Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Oct 2005

Top 10 Franchise Quarterbacks

A few things. First, what happened to all that talk about Ben Roethlisberger and his sophomore slump? Second, number nine on this list is not a franchise quarterback. Third, number seven is just silly. Finally, the decision on Brady vs. Manning is a copout. Not like we mind that sort of thing around here.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 27 Oct 2005

75 comments, Last at 29 Oct 2005, 12:21am by Purds


by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:59pm

McNabb doesn't have the little QB play cheat sheet on his wrist, while Manning, Brady, and Roethlisberger do.

What does that tell us?

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:01pm

McNabb doesn’t have the little QB play cheat sheet on his wrist, while Manning, Brady, and Roethlisberger do.

What does that tell us?

Cheat sheets prevent sports hernias?

by Joey (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:01pm

"We see Shaub following in that Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks, Mark Brunell career path..."

And that's a good thing? (With apologies to Brunell, who was once outstanding with Jacksonville.)

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:03pm

McNabb doesn’t have the little QB play cheat sheet on his wrist, while Manning, Brady, and Roethlisberger do.

What does that tell us?

The cheat sheets are filled with running plays.

by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:03pm

Oooh, look, pictures! Of quarterbacks! With blurbs next to them! Good thing it's just blurbs, cause I can't pay attention for long enough to read a WHOLE PARAGRAPH.

Seriously, has Sports Illustrated fallen so far that they can't find someone who can write a real article about quarterbacks? Maybe one with some analysis? And that doesn't include a guy WHO DOESN'T EVEN PLAY IN THE NFL?

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:05pm

By the way, with the Schaub thing, didn't the Dolphins teach us we shouldn't make a backup QB who has one good game our franchise?

by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:06pm

With all due respect, what the heck was that? I spent more time trying to figure out what point there was to the "article" than I did reading it.

I have 2 questions.

1) Do people actually get paid to write garbage like that, and
2) What in the article possessed you to link it?

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:07pm

So many things wrong...

Brady Quinn? Come on. He may be a good to great NFL QB, but there's no way to tell right now. Plenty of sure-fire prospects don't make the transition to the pro game.

Schaub has been covered already.

Does anyone doubt that Peyton Manning will be an effective QB for 8 more years? Sure, injury is a possibility, but he does such a good job of getting rid of the ball that he won't take all that many hits. And he hasn't yet missed a game in his career. (Disclosure: I'm a Colts fan, so maybe I'm looking at the world through blue and white glasses.)

by Maynard (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:11pm

Andrew: You see, quarterbacks usually use the arm sheet to help them reference plays quickly for running a 2 minute offense and well...you see where I'm going with this.

by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:18pm

Maybe if McNabb had the arm band thingie they would have gotten more plays off at the end of the superbowl.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:19pm

2) What in the article possessed you to link it?

The fact that in 10 minutes there's already 10 comments.

And I agree with most of the other comments. Brady Quinn? Please. I'm sure he would've put Cade McNown or Ryan Leaf up there, as well.

by ElAngelo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:19pm

This is absurd. I understand why they kept Manning off, dumb as it is in actuality, but a college guy and a backup over guys like Drew Brees and Jake Delhomme?

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:21pm


The reason it was linked, IMO, was to incur our wrath and, despite the disclaimer above, spark a Manning/Brady/Manning/Quinn debate.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:21pm

Re #8: I'm a Pats fan, but there's no way I'm taking Schaub, Vick, Brady Quinn, or Leftwitch before Manning.

by Dired (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:21pm

Ugh, this is a dead horse, but really; if Elisha's last name was "Jones" or even "Mexico" he's be lucky to have a McCown's press. I can't remember seeing a player so many sportswriters were so desperate to coronate as a star. I don't know whether to resent him or pity him for the career-defining expectations he can't possibly fulfill.

by buddha (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:24pm

"Seriously, has Sports Illustrated fallen so far that they can’t find someone who can write a real article about quarterbacks?"

They could find someone to WRITE it, but they might have a harder time finding anyone to READ it.

