Quarterback rankings are all the rage in the NFL media world these days. And some of it is even pretty good, like ESPN's Mike Sando's piece, which rated QBs on a tier system, based on feedback from NFL personnel. If you subscribe to ESPN's Insider offering, it's a good read worth checking out.
In my time as an NFL blogger, I learned the following extremely complicated formula, which many media outlets have mastered.
Therefore, I've decided to be an enormous sellout and put out a list of my own, but with an Eagles spin.
Any QB ranking you see won't have a specific team in mind. They are just a list of players ranked in order of their current ability. They typically don't factor in age, scheme fit, or where a particular team might be in terms of ability to contend for a Super Bowl. For example, a player like Peyton Manning would be useless to a team like the Raiders, since Manning will be retired long before the Raiders will ever acquire enough good players to sniff Super Bowl contention.
And so, we'll conduct our QB list with the idea in mind of who would specifically best fit the Eagles, ignoring pay.
1) Aaron Rodgers, Packers
This is a fairly obvious choice, in my opinion. Rodgers is the best player in the NFL, and there's an argument to be made that statistically he's the best QB in the history of the NFL, depending on what stats you value.
If Rodgers retired today, he'd be the all-time leader in the following categories (which require a certain number of minimum attempts):
• Highest career passer rating, at 104.9.
• Highest career completion percentage, at 65.8 percent.
• Best career touchdown-interception ratio, at 3.62:1.
The game has changed in the last few decades, but that is still wildly impressive. Rodgers has a cannon arm, good mobility, and a Super Bowl notch on his belt. At 30 years of age, Rodgers is still in his prime, and should have plenty of elite-level seasons ahead of him. He should be the obvious No. 1 choice of every single NFL franchise, with maybe the exception of the Colts.
2) Andrew Luck, Colts
Luck's stats, in comparison to Nick Foles anyway, are underwhelming. As previously noted here, Luck has played two full seasons in the NFL, and therefore he has more passing attempts than Foles. Luck has 1,197 career passing attempts, while Foles has 582. However, if you were to project Foles' numbers to 1,197 pass attempts, here's a side-by-side comparison of Luck's and Foles' numbers:
I watched the Patriots-Colts playoff game last year, where you can really see the good side and the bad side of Luck early in his career. On the Colts' opening possession, noted below, Luck threw a quick slant that was intercepted by the Pats. What is Luck looking at here? The defender got an excellent jam at the line of scrimmage, got inside position, and Luck had nowhere to try to squeeze this in. It's almost as if Luck decided pre-snap that this was where he was going to throw it, no matter how well the corner did his job.
Two drives later, Luck unleashed a gorgeous throw for a TD. Watch as Luck executes the play fake, steps up in the pocket, keeps his eyes to the left (which freezes the safety), and then only turns to look at his target just before he lets it rip. The safety has no chance to get over in time as Luck's pass is delivered on the money 40+ yards down the field, and with zip. This is awesome.
Luck has the extremely difficult task of having to put his team on his back this early in his career. The Colts' rushing attack hasn't been good, and their defense isn't anything close to a juggernaut. As Luck gains more experience, you'll see fewer of the first example noted above, and more of the second example. Luck has a great arm, an accurate arm, great mobility, and is not a guy who is rattled easily. (See his 28-point comeback against the Chiefs in the playoffs last year). He's a great example of "the eye test."
3) Cam Newton, Panthers
In the Sando piece, Newton was rated in the third tier with Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill, and Josh McCown. I think that's crazy. Quarterbacks that are 6'5, 250 pounds and can run simply don't come along very often.
From 2011-2013, Newton had 145 rushing first downs. The next closest player was Michael Vick, who had 65. Newton also has 28 rushing TDs the last three seasons. The next closest QB has nine.
By now, we've all come to realize that Chip Kelly doesn't need "a running QB" for his offense to be prolific. However, on some of Nick Foles' runs that go for 5-10 yards, it's interesting to wonder if a guy like Cam Newton couldn't turn them into gains of 30 or 40 with all the space that Kelly's offense creates. It would be a lot of fun watching defenses tire out from Philly's fast-paced offense, and then have to deal with a 1-2 combo of LeSean McCoy and Cam Newton in the fourth quarter.
Of course, that style of play becomes completely useless if your QB can't stay healthy. However, Newton has never missed a start in the NFL, so durability concerns that typically come with a QB who is going to take off quite a bit don't apply to him as much, unlike players like Vick and RGIII. Newton not only has the huge frame to take some hits, but he can dish them out as well.
The knock on Newton is that he can really good at times and really bad at times. Isn't that kind of normal for a young QB, or are we expecting QBs to be All Pros right out of the gate these days? I don't think Newton is as polished a passer as Foles, although he probably has a better arm. Based on where they're at right now, Foles might get you better results in the short term, but it's hard not to be totally enamored with Newton's absurd upside and his fit in Philly's offense.
4) Russell Wilson, Seahawks
There isn't a QB in the NFL that is in a better position to win than Russell Wilson. Here's where the Seahawks rank, offensively, in run-pass ratio:
And here's what their defense has done the last two years.
In other words, Wilson has the luxury of playing with the best defense in the NFL, and he gets to play in an offense that asks him to throw the ball less than any other QB in the league.
There is no question that has helped Wilson succeed to this point in his career, and I wonder what his career would look like if he were drafted by, say... the Eagles, and their dysfunctional mess in 2012.
However, just because Wilson has succeeded in a perfect situation, that does not mean that we should just dismiss what he has done. In his two years in Seattle, the Seahawks' offense has put up good numbers in "yards per drive" and "points per drive."
