"Q-MEN: Second Class"

Before the 2011 NFL season started, I decided to do a piece called “Q-MEN: FIRST CLASS“. My decision was sparked by comments made by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. In a Pre-season interview, Manning stated that he felt that he was personally in the same “class”, meaning skill level, as New England’s Tom Brady. The comment sparked much debate, and in the end I decided to personally rank who I believe are the “Top Class” at the QB position. I had a list of 8. Now that the first challenge is out of the way, I have decided to really test my judgement of skill with a harder task: ranking the next 8 best QB’s. Q-MEN: Second Class.

I started off by writing down the names of all 32 starting QB’s in the National Football League. After crossing of the 8 names that I put into the “First Class“, I was left with 24 guys, and I needed to weed out the best 8 from the group. I knew this would be a difficult task, because many of these quarterbacks honestly look like the same player. Many of them have weeks where they look as if they could lead their team to the playoffs, and then the next they look like confused third-stringers. Some
of these guys came into the league with so much potential, but we’re still waiting for that potential to materialize. I personally put a lot of weight on COMPOSURE and AWARENESS. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to a quarterback is when he makes a boneheaded play, and returns to the sideline, scratching his head as if he was handed the playbook 10 minutes before the game. Be a leader!

I’ve sorted through the remaining 24, and I believe I have a strong group of players that I feel comfortable about defending as the Second Class of NFL quarterbacks.

Here is my Q-MEN: SECOND CLASS:

16. CAM NEWTON   
It may seem premature to put Newton on any ranking list, unless it’s all Rookies, but the numbers don’t lie. I deliberately placed him last on the list, because he only has one season under his belt. But this is a player who went 24–37 passing for 422 yards, 2 touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 110.4, with 1 rushing touchdown, in his first career game. His 422 passing yards broke Peyton Manning’s rookie record for most passing yards in his first professional game. He set the NFL rushing touchdown record for quarterbacks on December 4, 2011, rushing for his 13th touchdown of tHe finished his rookie season with 4,051 passing yards, breaking a record previously held by Peyton Manning. Need I say more?

15. JOE FLACCO

Baltimore has always been a defensive-minded, grind-it-out type team. And then, along came JOE. Flacco is definitely not a future Hall-of-Famer at this point in his career, but he has shown the ability to show up in big games. If he could play their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers every week, (another great, defensive team) he would shatter every QB record out there. He knows how to show up and show out when they play against the Steel City boys. But Flacco also knows how to disappear against mediocre competition, and that’s exactly why he is so low on my list.

14. JAY CUTLER

When I mentioned how some QB’s just go out there and look confused at times, I was specifically talking about Cutler. Anytime he makes a mistake on the field, he returns to the sideline, helmet in one hand, and scratching his head with the other. Forget Troy Polamalu, this guy should be the spokesman for Head & Shoulders. In spite of all that, he is still in my Second Class of NFL quarterbacks. When you hear NFL experts talk about Cutler, they say he has one of the strongest arms to ever sling a football. I have witnessed games where he looks like a young Brett Favre on the field, zipping passes that look like they were launched from a gun hammer. 2011 was shaping up to be his best season; maybe not STATISTICALLY, but as far as becoming a LEADER.

13. CARSON PALMER

When the Cincinnati Bengals opted to let QB Carson Palmer retire, rather than trade him, I thought they would have to go through a serious rebuilding period. They’ve moved on quite nicely, and so has Palmer. He has always been considered one of the top QB’s in the league (well deserved), but as fallen out of the lime-light recently, due to injuries, and turmoil within the organization. Palmer joined the Raiders organization in 2011, and fit in easily, which shows his veteran skill set. Think about all the excuses we have given teams like the Philadelphia Eagles: they need time to learn how to play together. They need time to learn how to trust one another. Think about the fact that Palmer never had a training camp with his current teammates, and joined the team in a time where they were dealing with the death of their owner, Al Davis, and lose of their starting quarterback to injury. In spite of all that, he still made this team a tough match-up for every team it faced, and was one win away from making the playoffs.  

12. TONY ROMO

This pick will be the one that I get the most flack from. When I posed the question of the NFL’s Top 10 Quarterbacks, I had a good amount of responders placed Romo on their list. I had him as # 9 on my list at the beginning of the season. Now that the 2011 regular season has come to an end, I have him as # 12. His drop has more to do with what I saw from other players at the position, rather than being about anything Romo did wrong. What I saw from Romo was the same “ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN” gameplay that has landed the Dallas Cowboys out of the post-season party. I think he is a good quarterback, that shies away from high expectations. When the media is pessimistic about the Cowboys’ chances, he seems to shock us, and plays great. When we place these high expectations on him to go out and perform and succeed, he crashes and burns. The problem is, with the atmosphere that owner Jerry Jones has created in “Big D”, the high expectations will be placed on Romo every season that he is a part of that organization.

11. MATT SCHAUB

I know the argument against Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub will always be that he has some of the best weapons in the game on his side, but you can make that argument about EVERY top QB in the league. This is a guy who is never really mentioned when you talk about the best players at the position, mainly because his career has been plagued by injuries. 2009 has been the only season that Schaub the starting QB on a team, and has been injury-free. In the season, he lead the league in passing yardage, was selected to his 1st Pro Bowl, and named the game MVP. Since becoming a starter, he has remained in the top 5 in passing yardage each season. Not to mention, his career Passer Rating is 1 point off from Drew Bress’.

10. MATT RYAN

Ryan has shown tremendous growth in every season of his young NFL career. In 2010, he led his Atlanta Falcons to the best record in the NFC, which is no small feat in a Conference that hosts teams like the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and multiple NFC East contenders. Even though, their regular season success did not translate into a Super Bowl appearance, Ryan’s leadership and demeanor on the field are a model of what every team looks for in the QB position. He seems to be bred from same mold that produced guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. He is a “pocket” quarterback, who delivers with pinpoint accuracy and power.

9. MATTHEW STAFFORD

When I think about the quarterback position, and evaluate the guys that I think we will be talking about for years to come, Stafford is the guy that I could easily put in my “First Class” list today. If I had waited until after the 2011 season was over to write “Q-MEN: First Class“, I could think of at least one name that I would switch him out for. He’s still young, so most critics would never place him in the same league as the top QB’s. I will hold off for one more season, but he’s right there, “beating down the door”. Out of his three NFL seasons, 2011 was his first full season as the starting QB. A season in which he became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 5,000 yards in a single season. A mark that has only been accomplished once in the history of the NFL (Dan Marino), but was eclipsed by Stafford, Drew Brees (new record holder), and Tom Brady this season. Think about that. All the great quarterbacks we have witnessed over the years, and only four have accomplished this task. Any QB who can place himself in the ranks of Marino, Brees, and Brady, in ANY category, deserves respect.

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