Ah, ESPN the magazine, lowering the bar for sports "journalism" everywhere.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:29pm

#13, If you wanted to start a real controversy, you can post on the (admittedly unrelated) topic of just exactly when did ESPN become a forum of political correctness? Between the website and the show, I think every gay athlete in existence has been profiled. What ever happened to, you know, sports?

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:30pm

What exactly is their definition of "long term"? 4 years? I can easily see Manning as a good quarterback for at least another half-dozen years, and that is long term in today's NFL.

Brady Quinn? And I love the blurb with it. "'Experts' are saying he'll do well and Leinart won't." If the "Experts" really knew what college QBs were going to pan out, we wouldn't be able to list so many draft bust QBs. At least wait until they're in the draft. You have no idea whether a QB will succeed at the next level.

Useless list.


by Parker (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:35pm

My favorite part: "...while Leinart might never approach his level of collegiate dominance in the pros."

Really? You think Leinart might not win 29 games in a row in the pros? Or have a TD:INT ratio of 4:1?

This is typical of SI.com. I'm sad that I read it and embarrassed that I am commenting on it.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 4:49pm

All I can figure on Roethlisberger is that the Steelers must have been working almost exclusively on stuff he doesn't do well during the preseason. He doesn't look like the same guy that wore #7 in August.

by Theo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 5:01pm

Hey! Who farted?!

If long term and quality is the question, who would NOT take Roethlisberger?

by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 5:41pm

RE: Brady Quinn

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I wouldn't want him over Culpepper right now.

Seriously, though, is this a list of "franchise quarterbacks in the year 2009?"

The "article" says "the purpose of this assignment was to identify the quarterbacks who you would build around for the long-term future." So I guess that means you build for the long-term with a 28 year-old (Brady), but not with a...29 year-old? Huh?

I say kudos to FO for consistently writing insightful articles.

by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 5:59pm

McNabb and Manning were both born in 1976. Anyone want to bet who will still be healthy and playing 8 years from now?

Big Ben has admitted he didn't even know what most of the receivers were supposed to do on the pass plays last year. Shouldn't we wait to see if he can learn an offense and read coverages before reaching a conclusion?

The whole exercise was silly.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 6:20pm

I would rather build around a Peyton Manning for 6-7 years than a Matt Schaub for who-knows-how-long-since-no-one-knows-if-he's-good-or-not-yet. I know what I'm getting with Peyton Manning, and it's not like he's in his mid-30's or something or on some serious decline. He doesn't have injury issues right now, he's playing well, etc.

And Brady Quinn? Odds are slim he's even going to the draft in 2006, and SI is already talking about him as the next great NFL franchise quarterback out of ND? Let's at least let them get to their final year before calling them the next Montana. With this hype, I guess Leinart Land will, next year, be Quinnland. Quinnland Quinnland Quinnland...the country where I want to be...

Mark it down for PFP 2006!


by princeton73 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 6:30pm

the Manning/Brady/Manning/Quinn debate

Jonathan Quinn is still in the league?

(I think the other 3 are better)

by Mitch Wojcik (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 6:33pm

re #5:
Could you re-do your comment into something smaller?

I lost your point after the 1st sentence.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 6:38pm

"Manning/Brady/Manning... debate"?

As if it wasn't bad enough already.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 6:50pm

Articles like this are why when they ask me at Best Buy if I want a free 6 weeks of SI with my CD purchase I say no thank you. I agreed to do it the first time a few years ago and threw the thing away after about 5mins. Each subsequent issue went into the trash without even being looked at.

Seriously, Culpepper's birthday is Jan 77 and Mannings Mar 76 and Mcnabb's is somewhere in between (Nov?). So those extra 10 months on manning make him suddenly old? God I don't know if McNabb has 2 years left in him much less 6. Oh well, such drivel.

by bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 7:06pm

I think the time is prime for a new debate: who is better, Manning... or Manning? With eldest brother, former WR Cooper Manning to announce the results by decapitating the loser at the next family Father's Day BBQ.

Okay, to chime in with others, I see their point about not including a guy with 7.5 seasons under his belt, but he's only got one or two more than a few others here, and that's cutting it too fine. I'd take Peyton for the next 7 seasons over a LOT of those other guys for 9.

