Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Jan 2008

Ranking the Playoff Quarterbacks

My own opinions on each team's situation at quarterback heading into the playoffs, from No. 1 (Patriots) to No. 12 (Titans).

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 04 Jan 2008

42 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2008, 3:54pm by PatsFan


by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 2:56pm

It links to itself!

by JasonK (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 3:01pm

Actual link on my name.

by NF (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 3:28pm

"If Favre gets back to the Super Bowl and the Packers win, it would be the perfect ending to his Hall of Fame career. Realistically, though, there's no reason to think Favre is close to retirement. And he shouldn't be: In McCarthy's offense, Favre still has at least a few more good years in him."

That shouting you hear off in the distance is Aaron Rodgers.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:02pm

For all the derision he takes- mostly because of the disatrous start to last year, when he was signed three days before the season and asked to start- Collins is a much better QB than Vince Young. He's this generation's Steve DeBerg.

by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:03pm

Link is fixed. Thanks, JasonK.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:18pm

Re: 4

Agreed. The Colts probably win last weekend with their second and third teamers if they don't knock out Young.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:23pm

Oh man, Chris sure isn't going to be happy with this article. Hilarity shall ensue in 5...4...3...

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:28pm

Nice article... have a few quibbles.

I disagree with Hasselbeck behind Roethelisberger and Romo. I think he's quite a bit underrated as a mistake-free QB... maybe they run a slow and steady offense, but if you're in a shoot-out wouldn't you rather have a ball-control QB? And if Seattle ends up losing in a shootout... it's more a fault of their defense. I don't see how not having a big arm hurts in a shoot-out... as long as you control the ball the other team won't score.

No way do I believe Collins should be rated to high either. Ahead of Garcia? Even ahead of Rivers and Manning? I don't know... if Collins keeps on trucking along I wouldn't be surprised, but I really don't have too much confidence to expect that to continue. Although I've said that for 3 games now... I mean TODD COLLINS?!

Also, I think Manning should be moved ahead of Rivers... but not ahead of Garcia. Garcia is also a bit under-rated, but it's the playoffs so even a good QB like him comes looking not quite so highly rated.

by Luz (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:47pm

I could understand how someone could have confidence in Favre from looking at his past success. However, that Favre is gone. It seems that he is wearing down as the season goes on. I'm not sure that Favre has enough left to "will" the Packers to victory but he can still be effective when the players around him play well.

Garrard has been very effective this year. However, it is strange to me to have so much confidence in a guy who has only been a starter for a year.

On the other hand, Roethlisberger seems to be the QB most likely to take over a game and win it, outside of Manning and Brady. Not to mention Roethlisberger has been playing at a high level for 3 of the past 4 years.

by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 4:55pm

Not to defend Vince Young, but who does he have to throw to? I actually thought he looked OK Sunday. None of of the Titans WRs can get separation, only the TE w/ liver problems can. He can't throw deep because none of their receivers can get deep even if they were given 2 plays to do it.He he had the receivers of any other team in the playoffs he would probably have had a decent year.

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 5:24pm

I'd have Garcia higher if he hadn't played so much this year. I think he's worn down and won't have the energy he had earlier in the year.

I think some teams should employ a duel QB system for aging guys like Garcia or Testaverde (such as Arizona had earlier, except maybe more towards a 50/50 split). Keep the old guys from having to recover from too many hits during the regular season. 16 games + up to 4 playoff games wears down the old guys more.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 6:02pm

Wow, I really disagree with these rankings outside the top and bottom two, which are all no-brainers.

My rankings, assuming I'm picking who I want to lead a team in the playoffs, not "who played well for a season (Garrard)" or who has the best weapons, etc.. Difference between my rankings and MDS' in parens.

1. Brady (0) - i've had him as "toss up" w/ Manning in the past, but now that he has weapons, I think he's proven he's better.

2. Peyton(0) - who else?

big dropoff...

3. Big Ben (+2) - why so little love for a still-young guy who's won it all already? It's not his fault his o-line can't block anyone.

4. Garcia (+5) - incredibly underrated here. The only QBs in the top ten in DVOA in '06 and '07? Manning, Romo (8&9) and Garcia (7&10). And Garcia did it in much worse offenses than Manning and Romo play in. Where's the love for this guy?

5. Romo (+1) - never a dull moment. Seriously, he's performed at a very high level for almost 2 years now.

6. Hasselback (+1) - Very solid QB who succeeded despite mediocre line play and lousy rushing attack. Would look even better in a real offense.

7. Favre (-4) - a shadow of his former self, despite the great looking stats. Did you see what Aaron Rodgers did in this offense?

