Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Defense and Rest Time

Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

29 Nov 2017

Scramble for the Ball: The Book of Eli

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Bryan: Welcome back to Scramble for the Ball, where I think we have to start with some BREAKING NEWS!

Andrew: Please bear in mind, dear reader, that we are writing this on a Tuesday afternoon, so at the time of writing this news is very, very fresh indeed: the Giants have decided to bench Eli Manning, replacing him with Geno Smith for Sunday's game against Oakland.

Bryan:This happened literally five minutes before we started to write the article this week, but it works out. We were going to write about Eli Manning anyway, because he achieved something this week which no quarterback has ever accomplished before him. And now, we may be writing his career eulogy.

Andrew: A lengthy epitaph. A fitting tribute. The Book of Eli, if you will.

Bryan: On Thanksgiving night, Eli's Giants lost to Washington 20-10. This wasn't just another loss in a snake-bitten and long-gone season, however. Manning is now the first quarterback ever to lose 100 starts with a single team. The full century! An astounding achievement in the field of failure. He's not the first quarterback to lose 100 times, but everyone else had to travel to multiple locations to rack that up. Thanks in part to his on-field success; his incredible record of longevity and good health; and a lack of need, will or desire to upgrade at the quarterback position, Eli and the Giants have been intertwined like no quarterback and team ever have before. This should have been big news! There should have been cake and streamers! Instead, as far as I can tell, only our friends at Football Perspective even noticed the occasion.

Andrew: It really is such a 2000s Giants milestone, this one. They have been the most astoundingly inconsistent franchise from one season to the next, and even within the same season, for over a decade now. Remember when they looked set to be the worst team in the league, and ended up winning one of the most famous Super Bowls in history? Then failed to win another playoff game for three years, before yet again going on a tear to win the whole tournament? If you're going to be perfectly middling over the course of a decade, this is the way to do it.

Bryan: And let it be said, this is not mocking Eli. No, in order to lose 100 times, you have to be good enough to continue to start despite 99 losses. I mean, look at this. This is the list of quarterbacks who have lost at least 70 games for one franchise.

70+ Losses w/ One Team
Quarterback Team QB W QB L QB T Notes
Eli Manning NYG 110 100 0 4x Pro Bowl
Brett Favre GB 160 93 0 Hall of Fame
Dan Marino MIA 147 93 0 Hall of Fame
Archie Manning NO 35 91 3 2x Pro Bowl
Jim Hart STLC 87 88 5 4x Pro Bowl
Joe Ferguson BUF 77 86 0  
Philip Rivers LACH 103 85 0 6x Pro Bowl
Dan Fouts SD 86 84 1 Hall of Fame
John Elway DEN 148 82 1 Hall of Fame
Ken Anderson CIN 91 81 0 1981 MVP
Drew Brees NO 109 76 0 10x Pro Bowl
John Brodie SF 73 76 8 1970 MVP
Fran Tarkenton MIN 91 73 6 Hall of Fame
Troy Aikman DAL 94 71 0 Hall of Fame

That's a hell of a list!

Andrew: Right. That's a whole host of legendary quarterbacks, even if most of them weren't quite the very best of their eras. I'd add that in order to accrue 100 losses, you have to be pretty darn durable. It would take an average franchise 12-and-a-half seasons to accumulate 100 losses, which is almost exactly how long Eli has been in the league -- without ever missing a start since he supplanted Kurt Warner in the starting lineup in 2004.

Bryan: Eli's starting streak ends at 222 games, second only to Brett Favre. If you just count the regular season, it ends at 210 -- two more than big brother Peyton. The new active consecutive starts leader will be Philip Rivers -- who, not coincidentally, is the next closest active quarterback to 100 franchise losses, with 85.

Andrew: Rivers, likewise, has never missed a start since replacing Drew Brees for the then-San Diego Chargers -- a near-miracle comparable to Eli's, given the state of the Chargers offensive line for much of the past half-decade. The only wonder about Eli's streak is that it wasn't ended by a wayward offensive tackle, rather than a coach with an uncomfortably warm chair.

Bryan: And they're stopping this streak, and breaking up the most stable quarterback situation of the past decade and a half, for ... Geno Smith of all people? Geno Smith is supposed to be the answer? What on Earth is the question?

Andrew: "How do we avoid having our third-round rookie buried under the weight of supplanting a franchise legend?" It's a whole lot easier for Davis Webb to supplant Geno Smith, with Geno Smith having offed Manning. Though maybe I'm giving the coaching staff just a smidge too much credit for cunning.

Bryan: What they're doing, here, is ending a historic run of stability. The Giants haven't had to worry about the position for years. Who's the quarterback today? Eli. Who was it last week? Eli. Who will it be next week? Eli. Last year? Eli. Next year? Eli. Eli. Eli. Eli. Nothing but Elis, all the way down, ad infinitum. An eternal house of mirrors of Manning faces, stretching off to the horizon.

Andrew: That's true. And when you look at what passes for quarterbacking at some other franchises, it's clear that Eli Manning is the … can we call him the Andy Reid of quarterbacks? He has his flaws, and we all know what they are, but there's a baseline competence you know you're unlikely to fall below -- albeit this season is testing that part of the theory.

Bryan: Profoundly mediocre? That's how 538 described him earlier this year, when he racked up his 200th consecutive regular-season start. And I don't think you can really blame him too much for this season, not when the Giants receiving' corps is a M*A*S*H unit.

Andrew: Sure. What somebody like, say, Cleveland would give for a quarterback as mediocre as Manning. Do you know how many quarterbacks you have to go through to get the Browns to 100 losses?

Bryan: You know I do, you already saw my Google Doc. It's almost like we plan these things ahead of time.