As has been pointed out often, he missed one snap in 7.5 years due to injury, is rarely sacked (unless your name starts with Willie and ends with McGinest), and is 15-1 in the last 15 regular season games (and that loss was game 16 to Denver last year in which he and the first team played 3 snaps).

He'll likely be around for long enough to get any franchise going.

by Matt Hasselbeck (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 7:38pm

Uh.. hey, guys? What about me? Guys? Hello? Anyone there?

by Drew (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 8:14pm

Re: 30

Sorry cue ball, but you're no Brady Quinn.

by ZH (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 8:41pm

RE#21: Big Ben relies on a great O-line, and a team that runs the ball like 70% of the time. He can't win games when he is forced to win the game on his arm. The typical measure of seeing how good a QB is at winning games with his arm is to look at his numbers in game with 30+ att's. Big Ben has only been in one such game in his career with exactly 30 att's, and had a dismal 57.8 QB rating.(I don't know what his DVOA or DPAR were for those games, but they couldn't have been good.) Just as a contrast, Eli has been in five such games in his career, all with at least 35 att's. His two such games last year, admittedly were horrendous, 45.1 and 56.3, but in three such games this season his ratings are 102.9, 120.7 and 74.9. HE has proven that can win games with his arm. Until Big Ben can prove the same, he is just an overrated spare part who is dependant on his system. (Just for comparison with some other players on that list from SI, Brady has a higher that 75 QB rating in roughly 2/3 of such games and barely missed 75 in a few others, and Leftwich is 9/17)

by ZH (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 8:43pm

When I said leftwich is 9/17, I meant that in 17 such games he has broken 75 QB rating in 9 of them

by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 8:54pm

A 75 QB rating hardly sounds like a very good game.

by P. Ryan Wilson :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:08pm

I've never quite understood why a QB has to throw the ball 30-plus times a game and win to be considered a 'comeback QB.' For the record, Roethlisberger had game-winning drives in 2004 against the Cowboys and the Jaguars, and this year against the Chargers. If he has to come back from a 40-point deficit, then no, he hasn't done that, but that's Dick LeBeau's fault for not fielding a crappier defense.

by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:11pm

What no Cleo Lemon?

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:27pm

What ended up being the explanation for that bizarre slow-pokiness from McNabb in the super bowl, anyway? He said he wasn't hurt. So what was it? I really think that lost the Super Bowl for them. I was going insane with frustration watching the end of that game, and I'm a Pats fan!

by Balaji (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:41pm

#32: "Until Big Ben can prove the same, he is just an overrated spare part who is dependant on his system."

I'll grant you that Roethlisberger is helped somewhat by being on a team where he doesn't have to win every game by himself. But "overrated spare part"? Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

by Alex Smith (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 9:54pm

Wait, so I play two games, don't quite perform to my potential, and I'm not even in the conversation anymore? I was 8-16 last week, does that count for anything anymore? Talk about what have you done for me lately...whatever, I've got a 20 million dollar signing bonus, and I'm still better than Harrington.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:17pm

tunesmith #37:

The official explanation was that because they needed to make two scores, they wanted to make sure they got the right plays and personnel in to get the first one, and then they would worry about the second one after that. So they took their time, and made sure they actually got down to the endzone. Keep in mind that most hurry-up attempts fail. We only tend to remember the ones that succeed, though.

That seems reasonable, and it was successful as far as the first goal went, which was marching downfield on the Patriots and throwing a 3rd touchdown. Keep in mind that at this point in the game, the Eagles only had Greg Lewis and Freddie Mitchell, as fully healthy wideouts, with Owens limited and Pinkston out, and they only had LJ Smith as a Tight End, with Chad Lewis injured and Jeff Thomason mostly useless.

The Eagles were then banking on doing an on-side kick and recovering, which is not as unreasonable as one might think since they have recovered 50% of Akers' kicks.

Worth noting is that the Eagles last drive was not significantly longer then might be expected:

(4) 13 Plays, 79 yards in 3:52.