8. Garrard (-4) - a great year, yes, but it's still only one season, and one in which he was aided by an unreal rushing attack. Heck, Leftwich was a top 10 DVOA QB in this offense (w/o MJD) just 2 years ago, and now he's almost out of the league.

9. Rivers (+1) - jury is still way out on him, but looks like he's at least a decent QB.

10. T Collins (-2) - more of an indictment of the next two then an endorsement of Collins. Yeah, he's looked phenomenal for 4 weeks, but it's only 4 weeks! Cannot belive MDS ranks him ahead of, e.g., Jeff Garcia!

11. Eli (0) - yech. The replacement level QB being paid franchise money.

12. Young/K Collins - double yech. Young should run more. That DeBerg comparison for Collins is actually pretty apt.

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 6:05pm

I think Garcia barely played recently. I know in Week 16 he played half of the game, and in Week 17 I don't think he played.

He injured his back against Washington during Week 12... I think he may have missed Week 13 (was that when McCown hit Stevens for the GW TD?). Not sure about Week 14 and 15... but Garcia should be pretty well rested.

by mrh (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 6:29pm

8. Garrard (-4) - a great year, yes, but it’s still only one season, and one in which he was aided by an unreal rushing attack. Heck, Leftwich was a top 10 DVOA QB in this offense (w/o MJD) just 2 years ago, and now he’s almost out of the league.

That was two OCs and one star WR (Jimmy Smith) ago. It's a different system with different talent.

by socctty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 6:32pm

This article, combined with the wikipedia article on David Garrard that I just read, has made me wonder: should NFL dedicate more resources to evaluating quarterbacks that do well in college with limited talent around them? Garrard's career at East Carolina is pretty amazing considering the talent he had around him. With Tom Brady, well, no one saw that coming, he was a freakin' backup. But Bulger at West Virginia, to a degree, wasn't surrounded by great talent. Derek Anderson had a legitimate coach, but he had less-than-great talent around him as well, and did well for his team. All of these guys were drafted 4th round or later. Matt Schaub almost made it into the 4th round - he was a somewhat late 3rd round pick, after doing great things with Virginia's team.

I guess, though, this is the sort of logic that gets David Carr drafted first overall...

by Eric P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 6:39pm

Re 15: You might want to go back to Wiki and look up Brady. He started every game his final 2 years. He was marked down because of his slight build and for sharing time during games, but he always started.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 6:58pm

The NFL regular season is over and the playoffs are about to begin, and more than any other players, the quarterbacks on the 12 remaining teams will be defined by the way they play over the next month.

I look forward to the day this is true in MSM and sports bars. Today, they seem to only be judged by how well their team plays-or more accurately, whether it wins it all or loses somewhere along the way.

by socctty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:33pm

16 - Ah, I did not know that. Didn't reference wiki for Brady; I just always heard he was stuck behind Drew Henson his entire college career.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:00pm

Re #15- Don't forget Eli at Ole Miss...

It all goes back to the Ron Wolff philosophy- take a mid-round flier on a qb every couple of years- half of them will develop (a la Garrard) and half won't (a la Redman) and you'll be set.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:48pm

I'd put Eli at #8.

I love how Todd Collins starts 3 games in 12 years but now he's the 8th best QB in the playoffs. I think MDS needs to take his glasses off and watch the games a little bit closer.

Last year people with that stacked roster people liked Phillip Rivers, but not so much this year.

It goes to show that people overvalue the result and undervalue the process.

I think it is irrationale for people's opinions to change so wildly on a quarterback.

Last year you could have easily flipped the rankings of Garrard 4, and Rivers 10.

Those same people touting Todd Collins are those same people who were so high on Damon Huard last year.

How could Jason Campbell be a "good young quarterback"? It goes to show that what people don't understand, they just fill in with their expecations ( and over inflate their view). Jason Campbell is getting out classed and out played by a 12 year bench warmer but now he's a " good young player"? Does that mean Brodye Croyle is a "good young player" too? Does that mean if the Chiefs were in the playoffs that Damon Huard would be ranked 8th on the list?

Honestly, I think people are way to emotional with their highs and lows much the same way the stock market works.

Sorry, but I buy low and sell high.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:52pm

Last year you were writing articles about how Byron Leftwhich was better than David Garrard and now he's the 4th best QB in the playoffs?

Were you buying a lot of tech stocks in the year 2000 too?

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:15am

Exactly how many times have the FO guys said they were wrong about that? Would you like them to say it more?
Also, don't they already address the Collins-Huard and Croyle-Campbell comparisons?