Last 100 Losses For Each Team, With QBs Used
Team Year QBs Leaders (Losses) QBs/Year
NYG 2004 1 Eli Manning (100) 0.071
LACH 2003 3 Philip Rivers (85), Drew Brees (13), Doug Flutie (2) 0.200
NE 1995 5 Tom Brady (54), Drew Bledsoe (39), Matt Cassel (5) 0.217
NO 2003 5 Drew Brees (76), Aaron Brooks (19), Todd Bouman (3) 0.333
CIN 2004 5 Carson Palmer (50), Andy Dalton (41), Ryan Fitzpatrick (7) 0.357
GB 2000 6 Aaron Rodgers (47), Brett Favre (44), Brett Hundley (4) 0.333
SEA 2002 6 Matt Hasselbeck (53), Russell Wilson (27), Seneca Wallace (9) 0.375
DET 2007 6 Matthew Stafford (63), Jon Kitna (11), Daunte Culpepper (10) 0.545
ATL 2003 7 Matt Ryan (61), Michael Vick (21), Joey Harrington (7) 0.467
WAS 2006 7 Jason Campbell (28), Kirk Cousins (27), Robert Griffin (21) 0.583
JAC 2008 7 Blake Bortles (38), Blaine Gabbert (22), David Garrard (20) 0.700
IND 2000 8 Peyton Manning (47), Andrew Luck (27), Curtis Painter (8) 0.444
BAL 2003 8 Joe Flacco (60), Kyle Boller (21), Steve McNair (7) 0.533
CAR 2004 9 Cam Newton (43), Jake Delhomme (30), Jimmy Clausen (9) 0.643
PIT 1999 10 Ben Roethlisberger (62), Tommy Maddox (16), Kordell Stewart (9) 0.526
DAL 2003 10 Tony Romo (49), Drew Bledsoe (20), Dak Prescott (9) 0.667
Team Year QBs Leaders (Losses) QBs/Year
KC 2005 10 Matt Cassel (27), Alex Smith (25), Damon Huard (11) 0.769
MIA 2006 10 Ryan Tannehill (40), Chad Henne (19), Matt Moore (9) 0.833
BUF 2006 10 Ryan Fitzpatrick (33), Tyrod Taylor (18), Trent Edwards (18) 0.833
SF 2006 10 Colin Kaepernick (30), Alex Smith (30), Blaine Gabbert (9) 0.833
TB 2007 10 Josh Freeman (35), Jameis Winston (23), Mike Glennon (13) 0.909
HOU 2005 11 Matt Schaub (42), David Carr (15), Case Keenum (8) 0.846
NYJ 2005 11 Mark Sanchez (29), Geno Smith (18), Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) 0.846
TEN 2005 11 Marcus Mariota (19), Kerry Collins (17), Vince Young (17) 0.846
PHI 2002 12 Donovan McNabb (32), Michael Vick (20), Carson Wentz (10) 0.750
CHI 2005 12 Jay Cutler (51), Kyle Orton (10), Rex Grossman (9) 0.923
ARI 2005 12 Kurt Warner (29), Carson Palmer (21), Matt Leinart (10) 0.923
LARM 2008 12 Sam Bradford (30), Marc Bulger (17), Jared Goff (10) 1.200
DEN 2002 13 Kyle Orton (21), Jay Cutler (20), Jake Plummer (15) 0.813
OAK 2007 14 Derek Carr (30), JaMarcus Russell (18), Carson Palmer (16) 1.273
MIN 2004 15 Christian Ponder (21), Brett Favre (12), Teddy Bridgewater (11) 1.071
CLE 2009 17 Brandon Weeden (15), Colt McCoy (15), DeShone Kizer (10) 1.889

Andrew: I mentioned above that an average franchise would take 12.5 seasons to reach 100 losses, or exactly 200 games. The Browns are anything but average: they have lost 100 games since 2009, or in only eight full seasons. At the other end of the scale, you have to go back to 1995 to find 100 losses for the Patriots, over 20 full seasons ago.

Bryan: Scramble newsflash: The Patriots have had slightly more success than the Browns. Bonus points to anyone in the comments who can name all 17 Browns quarterbacks without looking them up. It's kind of amazing that Kizer is already in their top three, despite not having played a full season yet. Shows you how bad the Browns are now, and how unstable they have been at the position

But you can see fairly clearly that there's a correlation between "having one or two quarterbacks with the lion's share of your losses" and "being a good NFL franchise." The fact that no Browns quarterback has lost more than 15 of Cleveland's last 100 losses is an indicator that they can't find someone who lasts more than a couple seasons. The QBs/Year column is a great measure of stability at the position, really.

Andrew: Though that does not mean we recommend sticking with Kizer just so you look better on this table. No, you should be sticking with a player because he might actually be good, and you have a plan for his development. Whether that's Kizer or somebody else entirely -- say, a first-overall draft pick.

Bryan: So, like, not Geno, then.

Andrew: I'm not totally convinced that if you swapped Hue Jackson and Ben McAdoo, this season's results would be drastically different.

Bryan: Manning, it should be said, has been a class act about this benching:

Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play. My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won't finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me, and it tarnishes the streak. Like I always have, I will be ready to play if and when I am needed. I will help Geno and Davis prepare to play as well as they possibly can.

He deserves more than this as a send-off. Because this IS a send-off, right? If you're benching him now, you're not bringing him back for 2018, surely.

Andrew: Not if you're keeping Ben McAdoo, no. Not that they should. In fact, I think I agree with Ben Muth here:

I don't see what the Giants gain from keeping McAdoo, but if they do -- and in case I'm not being clear enough here, they shouldn't -- then they won't be keeping Manning.

Bryan: It's a major cap hit if they were to cut Manning -- $12.4 million in dead money next season. That sounds like trade bait, to me.

Andrew: If he wants it, he'll be playing somewhere. In what exact part of northern Florida that somewhere could be, well, that's an open question.

Bryan: Well, let's try to figure it out, some. Let's assume the cost to get Manning wouldn't be super-high; a late-round draft pick of some description. He's obviously nobody's first choice this upcoming year, not with Kirk Cousins and one or two of the Vikings quarterback melange likely to be at least theoretically available. But after that, Manning's not a bad grab in a weak class -- either as the veteran to bump you over the top, or an experienced hand while a rookie sits and learns for a few weeks.

Andrew: When does Kade Warner become eligible for the draft?

Bryan: Seriously, though. You say "northern Florida," but I think there are two more likely locations for Eli's late career vacation. Southern Florida might make more sense; Miami has already shown a willingness to go for older guys dumped by their long-time employers. But am I crazy, or does following in Peyton's footsteps and heading to Denver make the most sense?

Andrew: If "the most sense" means "less sense than Jacksonville," sure.

Bryan: I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Blake Bortles is better than what Denver has thrown out there this season. I have the sneaking suspicion Jacksonville is going to talk themselves into a Bortles extension, which … no. Not that. Don't do that thing.

Andrew: They probably will, which is another reason the Patriots have one losing season since 1995, and the Jaguars haven't had a winning season since 2007.

Bryan: One way or another, this benching is really going to hurt Eli's march up one final leaderboard -- the Quest for Testaverde. The Giants are going to be underdogs in their last five games, which would have really helped Manning's climb up the all-time loss list. As it stands, he won't even be the active all-time leader in losses, THANK you very much "terrible Saints defenses of years gone by."