And it's not as if Wilson can't put the team on his back if need be. In the 2012 playoff game against the Falcons, Wilson was downright awesome in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks were down 27-7, and Wilson led them back to a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds remaining. The Falcons would kick a field goal to win, but Wilson showed that day that he was bigtime.
In the Eagles' offense, obviously Wilson is another dual-threat guy, although his height (5'10" and change) is definitely worrisome. There are only so many ways to get QBs clean throwing lanes, and opposing defenses are always going to try to keep Wilson from getting out of the pocket, trying to force him to throw over their linemen. Wilson is a QB that is always going to require either a great rushing attack or a very creative offensive mind to minimize his height deficiencies. In Philly's case, there's a pretty creative offensive mind at work, who also happens to be into the run game.
5) Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Kaepernick is in a similar boat as Wilson, in that he plays on a team with a great defense that loves to pound the rock on offense.
While Kaepernick and Wilson are comparable in that regard, as players, Kaepernick's closest comp is probably Newton. Kaepernick and Newton both have strong arms, and can do more damage on the ground than Wilson. It's the upside that Kaepernick possesses that makes him so intriguing, and the guy has already been to a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship Game in his first two years as a starter.
6) Nick Foles, Eagles
Yes... Factoring in age, scheme fit, upside, and the fact that Foles has already been in the system for a year, there are only five QBs in the NFL I would trade him for, straight up. Is he better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees right now? No way. And I'll repeat the mantra that we're still in "wait and see" mode. But he's 10 years younger than all of them, and he's on a team that probably isn't quite ready to seriously contend for a Super Bowl yet.
7) Tom Brady, Patriots
The consensus top four quarterbacks in the NFL are Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, in whatever order you prefer. Of those four players, only one (Rodgers) will be under the age of 35 when the season begins.
Brady will be 37, Brees will be 35, and Manning will be 38. However, of the three, Brady is the most intriguing to me for two reasons.
• He has run a fast-paced offense in New England for years. If he were to play in Philly, he could not only run it, but he could enhance it by adding input on what he has already seen throughout his career.
• Brady has recently drawn comparisons to Nolan Ryan, in that there are some, including Brady's QB guru Tom House, who think he'll be able to play into his 40s.
“We know that if the athlete is willing to pay his dues — willing to do what he needs to do — he can delay the aging process, not forever, but he can slow it down. I think Tom is going to be one of those,” House said. “I’ll put him in the same neighborhood as Nolan Ryan with his commitment to pushing that aging process back.
“And it’s not just mechanics, it’s functional strength. It’s mental/emotional. It’s nutrition. It’s all the things that are required of an elite athlete. They just have to work harder and smarter about it than they did getting to the top of their career.”
I don't know if Brady can play into his 40s or not, but I don't think that three more great years out of Brady is unrealistic.
8) Philip Rivers, Chargers
It feels like Rivers has been around forever, but he's "only" 32, and he's coming off a 32 TD / 11 INT season. This is one of the most underrated players in the NFL because he hasn't won the big one yet (or even gotten there), although he has had more postseason success (4-5 postseason record) than guys like Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, etc. My perception of Rivers is that some people think he's a scrub -- maybe that's incorrect.
Above we mentioned "yards per drive" and "points per drive." In 2013, the Chargers averaged 40.13 yards per drive. That was No. 1 in the NFL. They also averaged 2.46 points per drive. That was second, only behind the Broncos. That's all Rivers.
9) Drew Brees, Saints
As noted in the Tom Brady entry, the consensus top four QBs in the NFL are Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, "in whatever order you prefer." I don't really see it that way. I see it more like Rodgers, Manning and Brady, and then a small dropoff, and then Brees by his lonesome in sort of that "next tier." Brees is short and doesn't have a strong arm, which makes me wonder if he would be as effective in December playing in Philly as he is playing in a dome. Ron Jaworski noted his concerns about Brees as a cold weather QB prior to the Eagles-Saints playoff game.
"There’s a discernible difference in Drew Brees’ ball indoors and outdoors," explained Jaworski. "If this game was in New Orleans, this would really be a tough football game for the Philadelphia Eagles to win. But it’s at home. It’s at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s going to be cold. It’s likely to be windy. It’s going to be a raucous crowd."
"Drew Brees struggles in rough, inclement weather. He doesn’t have a gun. He doesn’t have an Aaron Rodgers kind of arm, a Matthew Stafford kind of arm. His ball doesn’t spin as much. There’s more surface for the wind to hit the ball and move the football. He doesn’t throw that real tight, spinning spiral, so the wind is going to affect that kind of ball, and it also moves the ball. So when the ball moves, receivers don’t catch it cleanly. The two games that I did, on the road, for the New Orleans Saints, they struggled in the passing game."
Brees is a great QB who has played in ideal conditions his entire career, but at 35, his career is probably winding down.
10) Peyton Manning, Broncos
Is it a little ridiculous to have a QB who just had one of the most prolific seasons (and careers) in NFL history at No. 10? For a team like the Broncos, most definitely. For a team like the Eagles, a 38-year-old QB, no matter how good he is, probably isn't as valuable as Nick Foles to this organization.
For one season, Peyton Manning would almost certainly be better than Foles and might make the Eagles Super Bowl contenders. However, although the Eagles' defense could become a good unit eventually, they're not quite what they need to be yet, at least in terms of what we've seen of them on the field so far. If you go all in on Manning for one season, don't win it all, and then he retires, you're left with Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, and at best a late first-round draft pick battling it out for the starting job.
Ruben Amaro Jr. says "GET HIM!"
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski