The Top 64 Quarterbacks in NFL History (2015 Edition) – Part I

This definitely won’t be short. However, I’m not wasting any time in showing you my updated list of the 64 greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

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This is not created with a formula. I put everything I’ve learned and experienced from over a decade of research into creating this ranking. The only things I do not factor in are college career and time spent in other professional leagues like the AAFC, USFL, CFL, XFL, Arena, etc. So you’re still just a one-year wonder to me, Tommy Maddox.

Some players moved around from the 2014 edition, posted last August. So why is this going to be written in two parts on my blog? I figured some people won’t want to scroll through the epic length of Manning vs. Brady to read about the other players. For those who want to see the irrational debate rationalized, I promise Part II is worth the wait.

This might actually be the first time I have formally written about my list of the 64 greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. It was a personal project I started six years ago in an effort to figure out where Ben Roethlisberger stood historically after his fifth season (2008). Such rankings are subjective of course, but sports wouldn’t be the same without this stuff. Even if “that’s your opinion!” means you can’t objectively prove Roethlisberger is a better QB than Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart, Mark Malone and Bubby Brister, you damn sure can make a convincing argument why he is better.

Just look at my list. Once you get past 30 or so, you’re looking at guys who maybe had six quality seasons, or a phenomenal four-year run like Rich Gannon (1999-2002) in Oakland. There aren’t many quarterbacks who sustained greatness over a long period of time in the NFL’s 95-year history. A total of 221 players have thrown at least 1,000 passes in the regular season in NFL history. Unless you mostly played before 1932 (Benny Friedman), are the latest hot rookie/sophomore (Teddy Bridgewater), or your name is Greg Cook or Cecil Isbell, you’re not even relevant from an all-time perspective. A thousand passes is about two seasons these days for a starter. Even the Browns let Derek Anderson throw 992 passes in 2007-09.

My method was to move up the list of all-time attempts, picking out which quarterbacks Roethlisberger was clearly better than, and grouping those he still has to surpass. A few years later I did something very similar to gauge where Joe Flacco stood after his fifth season (2012) led to the destruction of the QB salary market. Since then I’ve had a more concrete list and have updated it annually before the new season. The following explains some of my thought process, especially for the active players.

Five Actives in the Top 15 OF ALL TIME!?!?

I know some people are wondering how I could possibly think five of the 15 greatest QBs in NFL history are playing right now. Well, from 1991-94 we had Montana, Marino, Favre, Young and Elway active. That’s five of my top eight, so there*. Throw in Aikman, Kelly and Moon, and that’s eight of my top 28. It clearly can be done, and I think this has been a golden age of passing that’s not likely to be matched any time soon.

*Counter (because I know how to argue with myself): But Scott, were those five guys worthy of the top eight in 1991-94? This is a fair point. I don’t think Favre and Young were thru 1994, though both were well on their way. I think you could definitely have ranked Montana, Marino and Elway that high by then. My list thru 1994 would look something like Montana, Unitas, Marino, Staubach, Baugh, Tarkenton, Graham, Elway (ahead of Starr and Bradshaw). So yeah, three in the top eight with Young coming off his 6 TDs in the Super Bowl/2nd MVP award and Favre just getting ready for a 3-MVP run. This is legit.

Are the modern rules and modern medicine making it easier to sustain QB success in the NFL? I hesitate to say yes to that, because look at how many quarterbacks can’t sustain their success. Robert Griffin III had his one good year, but has been a disaster ever since. Josh Freeman (2010) can kind of relate, and I hate to see the path Colin Kaepernick is starting to head down after such early promise. Matt Schaub crumbled in 2013 after Richard Sherman picked off his confidence. Carson Palmer has fallen apart a few times, literally and figuratively. Michael Vick was never consistent and managed to have his best years four years apart (2002, 2006 and 2010). Jay Cutler and Cam Newton still can’t hit a 90.0 passer rating season in an era where it’s become common to do so. Matthew Stafford’s pretty much in the same tier, starring as the volume-heavy Drew Bledsoe of his era. Highly drafted quarterbacks are still flopping hard too (see: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Joey Harrington, Matt Leinart, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, etc.). Are rookie QBs overall more successful now? Sure, but they’re also getting more opportunities as of 2008. Try telling Blake Bortles and Derek Carr this is an easy game.

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Where are all the great quarterbacks coming into the NFL since 2006? We’ve seen dips before, but this is starting to get alarming. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson look like the best options, and I obviously think highly of Flacco and Ryan’s seven-year starts, but that’s about it since 2006. Save us, Tannehill, Bridgewater, Mariota and Winston. We need to start having some insurance that this next era when these HOF passers are retired will still be good.

(B)rees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger

We have clearly been spoiled from watching the highest level of sustained QB play in NFL history. We’ve known about “1812” for so long now, but the consistency of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger is also special. Brees broke out in 2004, the rookie season breakout for Ben. Rodgers didn’t get to start until 2008, but I think he just locked up his spot in Canton after his second MVP season in 2014. No, it wasn’t as good as his 2011, but it was another monster year of dominant efficiency and it moved him up from 26th to 14th for me. Roethlisberger is the first great QB I can say I’ve been able to watch every game of his career live. You could definitely make the claim 2014 was his finest season yet. He’ll always be the first quarterback to have multiple 500-yard passing games, and the first to have back-to-back games with six touchdown passes. All of those games were against teams that made the playoffs.

The reasons I keep Brees ahead at 13th are that I think this 11-year run he’s been on (zero starts missed due to injury) is incredible, and he has quite arguably been better in the playoffs than the other two. He just needs to get there with more consistency, though he’s gotten the short end of the stick defensively when it comes to that top five active group. Brees was still great in 2014, but he had some bad decisions at important times. I don’t think he’s done yet by any means, though I question how much higher I could rank him on this list. He might be fifth in his era when it’s all said and done. That’s really not an insult either. This group is simply special.

