With less than 75 days until the start of the 2013 NFL regular season, let’s take an updated look at the Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL today. These rankings are primarily based on each player’s career to this point.
Note: Instead of including the young, up-and-coming star signal-callers like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick with the proven veterans around the league, the top players at the position have been divided into two categories—one group of guys who are 25 or under and the other group includes QBs that are at least 26-years-old. This list covers the latter. Check in later this week for the former on the Top 10 young guns at the position.
1. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Since taking over as the successor to Brett Favre in 2008, Rodgers has completed 1,717 of 2,606 passes (65.8 percent) for 21,332 yards with 170 touchdowns to 45 interceptions and carried the ball 292 times for 1,395 yards and 18 TDs.
What Rodgers has managed to accomplish since his Super Bowl-winning season in 2010 is even more impressive when you take into account that he’s often dealt with subpar protection and has had to operate without a potent ground game. Rodgers, 29, completed 371 of 552 passes (67.2 percent) for 4,295 yards with a 39:8 TD-to-INT ratio last season.
Look for the former 2005 first round pick (No. 24 overall) out of Cal to continue his immense success with improved protection and a recently overhauled rushing attack that will feature Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in 2013. Rodgers is also currently considered the No. 1 QB in fantasy football.
2. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
It looks like New England has become the NFL’s new circus after the departure of last year’s top receiving leaders (Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd) and the widespread controversy surrounding Robert Kraft and Russian president Vladimir Putin, not to mention Rob Gronkowski’s five surgeries and Aaron Hernandez’s involvement in a murder investigation.
Who in the world could overcome all of these distractions and lead his team to another potential Super Bowl run while working with the likes of Danny Amendola (196 REC, 1,726 YDs and seven TDs in four seasons in St. Louis), Julian Edelman (69 REC, 714 YDs and four TDs in four seasons with the Patriots), Donald Jones (82 REC, 887 YDs and six TDs in three seasons with the Buffalo Bills), Lavelle Hawkins (77 REC, 771 YDs and one score in five seasons with the Tennessee Titans) and Michael Jenkins (40 REC, 449 YDs and two TDs in 2012), along with a couple of rookies in Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson at receiver?
Perhaps a two-time First-Team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler by the name of Tom Brady. The former sixth round pick out of Michigan has completed 3,797 of 5,975 passes (67.7 percent) for 44,800 yards with 334 touchdowns to 123 interceptions since taking over for the team in 2001. Brady, 35, completed 401 of 637 passes (63.0 percent) for 4,827 yards with a 34:8 TD-to-INT ratio in 2012. He’s also won three of his five trips to the Super Bowl and has a 17-7 record in the playoffs.
3. Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos)
You would think that a neck-surgery-addled Manning wouldn’t be the same guy at the age of 36. But the former 1998 first round pick had one of his best seasons since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick out of Tennessee, completing 400 of 583 passes (68.6 percent) for 4,659 yards with a 37:11 TD-to-INT ratio in 2012.
Unlike a handful of the other guys on this list (and the majority of up-and-coming star signal-callers in the other set of rankings), Manning has never been able to do much with his legs, but like Brady, he has always been able to make the guys around him better and that has set him apart from the rest. In 15 NFL seasons, he has completed 5,802 of 7,793 passes (65.2 percent) for 59,487 yards with 436 touchdowns to 209 interceptions and has carried the ball 369 times for 728 yards and 17 TDs.
There is one weakness to Manning’s game that’s far more significant than lack of mobility, though. Before missing the entire 2011 season and taking his talents to Denver, Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to the postseason nine years in a row, but he won just one Super Bowl and he heads in 2013 with a losing record in the playoffs (9-11) and eight of his trips to the postseason were one-and-done.
4. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Accuracy may be Brees’ middle name, as the former 2001 second-round pick out of Purdue completed at least 65 percent of his passes in each of the past five seasons (and over 70 percent in 2009 and 2011) leading up to last year’s campaign, when he connected on 422 of 670 passes (63.0 percent) for 5,177 yards with a 43:19 TD-to-INT ratio.
The seven-time Pro Bowler not only broke Johnny Unitas’s 52-year record with 40 straight games with a touchdown pass in 2012, but Brees is also the only quarterback in NFL history to complete 400(+) passes five times and throw for 5,000 yards three times and 40(+) TDs in consecutive seasons.
Brees, 34, has thrown for 45,919 career passing yards with 324 TDs to 165 INTs and enters his 13th season in the league with a 5-4 postseason record and one amazing Super Bowl win back on Feb. 7, 2010 under his belt.
5. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning comes off a disappointing 2012 campaign, as he fell just short of the 4,000-yard mark (3,948 yards with 26 TDs and 15 INTs) and completed just under 60 percent of his passes (321 of 536) for the first time since 2007.
Nevertheless, the 6-4, 218-pound star signal-caller proved his status as an elite passer and one of the NFL’s premier clutch players in 2011, as he led the G-Men to seven fourth-quarter comebacks and the franchise’s second Super Bowl triumph in five seasons.
Manning, 32, has completed 2,612 of 4,457 passes (58.6 percent) for 31,527 yards with 211 touchdowns to 144 interceptions since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
6. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Contrary to Eli (who hasn’t missed a start since his rookie season) and Flacco (who hasn’t missed a game in his entire career), Roethlisberger has started all 16 regular season games just once since he came into the league as the No. 11 overall pick out of Miami (OH) in the 2004 NFL Draft. But “Big Ben” is one of the toughest quarterbacks in all of football.