100-Loss Club
Quarterback QB W QB L QB T Notes
Vinny Testaverde 90 123 1 2x Pro Bowl
Brett Favre 186 112 0 Hall of Fame
Fran Tarkenton 124 109 6 Hall of Fame
Drew Brees 139 104 0 10x Pro Bowl
Warren Moon 102 101 0 Hall of Fame
Archie Manning 35 101 3 2x Pro Bowl
Eli Manning 110 100 0 4x Pro Bowl
Norm Snead 50 100 7 4x Pro Bowl

If Manning had started and lost the remaining five games this season, he'd be sitting at 105 losses, 18 behind Testaverde for the all-time lead. That would mean he just would need a couple 7-9 seasons from here on out to catch him, which is a perfectly reasonable scenario to imagine. Now, however, he'll be 23 losses behind. That means he needs two 4-12 seasons to pass Vinny, or three 8-8 years. Can a 39-year old Manning still be a full-time starter? I don't know. Ben McAdoo may have saved Vinny Testaverde's place in history.

Andrew: I expect he probably could be, but it's unlikely that he'd still be starting at the end of such a stretch for a franchise with fewer emotional ties to him than the Giants. He also needs to look to his brother as a cautionary tale: Eli was never close to Peyton's level, but neither do we need to see Eli as a shell of himself, being pummeled every week behind a questionable line, ultimately benched for the equivalent of Brock Osweiler ... ah, crap.

Bryan: Brock Osweiler, reaper of Mannings. He feeds on the essence of their fading careers, using it to prolong his own tenure as an NFL quarterback.

... well, YOU come up with a more rational explanation.

Andrew: Honestly, I'm going back to the "if he wants it" part of my above statement. Manning has the pedigree, the professionalism, and the cachet to start somewhere, for somebody, if he wants it. He's a probable future Hall of Fame quarterback -- a very marginal case, but nobody can argue the fame portion of that description -- who could make a positive contribution to the 2018 season. I think he'd be smarter not to, and to retire with his head held high, but I know for sure that I don't think remotely similarly to a professional athlete.

Bryan: It'd be pretty unusual, as well. Before this season, 30 quarterbacks had thrown at least 350 passes at age 36. Twenty-seven of them returned, somewhere, for their age-37 season -- all but Bobby Hebert, Jim Kelly, and Dan Fouts. I suppose Manning's career feels more complete than Kelly's or Fouts', what with the two Super Bowl rings and all, but starting quarterbacks have just generally kept going in the past 20 years. Manning's season has been the least successful of any of those 30, but again, receiver corps and other outstanding issues. Not all of us can be Peyton!

Eli's place in history is a tough nut to crack. He's obviously not a top-three quarterback in his era, but I don't think there's any way you let him out of the top 10. As to where exactly he falls, that probably depends on how you view those two playoff runs -- banners fly forever, and taking down the 2007 Patriots is a hell of a feather in your cap. As for me, I think I'd have him closer to the bottom of the 10; his constant availability and high floor of play made him a valuable asset for his career, one a ton of teams would have loved to have. But I think, in terms of on-field performance, he's the third-best quarterback from the first round of the 2004 draft (but still better than J.P. Losman), for example. You have to be good to get in position to lose 100 games. But to actually lose those 100 means you're probably not at the tippy-top.

I'm sure no one will argue with our assessment of Eli's place in history, right?

Andrew: I, for one, have never heard anybody disagree with our carefully considered subjective opinions!

As for the rest of what we've discussed ... the Jaguars are set to re-sign Blake Bortles, and Drew Brees is the active leader in losses by a starting quarterback. You sure know how to make me feel great about my rooting interests, don't you? Maybe I should start a mini-league just for the teams I follow. I wonder what I would call that...

Loser League Update

Quarterback: Loser League doesn't have opponent adjustments like our advanced stats do, so Paxton Lynch isn't extra-penalized for having a terrible day against the Raiders, of all teams. Still, 9-of-14, 41 yards and the Raiders' first interception of the season no es Bueno. Lynch ends up with 2 points, though his high ankle sprain will spare him from appearing in this section more frequently.

Running Back: Not a good day for rookie sensations -- or former rookie sensations, at that. Kareem Hunt managed just 17 yards on 11 carries, and it feels like he has hit the rookie wall hard, though Kansas City's passing struggles haven't helped. Jordan Howard had a career-low 6 rushing yards on eight carries, though he added 13 receiving yards as well. Either way will get you 1 point.

Wide Receiver: Three inductees into the Goose Egg Brigade this week. DeVante Parker, Jeremy Maclin, and Aldrick Robinson each managed to haul in a catch, but only one, and for less than 10 yards each.

Kicker: The Chargers had injury issues, causing extra points to be an adventure on Thanksgiving. The Amazing Adventures of Drew Kaser don't qualify, as he was not eligible for Loser League, but Nick Novak's day certainly does! Thanks to an injured back, Novak missed a field goal and an extra point, ending up with -4 points on the day.

Check your team's score and the Part II leaderboard here! Note that due to a technical error, kickers were not scored properly in the first run of the standings; they will be updated shortly.


Keep Choppin' Wood: Less than three minutes into the intradivisional matchup between two of the AFC's more disappointing teams, two of the best players in that game had been ejected for resuming hostilities in a fight that dates back to last season. Though who is most to blame for the conflict is debatable, that both teams were harmed by it is not. Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib not only cost themselves most of Sunday's game, but were also then suspended for two further games without pay. Though that has now been reduced to one game each on appeal, Talib will still miss Denver's game against Miami while Crabtree sits out of Oakland's matchup with the Giants. It takes something special to harm your team for two games rather than just one, so our award is shared between the pair. (Raiders offensive guard Gabe Jackson was also ejected following the broader fracas, but faces no further suspension.)

John Fox Todd Bowles Award for Conservatism: There's a reason we renamed this the Todd Bowles award after John Fox's crazy bout of aggressive calls earlier this season. This weekend, with the Jets taking possession down by a touchdown to the Panthers, everybody expected them to try for either a Hail Mary from an old quarterback with a limited arm or a crazy lateral play. We got neither. Josh McCown completed a pass short left to Elijah McGuire, who was tackled inbounds. After a spike, McCown again threw short, this time to Jermaine Kearse. Kearse then let himself be tackled by Jairus Byrd ... and that was that. Not even one lateral to prolong the demise. Really, if that's all you're going to do, you may as well just kneel the game out.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game: Rejoice, O fans of basic analytics principles! We are finally reaching the point at which the conventional wisdom concerning fourth-and-short on the far edge of field goal range is to go for it instead of to automatically attempt the field goal (or worse, punt). In the biggest game of the week, with the heaviest playoff seeding implications, Sean McVay had his Rams go for fourth-and-1 on the Saints 34-yard line instead of attempting a 52-yard field goal. OK, the drive still stalled out three plays later, and the field goal was ultimately kicked from only 2 yards closer, but sometimes it's the thought that counts -- and sometimes, the wider implications behind the thought.