Some might even put Rodgers higher than 14th, but I think that’s pretty generous for someone who has been a starter for seven years, including a debut season that was more solid than spectacular (2008) and a half-season due to injury (2013). Rodgers’ stats look off the charts right now, but that’s also the benefit of having 100 percent peak performance in this era of great stats. When you look at advanced metrics, especially ones that include sacks, Rodgers is much closer to his peers. Rodgers has led the league in Total QBR one time (2011) and in passing DVOA two times (2011 and 2014).

Any mainstream criticism of Rodgers is almost nonexistent, but I expect that to change if he continues to not shine in January as has been the case since he won a Super Bowl in 2010. His struggles against the other NFC champions in that time have been troublesome, but the good news is the Giants and 49ers don’t look to be contenders any time soon. Seattle is the defense he has to figure out. And yes, I still think he struggles more than the other top quarterbacks when it comes to comebacks or having to win in different styles. If he doesn’t start a game well, I just don’t expect him to pull it together late. Winning ugly is not on the menu yet. He needs to come out with his ‘A’ game, and his ‘A’ game is pretty much as good as any quarterback’s that’s ever played in the NFL. When he’s on, he’s unstoppable. But when he’s off like in Buffalo and Detroit last year or against Seattle, he doesn’t impress.

But if these other guys ever retire soon and the young quarterbacks don’t pan out, Rodgers could enjoy a nice run at various league-leads and awards if his only real competition is Luck. Going forward, I worry a little about Rodgers’ durability, because he still takes some really bad sacks. It’s hard to believe this is already going to be his age-32 season. Health is about the only thing that could stop him from cracking the top 10 soon. If his next seven years are in line with the last seven, I expect to see Rodgers in my top five one day.

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The elite MVP seasons of Rodgers are what put him over Ben, who hasn’t had years like that yet. Amazingly, Roethlisberger has never received an All-Pro vote in his career. He’s also only had three seasons where he’s started all 16 games. The main problem is his best seasons (2007, 2009 and 2014) are years where a lot of quarterbacks were standouts, so it’s understandable why he didn’t get a vote. But considering Luck and Brady got AP votes last year, you could definitely argue Ben deserved one in 2014.

Roethlisberger is having an unusual career path. He had personal and team success immediately, but he’s been statistically better in the second half of his career when he’s had to pick up more of the slack. However, he hasn’t had much playoff success since the night he led that epic drive to beat Arizona in Super Bowl 43. This year the Steelers seem to be fielding their worst defense yet around Ben, which feels like an 8-8 season in the making. Basically, the Steelers are turning into the Saints, which is good for Ben’s fantasy numbers, but terrible for his playoff success. He definitely doesn’t need to get to another Super Bowl, but how is this thing going to end? Is he going through a rough team patch like 1992-95 Elway, only to get a better team around him at the end? Is he going to fade away like Aikman in Dallas, unable to keep the team consistently in the playoffs after their talent core declined? Is he going to have an abrupt ending after taking a shot so big he can’t recover from it?

I’ll end this section by explaining some of the decision to move Rodgers and Roethlisberger past the players previously ranked 14-25. Since most of us can agree Rodgers has had the more dominant career, we’ll just look at this from Ben’s standpoint.

Roethlisberger is entering his 12th year as a starter, which already puts him on a short list of QBs in NFL history. Jim Kelly played 11 NFL seasons. Are you really going to tell me Roethlisberger’s play in the regular season and postseason hasn’t exceeded Kelly’s? It’s not a huge difference, which is why there are only five players between them, but Roethlisberger has put together a better resume with more to come. Kurt Warner played 12 seasons, and we know only six of them really count for his HOF push. He had higher highs than Ben, but good lord did he have many lower lows.

Quarterback is a position where you need to be the full-time starter to have value for your team. This is why I don’t put much stock at all in partial seasons where a guy throws like 150 passes and wins some games off the bench, or makes four decent starts, or has a good seven-game stretch before a season-ending injury. Screw that. True value is found by suiting up every week year after year. Ben’s missed 17 games in his career for various reasons, but he’s found a way to start at least 12 games in every season. That’s important. If he does it in 2015, he’ll be the 10th QB with a dozen starts in at least a dozen different seasons. I factored this into a lot of my decisions here, as a guy like Len Dawson played 19 seasons, but you can basically chop off the first five and the last three, leaving 11 years (1962-1972). Do I think that stretch, largely done in the AFL, is more impressive than Roethlisberger’s 11 years? I don’t anymore, so I moved him past Dawson this year.

Similarly, I downplay Sid Luckman vs. Ben due to his peak coming in WWII seasons, and I don’t see any value in his final two seasons (1949-50). I downplay Norm Van Brocklin’s career for spending time in his prime in a two-QB system with Bob Waterfield and facing some suspect competition. For Y.A. Tittle, I really respect his 1961-63 seasons with the Giants, but he’s another guy with a ton of seasons you have to throw away due to the AAFC, injuries or him just being terrible (1964 swansong). He had about seven or eight really solid years overall, which again I think Roethlisberger has exceeded. So I moved him ahead of those guys.

When the worst thing you can point to in Roethlisberger’s career is his 2006 season, that’s very telling of the quality of his career. Yes, he threw 23 picks, but he still finished 10th in DYAR and 13th in DVOA. He dealt with a motorcycle accident, an emergency appendectomy and a concussion after he was getting back to form. If that’s the low point of your 11-year career, then you’re probably having a hell of a career. A lot of guys sink lower than that.

Which finally leads me to putting Ben (and Rodgers) ahead of Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr. Let’s get Fouts of the way quickly. He was great for eight years (1978-1985) in a record-setting passing offense, which I really respect. That’s why he’s 19th. His other seven seasons and his lack of playoff success — started and ended with 5-INT games — are why he isn’t higher. That’s a good chunk of negative that you can’t just ignore, though I admittedly don’t do a good enough job of punishing for the bad years.

Speaking of bad years, Aikman, Bradshaw and Starr had several and it’s only fitting to talk about this trio together. In fact, Starr was almost worthless without Vince Lombardi as his head coach. Bradshaw is lucky Joe Gilliam was ineffective in 1974, because he may have lost his starting job for good after an (extended) awful start to his career. Aikman was one of the worst QBs in the NFL his first two years, and his finale (2000) was on that level. Yet all three were the quarterbacks of dynasties, the best teams in their decades with great players on both sides of the ball and fantastic coaching. They all won at least three titles and had some great efficiency stats in those playoff wins. These quarterbacks had some nice regular-season numbers at times, but the volume wasn’t there to match their peers. Unitas was better than Starr. Staubach was better than Bradshaw. Young and Favre were better than Aikman if we’re just talking 1990’s NFC. But #RINGZ.

