Debating which tier of NFL QBs is the “elite tier” is a fool’s errand — and the reason sports bars exist / sell lots of beer — because no one seems to ever agree on what the base qualifications are. If you were initiating this discussion right now, you’d probably start with:
- Tom Brady
- Peyton Manning
This seems logical — Brady has more Super Bowls than any QB currently playing (only a scant 1 less than the Bradshaw/Montana epoch), and Manning has (or will probably have) most passing records one can have. He is 1-2 in Super Bowls, but hey, at least he’s got one.
If you’re expanding the list, you’d probably go to:
- Aaron Rodgers
- Drew Brees
You’d do this because, even though both of their teams are currently 1-2, they’ve long been considered two of the best QBs in the NFC/NFL. Rodgers was supposed to fully take the mantle from Brady/Manning as “unequivocal No. 1” after the Packers won the Super Bowl then went 15-1 the next season, but that hasn’t 100 percent happened just yet. Brees and Rodgers both have rings, too.
If you wanted to drop down one more tier (or on par with these guys), you’d probably say:
- Eli Manning
- Ben Roethlisberger
Ah, yes — the 2004 draft! Both have two rings, although people get crazy about including these guys. Eli’s two rings are against the same team (Patriots), the first one was because of an insane backyard throw (Tyree), and he often looks awful and inept in regular season games (Eli Face). Roethlisberger’s first one was all about the refs (Seahawks), his second one was because of an insane throw (that admittedly he made), and of course, he doesn’t have the best personal branding (people want their QBs to be at least somewhat respectable).
Those six would probably be “the six” right now, although you can make cases for other guys, sure. I wouldn’t put Andrew Luck there just yet — soon — but bear in mind he’s only been to the Divisional Round so far. The comeback against the Chiefs was exciting, but I’d love to see him at least lose an AFC Championship Game before we slot him in here.
Well, get this — as the Seattle Seahawks potentially evolve into a dynasty, it might be time to throw Russell Wilson into this discussion conclusively. He only has 40 career starts including the playoffs, but … he’s 7-0 against Brady, Manning, Rodgers and Brees. He’s beaten Manning, Rodgers and Brees twice each and Brady once — not to mention being the winning QB (on the road) in the game where RG3 might have finally stopped being RG3 (a playoff game, no less). In the past two years in the playoffs, he’s been the winning QB over these QBs: RG3, Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, and Peyton Manning. He’s only lost to Matt Ryan, and the final there was 30-28.
You can argue that the Seahawks’ insane home-field advantage has helped here, sure — the Brees and Kaepernick wins were in SEA. But that’s 2, and the other 2 (RG3 and Manning) were either on the road or in a neutral stadium (Super Bowl).
Is he the best QB in the NFL right now? Probably not, no. But should he be in those tiers above? Sure. He wins the games he needs to win — or leads the offense to do so — and he has just as many rings as Rodgers/Manning/Brees with far fewer miles on the odometer. Seeing the evolution will be interesting. There is a game plan to beat them, sure, but let’s say they don’t get home-field this year and have to head east — say, Philly — for an NFC Championship Game. Would you bet on Nick Foles over Russell Wilson? I probably wouldn’t. (Although Chip Kelly has beaten Wilson before…)
If you want to go and compare him to the other stalwart he came in with (Andrew Luck), there’s this:
And of course, there’s this argument — which I didn’t make above:
What do you think? Would you have Russell Wilson in with these six guys above?