On fourth down with less than 5 yards to go, between the opposing 42- and 32-yard lines (so, a field goal distance between 60 and 50 yards), the league as a whole has now tried for the first down exactly 50 percent of the time (56 of 112 plays run) this year. Teams have attempted the field goal 26 percent of the time, and punted 24 percent of the time. (Those percentages do not exactly match the Pro Football Reference link because of how we had to handle in-play penalties.) With McVay's first attempt coming this past weekend, only three teams (Buffalo, Detroit, Minnesota) have not yet attempted a fourth-down conversion in that situation this season. Teams that do go for it gain a first down 63 percent of the time (35-of-56, excluding the four first downs gained by pre-play penalties), so we hold out hope that even those three will eventually come around.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching: With football played on standard sized fields, it usually doesn't matter where a game is being played, outside of travel time and home-field advantage. It's not like baseball, where Fenway Park has a monster wall in left and there used to be a hill in Minute Maid Park; football fields are all the same. The biggest exception to this is in the kicking game. Altitude in Denver (or Mexico City) is the most obvious factor, but different wind patterns come into play as well, especially at Heinz Field. The longest field goal ever made there was 53 yards, and the building has a well-earned reputation for being the place where field goals go to die. This is a reputation that Mike McCarthy is apparently unaware of. Why else, with a 21-14 lead, would he opt to attempt a 57-yard field goal rather than punt the ball away and play for field position? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the Packers had lost 8 yards on the previous three plays, and he had already made up his mind to kick the field goal before that happened. Pittsburgh took advantage of the miss and put together a scoring drive, and the Packers never led again.

'Double Dipping' Fantasy Player of the Week: Look, Ricky Seals-Jones. Last week was special, we get it -- your first reception, your first touchdown, all that good stuff. But when we gave you this award, it was kind of with the unspoken assumption that, y'know, it was a one-time deal; an explosion of offense out of nowhere. But no, in the Blaine Gabbert Revenge Game, you just had to lead all Cardinals with four catches, 72 yards, and a touchdown. Where did that come from? And, more importantly, why did you have exactly one offensive snap in the first 10 weeks? Now you're going to have a bunch of players picking you up for their fantasy stretch run, and being disappointed when you come back to Earth, even if it's only somewhat. Man. Glory hog.

Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Performer of the Week: Fantasy Football is really dumb sometimes. In most leagues, Dak Prescott would have earned you 3.16 points. Eli Manning would have given you 2.42. But Jimmy Garoppolo, who played just 67 seconds at the end of a blowout against the Seahawks, would have earned you 5.12, thanks to a meaningless touchdown that had the few hundred 49ers fans still in attendance cheering. Jimmy G now has a career quarterback rating of 110.1, which is the highest in NFL history ... with a minimum of 50 attempts. Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?

'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: Last season, when Jeremy Maclin missed four games for the Chiefs due to injury, Travis Kelce was the main beneficiary, recording three straight 100-yard games and a total of 380 yards across the four games. This season, with Maclin a surprise offseason cut, Kelce is ahead of even last season's career-high pace -- Kelce has 777 receiving yards through Week 12, almost 10 yards per game more than in 2016. His usage increased even further in December last season, which may not be replicated this year, but despite the woes of the Chiefs offense Kelce has clearly established himself as the most productive receiving tight end in the league not named Rob Gronkowski.

Game-Changing Play of the Week: Cam Newton and the Panthers offense did not have a good day Sunday; they managed under 300 yards of total offense as the passing game never seemed to click. They were trailing 20-18 and the Jets had the ball -- they needed a big play in a hurry. That's when you turn to the best player on your roster, Luke Kuechly.

Per Pro Football Reference, that play alone increased Carolina's win percentage by 43.2 percent, and was followed up by a punt return for a touchdown on the Jets' very next drive. When your offense isn't clicking, get your defense and special teams involved in the action, and you'll be fine. The win was huge, as well -- without it, the Panthers would be clinging on to the final wild-card slot in a three-way tie at 7-4. In a world where 9-7 probably won't be good enough to make the playoffs, every win helps.

Three-Eyed Raven Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Andrew: The last time I took Cleveland to cover, they were favorites against another bad opponent for the first time in forever ... and failed miserably, losing the game outright. This time, the Browns are 14-point underdogs against an inconsistent opponent with a flair for the miraculous implosion. I don't expect Cleveland to win in Los Angeles against the Chargers, though if anybody can blow a home game against the Browns it's the Chargers. (The Chargers, after all, were the last team to lose to Cleveland.) I don't expect an utter blowout, however, which is why I'm taking Cleveland (+14) at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Bryan: This season has gone poorly for me in terms of Locks, though it actually hasn't been that bad picking against the spread in general. Perhaps I just don't know how certain I should be about things? One thing I'm certain of is getting in on this Oakland (-7.5) line before people remember just how bad Geno Smith is.

Records to date:
Andrew: 7-4
Bryan: 4-7


Our long national nightmare is over. After a few weeks of dodging bullets, the playoff picture got a little clearer as three teams were finally, officially, and mathematically eliminated from the postseason. And who better to win the race to the bottom than the Cleveland Browns?

Elimination No. 1: Cleveland (Eliminated when they lost to Cincinnati): Since the 1970 merger, only 13 teams have opened a season 0-11. The Browns have now done that in back-to-back seasons. This is their tenth straight losing season, behind only the 1983-96 Tampa Bay Buccaneers for extended futility. They're going to be underdogs in all of their remaining five games, with 0-16 staring them straight in the face. They do have the inside track to the top overall pick -- again -- and almost certainly two picks in the top half of the draft. Maybe they can finally use them to take a quarterback. More likely, they'll end up trading down for six picks in 2023.