I do, however, agree that Collins is too high and Garcia too low. As to Eli's rank, he is the second lowest QB in the playoffs based on DVOA.

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 2:04am

Sorry if I'm unclear. By "that" I meant the Garrard thing.

by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 2:35am

Interesting list to be sure. In my opinion Favre, Garrard and Collins are a little high. I'd have Garrard at 5, Favre at 6 after Big Ben and Romo. Then move Garcia to 8, leaving me still tossing up Rivers/Eli/Collins at #9. Overall though this is a group where the top 8 QBs are all guys I would like to have. Sometimes even the bottom 4 as well.

And Chris, Campbell seems to have had a decent year especially considering his inexperience. Certainly much better than Brodie C. Whenever I read your comments about him you seem to discount the Redskins offense as dink and dunk. I don't watch them much, but can you tell me how far Campbell's average pass travels in the air compared to say Eli or Brady? Thanks in advance.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:15am

As a Giants fan, I take solace in the fact the team will be playing in warm Tampa this weekend.

Looking at Eli's season, all his poor performances (the exceptions being Minnesota and perhaps the first Philadelphia game) have had weather issues like cold, high winds, and rain, sleet, or snow. He's simply not a bad weather QB.

How else could one explain Eli's good performances against top 10 pass defenses like NE and Dallas and an abomination against Miami?

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:31am

The thing about Campbell is for the past two years he's been an average to slightly below average QB by the metrics here. He's ranked 20th in DVOA this year, he was ranked 20th last year.

Todd Collins is ranked 3rd (Which is partially discounted - Dallas wasn't really trying, and QBs that Ds don't have gamefilm on tend to do pretty well until they've had a few starts).

The Lewin projection system is the only thing that's implying that Jason Campbell is going to be a very good NFL starter. Through his actual body of work, he has not shown signs of being a franchise player - just an OK one.

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:45am

Don't forget Romo, he went to Eastern Illinois and was undrafted. Maybe guys like Matt Leinart's (the most overrated QB in the league IMO) accomplishments should be taken into context with the talent around them.

Also, on that list I would move Farve and Garrard below Ben and Romo. As a cowboy fan, I would definitely prefer Romo over either of those two. Courae I'd rather have Romo than Ben to buit that one can go either way so noot really a big deal. And Collins should be lower I think, he could just as easily be like Huard right?

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 5:00am

i think lewin would have liked collins out of college. 2 years plus 2 games starting. 457/711 = 64%. 37tds/20 ints.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 5:28am

25- When Brady played in a cold/windy meadowlands the guys on the site wanted to have some weather discount because Brady is god and even cold/winds can't slow him down.

22- That would be great and all, but DVOA isn't perfect ( see David Garrard and Phillip Rivers).

24- I used to chart how many passes Campbell threw over 10 yards and it was just riddulous. He would throw maybe 2 token deep balls per game, MAYBE in some GAMES he would throw the rare 12 yard dig off of play action, but the majority of his passes were thrown within 7 yards of the line of scrimage. It is so deceptive though if you don't watch the games. He would throw a 1 yard WR screen to say Randel El who picked up I guess 37 yards in a game. Now which is harder, to throw a 37 yard pass that is caught in coverage, or to throw a 1 yard pass where your receiver is really running the ball?

To sit there and just look at results ( dvoa) is ludacris. The offenses that say Jon Kitna and Jason Campbell play in are apples to oranges. Dropping back and knowing you are going to get killed ( and that the defense is teeing off on you) is completly different than dropping back and throwing a .5 yard yard pass to your fullback Mike Sellers or god forbid a 10 yard pass off play action.

I believe DVOA artificially favors quarterbacks who run more conservative less risk/less reward offenses over guys who makes plays + mistakes. If you ever want an offense like the Colts, Pats, Bengals, etc. you are going to either need supreme talent of you will have to allow your quarterback to take chances.

The quarterback position has so many variables it's not even funny. Even if you did watch all the games, the camera angles provided by network TV don't even let you see what's out there. To say " Vince Young has no receivers" might not be a fair statement because the guys could be wide open for all we know.

I am hard on Jason Campbell right now and he honestly reminds me of a little bit better version of Byron Leftwhich. He has a slower release/delivery ( although not as bad as leftwhich) and he doesn't run the 2 minute offense very well. He lost 3-4 games in the final minutues ( Giants, Tampa, Philly, Dallas, even Buffalo for not converting 1st downs). I guess Gibbs gets part of the blame but Campbell just looked lost when he wasn't running the prevent/horizontal offense.

With that said, Campbell deserves a chance next year while Tavaras Jackson on the other hand doesn't even deserve a chance. They need to find a starter now. They could keep him on the bench if they really think they can teach him, but you have got to get an NFL caliber quarterback in there.

