Following Week Two, I turned on the NFL Network to see numerous analysts, including Brian Billick, lauding the impressive state of quarterbacking around the league. After two weeks, the composite quarterback rating proved to be 83.9, which at the time was an all-time best for the position.
With so many awful teams around the league, I contend that the opposite is true. I don’t believe that the NFL is in this great state of quarterbacking. In fact, we’re actually in worse shape than 10 years ago. For a team-by-team comparison, let’s go back to 1999 to see just how far we’ve advanced or fallen since the year Kurt Warner came on the scene.
New York Giants
1999: Kent Graham
2009: Eli Manning
Advantage: Manning. Graham split time with Kerry Collins but did little with a 7-9 Giants squad. He threw nine touchdown passes and nine interceptions in nine starts. How many years did Graham play in the league? You guessed it, nine. Meanwhile, Manning’s passer rating (104.0) trumps the measly 74.6 posted by Graham.
1999: Donovan McNabb
2009: Donovan McNabb
Advantage: ’09 McNabb. While young McNabb did not suffer injuries at the seemingly prodigious rate of current day Donny Mac, the ’09 Eagles will rise and fall with the fortunes of its Pro Bowl quarterback.
1999: Troy Aikman
2009: Tony Romo
Advantage: Aikman. Even though he was playing his second to last season, Aikman got the Cowboys into the playoffs (albeit at 8-8), while Romo continues to disappoint in Dallas. Aikman did not put together a great statistical season, but fired 17 touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions. Meanwhile, Romo is too busy throwing at all-pro corners 16 times during games (see below).
1999: Brad Johnson
2009: Jason Campbell
Advantage: Johnson. He made the Pro Bowl in ’99 and led Washington to the playoffs where it won a game and lost by a point in Tampa during the NFC Divisional playoffs. Campbell can only dream of such a season at this point.
1999: Shane Matthews
2009: Jay Cutler
Advantage: Cutler. Period.
1999: Charlie Batch
2009: Matthew Stafford
Advantage: Batch. Just because you were selected number one overall, doesn’t make you a better quarterback instantly. Batch got the Lions into the playoffs with some assistance from Gus Frerotte. Such a feat is a herculean effort, especially when considering Detroit lost its final four games and still made the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
1999: Brett Favre
2009: Aaron Rodgers
Advantage: Favre. While he was on the first downside run, posted a poor 74.7 passer rating and threw 23 interceptions, he was still Brett Favre, just two seasons removed from winning three straight MVP awards. Rodgers is still building his resume and has been spotty in close games.
1999: Jeff George
2009: Brett Favre
Advantage: Favre. Coming off the 15-1 season in ’98, Randall Cunningham struggled to return to ’98 form and the Vikes switched to George. He posted 23 touchdowns as the team made a run to the playoffs. Again though, Favre’s mere presence on the Vikings gives Minny a different edge.
1999: Chris Chandler
2009: Matt Ryan
Advantage: Ryan. Chandler led the Falcons to the Super Bowl a season earlier, but was a career journeyman otherwise.
1999: Steve Beuerlein
2009: Jake Delhomme
Advantage: Beuerlein. The former backup to Aikman in Dallas made the Pro Bowl in ’99 after throwing 36 touchdowns. Delhomme has crafted poor decision making into an art form in ’09.
New Orleans Saints
1999: Billy Joe Tolliver
2009: Drew Brees
Advantage: Brees. You don’t need an explanation other than never trust a quarterback with three names.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1999: Shaun King
2009: Josh Johnson
Advantage: King. As poorly as he played at times, King was a botched officiating call away from quarterbacking a team to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Johnson is as green as they come.
1999: Jake Plummer
2009: Kurt Warner
Advantage: Warner. An easy victory for Warner. After putting the Cardinals in the playoffs in ’98, Plummer put the Cards in the tank. He threw 24 interceptions and just nine touchdown passes. His QB rating? How does 50.8 sound? Good? Not so good?
1999: Jon Kitna
2009: Seneca Wallace
Advantage: Kitna. The current caddy of Romo got the Seahawks into the playoffs while Wallace hasn’t done much to distinguish himself. By the way, Wallace is sixth in the league in completion percentage. Scary.
St. Louis Rams
1999: Kurt Warner
2009: Marc Bulger
Advantage: Warner. Bulger can’t stay healthy while Warner put himself on the map during ’99 by winning regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP honours.
