– Evan Sally
NFL quarterbacks are a unique creature in the football world. The combination of leadership ability, specialized skill, preparation, talent and consistency that are necessary to be tied into one person makes it an incredibly difficult position to fill well. Deficiencies in any of those categories makes it near impossible to excel at the position, which is probably why at any given time there are 10 to 15 teams who are unsatisfied with their quarterback if not outright looking for a new one.
Think about this: what other position by it’s very nature requires you to inspire your teammates, be the extension of the coach on the field, be completely aware of every player on your team’s responsibilities along with dealing with your own, and that’s before you get to the act of actually playing the position. You have to be completely prepared for everything a defense is going to do, be able to make the correct adjustments to make the play work, make sure the rest of the team is on the same page because if they’re not it’s your fault, all the while dodging 300 pound lightning quick defenders to hit a target the size of a foot on a receiver 20 yards away who’s being draped by another defender. That was exhausting to write. Imagine having to live that every play, every week, every season and perform those tasks consistently well every time or else you’ll get blamed for the failure of your team. And yet every 32 men every year get called by their teams to shoulder this burden as the face of their franchise. With failure comes shame and national ridicule, with success comes wild praise, admiration and $100+ million dollar contracts.
Now that being said if you are one of the good ones, life is good. Recent rule changes like the emphasis on corners illegally contacting receivers more than 5 yards down the field and the NFL’s aggressive stance on head shots have made it harder to disrupt the timing between the receiver and the QB. Also since the injury to Tom Brady’s knee in 2008 from a low hit, the quarterback is more protected by the rules than ever. It’s now illegal to hit a quarterback from the neck up and the knee down which limits what a defender can target, and in a game that moves as fast as the NFL, what began as the defender aiming at the QB’s chest can easily turn into an accidental headshot. To make it even worse for the defense, because of the increased emphasis on protecting the quarterback, hits that are totally legal but look really violent are called more and more as Roughing the Passer. You put all of these factors together, and defenses are more tentative than ever when rushing the quarterback and teams are taking advantage. Teams throw the ball now more than ever. Of the best 20 passing yardage seasons in the history of the league, 16 of them have happened since 2007. 9 of the best career passer ratings in league history belong to players who are active right now. It’s the era of the quarterback, making it all the more difficult to win if you don’t have one.
I’m fascinated by the QB position if you couldn’t tell and I’m not the only one. Debates about quarterbacks dominate football discussions local and national. It’s earned however, the fate of a quarterback is directly tied to a team’s performance more than any other time in the history of the league and the coverage reflects it. It’s with this thought I enlisted my good friend, fellow football junkie and writer for HardFoulSports.com Jim Bearor write about quarterbacks, and more specifically, rank them with me.
Which leads to another question, how to rank them? For weeks we went back and forth debating how best go about it. Do we rank strictly based on statistics? Do we rank them aesthetically, how well we subjectively think they play the position? How much winning they do? What’s more important, regular season success or being a clutch playoff performer? How do we factor in the surrounding cast? After a while it became apparent one factor rose each the others: How much do we trust this person to lead a team to a championship in 2015. This isn’t about legacy or a lifetime achievement award. We also tried as best as possible to view each quarterback in a vacuum. Just because a quarterback has a great defense and skill positions to prop them up doesn’t make them better than a QB with less to work with. For example, the Bengals have much better skill positions talent than the Panthers. The Bengals project to be a better team than the Panthers this year. But Andy Dalton is not better than Cam Newton.
A few more points on our thought process before we get started:
- These rankings are based on how we feel each quarterback would do leading Generic Team X to the a Super Bowl. We did our best to consider each quarterback in a vacuum, factoring in supporting cast as little as possible in the hopes of leveling the playing field.
- Talent and ability to win this year are the ultimate decider for each rank. In the case of a tie, we value youth and ability to grow as a tie breaker. Even though the rankings are for this year alone, a second or 3rd year player has a better chance to improve throughout a season than an established veteran.
- While our rankings are mostly subjective and based on our opinions, the analysis will be heavily based on using stats with a little of our own visual analysis mixed in. We feel that’s important to find a balance between both methods of analysis. Stats and our eyes tell a story but one without the other is not complete.n situations where a team’s starter is still in question at the time of writing their section, we’ll focus on who we presume will win the job, while briefly touching on the other candidates.
- A quarterback’s prior history is important, but only to project how they will do in 2015. To reiterate, this isn’t a lifetime achievement award, it’s about the now.
This will be a multi part series, so make sure to check back frequently. Jim and I couldn’t be more excited to bring this project to you. And of course if you disagree with or want to comment on our rankings, discussion is welcomed @HardFoulSports on Twitter and Facebook or you can email HardFoulSports@gmail.com. Enough talk, let’s get started.