Elimination No. 2: N.Y. Giants (Eliminated when Carolina beat the N.Y. Jets): Before the 2015 season, general manager Jerry Reese said that "if you don't score 28 points in this league, it's hard to win." The Giants have never scored 28 points under Ben McAdoo. They also haven't seen a real front office shakeup since just after the 2002 draft. The new year will likely see a long overdue overhaul behind the scenes, but without a serious talent infusion along the offensive line, they'll not likely see an immediate turnaround

Elimination No. 3: San Francisco (Also eliminated when Carolina beat the N.Y. Jets): Of the three eliminated teams, the 49ers are probably the happiest. Not only did they have the lowest expectations coming in, they now have dreamboat quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to pump up. The 49ers offense scores a touchdown every 67 seconds when Garoppolo plays, don't you know! What do you mean, "small sample size?" Just stare into his starry eyes and try to ignore the lack of a pass rush, or offensive line, or playmaking receivers, or shutdown cornerbacks, or...

A beastly roar went up from the NFL tiebreaker community when they looked at scenarios this week. Three teams can be eliminated -- Chicago and Indianapolis are fairly simple. Denver, however, would require a loss and chaos. It's still possible for there to be an 11-team tie at 7-9 for the two AFC wild-card slots, and comprehensively eliminating Denver from that mess is non-trivial, requiring multiple teams to clinch Common Game and Strength of Victory tiebreakers over them. It's not happening without at least six games going against them, but it IS possible. Philadelphia can also be the first team to clinch a playoff berth, if you care more about good teams for some reason. Again, we're just listing bye week, divisional, and wild-card elimination scenarios; if you want the grizzly details of Denver being knocked out of the five seed or Baltimore losing home-field advantage, click here.


  • Cincinnati can be eliminated from the AFC North IF Pittsburgh d. Cincinnati
  • Houston can be eliminated from a First-Round Bye IF Tennessee d. Houston OR BOTH New England d. Buffalo AND Pittsburgh d. Cincinnati
  • Houston can be eliminated from the AFC South IF Tennessee d. Houston
  • Indianapolis can be eliminated from the AFC South IF Jacksonville d. Indianapolis OR Tennessee d. Houston
  • Indianapolis can be eliminated from the playoffs IF Jacksonville d. Indianapolis AND EITHER
    • Miami d. Denver AND Buffalo d. New England
    • Cincinnati d. Pittsburgh AND Baltimore d. Detroit
  • N.Y. Jets can be eliminated from the AFC East IF Kansas City d. N.Y. Jets OR New England d. Buffalo
  • Miami can be eliminated from the AFC East IF Denver d. Miami OR New England d. Buffalo
  • L.A. Chargers can be eliminated from a First-Round Bye IF Cleveland d. L.A. Chargers AND New England d. Buffalo AND ONE OF Pittsburgh d. Cincinnati OR Tennessee d. Houston OR Jacksonville d. Indianapolis
  • Oakland can be eliminated from a First-Round Bye IF N.Y. Giants d. Oakland AND New England d. Buffalo AND Pittsburgh d. Cincinnati
  • Denver can be eliminated from the AFC West IF Miami d. Denver AND EITHER
    • TWO OF Kansas City d. N.Y. Jets OR L.A. Chargers d. Cleveland OR Oakland d. N.Y. Giants
    • Oakland d. N.Y. Giants AND TWO OF Jacksonville d. Indianapolis OR Houston d. Tennessee OR New England d. Buffalo
  • Denver can be eliminated from the playoffs IF Miami d. Denver AND ONE OF
    • Buffalo d. New England AND TWO OF Kansas City d. N.Y. Jets OR Oakland d. N.Y. Giants OR L.A. Chargers d. Cleveland AND EITHER
      • Cincinnati d. Pittsburgh AND Baltimore d. Detroit
      • Jacksonville d. Indianapolis AND Tennessee d.Houston
    • Jacksonville d. Indianapolis AND Cincinnati d. Pittsburgh AND Baltimore d. Detroit AND Oakland d. L.A. Chargers AND EITHER
      • Tennessee d. Houston AND ONE OF Kansas City d. N.Y. Jets OR L.A. Chargers d. Cleveland OR New England d. Buffalo
      • Houston d. Tennessee AND Buffalo d. New England
  • Green Bay can be eliminated from a First-Round Bye IF Tampa Bay d. Green Bay
  • Green Bay can be eliminated from the NFC North IF Tampa Bay d. Green Bay AND Minnesota d. Atlanta
  • Chicago can be eliminated from the playoffs IF San Francisco d. Chicago OR TWO OF Atlanta d. Minnesota OR Carolina d. New Orleans OR Seattle d. Philadelphia
  • Tampa Bay can be eliminated from the NFC South IF Green Bay d. Tampa Bay OR Atlanta d. Minnesota OR New Orleans d. Carolina
  • Dallas can be eliminated from the NFC East IF Washington d. Dallas OR Philadelphia d. Seattle
  • Arizona can be eliminated from a First-Round Bye IF L.A. Rams d. Arizona OR BOTH Minnesota d. Atlanta AND Baltimore d. Detroit
  • Arizona can be eliminated from the NFC West IF L.A. Rams d. Arizona


  • Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East IF Philadelphia d. Seattle OR Washington d. Dallas

Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, job openings for a more-than-adequate quarterback, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter on 29 Nov 2017

68 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2017, 2:17am by PaddyPat


by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:07pm

My lack of interest in the Browns is shown by only being able to name a few of the potential 17 QBs. I can't even remember the name of the guy who's backup this year that played a game or two last year.

DeShone Kizer, Josh McCown, Manziel plus the table lists Colt McCoy and Brandon Weedon.

I believe Terrelle Pryor took a couple of snaps at QB last year. And probably RGIII.

So that's a paltry seven.

Bruce Gradkowski and Jeff Garcia were past starters and maybe they were still there in 2009. Which would take my list to nine.

But Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb were long gone by then.

Beyond that I'm guessing. Also whether Luke McCown was there at some point as well. There might have been a guy called Cade McNown or some such. Think Brock Osweiler was gone before the regular season. Wouldn't be surprised if some perennial backup like Shaun Hill or Dan Orlovsky or Curtis Painter popped in for a year or so.


As an aside TNF last year stated that the winningest QB in Cleveland's stadium is Ben Roethlisberger!

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:21pm

Pryor does not count; he was never the ~starting~ quarterback in a Browns loss. RGIII does, in fact count though, which puts you at six.

You did a great job at naming QBs who count for multiple teams, but not so good at finding ones that specifically count for the Browns ;)

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:40pm

I'm pretty much dead in the water on this but trying the same exercise with the Raiders, I have a feeling Jason Campbell was in Cleveland for a while.

