nearly any QB on this list could find success with this team. In fact one QB that didn’t make this list, T.J. Yates, led the Texans to their first ever playoff victory in 2012. So yeah, he is a forgettable player that T.J. Yates can replace. So why is he so high on this list? I’m not sure. Maybe because we felt bad about Joe Mays ripping his ear off last season? That works, let’s go with that.
15. Tony Romo
Jesse: Now that Tim Tebow is seemingly on his way out of the NFL, I think we can bequeath the title of “Most Polarizing Player” to Tony Romo. Everything that happens concerning Romo always divides football fans right down the middle, and there’s no shortage of examples. He has a single playoff victory to his name, but he’s never had enough help. He didn’t do anything to deserve that huge contract extension, but the Cowboys could do a lot worse than having him as the starter. He always chokes in the clutch, but look at how much he does to keep them in the hunt. See what I mean? I’ve been avoiding relying on stats for the duration of this two-part article, but in Romo’s case I think it’s wholly necessary. When you look at said stats, what you’ll see is a quarterback who has never finished with a QB rating lower than 90, who almost always ranks in the top half of the league in touchdown passes, who last year finished in the top three in passing yards and led more fourth quarter comebacks than anyone other than Matt Ryan. If you went by the stats alone, you would think to yourself, “Damn, that Romo guy is pretty good!” But stats never tell the fully story, and while I don’t think there’s any doubt that Romo hasn’t gotten enough help from his teammates over the years, I also think if he didn’t crumble so often in big moments the Cowboys would’ve had many more opportunities to make a run in the playoffs. We ranked Romo this high because he does as much as any QB on this list to help his team, but we didn’t rank him any higher because there are still far too many instances where he hurts his team with horrible mistakes.
14. Andy Dalton
Kevin: We have the third year Bengals QB ranked pretty high it seems. But Dalton has successfully led his Bengals team to back-to-back playoff appearances. His stats are just good enough to succeed in the NFL. He is still young and seems to be in a good place to improve his game. Just like Schaub and Romo he does just enough but not too much.
13. Alex Smith
Jesse: It’s hard to believe that at one point last season, Alex Smith was the league leader in quarterback rating. You know, the same Alex Smith who suffered a concussion, lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick and then was unceremoniously jettisoned from the team that he nearly led to the Super Bowl a year before. Luckily for Smith, he landed on a team in Kansas City that had just hired Andy Reid as its new head coach, and if there’s anyone who loves to pass the ball in the NFL, it’s Andy Reid. This pairing reminds me a little too much of the Dick Vermeil-Trent Green era from 10 years ago, but hey, when a quarterback you drafted hasn’t won you a playoff game for nearly 30 years, what choice do you have but to continually take somebody else’s? We refer to that as the Kansas City way, and for any Chiefs fan who is ready to throw the Peyton Manning acquistion in my face as proof that the Broncos do the same thing, please refer to the Tim Tebow portion of part 1 and then promptly go fuck yourself.
12. Robert Griffin III
Kevin: What is keeping RG3 out of the top ten and behind his fellow 2012 draft superstars? His knee. He is more explosive than his rival Russell Wilson. And he can keep up with Andrew Luck’s traditional QB skills. But he is coming off of a big injury and his sophomore season is a big question mark. In two or three seasons RG3 will be near the top of this list. For now? He needs to work on getting his knee stronger and avoid being tagged as injury-prone.
11. Andrew Luck
Jesse: I have bad news for you Andrew Luck; there is no way you are going to top your performance from last year. Your offensive coordinator ditched you for the desert and Larry Fitzgerald, you don’t have the good vibes from Chuckstrong to fuel your playoff push and absolutely no one is taking your team for granted this time around. Don’t get me wrong, Luck is good. Very, very good, but there’s a lot of factors working their way against him, and even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady hit roadblocks early in their careers when they were forced to do too much. They overcame those limitations before too long because the cream always rises to the top, but that took time. Luck’s time will come, and when he’s ready to put the Colts on his shoulders and trudge his way through the playoffs, there won’t be much Kevin or I can do to stop him from moving up this list. Until then, he will have to take his lumps outside of the top 10.
10. Russell Wilson
Kevin: Ahh Russell Wilson. Our #1 QB in our power rankings and…Oh I mean #10 in our power rankings and #1 in my heart. Yes I have a giant football crush on Russell Wilson and I had it before Bill Simmons made it cool. I was pretty adamant going into the 2012 draft that Wilson HAD to be a Bronco. I mean he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies after all. I figured worst case scenario he would get bored being Manning’s backup and he would jump ship to the sinking Rockies. But no, John Elway hates short people. Instead he took the very tall Brock Osweiler. Frat boys rejoice. Sorry, I like Osweiler, I do, I just love Russell Wilson more. So now Wilson is destined to dominate on a former division rival of the Denver Broncos. He could very well take away the Broncos’ Super Bowl dreams this season. My only hope is that we convince him to be the next Bo Jackson (without the hip injury).
9. Ben Roethlisberger
Jesse: Did you know that Big Ben was originally number 12 or 11 on here? Of course you wouldn’t know because you didn’t help us compile this list, but it’s true. It took a lot of prodding from me to convince Kevin to move the rapist up a few spots, and don’t think for a second that I was happy about it. I loathe Roethlisberger probably even more than I do the Steelers, but he is far too accomplished of a QB to be ranked below a bunch of guys who haven’t even made the Super Bowl yet. Big Ben has been there three times, has won twice and has been knocking on the door several other times. A drop in the talent level around him and injuries have slowed him down somewhat, but like a bad rash I don’t expect him to disappear any time soon.