In nine NFL seasons, Roethlisberger, 31, has completed 2,374 of 3,762 passes (63.1 percent) for 29,844 yards with a 191:108 TD-to-INT ratio and rushed for 1,036 yards and 14 scores on 319 carries. He completed 284 of 449 passes (63.3 percent) for 3,265 yards with 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions last season. The 6-5, 241-pound QB has also won two of three trips to the Super has the best postseason winning percentage (71.4) with a 10-4 record than anyone on this list.
7. Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)
He may not be the most exciting quarterback, but “Joe Cool” gets the job done in the clutch and his toughness can’t be questioned. The 6-6, 245-pound signal-caller seems to come into his own in the postseason. He fired on 73 of 126 passes (57.9 percent) for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns without a single interception (tying Joe Montana’s record) in wins over the Colts, Broncos, Patriots and 49ers before becoming the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII.
Flacco, 28, connected on 317 of 531 passes (59.7 percent) for 3,817 yards with a 22:10 TD-to-INT ratio during the regular season. The former first round pick (No. 18 overall) out of Delaware hasn’t missed a single career start and heads into 2013 with a 9-4 record in the playoffs. He’s also the only QB in NFL history to win the postseason in each of his first five seasons in the league.
How will he fare after getting his massive contract, not to mention the departures of several key veterans like wide receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed? That’s the million dollar question, and his performance in the upcoming season could define the rest of his NFL career.
8. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
“Matty Ice” was on fire last year, setting career-bests with 4,719 yards, 32 touchdowns (to just 14 interceptions) and a 68.6 completion percentage (422-of-615) and leading his team to its first playoff win since 2004.
The 2008 former first round pick (No. 3 overall) out of Boston College heads into his sixth NFL season having completed 1,654 of 2,637 passes (62.7 percent) for 18,957 yards with a 127:60 TD-to-INT ratio and 500 yards and five TDs on the ground on 202 carries.
With Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez at his disposal, Ryan, 28, has a good chance to follow in the footsteps of the seven Super Bowl champions ranked ahead of him on this list.
T-9. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
After back-to-back disappointing seasons, Rivers, 31, really needs a bounce-back performance in 2013. The 6-5, 228-pound quarterback completed 338 of 527 passes (64.1 percent) for 3,606 yards with a 26:15 TD-to-INT ratio in 2012.
He’s passed for 27,891 yards with 189 touchdowns to 93 interceptions and a 63.6 completion percentage since getting selected with the No. 4 overall pick out of N.C. State in the 2004 NFL Draft. He heads into his 10th season with a 3-4 record in the playoffs.
T-9. Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)
Point and laugh at Romo all you want (we enjoy Romo memes too), but you probably wouldn’t mind being in this guy’s shoes. Over the last seven seasons (2006-12) as the Cowboys’ starting signal-caller, the former undrafted product out of Eastern Illinois has appeared in 99 games (93 starts) and completed 2,097 of 3,240 passes (64.7 percent) for 25,737 yards with 177 TDs to 91 INTs.
He’s also only won out of four playoff games, yet just three months ago he landed a six-year contract extension (with $55M guaranteed) that made him the highest-paid player in franchise history. Romo, 33, completed 425 of 648 passes (65.6 percent) for 4,903 yards with 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 2012.
Honorable Mention: Matt Schaub (Houston Texans)
Bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2011 campaign, Schaub, who turns 32 this week, connected on 350 of 544 passes (64.3 percent) for 4,008 yards with 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and led his team to its second victory in the postseason in franchise history in 2012. The former 2004 third round pick (No. 90 overall) out of Virginia heads into his seventh season with the Texans with 21,944 career yards with a 120:70 TD-to-INT ratio and a 64.3 completion rate (1,816-of-2,823).
Honorable Mention: Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
Cutler, 30, was also limited to 10 games in 2011 and responded with some pretty solid numbers, completing 255 of 434 passes (58.8 percent) for 3,033 yards with a 19:14 TD-to-INT ratio in 2012.
Like Schaub, the former 2006 first round pick (No. 11 overall) out of Vanderbilt was also traded from his original team (Denver Broncos) after three seasons and has a 1-1 record in the playoffs.
In In seven seasons, the 6-3, 220-pound quarterback has completed 1,796 of 2,955 passes (60.8 percent) for 21,316 yards with 136 TDs to 100 INTs and added 1,116 yards and six TDs on 262 carries.
Honorable Mention: Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
In 80 games (75 starts), Smith has completed 1,290 of 2,177 passes (59.3 percent) for 14,280 yards and 81 touchdowns to 63 interceptions and added 761 yards with four scores on the ground. Smith, 29, entered the 2012 campaign coming off the best year of his career, completing 273 of 445 passes (61.3 percent) for 3,144 yards with a 17:5 TD-to-INT ratio in 2011.
His numbers were even better through the first 10 games (nine starts) of the 2012 season, as he connected on 153 of 218 passes (70.2 percent) for 1,737 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before sustaining a concussion against the St. Louis Rams and being replaced by second-year signal-caller Colin Kaepernick.
Time will tell whether he continues the level of success he had the last two seasons in San Francisco with his new team in 2013. Though Andy Reid knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks, and the Chiefs seem to have a promising future ahead, Smith may not have as much success without Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman. But his recent play combined with his potential in KC merit an honorable mention in my opinion.
What do YOU think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!