Making the Grade: Quarterbacks, 2008-2010

| June 27, 2011

There have been a lot of rankings coming lately. It’s been part of how many have coped with the lack of football in this action-less offseason. We’ve seen various Top 100 lists, position-based stat leaders, the best players according to efficiency metrics, and plenty of other top-this or top-that lists. Which is, as you’ll have gathered from the title, what this is.
 
This particular list is a bit different and is something we’ve not been able to do before. It’s the first in a series where we’ll take the sum of our grades from the last three years (with some weighting here and there), and get a look at who has accumulated the highest marks since 2008.
 
Now, a little disclaimer. We’ve put in a snap count minimum in to be considered. Taking the five players at each position with the most snaps played in these last three years, we averaged their snap counts and set the mark at two-thirds of that number.
 
What that means is, for today’s piece, players like Tom Brady won’t appear. Not because of any lack of talent, but because he missed the entire 2008 season and fell short of the snap threshold. Similarly, Kurt Warner doesn’t make the list because he wasn’t a part of the 2010 season. It’s not a reflection on their abilities of course, both men are likely to end up in the Hall of Fame, but as we focus on the best total grades for the past three years, they’ll have to sit it out.
 
Hopefully that disclaimer saves me some grief … we’ll see.
 
I’ve used some of my own interpretations of our gradings for quarterbacks, weighing our rushing and run blocking grades for them as three quarters the worth of the passing grade. Everyone surely has their own interpretation, but that’s mine.
 
Here are the 10 quarterbacks we’ve graded best since 2008:
 

1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

It will surprise no one that our top ranked passer over the past three years is the great Peyton Manning. He was top of the rankings in 2008 and 2009, and finished second in 2010. Without him, it’s hard to imagine what the Colts would do, especially when you consider the state of his offensive line. He’ll give up a few interceptions, but nobody wins more games for their team.

Grade:  +190.4
 

2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers’ 2010 post season catapulted him up these rankings, where, in four games alone he had a passer rating of +23.5. Quite amazing stuff that makes him, but it’s not like it hasn’t been coming. He finished fourth in our overall QB grades in 2008 and 2009 before running away with the 2010 award (that earned him my vote for top player of 2010). An accurate passer, the GB QB has got better and better when faced with pressure after a slow start in this regard in 2008.

Grade:  +184.15
 

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Some may look at the picks from this year and start to worry. No doubt some were bad decisions, but Brees suffered from tipped passes as much as any QB and still had a tremendous season as even more was asked of him with the Saints’ running back woes. A very good year that wasn’t quite as impressive as a 2009 that saw him end the year a Super Bowl MVP, but warrants more praise than his near record setting 2008. One knock on Brees, struggles under pressure compared to his peers. Fortunately, he’s adept at getting rid of the ball before pressure can build.

Grade:  +170.05
 

4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

What kept Rivers behind his former Charger teammate was his ridiculously high penalty count. It might seem a bit outlandish, but Rivers has taken 32 penalties over the past three years. That’s almost as many as Brees (12), Manning (13) and Rodgers (15) combined.  That constant negative yardage will hurt a team. Other than that though, Rivers has been exceptional in carrying the Chargers in this time frame. Never afraid to attack vertically, Rivers even made do without his top targets (Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson) for most of 2010. With them, Rivers was arguably the MVP in 2009.

Grade:  +164.75
 

5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

You can forget sometimes, what with all the controversy in his private come public life, how good Big Ben has been. Consistently one of the best quarterbacks when blitzed, Roethlisberger has really improved his game over the past three years to the point where he seems to have found a good balance between making plays and getting rid of the ball. Deserves extra credit for overcoming notoriously bad protection (particularly up the gut) and leading his team to two Super Bowls in the past three years.

Grade:  +136.93
 

6.  Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

If it were not for a 2009 where durability and consistency issues plagued him, Ryan could realistically be challenging the top four. But he’s not, and he’s not helped himself out by having some of his weaker games in the post season. Still, will go down as having one of the best rookie season a quarterback has ever had, and is coming off a tremendous year where he ran to near perfection an offense designed to limit his teams’ weaknesses. Has earned the Matty Ice name by constantly excelling when under pressure.

Grade:  +126.65
 

7. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

An often forgotten man, Schaub just seems to go about his business without much fuss. Sure, having the excellent Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, along with sure handed Kevin Walters, hasn’t hurt the former Falcon, but he continues to get the job done. Has ranked fifth (2009) and seventh (2010) in our passer grades the past two years, and put to bed those concerns about durability and of the Texans over-paying for him. They didn’t, and now they’re set at the position.

Grade:  +123.2
 

8. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars

One that may surprise some people. Garrard may often look laid back, but he has played better than most these past three years. The most disappointing thing is that he hasn’t maintained his level of play from 2008. Back then, he was vastly underrated because of the lack of touchdowns, now he’s just a little under appreciated because he’s still a top 15 quarterback. The protection issues of the Jags haven’t helped, but a better quarterback deals with that in a way Garrard hasn’t been able to. If and when the Jags move to Blaine Gabbert, Garrard would represent an upgrade for a number of teams.

Grade:  +120.88
 

9. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Some may have expected Joe Flacco to be higher with the playoff success he’s enjoyed. The truth is that at times he’s been very good, but at others not so much and you can owe a lot of success to a strong Ravens defense and offensive line. If you were to look at Flacco’s career you’d say he took a step up in ’09 after his game-manager-like rookie year, but a step back in 2010 where he seemed to hold onto the ball longer and was noticeably more flustered when under pressure. It wasn’t a bad year, but more was expected after such a strong 2009.

Grade:  +107.4
 

10.  Eli Manning, New York Giants

Has Eli peaked already? Is he the type of player who mixes the good with the bad? In fairness, Eli has improved (particularly his accuracy) over the past two years, and that’s even with a group of receivers adept at turning completions into interceptions. Even more so, Eli seems more comfortable against the blitz and does seem to be eliminating some of those errors from his game that would surface so often in the past. May never be a top talent at quarterback, but more than good enough.

Grade:  +95.23
 
 
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  • uppercut

    It would be interesting to see passing-grade totals – not that penalties (among other things) aren’t part of being a football player/QB, but just so that a bad penalty grade doesn’t straight-up cancel out part of the passing grade (totally theoretical example – a QB may have had a higher % of snaps resulting in penalties so they get a negative grade on the season, but they were all 5yd penalties totaling 35-45 yards, I don’t think 45 yards cancels out much of what they did passing the ball (as much as the negative penalty grade would lower their overall). Among all the aspects of being a QB, passing is the primary one (IMO). Running is a bonus but first & foremost a guy gets judged by how he drops back and delivers the ball through the air.

  • tim tellean

    Wow the drop from Peyton to Eli, 1st to 10th. Double the grade, makes me wonder how much farther the grades fall after Eli. Even Peyton to Schaub seems to imply with the grade that Peyton is 1.5 times the QB than Schaub.

  • sleepy042

    Just out of curiosity, with Vince Young’s reputation for playing better than his stats or “image” indicates how is he by comparison in general? I know his issues with Jeff Fisher may have blackballed him around the league (he is a players coach) so its tough trying to find a place for him.