Compare to the other Eagles drives of:

(3) 10 plays, 47 yards in 4:17, TD
(2) 9 plays, 81 yards in 4:36, TD
(1) 10 plays, 71 yards in 4:25, INT on the 3 yard line

That shows seconds per play of:

(1) 26.5 seconds
(2) 30.7 seconds
(3) 25.7 seconds
(4) 17.8 seconds

So the Eagles were being about 9-10 seconds more efficient per play than normal, which over 13 plays saved around two minutes of clock - the drive ended with 1:48 left, and two chances to get the ball - the onside kick, and by a punt after a defensive stop. Maybe it would have been nice if they could have saved about 1.5 seconds more per play, and scored before the two minute warning, but there are no guarantees they would have scored or gotten the ball back - with the warning in the midst of their last series, the Patriots might have had time to gather around and make a first down to end the game.

The Eagles really lost the game from the Westbrook and LJ Smith red-zone interceptions, which cost the team 14 points and put them in such a desperate situation, and by the failure to stop the second of the Patriots TD drives on first 3rd and 6 then on 3rd and 10. Those 4 plays changed the game and swung the final score 21 points. The Patriots got it done when they needed to, and the Eagles didn't.

by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:34pm

The interception you refer to as the Westbrook int. Was that the one that McNabb threw really high in the air so that Harrison could run under and take it away? I remember thinking that that was one of the dumbest/worst passes I had seen in a while and would probably cost the Eagles the game.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:46pm


To be honest, I can't disagree with the slow drive that scored the touchdown, because, well, it, uh, scored a touchdown. But Reid isn't really terrific at time management late in a game (honestly, though, I find it tough to criticize one of the winningest coaches in the NFL). Maybe it was too slow, but rushing the game could easily have turned the ball over and ended it quickly.

I actually think that Reid really outthinks himself in time-critical situations. I can tell what he's trying to do - when the defense is clearly guarding the sidelines, try to slip something in the middle - but it's never really worked yet.

I really wish Reid would just run a standard two-minute drill - if it fails, it fails - rather than trying to wring every last second from a game.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:50pm

The Eagles were then banking on doing an on-side kick and recovering, which is not as unreasonable as one might think since they have recovered 50% of Akers’ kicks.

Though keep in mind that the Eagles had not attempted one onsides kick - not one - in 2004 until that one. That's the main reason I criticized Reid's decision. The defense had been stopping the Patriots 3-and-out on over half of their drives (I think, I'd have to check, but it's about that many).

Kick deep, and they probably push that game into overtime.

by masocc (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:53pm

Re: #37
Myself, I think he either:

a) cracked under the pressure, and became physically ill as a result.

b) he was actually sick/injured, and just doesn't want to use it as an excuse)

I'm still torn as to which of these is the truth of the matter.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 10:56pm

Ah well. I barely remember the game and most of my impression is driven by the announcers complaining about it.

by Ben Roethlisberger (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:12pm

You guys are so right. I'm merely an average quarterback at best, just reaping the benefits of the awesome team around me. I'm just a game manager who's never asked to do anything much, and since my running game and defense are so great, my glaring weaknesses as a passer are never exposed.

Please continue to believe this. There's nothing to worry about here. I'm really not that good. You hear that, coordinators? It's all Hines and the o-line. Seriously. I have nothing to do with the Steelers success. Joey Harrington could have gone 13-0 last year for them, too, that's how good the team was. You don't need to worry about me. Everybody knows I'm a fraud. No sense gameplanning for me.

Oh? That thing with Tommy Maddox? Hines didn't play, either, that's the thing, and well, Tommy had an off-day. It happens. Especially with that wind. I wouldn't have done any better. Might've done worse. Really. I'm not the reason the Steelers win. My job is just to not lose. Pay no attention to the man behind the #7 jersey...

by NF (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:48pm

Ultimately, there were two plays that lost the Super Bowl for the Eagles. Everything else; establishing the run, running a faster scoring drive, etc.; just would have won the game for them. Without the two plays, none of that is necessary. Someone, maybe Bill Simmons, wrote that 2 interceptions is the most a QB can throw in the playoffs and still win. McNabb threw 3. The last one was a desperation pass that ended the last Eagles drive. If one of the two red-zone interception never happens, the Eagles get at least a FG, are tied after their final scoring drive, they do a conventional kickoff and who knows what could have happened then. If both were never thrown, the Eagles probably win.