In which case it seems like Washington, Oakland and Cleveland all spent a few years going through each others retreads.

by jtr :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:15pm

BRADY QUINN! Though his last Browns loss was week 8 of 2009, which may or may not be in the last 100 of them.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:51pm

Four of Quinn's seven losses squeak in under the line, which probably means he'll be off this list by the time the season's done <_<

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:46pm

Off the top of my head:

Deshone Kizer
Cody Kessler
Brock Osweiler
Josh McCown
Johnny Manziel
Brandon Weeden
Kevin . . . O'Hara? Kevin something. Had a couple long runs in one good game.
Colt McCoy
Jason Campbell
Bruce Gradkowski
Jeff Garcia

Uh . . .
Seneca Wallace
Jake Delhomme
Brady Quinn
Charlie Frye

Not sure about those last ones in terms of the time frame.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:49pm

Osweiler is a no-go; never started for the Browns. Gradkowski, Garcia and Frye are before the time frame. And I'm not sure I can give you full credit for "Kevin Somebody" :P

Still! That's 11 out of 17, including everyone with 7 or more losses. That's not too shabby!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:01pm

The thing I find funny is I was looking into the sustained awfulness of Cleveland since they came back into the league a few weeks ago, and spent a bunch of time looking at all the different ways the team was terrible, and I still couldn't remember a third of their bad QBs.

There are so many ways to slice and dice the fact Cleveland is the worst franchise in the history of professional sports, just because they've been so bad, so chaotic, so incompetent, and so just plain sad for such a long time.

And I looked up the Kevin in question, and can't believe I forgot the guy who was the starter in 2014.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 5:07am

You can't say Cleveland is the worst franchise in the history of professional sports. Remember that the NFL made Modell leave the history of the Browns in Cleveland, so their franchise history has all that success under Paul Brown, Marty Schottenheimer etc.

It really does bring up the question of why Modell has been the only owner *ever* to be forced to part ways with his team's history if he wanted to move. Three other teams moved at the same time - Rams, Raiders, Oilers - and none of them left their history.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:51pm

Kind of splitting hairs, though; just because the NFL made the Browns leave the "official history" behind doesn't mean it's the same. The post-rebirth Browns are the worst franchise ever, and I don't consider the pre-Ravens Browns really part of that equation. It is a really strange situation that they're the only ones who had to leave the records and history behind, but they're also much "older school" of a franchise than the others, and fan loyalty has always been huge in Cleveland.

by Dan :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:53am

Kevin Hogan.

Brian Hoyer was one of the guys throwing passes to Josh Gordon in his big season.

Does Derek Anderson make the cut?

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:43am

Two of Anderson's four losses in 2009 do in fact make the cut -- so, again probably not after this season. The Browns keep replacing old terrible quarterbacks with NEW terrible QBs.

Hogan and Hoyer do count. We're up to 14. Three to go, with a combined four losses between them. A combined 0-4 record in Cleveland, at that, not that that narrows it down much in BrownTown.

One of them made eight starts for the Rams, as well. Another had a five-game runout in Buffalo. The third...good luck with the third.

by Travis :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 9:34am

All three of the remaining QBs are part of the Browns' recent tradition of starting a totally random guy in Week 17. The 2012 and 2014 guys weren't even on the 53-man roster in Week 16.

by jtr :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 11:17am

I think there was a guy named Austin Davis

by Yu Narukami :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:09pm

Austin Davis (currently Seahawks), Thad Lewis (probably free agent) and Connor "Football" Shaw.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:18pm

Wasn't Thaddeus Lewis part of that mix? I feel like "waiver wire emergency starter" was his career niche.

by Mike B. In Va :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:09pm

Lewis is the five-game Buffalo guy, I think.

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:45am

Ack, double post.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:06pm

"Bruce Gradkowski and Jeff Garcia were past starters and maybe they were still there in 2009. Which would take my list to nine."

I feel the need to jump in and defend Jeff Garcia's honor, as he's had an underrated career. He only played one season (2004) in Cleveland, and I don't think his name should be dragged through the mud on the "Cleveland Browns crappy QB list". Likewise, the 2005 he spent slumming with Matt Millen's Lions should be discarded, as well.

Garcia is like the homeless man's Kurt Warner. Started in the NFL relatively late in life, had a good beginning (yes he had Terrell Owens, but Kurt Warner had a lot more!), a bad middle, and a late-career renaissance. He led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2006 after McNabb got injured, and played well in leading a mediocre Tampa team to winning records and one playoff berth in 2007-8.

He probably doesn't even deserve to be in the Hall of Very Good, but at least the Hall of Pretty Good. He definitely doesn't deserve to be associated with the Browns 2.0.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:52pm

Some would argue that if he doesn't want to be associated with Browns 2.0 he shouldn't have taken their 30 pieces of silver.

In fairness I agree that he was a decent enough QB. He made a decent career in CFL and then did well in SF as the team was beginning to slide. And he was also good enough to make it onto TO's QB-slight list with McNabb and Romo.

by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 4:41pm

Garcia also had two years of Jerry Rice in San Francisco. There's a case to be made that those 49ers teams had the best two receivers of all time -- not just the best duo of all time, but the best individual wide receiver there ever was, and then the second-best individual wide receiver there ever was.

by johonny :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:28pm

Why do Bills players only levitate after incomplete passes when levitating while the ball is still in the air would be more beneficial?

by jtr :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:36pm

At his career pace of about 8 losses per season, Matt Stafford should hit the century mark for Detroit right around the end of his current 5 year contract.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:54pm

Assuming he stays healthy, which is always a question. He hasn't missed a start since 2010, but football is a violent sport. That's one thing that makes Manning's accomplishment so impressive -- he has ALWAYS been available.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 3:48pm

Detroit's reticence to go for it probably has something to do with Prater being really good at long kicks. He's 18/18 from 50+, dating back to the 2015 season.

Detroit's 4 in that situation this year have all been successful FGs.

Incidentally, what's the average points/per drive for teams that go for it versus teams that kick FGs? Presumably some of those successful conversions (roughly 60% seem to convert) crap out later on, or just result in a shorter FG attempt.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:17pm

Prater's not 100% from 50+ plus this year, more like 3/6 (his misses have been in the 55-59 range).

Your point stills stands though. When you have a running game that's proven itself incapable of consistently converting 3rd/4th and short, I think trusting Prater over the running game is the right call.

by Harris :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:03pm

. . . but neither do we need to see Eli as a shell of himself, being pummeled every week behind a questionable line, ultimately benched for the equivalent of Brock Osweiler . . .

I wholeheartedly disagree. That is EXACTLY what I need.

by PaddyPat :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:33pm

I want to evaluate this "top 10" talk for Eli. That would imply that he was not mediocre, but in fact, considerably better than average.