When asked to carry flawed teams, these quarterbacks weren’t capable of getting the job done. When their team’s talent wasn’t up to the level of all-time great, they couldn’t get them into the playoffs with any consistency. Now I won’t slam these guys as much as I would a caretaker like Bob Griese — they’re still in my top 18 — but they just had easier jobs in their primes. Throwing the ball 30 or 40 times wasn’t the plan, let alone a necessity.

I think Roethlisberger would have more than two rings if he had the Steel Curtain defense instead of Dick LeBeau’s “My Defense Works for 75% of the Game Against 75% of the NFL” shtick. But just to start any game with an average team, I’m taking Roethlisberger over Bradshaw, Starr and Aikman. That trio was only effective for about 8-9 years each. Roethlisberger has already surpassed that.

But without a strong finish, I think Ben is going to be stuck at 15 until someone moves ahead of him, or if his play really declines. His career has essentially peaked from an all-time perspective, but as long as the story is still being written, there’s always a chance of changing your legacy. I just don’t think the Steelers are going to build another balanced team in time for him to do so.

Change of Heart: Tarkenton over Graham

The only other change in my top 30 was swapping Fran Tarkenton for Otto Graham. Given what I value in QBs, this should have been the case years ago. Career length is a big factor. Tarkenton was essentially a starting QB for 18 NFL seasons compared to just six for Graham. Remember, I don’t care about the AAFC. What’s amazing is how Tarkenton was such a model of consistency despite his chaotic, scrambling style — he had one below-average passing efficiency season (1962) in 18 years according to Pro-Football-Reference’s advanced tables that adjust for era. Despite all his running around, he was very durable and never had more than eight fumbles in a season. While he never had the stunning peak of a Tittle or Jurgensen, Tarkenton ranks as high as anyone when it comes to the number of quality QB seasons in the NFL. He was a star for nearly two decades, and he retired as the all-time leader in wins, passing yards and touchdown passes. In fact, he’s held the passing yardage record longer than any player in NFL history.

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Tarkenton amassed those numbers without throwing more than 25 touchdowns to any player. John Gilliam was his top guy. Tarkenton excelled under multiple coaches and for multiple teams (Giants and Vikings). He might have been the first great one-man show at quarterback, but unfortunately those guys don’t win rings. With or without Tarkenton, Bud Grant’s Vikings great defense (“Purple People Eaters”) was routinely run over in big games. In his 1975 MVP season, Tarkenton lost at home in the playoffs to Dallas thanks to a 50-yard Hail Mary from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson (push off?) in the final minute. It remains the only game-winning Hail Mary in NFL playoff history and it came at the expense of one of the game’s finest players.

When it comes to Otto Graham, the first thing people like to mention is he led the Browns to 10 championship games in his 10 seasons. It’s as if Graham was the only player in the AAFC, and he’s certainly the only player people ever choose to recognize the stats and accomplishments of from the AAFC. I just want to point out Graham won just as many NFL Championship Games (3) as he lost. Some of the losses were absolutely brutal too. We weren’t that far off from having Bobby Layne and the Lions as the dynasty of that time.

The truth is Graham was a great player on the league’s most loaded team (7-9 HOFers every year), with a great defense and a true innovator (Paul Brown) as his head coach. Players in such situations don’t get full credit from me, because their job was easier. I still think enough of Graham to rank him 12th, and he was the best quarterback of that era (1950-55). He also wasn’t just some caretaker as he won two passing yardage titles. When you rank first in NFL history in passing yards per attempt (8.63), albeit in six seasons, you’re going to earn my respect. I just wish we would stop padding the AAFC stuff onto his legacy, because that league was not up to par with the NFL, which actually drafted Graham in 1944 (Lions). He didn’t play then because of World War II.

Graham is a player I expect to keep dropping as some of the players in my previous section continue to have long, successful careers in a more competitive era.

Eli Manning: Why?

Every year I post this list one of the main responses is why is Eli Manning so high? It bothers me too, because he should be about 10 spots lower with the other New York guys and right there with Romo and Rivers. I just haven’t had the heart to move him since first putting him 29th after the 2012 season. He was a joke in 2013 and played much better last year, but the fact is the Giants have missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Eli and the Giants are like leap year: they strike every four years in February. 2008, 2012, and uh-oh, 2016 is next. It would only be fitting for the Giants to start with a bang (JPP), end with a bang (third title…Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch to beat New England of course) and for Eli to become the highest-paid player in NFL history.

At least that scenario would help keep my sanity about ranking him this high. Eli really is frustrating because you see the moments of older brother-like brilliance, but then you see the plays that would make Archie shake his head. Eli’s always been very good in 4QC/GWD situations, and I still think he engineered the greatest drive in NFL history with everything at stake in Super Bowl 42. The fact that he starts every single game cannot be undervalued either. It’s not easy to have 10 straight 3,000-yard passing seasons in the NFL. Only six other quarterbacks have had more such years. I think Eli’s 2011 season was one of the finest jobs of a QB carrying his team that we’ve seen, and even then it was a 9-7 year that barely resulted in a division title. Eli just doesn’t have the same efficiency as his peers, though his offenses do well at scoring and he doesn’t take many sacks.

If Eli’s playoff record remains intact at 8-3, then that’s very disappointing for the Giants, because that means they continued to miss the playoffs. You can’t go one-and-done or throw game-ending interceptions in January if you keep failing enough from September through December. That’s probably the single most frustrating thing about Eli. His regular-season defenses haven’t been good, so he gets credit for dealing with that. But in the playoffs, those defenses were outstanding, never allowing more than 23 points in any game and shutting down some of the best offenses in NFL history. And yet the QB still gets the most credit there. I want to see some more playoff losses, Eli. Preferably wins, but just get in the damn tournament. Increase that sample size. Give us some insurance you didn’t just have two one-month hot streaks four years apart. I’m going to drop him next year if 2015 doesn’t go well. Promise.