8. Eli Manning
Kevin: The “other Manning brother” is probably mad. He has one more Super Bowl ring than Peyton and yet he is still stuck in his shadow. Sorry Eli but Peyton was better on SNL. Eli has been quite a QB for the Giants and I am pretty sure we should flip him and Flacco in this countdown. Just to show you how quirky the NFL can be just remember that Eli led his Giants to a 9-7 season during 2011 and ended up winning the Super Bowl. Last season Eli led his Giants to a 9-7 season and ended up missing the playoffs. Eli’s goal seems to be to barely make the playoffs and then light up everyone. While his regular seasons often end in disappointment, Eli has proven to be quite the clutch playoff QB. It’s getting him there that is the problem.
7. Colin Kaepernick
Jesse: I don’t know what the hell I was thinking allowing Kaepernick to be ranked this high. Sure, he ran roughshod over the league and took his team to the Super Bowl, but Alex Smith nearly got the 49ers there as well and the two guys below Kap both have two rings apiece. He has never started a whole season, never had to deal with opposing coordinators who had a full offseason to prepare for him and he’s not sneaking up on anybody this year. Alas, it is definitely possible, perhaps even likely, that by season’s end he will be kissing his bicep while lifting the Lombardi trophy. I really hope this doesn’t happen because it would make Jim Harbaugh even more insufferable than he already is, but just like you don’t want your kids to catch chickenpox, there is almost no chance that it won’t happen. I just don’t think we should’ve put Kap this high until it did.
6. Joe Flacco
Kevin: Look, I am so sick of this guy that I seriously do not want to write this. But Jesse has hired some “security” people to “keep an eye” on me since I slacked writing columns this summer. So I will keep this brief. Flacco won a Super Bowl last season which is the only reason he is in the top ten on this column. He caught fire at the right time and it is yet to be seen whether he keeps it up. Sorry Jesse that is the best I could do. I feel gross putting Flacco in the top ten. I need to go wash my hands.
5. Drew Brees
Jesse: I had Drew Brees on my fantasy team last year. The only other player that I drafted who helped me at all was Percy Harvin, and he was on IR by November. The rest of my lineup was chalked full of fantasy busts like Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson and Brandon Lloyd, who I eventually benched for waiver pickups. It makes me want a drink just thinking about it. Despite all of that, I still somehow won my division and found myself in the playoffs, and Brees was the sole reason for that. That Brees played so well in the absence of both Sean Payton and any sort of a competent defense makes it all the more impressive. I don’t know about the defense still, but he has Payton back, and that should make life plenty uncomfortable for the QB ahead of him on this list.
4. Matt Ryan
Kevin: What is the difference between Matt Ryan and the rest of the top 5? Ryan is the only one who has not won the Super Bowl. And he has no excuses as to why that has not happened yet. He has an able defense, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and a solid run game. He was in the MVP discussion early last season and he finally broke through and won a playoff game. He had a close game in the NFC championship and he could have easily been in the Super Bowl with a little more luck. He is just hitting his prime and has a great cast around him and that is why he is a top five QB going into this season. If it wasn’t for the stacked NFC he would be a shoe in for a Super Bowl matchup. He is only getting better and he will eventually be a Super Bowl champion like his fellow top five brethren.
3. Peyton Manning
Jesse: How in the hell were we lucky enough to have Peyton Manning come to Denver? Often times I still can’t believe it myself, and his performance on Thursday night makes it all the more unbelievable. How great was it for him to eviscerate the Ravens like that? No matter how well their offense played at times, how poorly we rushed the ball or how often they knocked him down, he just kept coming. Like the Hydra of Greek mythology, every time you lop off one of Peyton’s heads, two new ones grow in its place and he gets even stronger (except instead of actually losing and growing heads, he just throws for more touchdowns). Sure, we started slowly, but by game’s end I doubt that even the mighty Hercules himself could’ve done anything to stop our relentless aerial assault. That was an historic, seven-touchdown clinic, and the scary part is that Peyton’s just getting started this year.
2. Tom Brady
Kevin: I will admit that I advocated putting Brady over Manning in this article. It was painful but I am attempting to be as objective as I can be (the exception being Flacco, that guy can screw himself). Jesse didn’t put up much of a fight to defend Manning. He kind of looked and me and accepted the truth. Brady has dominated this league no matter who he is stuck throwing too. He has made tons of offensive coordinators look like geniuses and helped get them head coaching jobs elsewhere. He releases the ball faster than anyone I have ever seen. He has made me scream at my television on numerous occasions. And he is not slowing down at all. Brady is scary good and I hate it. But I have to respect his ability.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Jesse: What can I possibly say about Aaron Rodgers that hasn’t been said a million times over? The guy is an absolute stud who shreds defenses and makes a star out of every receiver he throws to. I guess the question is what makes Rodgers better than Brady and Peyton? Is it his status as the de facto #1 fantasy quarterback? Is it his “discount double check” commercials? Or is it the hard truth that even in the midst of a brutally competitive quarterback field in the NFC, Rodgers continues to outperform his peers? Add in the fact that he was sacked 51 times last season, more than anyone else in the league, and his achievements become all the more impressive. Rodgers is in his prime and he doesn’t even turn 30 until December. If you could pick anyone in the league to be your QB, why in the hell would you want anybody else?
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