Manning came into the League in 2004. During that time, he played alongside: Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Steve McNair, and Andrew Luck. Apart from durability and longevity, I'm not sure Eli Manning even grades out better than the likes of Alex Smith, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, or Andy Dalton.

Eli's average DVOA rank lies somewhere around 19-20th in the league, with a peak run from 2008-11 wherein he ranked 9th, 10th, 20th, and 9th. That suggests a career league average performer with a peak where he dangled around the bottom of the top 10. That is not a top 10 quarterback by any stretch. Peak performance places the bottom five guys I listed ahead of that. If you want to argue that Manning was an unusually reliable and durable "top 20" quarterback," okay, I'll bite.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:59pm

You know a guy has been around for awhile when his comps are Favre, McNair, and Luck.

Brett Favre was born in the 1960s. Goff was born in 1994.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:39pm

I hated when Brett Favre retired, because he was just a little bit older than me and he made me feel at least a tiny bit young when he played.

Jared Goff was born the year I finished grad school, and makes me feel old as hell.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:45pm

When I said top 10, I meant top 10 over the course of his career -- which, as it stands, is 2004-2017. If you put me in a time machine, sent me back to 2004 and said I could take any QB I wanted -- with the caveat that I would have them and then generic backup replacements to fill any gaps -- Manning would be one of the top 10 guys I'd take. Just.

I think I'd go:
Peyton (because I'd have a blank for 2016-2017, plus possibly the neck injury costing me a season depending on how literal this time machine is)
--A notable gap--
Ryan (even though he's not coming around until 2008)

For very good players, they'd almost always be the top player picked in "their era", whatever that ends up being, because it's rare that similarly qualified challengers match up perfectly. So, really, that's a slight against Eli if anything; even in the best possible time frame for him, he's not one of my top choices.

That being said -- and here, I have a slight disagreement with DVOA -- I feel that Eli played at a very solid level nearly every year from 2005-15, with 2013 being the notable and obvious exception. He was in the top 10 in DYAR in 5 of those 11 seasons, and the top 15 in 8. I think that's a very impressive run of success!

Sure, anyone can get into the top 15 in a season or two -- we see you, Nick Foles! -- but to do it again and again, year after year, makes you an exceptionally valuable commodity. The only QBs to in the top 15 more frequently than Eli in that run were Brees, Roethlisberger, Brady and Peyton. Even if you only care about top-10 finishes, he ties with Carson Palmer for ninth-most-frequent.

If you're consistently, year after year, a top 10-15 quarterback, you're a top 10 quarterback over that entire range. He may not be a top 10 QB in every year, but I'd have to put him above the Foleses and the Freemans and Andersons of the world, who float up for one bright year and then sink back into the muck. It's his consistency for over a decade that makes him a top-10 player.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:05pm

Are we assuming no injuries?

Because you lose two Manning the Greater years, but you lose a Brady year as well.

You also probably lose the equivalent of a Rodgers year and a Roethlisberger year.

You'd really take Palmer over Eli? Eli has about the same rate stats as Palmer, but he's healthier. Arguably he's played with fewer offensive weapons, but it's probably not that different. They've had about the same number of boom and bust seasons.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:15pm

Oh, man, if you give Romo a career with a competent coaching and ownership, I like his chances to be comfortably in the first group really easily. Romo is clearly, clearly superior to Eli, Palmer, and Ryan, as well, I think.

Rivers deserves a ton of credit for doing what he did while working for the Spanos family.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:27pm

Romo's health and is an issue, compared to Eli and Ryan. Availability is a big part of being a good QB!

I might spot you Palmer on that account, though. I believe Palmer's highs were higher than Romo's, but Romo was a more consistent player, when healthy.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:33pm

Do I have to assume that my team is as stupidly managed as Jerry Jones managed his? Because I think that relates strongly to Romo's health.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 6:42pm

No, but only under Monkey's Paw rules. Get rid of Jones, and you get Dan Snyder.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 7:41pm


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:37am

My team is owned by a Ford!

by PaddyPat :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:51pm

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I love that writers write back on this site!

Okay, I understand where you're coming from, but I don't tend to think of rating a player in these terms.

A "top 10" player in my mind is someone who consistently ranks top 10 or just outside it. Eli was decent in DYAR terms, but his DVOA was not consistently top 15, and I tend to evaluate efficiency as much more meaningful than counting stats. Eli had a decent run, and I'll grant you that even outside of the Super Bowl success, he was somewhere around the 14th-16th best quarterback of his era. His durability was great too, no doubt. But there were many players who were just more efficient, more explosive, and who had a lot more upside. If you take a sample year, like 2007, you can comfortably place Peyton, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Romo, Favre, Warner, McNabb, Rivers, Schaub, Palmer, and Hasselbeck ahead of Eli before you even start arguing. I think you could even make career comparisons with someone like Jay Cutler who has a higher career completion percentage and yards per attempt average and likewise had a few odd seasons dangling around the bottom of the top 10 in DVOA, but no one would argue that Cutler was a top 10 QB at any point. Is it really just a question of durability and ringz?

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:39am

Hey, I love talking about this stuff, it's all good.

Not ringz. Never ringz.

But, think of it this way. Would the Giants be better off on Sunday starting Eli Manning or Deshaun Watson? Watson's been, by far, the better quarterback this year, but he's got a torn ACL. You can't help your team if you can't ~play~. Upside is how you measure quarterbacks going forward, and deciding who to keep and who to cut. Upside doesn't tell you much looking back, in my experience.

It's why I'm slowly, kicking and screaming, being dragged away from placing Montana atop my all-time QB list -- when you have guys like Brady and Manning playing at similarly elite levels and just...always being available, it matters.

Or, for another thought experiment, let's say RGIII's injury in the playoffs of his rookie season was worse than it was -- ending his career outright, so you don't have to consider the lesser version of him he became. That season was better than anything Kirk Cousins has managed -- would you consider RGIII a better player than Cousins was, just because he had one better year?

Another way of thinking about it. You say Hasselbeck, for example, is ahead of Eli without arguing in 2007. That's true - and 2005, Eli's first full season as a starter, too. But Eli was better in 2006, and 2008, and 2009, and 2010 and 2011... Or take Matt Schaub. Yeah, Schaub was undeniably better in 2007, and 2009 as well. But Manning had the edge in 2008 and 2010 and 2011 and 2012...

Eli was in or near the bottom of the top 10 in almost every year of his prime. He never peaked like Rivers or Roethlisberger (to compare him to his draftmates), but once you get down into that third tier of starting QBs, Eli was ALWAYS there. That makes him a better player, in my book, then someone who had a couple great seasons and then collapsed into the muck.