Ken Stabler for the HOF?

As I predicted this summer, the passing of Ken Stabler has led to him getting another look from the Hall of Fame as 2016’s senior nominee. Unfortunately he won’t be able to enjoy it if he gets in (good chance), but that’s how these things work sometimes. I believe enough time has passed to where a discussion on the merits of Stabler’s HOF case wouldn’t sound insensitive.

Stabler is one of four QBs (Charlie Conerly, Ken Anderson and Kurt Warner) to be a HOF finalist without getting voted in. We know there was some media vitriol going back to his playing days going on behind the scenes to keep Stabler out, so with new voters, that’s not likely to remain an issue. Personally, I can accept Stabler getting into the HOF. I’d sooner back Ken Anderson, but Stabler wouldn’t be a bad choice.

The argument for Stabler is simple: you’ve let George Blanda and Joe Namath in already. You can see I put Stabler ahead of both. Those guys had their peak years in the AFL. Stabler’s best years all came in the 1970’s NFL, the toughest modern decade of passing. He played against a lot of legendary defenses and teams, and definitely had the “Fame” part down with big plays in games with names. He was a very good postseason performer, winning a Super Bowl in 1976. He was also league MVP in 1974 and at least the second-best QB in 1976 (AP second-team All-Pro). Not many QBs can claim those accolades in NFL history. Stabler’s peak really lasted seven seasons (1973-79), but as we have looked at here, that’s still very good from a historical standpoint.

One problem for The Snake is that he threw a lot of interceptions, even for his era. In fact, here are some damning facts:

  • Most games with 4+ interceptions since 1970 merger (including playoffs): Ken Stabler (14)
  • Most games with 5+ interceptions since 1970 merger (including playoffs): Ken Stabler (5)

Stabler is also tied for the third-most games with at least three interceptions (29). Stabler somehow threw 20-30 interceptions in each season from 1977-1980, but still had a winning record each season. It was a different game then, but Stabler still threw too many picks. But again, that didn’t stop voters from keeping Namath and Blanda out. Stabler’s last few years with the Oilers and Saints don’t do him any favors. It’s all about the Oakland run, and that was strong enough in my book to crack the top 30. That also looks to be enough for the standards of the HOF. If you haven’t figured it out, the players in yellow in the list are in the HOF (red are active).

Marginal Moves You Probably Don’t Care About

I moved Phil Simms down four spots to 38 after becoming more impressed with the Giants’ defense and less impressed with his individual contributions.

I moved John Brodie up three spots to 32 after seeing he was one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack. Not quite Marino or Peyton level, but right up there. Part of his ascension was also at the cost of moving Bob Griese down a notch. Why did I do that? Well…

The Same Guy, But One’s Slower: Tony Romo and Philip Rivers

I’ve compared Rivers and Romo a few times over the years as equivalents in each conference. They’re basically the Dan Fouts and Warren Moon of this era: the best quarterbacks to not reach a Super Bowl. It’s a shame because this is the era of the Super Bowl quarterback. A record eight active QBs have a Super Bowl ring. Rivers and Romo have some of the highest passer ratings and YPA averages in NFL history, but haven’t enjoyed much January success for various reasons.

I had these guys 53rd and 54th last year. Romo just had probably the best year of his career, and probably deserved to be MVP if he didn’t get hurt against the Redskins on MNF. He moves ahead of Rivers, who had a MVP-like start, but faded fast after a probable rib injury hampered his play.

Both of these guys became relevant in the 2006 season as first-time starters. Here’s how I stack them up.

  • 2006: Rivers gets the edge for being the full-year starter (1-0)
  • 2007: Big edge to Romo (1-1)
  • 2008: Big edge to Rivers (2-1)
  • 2009: Romo good, but Rivers arguably at his best (3-1)
  • 2010: Not enthralled with this Rivers season, but Romo had broken collarbone (4-1)
  • 2011: Big edge to Romo (4-2)
  • 2012: Big edge to Romo (4-3)
  • 2013: Both did great things, but slight edge to Rivers (5-3)
  • 2014: Big edge to Romo (5-4)

Rivers wins the total seasons, 5-4, but Romo had more decisively better years. I also can’t help but side with Romo in the difference of styles. Romo can improvise under pressure, while Rivers can waddle towards the sideline and throw the ball away. Either way they are close, and you’d be fooling yourself to think otherwise.

These guys have been at it for nine years, and have mostly been consistent in that time. In fact, Romo has hit these bare minimums in a record nine straight seasons: 61.3% completions, 7.2 YPA and 90.5 passer rating.

These guys have winning records. They’ve led teams to No. 1 seeds and multiple 12-win seasons. They’ve had more playoff heartbreak than success, but at least they have won some games. More than Y.A. Tittle and Sonny Jurgensen for starters — that’d be none for those guys. And nine seasons as annual top 5-10 quarterbacks is really damn good. That’s why I ended up moving them past the guys with six good years or a smaller number of great years.

Yes, neither has won an MVP award like Steve McNair, Rich Gannon, Boomer Esiason, Bert Jones and Joe Theismann did, but just remember the competition from that elite group. This is the hardest era to win an award like that in. You really think Theismann, who was good for six years, is a better QB than these two? Give these guys Joe Gibbs and the Hogs instead of Norv Turner and Jason Garrett and see what happens. You want to talk about playoff failures? Boomer Esiason never threw for more than 150 yards in his five playoff starts. McNair, may he rest in peace, was a dreadful postseason QB who can thank the Music City Miracle for not leaving him with a 2-5 career playoff record. Bert Jones never won a playoff game either, was a hit machine and couldn’t stay healthy. Rivers has never missed a start in his career and even played on a torn ACL.

I think Romo and Rivers can crack the top 30 with strong finishes. As you can see, there’s just not much separating these players at this part of the table. A Super Bowl for either is likely a ticket to Canton as well.

More Shit You Really Don’t Care About

I dropped Don Meredith six spots to 58 after acknowledging he’s another QB with just about six relevant years.