San Francisco 49ers
1999: Jeff Garcia
2009: Shaun Hill
Advantage: Hill. Steve Young got knocked into retirement by Aeneas Williams early in 1999. Garcia wasn’t Garcia yet. Hill isn’t great by any means, but will not cost his team the game.
1999: Doug Flutie
2009: Trent Edwards
Advantage: Flutie. Edwards may never sniff the playoffs at this rate, which is what Flutie did…well, until the great Wade Phillips had other ideas.
1999: Dan Marino
2009: Chad Henne
Advantage: Marino. I’d rather have Marino at age 80 than Henne at this moment.
New England Patriots
1999: Drew Bledsoe
2009: Tom Brady
Advantage: Brady. Bledsoe was a few years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, but entering the downside of his career. Brady, well, is Brady.
New York Jets
1999: Ray Lucas
2009: Mark Sanchez
Advantage: Lucas. Again, we can’t project ahead towards what someone is going to become. Lucas jumped into a tough spot because of an injury to Vinny Testaverde and nearly got the Jets to the playoffs. Sanchez still has to prove himself.
1999: Tony Banks
2009: Joe Flacco
Advantage: Flacco. The second-year Delaware Blue Hen has already played in an AFC title game while Banks was eventually benched for Trent Dilfer the following year when Baltimore won the Super Bowl.
1999: Tim Couch
2009: Derek Anderson
Advantage: Couch. Look at the numbers. Couch, while awful, actually produced more than Anderson. Outside of his one big year in 2007, Anderson has been dreadful.
1999: Jeff Blake
2009: Carson Palmer
Advantage: Palmer. Blake could cause thunderstorms with his deep passes, but Palmer has the ability to make the Bengals respectable. Palmer is trying to become the first Bengal quarterback since Boomer Esiason to lead them to multiple playoff appearances (’88, ’90).
1999: Kordell Stewart
2009: Ben Roethlisberger
Advantage: Big Ben. Kordell’s best asset was as a multiple purpose player in the mid-’90s. Ben owns two rings.
2009: Matt Schaub
1999: Peyton Manning
2009: Peyton Manning
Advantage: 2009 Manning. Besides McNabb, he’s the only quarterback to still be the head guy 10 years later. While ’99 Manning wasn’t shabby, this year he’s on a record setting pace once more.
1999: Mark Brunell
2009: David Garrard
Advantage: Brunell. He’s the greatest quarterback in Jaguar history, leading them to the playoffs four consecutive seasons from 1996 to 1999. Garrard still needs to put together two good seasons in a row and get the Jags back to the postseason.
1999: Steve McNair
2009: Kerry Collins
Advantage: McNair. Both appeared in Super Bowls, but the late McNair was the heart and soul of the Titans, grabbing co-MVP honours with Peyton Manning in 2003.
1999: Brian Griese
2009: Kyle Orton
Advantage: Griese. He was the first man in during the post-John Elway era. Griese led the NFL in QB rating 2000 while getting the Broncos to the playoffs after a poor ’99 campaign. While he wins game rather consistently, Orton has never wowed anyone and laboured to beat out Rex Grossman in Chicago.
Kansas City Chiefs
1999: Elvis Grbac
2009: Matt Cassel
Advantage: Grbac. Cassel has only started 18 games during his career. Grbac was a pretty serviceable signal caller for the Chiefs, getting them to the playoffs in 1997.
1999: Rich Gannon
2009: JaMarcus Russell
Advantage: Gannon. A Pro Bowler in ’99, Gannon would embark on a three-year run after that season that included two AFC title game appearances, a trip to the Super Bowl and losing some playoff game in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Russell is just plain awful.
San Diego Chargers
1999: Jim Harbaugh
2009: Phil Rivers
Advantage: Rivers. The ’99 Chargers were on the way to winning the LaDainian Tomlinson sweepstakes in 2001. Meanwhile, Rivers directs one of the best offenses in the AFC.
Synopsis: 1999 wins 17-14. While ’99 was a Brady-free zone, it was bursting with eventual or previous MVP winners (Favre, Gannon, Marino, McNair, Peyton Manning, Warner). During 2009, it’s more top heavy perhaps than ’99, but the difference between the haves and have nots this year is downright frightening.