The Patriots got it done just how they did in the other two Super Bowls: Avoid high-risk plays on both sides of the ball unless absolutely necessary, tailor the defense specifically for the opponent, and wait for opportunities for takeaways.

by Alive with Pleasure (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:28am

I count three real, live NFL stars that have posted in this thread already. Football Outsiders, you've come a long way, baby!

by Vash (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:48am

I notice the one thing NOBODY has mentioned is the ability to lead a team.
Tom Brady is not the best numbers QB ever, but he's the best because he knows how to get his team fired up and confident, especially for a game-winning drive.

The Steelers offense under Tommy Maddox looked demoralized. Under Ben Roethlisberger, they have repeatedly looked fired up.
That's the biggest difference Big Ben makes on this team. Of course, 10 yards per pass is a pretty big difference too, but it's not the same.

by NF (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:56am


I'd make a joke using James Thrash, but unless you're being sarcastic, goddam, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

by Purds (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 1:42am

Vash or others?

I can easily find the stat that Brady has led his team to fourth quarter or OT wins in 17 games when the Pats were tied or behind. Any one know the breakdown there? How many games were tied when he went on final drive, versus how many times were the Pats behind? Obviously the latter is much more impressive, as failure ends in a loss.

by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:32am

RE: #52

Better yet, what is the breakdown of Brady's TD vs. FG on those game winning drives? Every time I see Brady do his Joe Montana impression, the Patriots end up kicking a field goal for the win.

by lafacdio (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 4:30am

Re #47
So the Patriots won with a minimum playing, relying on defense and others making mistakes. What a great game plan ! What a great coach ! It reminds me of "stade français" or English rugby team, successful team while doing nothing or few. I prefer Reid who had the guts to go for the bank with the onside kick. He failed, but he tried. I have the feeling all the Brady-hype would be nothing if,
1/ he played with a true great defense who didn't allow opposant to lead
2/he could score from the beginning of the game
3/hadn't the best clutch-kicker of the game

And we can't blame Big Ben for playing for a good team.

by Hector (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 4:33am

Some pics are great !

by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 10:42am

re: #48 -
I'd rather fight than switch. (Or, for our Spanish-speaking FO readers Winston: !Lo Tiene Todo!) (Sorry, I don't know the HTML code for upside-down exclamation points.)

For everyone else: I can't believe I'm defending the publication that employs Don Yaeger, but I got suckered into a $5-for-6-months SI subscription mainly so I could read Dr. Z's picks each week (sad, I know), and I must admit that most weeks there is an in-depth (>1000 words) piece on a reasonably interesting and original subject. A couple of recent examples that come to mind are the Larry Bird / Ron Artest piece in the NBA preview and the "Creation of Yao Ming" story a few weeks ago. (The latter was a book excerpt, which is cheating a bit, but it was long and complicated and involved actual history, and as such would have never appeared in a publication that had completely gone to the photo+blurb dark side.)

by stan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:04am


You write that Brady is the best because "he knows how to get his team fired up and confident"?!!!

I've read some really silly stuff from Brady worshipers, but that ranks right up there.

by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:04am

I really don't see how there is even an issue here. Clearly, I am the greatest QB to ever step foot on a football field in the entire history of time.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:08am

Pat #43:

The Eagles ondside kicked in the Panthers game in 2004 and recovered. For some reason, this didn't make the stats for David Akers. But here it is:

CAR 0 PHI 13
Third Quarter
Philadelphia Eagles at 15:00
D.Akers kicks onside 22 yards from PHI 30 to CAR 48. RECOVERED by PHI-J.Trotter.

rk #41:

Yes, the Westbrook INT was the one picked off by Harrison. I don't think it was a dumb pass at all. McNabb had Westbrook wide open 4 yards from the end zone along the sideline, with only a linebacker covering him (Bruschi I think). Watch the tape of that part of the game again if you have it.

Harrison read the play and ran half-way across the field from between the hashes to make the pick, barely missing colliding with the linebacker in the process. I don't think it was a dumb pass at all. Westbrook was wide open and would easily have scored a TD had Harrison not made a terrifc read on the play. Please, have the utmost respect for Mr. Harrison!