I dropped Dave Krieg five spots after realizing some of his best seasons were small samples due to injury or being a backup. It’s kind of amazing he made the Pro Bowl despite playing 9 games in 1988, and it’s baffling why he made it at all in 1989. That was a poor year for the AFC though.

I got Matt Hasselbeck ahead of Bernie Kosar now, because I think his run of relevance (2002-07) is underappreciated. I don’t really blame Kosar for not getting to a Super Bowl (bad Cleveland luck), but I blame him for only having about six or seven relevant seasons.

Ryan vs. Flacco (Again)

Seriously, the Joe Flacco vs. Matt Ryan debates are quite heated — or elite as fvck depending whom you ask — on the internet. I guess I’m adding to it by simply ranking Ryan one spot ahead, the same as I did last year, but these two deserve to be very close. Advanced metrics will tell you Ryan is considerably better in his career, but 2014 was a different story. Flacco was 8th in DYAR; Ryan was 7th. Flacco was 8th in DVOA; Ryan was 9th. Flacco was 10th in QBR; Ryan was 7th. Hmm, that last one seemed to change more with the new QBR system, which surprises me since it’s supposed to devalue YAC. You saw those Antone Smith touchdowns last year, right? Then again, what do you do with the Steve Smith fluky touchdown against Carolina?

Either way, they were very close last year, which was arguably Flacco’s best regular season. Of course what happens here is Flacco has the edge in the playoffs, including getting there all but one time in his seven seasons. Ryan has had strong numbers the last two years, but Atlanta is just 10-22 and couldn’t win a pathetic division last year. Advantage: Flacco.

But I really wish something major would happen to create some separation between these two. Until it does, I’m going to continue ranking them side by side. I just hope other people can appreciate the seven-year starts they’ve had to their careers. Appreciate them even more when you consider the lack of quality signal callers joining the NFL since 2006 as detailed above.

Whither Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson?

Why didn’t I include Luck and Wilson? Well, they’ve only played three seasons. Despite the lack of great all-time quarterbacks, three seasons, no matter how impressive they are as a start, are a tiny sample to get into the top 64. However, I quickly threw together some names to branch out of the top 64 and I feel like it’s very possible Luck and Wilson could join this list after 2015. I also think it’s just as possible that at least one takes an unexpected step back this year. We’ll see what happens. And really, I just kept adding to this list Saturday night, and didn’t spend anywhere near as much time on it as I’ve spent on the top 64. I can tell you Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill and even Andy Dalton are a big 2015 away from showing up in the top 130. Yes, even Dalton, which just goes to show how little you have to do to be considered an all-time quarterback.

Part II Preview

Why did Tom Brady stay put at No. 5 after his fourth Super Bowl, and why is Peyton Manning still on top? That’s what I’ll tackle in Part II, along with taking down the thin margin of what makes success in the postseason possible.

If you want an advanced copy of the tl;dr version of Part II, here it is:

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Quarterbacks: Most Fourth-Quarter Comebacks and Game-Winning Drives by NFL Team

Lost even on me in Sunday afternoon’s chaos was the fact that Tony Romo moved past Roger Staubach for the most game-winning drives in Dallas Cowboys history. He has 24 now. Last season Romo took the lead in fourth-quarter comeback wins (21 now) in Cowboys history as well.

That’s newsworthy by itself, but what about the other 31 NFL teams? Who are their all-time leaders in fourth-quarter comeback wins and game-winning drives? I compiled the table, which will be added to the NFL STAT TABLES section I plan to do much more with in the near future.

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As usual, playoffs are included. How typical of the Jets to feature three different quarterbacks here. Not much else surprised me, but I’ve been working with this data for years so that’s to be expected. Let’s just say the bar is really low in Tampa Bay, but I doubt Mike Glennon will ever step his big ass over it.

Matt Ryan needs two more 4QC wins to move past Bartkowski for the outright Atlanta lead. He would be the 9th active quarterback to hold the lead in 4QC and GWD for his team, which just goes to show how impressive this current crop of quarterbacks really is.

All nine of the active leaders have been with their team since at least 2009. That’s when Jay Cutler was traded to Chicago and Matthew Stafford was the No. 1 pick in the draft.  If we think about that season some more, Marc Bulger (STL), Jake Delhomme (CAR), Donovan McNabb (PHI) and David Garrard (JAC) were still on their teams, so that’s 13 quarterbacks who went on to become their team’s GWD leader all active in 2009. Peyton Manning (IND) and Matt Schaub (HOU) were still on their teams too, so that’s 15. Brett Favre was in Minnesota, but he was already Green Bay’s all-time leader, so that kind of makes it 16, which is half the league.

So in 2009, there were 16 active starting quarterbacks who have eventually led an NFL franchise in career game-winning drives.

Some people disagree that this is a really special era of quarterbacks, but I keep finding evidence to support that it is. When teams like Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay and St. Louis keep going through quarterbacks, I gain more respect for the players who keep starting year after year.

Even Flacco and Eli.

him

How to Blatantly Plagiarize a NFL Article

Tony Romo did something dramatic on Sunday against Denver, which of course everyone has something to say about. I have written plenty about Romo and the Dallas Cowboys in the past, which has often been well-received. Maybe I should have done it as a book so I could have better protection of my work after the most blatant example of plagiarism I have ever seen was brought to my attention this morning.

I was linked to an article written by Chris Arnold on CBS Fort Worth/Dallas from 10/9/2013. If you know my work very well, you may recognize a lot of familiar lines. It’s because this thing is literally loaded with copying and pasting directly from my Romo article on Cold, Hard Football Facts from July 12.

Now I’m always flattered when someone uses my data/facts in an article, but usually the person has the decency to cite me as the source either by name and/or link. You know, the professional way to do things. I never heard of Chris Arnold before this evening. He’s never contacted me. He sure didn’t seem to think there might be something wrong about this.