Ten Things We Learned in Week Four
1. Don’t throw at Champ Bailey 16 times in a game when armed with average receivers: Romo took it upon himself to throw at Bailey, one of the NFL’s best corners, on 16 occasions. Bailey intercepted him once near the goal line and broke up two plays in the endzone on the game’s decisive drive.
2. The Cowboys miss Terrell Owens: Dallas wide receivers have not scored a touchdown since Week One in Tampa. Also, Romo threw twice to Sam Hurd on goal to go plays from the two in the fourth quarter last Sunday. Enough said.
3. Owens misses the Cowboys: Owens owns just one touchdown this season and seems ready to snap at any moment. Who can blame him though? Trent Edwards makes Romo look like Johnny Unitas.
4. Say what you want about Aaron Rodgers, but his offensive line stinks: Rodgers threw for 384 yards, but was wearing Jared Allen and the Viking defense by game’s end.
5. Peyton Manning is the MVP: Manning is arguably playing the best football of his career and is on pace to shatter Dan Marino’s record for most yards in a season (5,084).
6. There are more bad teams than a season ago: Detroit, Kansas City and St. Louis were in a class by themselves last year, but in ’09 they have company as league bottom feeders. Oakland has somehow regressed further thanks to JaMarcus Russell; while Tampa Bay and Buffalo are embarrassing to watch. Just think — I didn’t include the 0-4 Titans or 0-3 Panthers in the discussion.
7. The finger pointing and excuse making is never going away in San Diego during the A.J. Smith regime: Surprise, surprise. There is controversy in San Diego. General Manager Smith called the team soft. Mr. Smith has a point. They are extremely talented, but fatally flawed. This group will never get to the Super Bowl.
8. I’m not saying you should cut LaDainian Tomlinson, but it’s over: Speaking of the Chargers, LT can’t cut it anymore. It’s sad to say but he reminds me of the 2000s version of Emmitt Smith.
9. I’m saying you should cut JaMarcus Russell and it is over: Jeff Garcia recently questioned the work ethic of Russell, who is sporting a quarterback rating of 42.4. Russell continuously wears a wool ski cap on the sidelines. Maybe he should switch hats and cool off that brain of his.
10. Minnesota QB No. 4 still has it: The Packer defense set its sights on slowing Adrian Peterson and got beaten repeatedly by Minnesota QB No. 4. It didn’t hurt matters that he got up to seven seconds in the pocket on some plays to throw.
Week Five BPITW Poll
Last week’s rankings in parenthesis.
1. Adrian Peterson (1) – It was Minnesota QB No. 4, not AP, who delivered the daggers to Green Bay on Sunday night.
2. Peyton Manning (6) – For the first time in his storied career, Manning has opened the season with four consecutive 300-yard days.
3. Drew Brees (2) – Do you hear the panic in the streets? Two straight games without a touchdown pass? Folks, he can’t play Detroit every week.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew (4) – Despite a less than rousing stat line of 14 yards rushing, MJD still scratched out six.
5. Reggie Wayne (7) – He is probably licking his chops for the upcoming Indy/Titans tilt.
6. Frank Gore (8) – I moved him up because I refuse to put a back that runs out of the wildcat ahead him.
7. Ronnie Brown (NR) – No offense, Ronnie, but the expiration date on this gimmick offense is coming soon. Good season so far though!
8. Andre Johnson (8) – The NFL schedule maker wasn’t that kind to Johnson. He has faced Darrelle Revis, Cortland Finnegan and Nnamdi Asomugha thus far. He throttled Tennessee, but has struggled otherwise.
9. Ben Roethlisberger (NR) – When he is not busy doing bits with Chris Jericho and the Big Show on Monday Night Raw, Big Ben is a pretty fair quarterback.
10. Steve “NYG” Smith (NR) – Yeah, I can’t believe he’s here either.
Link of the Week
I enjoy Facebook. However, the litany of applications for the site is becoming borderline absurd. From Farmville to YoVille to Mafia Wars, please just make it stop. I’m not interested in being kidnapped, sending you a blender, or starting my own farm. Then, of course, there is the phenomenon of old high school acquaintances friending you when they did not want to be within the same 20-mile radius during your four years together in school. Unfortunately though, that is a whole other post. This gentleman does a fair job of explaining my feelings.
In case you were wondering, this young fellow samples Heart’s “Alone.” Not familiar? I thought you’d never ask… (cheesy ’80s hair warning in effect).