Purds #51:

What is more valuable? A QB who can consistently lead his team to victory in the final minutes and seconds of a game, or a QB who consistently puts the game away in the first 3 quarters?

This is like the question of who is more valuable, a kicker who muffs kicks early in the game but punches in the game winner, or a kicker who makes his kicks early and doesn't have the opportunity to kick a game winner because he has already helped put his team ahead?

by Jeff George (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:08am

I wish someone would give me another chance...

by Rohan Davey (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:54am

All these darn Brady's, why doesn't someone give me a chance.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 11:59am

Re: the eternal Brady question.

SI probably made a mistake putting Brady at #1.

Generally, you want 10 peak years from your franchise QB (more would be nice, but you really want those 10). The expected arc of a franchise QB is 2-3 years learning the pro game, followed by those 10 years, followed by any number of years of serviceable-decline-to-retirement. The trouble with Brady is, he's already had 4 franchise years for the Patriots -- how many more does he have in him? Young'uns like Manning the Younger and Roethel-something are better bets for building a franchise.

Overall, Brady's career is an anomoly, and that causes people to mis-rate him. He spent his first year essentially out of football -- weight training, meetings, and watching from the sidelines in street clothes don't prepare you for the pro game. Then he came off the bench in his second year, and immediately won the three out of four all us Patriot fans know and love.

So, on the one hand, he should just now be entering his peak years. People who are building shrines and lighting candles to his name like to emphasize that. It took the legendary Joe Montana three years to win a superbowl, and ten to win his third. It took Terry Bradshaw five seasons for his first and nine for his third. It took Troy Aikman four for his first and seven for his third. You can quibble about how much of it is his fault, but Brady has had more success, earlier, than any quarterback in the superbowl era.

On the other hand, it's obvious he didn't win all those games by himself. Then again, I hear people like Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Troy Aikman played with some pretty good players, too. True, there aren't a whole lot of epic blowout wins on his resume. But you don't get extra W's for blowing a team out, or winning by a touchdown instead of a field goal. When his defense has struggled, he's had problems winning. But it's also true that, in games where Brady's struggled, the team has had trouble winning. So, his detractors have a point, too, but (like his supporters), they tend to overstate the case.

Contrary to what some people think, I try to be objective about my team. The Patriots got a rare gift in Brady, who has played far beyond what his physical talent would indicate. Part of that is leadership -- the mythical "swagger" and "intangibles" are really no more than your own team's confidence in you, and the other team's fear of you. Simple consistency and mistake-avoidance form the foundation for that, but Brady's Patriots have won too many games, against a succession of good teams, for Brady not to be a huge part of that.

Would Brady have turned Archie Manning's Saints or the expansion Buccaneers into a dynasty? Hell, no. But Drew Bledsoe (who was and still is a pretty good passer) had *exactly* the same team as Brady, and managed not much more than becoming a footnote in first Brett Favre's, and later Tom Brady's career.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:30pm

By my count, the Patriots have lost 18 games where Tom Brady was the quarterback. Of those games, in 8 of them the Patriots lost by 12+ points, which leaves 10 games where Brady failed to convert a 4th quarter comeback.
This includes the game in 2001 where he replaced an injured Bledsoe, tried to mount a game-winning drive and failed.

by Vash (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:33pm

You write that Brady is the best because “he knows how to get his team fired up and confident�?!!!

I’ve read some really silly stuff from Brady worshipers, but that ranks right up there.
I'm a Pittsburgher.

I hate Tom Brady, but I have to give him a lot of credit. It is the quarterback's job to lead a team, and I'd say Brady does it as well as anyone. I'm less than impressed by his stat line, but he deserves credit elsewhere.

by MdM (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 12:54pm

Brady vs. Manning. I would say that Manning has the longer reach and a height advantage, and is probably stronger. I think Brady's best bet would be to use his great lateral movement to tire Manning. In rounds 6-8, he should come inside and really work the body. In round 10, he'd have to assume Manning would miss a haymaker chance to knock him out, then capitalize with a strong couple of combinations. He would win a split decision, and the judge's scorecards would show he won by about 3 points.