If it was just a paragraph in a long article, I wouldn’t care much at all. That happens in this business. But as I’m about to show, this thing was literally a copy-and-paste job with the audacity to call the work his own “Next-Level Analysis”. Oh I have already e-mailed CBS DFW to have it removed (Update: it was removed sometime in the morning or early afternoon), but here’s a picture of the article header just for keepsake:

romoca

Hey that’s nice. Nearly 10,000 likes on Facebook and over 700 tweets. Must be good to have a big company that feels like it can do as it pleases. Sure, I’m always ripping on CBS for their awful collection of TV series, but no writer should be ripped off this badly.

I’ve given the links to the articles for comparison. Now I’m going to show just how much is a rip off of my work by pasting Arnold’s paragraphs, word for word and comparing them to mine from CHFF. I will put his work in red and mine (from JULY)  in just bold.

ARNOLD: Damned Tony Romo! Because he’s the quarterback for America’s Team, where Jerry Jones sets the bar at “Super Bowl or bust” every season. Romo is damned if he does or damned if he doesn’t.

KACSMAR: Romo is the NFL’s best modern-day example of “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.”

ARNOLD: The problem is this, Romo is held to a ridiculously high standard that no other quarterback is held to. Nothing short of a Super Bowl MVP season would make detractors realize Romo is a very good quarterback on a not so good team. The bottom line is Romo can never be a Super Bowl MVP without a better team around him. Period.

KACSMAR: Nothing short of a Super Bowl MVP season would make detractors realize this is a really good quarterback on a not so good team. The problem is Romo can never be a Super Bowl MVP without a better team around him.

ARNOLD: For “Next Level Analysis”, let’s check the numbers:

We know Romo isn’t a bus driver. He has thrown for over 300 yards a total of 41 times and has 51 games with a passer rating over 100.0 (minimum 15 attempts). His 7.94 yards per attempt is the seventh highest in NFL history. He’s not conservative..

KACSMAR: We know Romo isn’t a caretaker. He has thrown for 300 yards a total of 40 times and has 48 games with a passer rating over 100.0 (minimum 15 attempts). His 7.94 yards per attempt is the seventh highest in NFL history.

Kacsmar 10/11/2013 note: The cutest thing here? He added the 500-yard game to get to 41 and the three 2013 games with a rating over 100, but apparently updating the YPA to 7.95 was too difficult of a calculation.

ARNOLD: Romo has seven straight seasons with a passer rating of at least 90.0 (minimum 200 attempts). Only Steve Young (1991-98) and Peyton Manning (2003-10) have ever done that. Romo’s 95.6 passer rating is fifth all time.

KACSMAR: Romo has seven straight seasons with a passer rating of at least 90.0 (minimum 200 attempts). Only Steve Young (1991-98) and Peyton Manning (2003-10) have ever done that. Romo’s 95.6 passer rating is fifth all time.

ARNOLD: In the only season Romo had a top 10 defense (2009), he won a playoff game. Coincidence? Hmm… Maybe he needs a better team around him? He’s historically productive, efficient, wins more than he loses and he has the rare skills to buy time in the pocket and make big plays.

KACSMAR: In the one season Romo had a top 10 defense (2009), he won a playoff game. That’s probably not a coincidence.

He’s historically productive, efficient, wins more than he loses and he has rare skills to buy time in the pocket and make big plays.

ARNOLD: Tony Romo has the franchise record for most come from behind victories with 18. Yep, more than Aikman, Staubach and Meredith. Still not good enough, huh? How about this fact: Romo has the 2nd most  4th quarter comeback wins in the NFL since 2011 with 9! Only Eli Manning had more with 10. You want more? Romo has 9  game-winning drives (3rd behind Eli’s 11 and Matt Ryan’s 10) since 2011.

KACSMAR: The facts show Dallas as a competitive, sometimes clutch team in recent seasons. Since the original look at Romo’s history in the clutch from nearly two years ago, all he’s done is the following:

  • Led nine fourth-quarter comeback wins (2nd behind Eli Manning’s 10) since 2011.
  • Led nine game-winning drives (3rd behind Eli’s 11 and Matt Ryan’s 10) since 2011.

Romo’s five comebacks in 2012 are a franchise record for a season. His 18 career fourth-quarter comeback wins set the new Cowboys record, surpassing Troy Aikman (16) and Roger Staubach (15).

ARNOLD: In fact, Romo became the first quarterback in team history to lead 3 consecutive comebacks and game-winning drives in Weeks 13-15. The 9-point comeback Romo led in Cincinnati was the only time the Bengals allowed 20 points in their final nine games. He followed that up with a 14-point comeback in the final 4:45 to force overtime with New Orleans before going on to lose 34-31. But all everyone remembers is the last game against the Redskins and his last pick.

KACSMAR: Romo became the first quarterback in team history to lead three consecutive comebacks and game-winning drives in Weeks 13-15. He followed that up with a 14-point comeback in the final 4:45 to force overtime with New Orleans before going on to lose 34-31.

The nine-point comeback Romo led in Cincinnati was the only time the Bengals allowed 20 points in their final nine games.

But it’s that Week 17 disappointment on another big, national stage that people are going to remember.

ARNOLD: Like clockwork, Romo had one of his worst moments when the Nielsen ratings were at their highest. His interception late in the fourth quarter with Dallas trailing 21-18 was a killer. All the hard work put in, all the successful drives wasted with one snap. And like that, Romo further securing his ridiculous national choker status.That’s Romo’s problem. He’s good enough, often great even, to put Dallas in positions to do something, but it just seems like the errors come when everyone in the nation’s watching.

KACSMAR: Like clockwork, Romo had one of his worst moments when the Nielsen ratings were at their highest. His interception late in the fourth quarter (against that same blitz Washington kept using) with Dallas trailing 21-18 was a killer.

All the hard work put in, all the successful drives were wasted with one snap. Romo just further secured his national choker status.

This continues to be Romo’s problem. He’s good enough, often great even, to put Dallas in these positions to do something, but it just seems like the errors come when everyone’s watching.

ARNOLD: Nobody cares that the Cowboys started last season 3-5, that Romo led the Cowboys from a 23-0 deficit to the Giants, only to lose the greatest comeback win in team history by the size of Dez Bryant’s fingers. Or that they lost on the final play of the game against eventual champion Baltimore on a missed Dan Bailey field goal 31-29. Those games, like the Denver game this season, do nothing to boost Romo’s reputation because they are all losses.

