Ron Jaworski top NFL QBs (partial list)
- Peyton Manning
- Tom Brady
- Aaron Rodgers
- Drew Brees
- Andrew Luck
- Big Ben
- Philip Rivers
- Matt Ryan
- Russell Wilson
- Joe Flacco
- Eli Manning
- Tony Romo
- Colin Kaepernick
- Cam Newton
Sports lists are meant to be divisive. They (sometimes arbitrarily) rank the talents, career arcs, strengths, weaknesses, etc. of cherished players and teams. Ron Jaworski is a fantastic analyst for ESPN that played the position for 17 years and has served in an analytical role for 24. While he has drawn criticism for some of his proclamations, his football acumen and impartial breakdowns are widely acclaimed.
The NFC South is well represented with three Quarterbacks in the top 15. While it isn’t surprising that Brees tops the list of divisional signal-callers, the 14th ranked Cam Newton seems to still be getting the shaft nationally for all that he has accomplished. With very little in the terms of weaponry surrounding him, he has improved as a passer every year and is coming off his most efficient year as a quarterback. Moreover, he led a team to a 12-4 regular season and a division title with very few people picking the Panthers to finish with either.
The argument that arises most often in sports list debates is “who do you take out?” You can’t complain that a player is underrated, or ranked below where they should be without pointing out players that are overrated and don’t deserve to be as highly regarded. So, let’s parse through list and figure it out together.
First, let’s remove all of the players that have led their team to, or won, a Super Bowl. That removes most from the list, which puts Newton in a proper context: three years in the league, and the majority of players that are considered better than the Atlanta native have rings or visited the highest stage the sport has to offer. No one is claiming Newton should have or have been to a championship with the team that has surrounded him thus far.
After the first filter, it leaves just Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, and Andrew Luck. Let’s examine each individually.
Tony Romo’s career has been legit. I can’t think of a player that has received more criticism and put up better numbers than Tony Romo. He’s consistently at the 4,000 yard mark every year, a multi-year Pro Bowler, and is one of the most efficient passers in the League. His dual threat of running and passing the ball make him a threat from inside and outside the pocket. While he hasn’t experienced the postseason success of most of his contemporaries, Newton still has a ways to go in this respect as well. In fact, my only quibble with his placement about Cam is the recent back surgery he has endured. The list isn’t just about the resume of the player, but also where they rank currently. No way would I take a 34 year-old Tony Romo coming off an injury this season over Newton, who turned 25 in May.
So Mr. Ryan, we meet again. Panthers fans are no strangers to Matty Ice. He’s been fantastic since selected out of Boston College with the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. If this list were compiled last year at this time, I’d have no argument. Ryan was coming off of his best season by far; 4700 yards, 32:14 TD to INT ratio, and the deepest playoff run his franchise had seen in over a decade. And while his numbers this past year were solid, they took a decided downturn, with an increase in INTs, a decrease in TDs, and the lowest yards per attempt average since his 2nd year in the league. Did he fall off as a passer? No. But his main weapons (Julio Jones and Roddy White) both struggled with injury. He was left with a receiving corps closer to what Newton has had to deal with for the duration of his career. On more equal footing, their numbers are much more comparable with the each other; with Newton holding the edge in TDs and turnovers. Add Newton’s ground game to the mix, and the slight edge goes to the Carolina QB.
Rivers has put up video games numbers for the majority of his career. His blend of a quick release, accuracy, and underrated arm strength has always buoyed the boisterous QB. In fact, the only dip in his career occurred when his most valuable weapons (namely Vincent Jackson and Keenan Allen) were not on the team. His 2012 campaign was the least effective he’s had as a mature QB. It’s no surprise that when he had another arsenal in 2013 (as well as a new offensive coordinator) his numbers magically jumped.
See Matt Ryan argument.
Check for Part 2 of the QB Breakdown coming tomorrow!