Seriously, when I see Brady, I see some really incredible skills that are more of a mental nature. It's kind of like what Walsh said about Montana, that he just was built a little differently, that he was cooler and could see things happen a step before everyone else.

It's like the great point guards, or like Larry or Magic. They could see the whole field, they knew where everyone was, and they had a significantly better ability than everyone else to know what was going to happen. Or like Gretzky. It doesn't have much to do with physical skills, strength, or speed--it's more like a psychic ability!

It's just being smarter, processing information faster, in an athletic/physical way. Manning has the same thing, of course, to go along with great physical ability, but he can't come through in the situations of greatest pressure. It may not be his fault that because of the structure of his team, he has to shoulder more pressure than Brady. In the handful of critical plays, Brady executes perfectly. If he were asked to carry a team as Peyton did for years, his legend would not have flourished. It's hard to say if Peyton would have the same success as Brady if their positions were exchanged, but my guess is that he would have--although it would be accomplished perhaps differently.

by Brady Anderson (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 1:43pm

Hey, I hit 50 home runs once; I'll bet I could throw 50 TD passes, too, if someone just gave me the chance.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:46pm

Re: #56

You really believe it doesn't matter at all if teammates think "ok -- we still have a great chance at pulling this out" vs. "oh brother, when's he going to throw the game-ending INT"? That having confidence isn't better than figuring it's gonna be another loss?

Players are human beings -- at the end of an exhausting, hard-fought game, I don't find it at all unreasonable that having confidence that your QB is going to be able to make the play will have a meaningful outcome.

And as far as Brady firing up the team (or at least giving them confidence), try reading what other Pats players have said on the record about the confidence they have in Brady re: late-game situations. Now, if you want to call them all liars, go for it. But it's not anything the fans are making up.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:47pm

"will have a meaningful outcome" should be "will have a meaningful effect on the outcome".

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 2:49pm

B #62:

Another interesting exercise is to examine Brady losses and determine how many of these games he personally lost for the team by throwing numerous completed passes to members of the opposing defense, or by dropping the ball into the path of an opposing defender looking to pick it up. In this category must be placed:

Week 7 2001 Broncos (4 INT)
Week 10 2001 Rams (2 INT)
Week 5 2002 Dolphins (2 INT, 1 FUM)
Week 6 2002 Packers (3 INT)
Week 1 2003 Bills (4 INT)
Week 4 2003 Redskins (3 INT)
Week 8 2004 Steelers (2 INT, 2 FUM)
Week 15 2004 Dolphins (4 INT)
Week 2 2004 Panthers (1 INT, 1 FUM)

So with Brady, you get a guy who can win 17 games with last quarter comebacks, but who can also toss away 9 games all by himself. I don't know if this is a better or worse ratio than other top QB's past and present.

Brady also did his best to throw the following games away, but despite a valiant effort at turning the ball over to the other team to enable them to score points, he still came out with a win:

Week 12 2003 Texans (HOUSTON!) (2 INT, 2 FUM)
Week 13 2003 Colts (2 INT, 3 FUM)
Week 2 2004 Cardinals (2 INT, 1 FUM)

Of all these games he did or nearly threw away, the most costly were the two in 2002 that prevented the Patriots from reaching the playoffs that year.

My conclusion with Brady is that normally he is very good, and when he is under pressure to win, he is usually great, but every so often, maybe 1 and 4 big pressure games, Brady just melts down and throws or fumbles the gamea way, as was most vividly shown in the Dolphins game last year.

By comparison, McNabb has thrown away the following games for the Eagles as he went into meltdown mode:

Week 6 2000 Redskins (2 INT)
Week 1 2001 Rams (1 INT, 1 FUM)
Week 5 2001 Cardinals (1 INT, 1 FUM)
Week 1 2002 Titans (2 INT, 1 FUM)
Champ 2002 Buccaneers (1 INT, 2 FUM)
Week 2 2003 Patriots (2 INT, 3 FUM)
Week 16 2003 49ers (2 INT)
Champ. 2003 Panthers (3 INT)
SB 2004 Patriots (3 INT)
Week 1 2004 Falcons (1 INT, 2 FUM)

Not particularly better or worse than Brady except that McNabb has melted down in two Championship games and the Super Bowl, which of course, people tend to remember, and which bring with them a certain finality to the season!