KACSMAR: While many bash Dallas for choking, the Cowboys were a very resilient team last season after starting 3-5. The only reason they were in playoff contention in Week 17 was a league-high five comeback wins in the fourth quarter in 2012.

Would a team of chokers do that?

Dallas even erased a 23-0 deficit at home to the Giants in Week 8 before losing in the fourth quarter. Dez Bryant was literally inches away from delivering an all-time great game-winning touchdown in that game. When a team like the 49ers went down big at home to the Giants last year, they lost 26-3.

Dallas came up a play short in Baltimore against the eventual champions. Dan Bailey missed a 51-yard field goal with two seconds left in a 31-29 loss.

ARNOLD: Romo’s clutch track record is too good to only remember the bad plays. His records at comebacks and game-winning drive opportunities put him right there, compared to reputation, with today’s current top quarterbacks, especially the likes of Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers.

KACSMAR: Romo’s clutch track record is too good to only remember the bad plays. His records at comebacks and game-winning drive opportunities put him favorably, compared to reputation, among today’s active players (minimum 10 games), especially the likes of Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers

ARNOLD: Let’s take a “Next Level Analysis” look at Romo in the clutch. Tony Romo has 19 career game wining drives since he became a starting quarterback. Looking deeper, he has 10 turnovers in 27 games that the game winning drive failed. Sounds like a choke huh? Welp, let’s look at Phillip Rivers who also became a starter in 2006. Rivers has 22 turnovers in 36 game winning drive failures. That’s 10 vs  22!  Also, Rivers was 2-19 in game winning drives going into this season. Who’s the better quarterback?

KACSMAR: We have yet to fully sink our teeth into the choking dog Rivers has become, but just consider these incredible facts:

  • Rivers has gone an unfathomable 2-19 (.095) at game-winning drive opportunities since losing in the 2009 playoffs to the Jets.
  • In those 19 losses, Rivers has turned the ball over 16 times (11 interceptions and five lost fumbles) in the fourth quarter or overtime with a 0-8 point deficit.
  • In his last 27 games (close or not), Rivers has 13 turnovers in clutch situations.

In Romo’s 27 losses with a failed game-winning drives in his career, he has a total of 10 turnovers (nine interceptions, one lost fumble) in clutch situations.

Even if we count the infamous botched snap on the field goal in Seattle, that’s 11, or two fewer for his career than Rivers has had since October 23, 2011. It has been uncanny how Rivers turns the ball over with such consistency in these situations the last few years.

Both quarterbacks made their first start in 2006. Rivers has a total of 22 turnovers (16 interceptions and six lost fumbles) in the clutch in 36 losses with a failed game-winning drive. So it’s 22 against 10. There is no comparison here.

ARNOLD: It’s no different for Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees, who each won a Super Bowl when their defense stepped up with several critical takeaways and stops during the postseason.

KACSMAR: That is no different for Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, who only won a Super Bowl when their defense stepped up with several critical takeaways and stops in the postseason.

ARNOLD: The national media and pro football fans ignore the fact that Rogers is an amazing 0-18 in 4th quarter comebacks against teams that are .500 or better in his career! They ignore that Drew Brees has only made the playoffs 5 times in 12 years and has 20 turnovers in clutch drive ending losses (compared to Romo’s 10). Those quarterbacks get the pass because they have a ring. Rivers? His reputation as being clutch is fiction.

KACSMAR: Since they did, the national media ignores the fact that Rodgers is 0-18 at fourth-quarter comebacks against teams .500 or better in his career. They ignore that Brees has made the playoffs five times in 12 years and has 20 turnovers in the clutch in losses.

Those quarterbacks get the pass because they have the “precious” ring. Why someone like Rivers gets a pass is a mystery.

ARNOLD: No one’s trying to put Romo in the Hall of Fame or on the same pedestal as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but the facts remain that he’s very good and gets held to one of the more ridiculous standards in the league. There are other quarterbacks blowing games more often than Romo, and there aren’t as many giving their team a chance to win as Romo. Yet Romo,  who delivers more times in the clutch than many others, is considered a choke artist.

KACSMAR: No one’s trying to put Romo in the Hall of Fame or on the same pedestal as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but the facts remain that he’s very good and gets held to one of the more ridiculous standards in the league.

There are other quarterbacks blowing games more often than Romo, and there aren’t as many giving their team a chance to win so often.

ARNOLD: In a league that savors top picks at quarterback, we should be celebrating Romo as one of the best undrafted quarterbacks in NFL history. His success story should be something for all kids who dream of possibly making it in the NFL one day. Instead he gets held to all or nothing standards. Why do we hold Romo to a higher standard than most quarterbacks who are drafted in the first round? It must be a Cowboys bias. I shake my head.

KACSMAR: In a league filled with top 40 picks at quarterback, we should be celebrating Romo as one of the best undrafted quarterbacks in NFL history. His success story should be something young kids hold onto as they dream to make it in the NFL one day.

Instead he gets held to the harshest of standards that not even some recent No. 1 picks who were drafted to be saviors fall under.

ARNOLD (Last paragraph): So to come full circle. Men lie. Women lie. Even media and fans lie. Numbers don’t lie. Tony Romo is one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the NFL today, and with a better team around him he could get a Super Bowl ring and maybe his true reputation will be celebrated. Until then, perception continues to distort reality. Damn.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

(This post is over 2,500 words, so that gives you an idea of just how much was stolen)

Numbers don’t lie, but they have an origin and people who actually put in work to come up with them. These aren’t all your everyday numbers one could quickly look up on a stat site either. If CBS wanted my article, they should have paid me to write it. Accepting this as an original work without doing any fact-checking is stunning to me. Makes me wonder if this guy has screwed other people over before.

If Chris Arnold thinks stealing my work and calling it his “Next-Level Analysis” is okay, then I can only say good luck to him when he goes looking for his next job.

Damned if I remove this page any time soon.

NFL Week 12 Predictions, Obscure QB Records and Writing Recap

Three games down, 13 to go with no more bye weeks. All three road teams won on Thanksgiving Thursday, which has never happened before. But this 2012 season has been full of things happening for the first time, so it fits.