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 7:46am

Chris likes to think of 2006 Jason Campbell as 2007 Jason Campbell. The increase in distribution of yards to Washington's WRs is amazing this year.

I just finished watching 2006 Washington Redskins with Jason Campbell at quarterback, and yup... its a lot of short passes to Cooley and dump off's and screen's to Betts. Now, those things are still in the offense now, but Campbell really did throw the ball more to WRs... and he was showing some improvement. He'll need to show more improvement next year, and that's when the fans will run out of patience.

by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 10:55am


Garrard is not the same quarterback he was last year. During what amounts to his second full season starting, he's improved--after a new OC and a quarterbacks coach who knows what he's doing. Two years ago, Leftwich WAS the better quarterback of the two. Today, that's not true. Anybody who's actually watched Garrard play would know that. You continue to embarass yourself by making statements you think are bold but in fact just demonstrate how little you know.

by im_no_playa (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:40pm

Just throwing this out there since the topic of QB + college performance, etc. has come up ... something I've been wondering about ...

Has anyone looked at the college to pro QB transition from a weather/geographical viewpoint? For example, is Brady a good fit in NE because he played @ Michigan, compared to say Carson Palmer having to transition from the sunny climes of S.Cal to not as weather friendly Cincinnati (Cincy homer, thus why I picked Palmer). And if there is a correlation there, should NFL teams think "regionally" when picking elite athletes?

by im_no_playa (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:42pm

sorry for the 2xpost, but just wanted to say I know there are some easy counters to this thought (ie, Favre), but as a whole is there some college weather / pro weather QB performance correlation?

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:50pm

32, but Palmer transitioned well right? Maybe I'm not understanding you, but both examples sound the same.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 6:07pm

I think MDS is much better at scouting things than he is at ranking things.

For example, he decides he's going to bump Romo down because he has a good supporting cast. That's a good observation. But then he overdoes it. So he goofily ranks Garrard above him. Garrard, meanwhile, is too high because MDS gives him too much credit for improving this year and exceeding expectations.

Almost every time MDS writes something about a player in words, I nod in agreement, and almost every time he makes a set of rankings, I think "what the hell?" to myself. I remember him ranking the defensive lines at the start of the 2006 season, and putting the 49ers (who should have been around 30th at best) up at 24th or so. All of his comments on the ranking were discussion of how well Bryant Young had played, ignoring the abysmal play of the other linemen and the 31st overall rank of the defense. I think when he has a particularly strong opinion on a specific aspect of a team or a player, he won't weigh it with appropriate proportions. Here he puts too much stock in the idea that Romo has an unusually great supporting cast, and not enough stock in the fact that he's averaging 8.6 yards per attempt, considerably more than even Brady, who I hear also has a pretty solid supporting cast.

I don't think this is a very good list, but I'm willing to forgive it because watching Chris go rabid is hilarious.

by BDC (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 3:19am

32: I can't imagine there is much correlation at all. I mean, even if a QB got used to playing in nice weather for a couple years in college, and even if he was drafted by a "bad weather" team and struggled as a result (though who would know the reason, as most QBs struggle at first), you would think after a few years in the NFL in bad weather he would get used to it, no?

by im_no_playa (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 12:28pm

34,36: Yeah, Palmer was a bad example, although short term memory recollects him dropping off way more in games that have precipitation / are cold / basically is not S.Cal weather than the normal QB would drop in a similar scenario. Maybe because Palmer's A-game is so much better? Dunno.

Think I have to take this question off the air and try to find some databases that have both QB stats and weather info in a nice tidy package.

Could also be Elway theory -- if your home is a city above the Mason/Dixon and is not domed, make sure your QB has HUGE hands.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 1:13pm

Does this mark the official end of the Brady-Manning wars? 34 posts on QBs and not a single one about which of those two is better. Hats off to both those guys for shutting up all the dummies and loudmouths with play that's really beyond reproach.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 2:25pm

38: I made a post on the decline of Brady-Manning wars earlier this season. Essentially, the whole thing used to be a proxy for the "clutch" debate, but the events beginning with Manning's Superbowl win have rendered Brady-Manning a moot comparison for the clutch debate. I think everyone's willing to wait until both of these guys are done playing before they start up the debate again.

by Heef (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 2:36pm

29: No. Clapton is still God.

by Heef (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 2:37pm

38: Tom Brady is way better than Eli Manning.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 3:54pm

Re: #39

Especially with the recent role reversal of Brady ringing up the stats and Manning, P getting a ring.