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 3:03pm

I wonder how many people who access the internet via dialup give up reading this list because page 1 takes 7 minutes to load.

Even on a high speed connection here at work, using Foxfire, the SI web pages take forever to load. That site blows. More is not always better.

I like how in the credits it says "text by Don Banks". Not "Written by Don Banks". I guess they are admitting that the writing does not actually contain any substance. What a piece of crap. I'm not even going to get into the craziness of the players on the list and their rankings.

But fun to discuss.

I will admit that coming into the draft, I felt that Eli Manning was a can't-miss solid to great NFL QB. I figured with his lineage and success in college, he was a very safe bet. After last season, I was second-guessing a bit, but now it looks like he'll be just fine in the NFL. But he doesn't have my HOF vote just yet.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 3:52pm

Andrew: I like the idea of looking at games the QB 'cost' his team with excess fumbles/interceptions. I wonder where Favre would be in those lists? It's intersting that you include the 2003 Houston game, because that's one of his 17 4th Quarter or OT comebacks.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 4:57pm

As a Steelers fan I was somewhat suprised to see Roethlisberger that high on the list. While recent performances by Steeler backups have mad Big Ben look indespensible, I would argue that most of the guys on that list are further along in their development. But I don't understand the criticism of Ben that he is just a mediocre player on a great team. It's not like Tom Brady took over the worst team in the league and pushed them into the playoffs on his own. In my lifetime I have only seen two QBs that have made serious contenders of midling teams: John Elway (late 80s version) and Dan Marino. Most successfull QBs play with at least one other player on offense that is deserving of recognition in their own right. What exactly does a QB have to do to be considered a success? What are the minimum stat requirements?

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 5:16pm

B #70:

Well, like I said, Brady gave it his all to cough up the game to Houston (HOUSTON!) in 2003, but still managed to eke out a win. To recap, Patriots up 10-3 at the end of the 3rd quarter, Brady first tosses an interception which the Texans quickly convert for 7. Then, he takes a big sack on 3rd down in the red zone on the next possession forcing a Vinateri Field Goal. Then he coughs up a fumble which the Texans quickly take in for another 7, then coughs up ANOTHER fumble on 3rd down which forces a Patriots punt which is blocked, followed by the Texans taking the ball downfield for 3. Then Brady gets to be the hero for tying the game with a TD pass on 4th down in the closing seconds (isn't he great, another last minute "come from behind win"!)

I too like this idea, and think I may do a little investigating this weekend to see what we can come up with, since the wife and kids are away.

Everyone always likes to remember the last minute comebacks (and usually forgets the QB's previous ineffectiveness that caused the need for the comeback), and pushes the QB meltdowns down the memory hole.

This is like proclaiming Vinateri the hero of Super Bowl 38, after his two missed field goals caused the need for the last minute desperation drive and a final successful field goal.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 6:10pm

Re: #72

One of those misses goes on Brian Kinchen, the long-snapper that day (who, in Patriots history deja vu, cut himself in the hand badly with a knife a day or so before the game). The other is all on Vinatieri, though.

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 10/28/2005 - 7:02pm

Part of the reason I visit this website is the statistical and meaningful discussion of football players, teams and performance.

This article and this thread might be the worst combination of athlete-speak garbage that wasn't authored by Skip Bayless or Jason Whitlock in the last 5 years.

Kudos to Andrew, B and other who won't give up the FO ship without a good fight.

by Purds (not verified) :: Sat, 10/29/2005 - 12:21am

As a Colts fan, I can gloriously say I'd take any of them over the consensus #1 pick the year the Colts took Manning instead. Remember him? Ryan Leaf?

How bad could things be in Coltsville right now!

(PS: Then the Colts went renegade and took Edge over the more heralded Ricky Williams the following year. I know we've heard about the overpaying of the top half of the first round of the draft, but really, has any team ever made two better picks then Manning/Edge when Leaf/Williams were so highly touted?)