If it looks like I’m running out of steam for these intros, it’s because I am after usually writing 15,000-20,000 words on the NFL during the week. There’s only so much more you can say.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 11: Houston Texans Lead Overtime Drama – Cold, Hard Football Facts

After no comebacks or game-winning drives in Week 10, we had five this week, including three overtime games. Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans had one of the most prolific offensive performances in NFL history, and that is the Drive of the Week. Also: a bizarre comeback with six turnovers by the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay’s wild comeback in Carolina, Tony Romo ties Roger Staubach in Dallas, and even the Packers do something they have never done before under Mike McCarthy: win a game after trailing after each of the first three quarters.

Tony Romo: Reality vs. Perception Check For Dallas Cowboys’ Quarterback – Bleacher Report

Updating the Tony Romo saga. With a 15-23 (.395) record at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities, Romo now has the same record as Roger Staubach did. But why such the huge difference in clutch perception? Find that out, plus more, including a comparison of Romo’s comebacks to Staubach’s.

Why Are the Lions Always Turkeys on Thanksgiving?NBC Sports

A look at Thursday and Thanksgiving football in the NFL. The home team was 7-3 on Thursday this season heading into the week, but went a record-first 0-3. Detroit faced the team with the best record in football for the fourth time in the last five years. I saw CBS steal the graphic I used in the table for this article. Thanks, CBS.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 11 at New England Patriots – Colts Authority

It was a rough four-turnover day for Luck in New England, but not all was bad as he threw for over 300 yards for the record-setting 5th time as a rookie.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 12 Predictions – Bleacher Report

This week we take a detailed look at the three Thanksgiving games, Cleveland’s Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick going from one extreme to another in terms of defense, and picks for all Week 12 games.

Tom Brady and Other Quarterbacks on Pace to Break Obscure NFL Records – Cold, Hard Football Facts

You know about the record streaks for counting stats like consecutive games with a touchdown pass or 300-yards passing, but what about the pass efficiency streaks for roughly league-average marks like 60.0 percent completions, 7.00 yards per attempt and a 90.0 passer rating? You will be surprised to learn no one has been able to do any of those things for all 16 games in a season. Find out if anyone is on pace this season, and who has come the closest in the past.

2012 NFL Week 12 Predictions

I had Houston, Dallas and New England on Thursday, so I start the week 2-1. A lot of road picks this week.

Winners in bold:

  • Bills at Colts
  • Broncos at Chiefs
  • Falcons at Buccaneers
  • Raiders at Bengals
  • Seahawks at Dolphins
  • Steelers at Browns
  • Titans at Jaguars
  • Vikings at Bears
  • Ravens at Chargers
  • 49ers at Saints
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Packers at Giants
  • Panthers at Eagles

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Season: 105-54-1 (.659)

The Whistleblower No. 1 – Mark Kriegel and the Most Worthless Stat in the NFL

I had my heart set on doing a weekly “Captain Comeback” column ever since December 2010. Had that idea fail, I was going to do a series called “The Whistleblower”, where I keep my eyes and ears open for media people who use significantly inaccurate and/or misleading statements in their coverage of the NFL, and then I would expose them by stating the facts.

I know, the list could be huge depending how much NFL content one is willing to digest.

It finally crossed my mind that I could use this blog as a forum for “The Whistleblower” every so often, and here is the first edition. You could print it out if you want, but I’m sure it won’t be worth anything like a Batman No. 1 would fetch.

Perhaps it’s fitting my first edition would involve the NFL Network and Dallas Cowboys. That was motivation for my first article at Football Nation a little over a year ago.

Rather than Jamie Dukes and Tony Romo, this time it’s NFL AM’s Mark Kriegel and DeMarco Murray. On Tuesday morning, Kriegel mentioned that the Cowboys need to use their workhorse back DeMarco Murray more, and cited arguably the most useless statistic in football: “the Cowboys are 5-0 when he has 20-plus carries!” Surprised he didn’t support it with “and 2-6 when he’s under 20!”

To quote Kriegel from Monday: who cares?

Does something magical happen when a running back hits 20 carries? Is this to say Murray is really valuable when he gets a lot of carries? No, it just means it’s later in the game, and his team is likely leading and trying to ice the game. I’ll prove it in a second for Murray.

Beyond Murray, there have been 194 running backs with at least 10 career games (incl. playoffs) of 20+ carries (see link here).

Of those 194 running backs, 179 of them have a winning record when they get 20+ carries. Damn, that’s a lot of valuable running backs. And I thought this was the “dime a dozen” position?

Five more have a .500 record, and only an unlucky 10 have a losing record. Most notably, Steven Jackson is 27-30 (.474). Of course the Rams are 37-91 (.289) since 2004, so it’s not like Jackson has had a great opportunity to win no matter what he runs for.

Gerald Riggs (17-25-1, .407) and James Wilder (11-23, .324) are the only other players with a losing record in 20+ games.

Know who had the best records? The immortal group of Leroy Hoard (11-0), Edgar Bennett (18-1), Rob Carpenter (18-1-1),  Mike Alstott (12-1), and Craig James (12-1).

Even Joseph Addai was 15-2 with the Colts. If only Peyton Manning delegated more of the offense to him…

And what about Murray specifically? The five teams he did it against were 26-54 (.325) for starters. The defense allowed 14.0 PPG in the wins. Romo was very good.

And when Murray hit that nice, round number of 20 carries, it was always in the second half, and all but one time with Dallas leading (often by double-digits at that).

If your team is even just average, check your running back’s record when he gets 20 carries and chances are it’s respectable. Likewise, check your QB’s record when he throws 25 passes or less. It’s the same thing. A ton of winning records, because that means the team has taken the air out of the ball and are (literally) running out the clock.

This isn’t just Murray. This isn’t just Kriegel.

It’s the general lack of NFL fans understanding carries are a product of winning, and not the other way around. That is why “RB X’s team is [insert great record] when he gets 20-plus carries” is the most worthless stat in the NFL.

The whistle has been blown. It’s time to put an end to the use of this stat.