It's a tough balancing act -- you want high ceilings, yes, but also high floors. You need to value bursts of transcendent play, but also credit people for having long, successful careers. Go too far one way, and you'll find yourself arguing that of course Vinny Testaverde is an all-time great; look at his compiled numbers! Go too far the other, and you're arguing Bert Jones or Daunte Culpepper belong near the tippy top because of 1976 or 2004.

It does sound like I value longevity more than you do, and you value absolute peak more than I do. And that's fine, it's all fun and games in the end anyway.

I also think Jay Cutler gets a bad rap sometimes, as do most quarterbacks in the, oh, 8-15 range of their eras, but that's a different kettle of fish.

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 4:50pm

Sounds like longevity is a pretty significant point of difference for us. I began seriously watching football around 2000 and rapidly imprinted on guys like Rich Gannon and Kurt Warner as among the finest in the game. My high opinion of their value to their franchises and value as players was not much diminished by the brevity of their peaks. True, to be a HOF player, we expect a longer run, but to be ranked among the best at your position? I suppose you need a reasonable run to eliminate the flash-in-the-pan phenomenon, but a high 5-year peak with some kind of tail at either end seems reasonable to me, and I'm not sure it provides less value than a stable span of mediocrity.

From 1999-2002, Rich Gannon was among the very best QBs in the NFL. Was he top 10 throughout his career? Certainly not. But that level of peak performance corresponds to an exceptional player. At his best, he was among the greatest performers I've ever seen at the position. Eli had a far less impressive peak, one that I still don't really evaluate as top 10, but perhaps top 15, and then a long, mediocre career bookending it. How do you think that compares to someone like Kerry Collins? Collins had some pretty sterling seasons mixed in among all of the duds he put up. He was 6th in DVOA in 2002, which I remember as a pretty exciting season to watch, 9th in 2000, 6th all the way back in 1996, and a solid 12th again in 2008 for that upstart Tennessee team. He was a journeyman, but a pretty reliable and healthy one, with a long mediocre career and a very shiny array of peak seasons, including a Super Bowl run. Would you evaluate him as a top 10 QB throughout the years of his career? Is his career comparable to Eli's?

Perhaps the discussion is really a matter of semantics. During the years that Eli played, in any given year, he was rarely among the top 10 in production, and often considerably lower in efficiency. However, his longevity saw him playing at a solidly mediocre level long past the point that many other players had peaked and fizzled, which reliability provides a certain sort of value of its own. How valuable that reliability is is up for debate.

by Sixknots :: Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:36pm

Ahhh, the "Manning face", I haven't heard that in a while.

by Raiderfan :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:43am

"Thanks in part to his on-field success; his incredible record of longevity and good health; and a lack of need, will or desire to upgrade at the quarterback position, Eli and the Giants have been intertwined like no quarterback and team ever have before." What about the guy who has been playing a lot longer and still only has 54 losses?

by nat :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 11:40am

The idea is that consecutive games are somehow different.

They are, too. In 2008 and again in early 2016, Patriots fans (and the team) got to experience life after Brady. Giants fans and team face life after Eli only now.

by SandyRiver :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:23pm

Maybe because it's a two-fer, whereas Eli is slightly easier to look at w/o the coach.

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:38pm

Brady's got a lot of losses to put together in order to catch Eli's achievement! Maybe if he plays until 55 or whatever like he says he will, he can come close. But this seems to be one Eli will always have in the bag over him.

by nat :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:56pm

Brady still has a shot at the most playoff losses for one team record. Assuming the Patriots get to the playoffs and don't win the Super Bowl, he'll join three other QBs at ten.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:00pm

"Honestly Giants should fire McAdoo today and start Eli on Sunday. If you wanna move on from Eli fine, but you owe a lot more to him than you do your lame duck coach, let him finish out the year with some dignity."

This sort of attitude is what gets teams in trouble.

The Giants have paid Eli more than $200M for his work. They don't owe him anything. They should be doing whatever they need to do to make the Giants better post-Eli, not trying to assuage his pride.

Eli is done - they should be trying to figure out whether Smith is the dumpster fire people think he is, or if their 3rd round pick is viable. They shouldn't be wasting plays on Eli.

by aces4me :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:16pm

Here is another thing to consider. The owner has both a coach and a starting QB that he is unhappy with. The coach he can fire without risking a reaction from his fans, the QB not so much. So the owner has the coach remove the QB and after all the fallout fires the coach at the end of the season. Two birds, one stone. I have heard reports that the benching of Eli came down from Mara.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:20pm

The only thing fans really care about, in any important way, is winning 10 games next year, and the years following. All decisions should pursue that goal with maximum ruthlessness, within the confines of law and contracts.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:51pm

Yup. This exactly. Winning cures (almost) all sins.

Every year I listen to other Patriots fans complaining about them trading away some guy, or not resigning some guy, or whatever, and by about November, everyone has forgotten about it, because they're going to the playoffs again.

Fan loyalty is to the laundry, not players.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:14pm

Adrian Peterson is a perfect example of this. He was a super-exciting player, and after 2009, was about the most important player in allowing them a chance to get to the playoffs, until 2015, even if they only got there once between those two years, when he carried a no talent roster to 10 wins in 2012. Thus, the fans loved him, even after he revealed himself to be a vile human being in 2014.

Once Spielman obtained full personnel control in 2012, the talent level started to rise, and he hired Zimmer, so the coaching improved, and by last year, Peterson's talent was no longer critical, even if it was not age diminished, barring other injury disasters, which of course is what they experienced. Now, this year, with a youngish, talented roster, that is well coached? The fans have forgotten about Adrian Peterson.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:13pm

"Fan loyalty is to the laundry, not players."

I read Bo Jackson's autobiography when I was a kid, and to this day I remember him complaining about that very thing (I think his exact wording was near verbatim, too).

This was in relation to the fact that the same Kansas City fans who treated him like a hero when he wore a Royals uniform, would treat him like a war criminal when he visited Arrowhead wearing a Raiders uniform.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:17pm

They should have at least shopped him a few weeks ago. Intelligent nonsentimental management is the goal.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:38pm

Of course - but the fact that they didn't shouldn't affect their actions now.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 1:34am

I think Eli is being undersold here. His career evens out as average, sure but average in a very unusual way. He's volatile with a high ceiling and low floor. I suppose we can debate if it's better long term to have Alex Smith consistent mediocrity or Eli
I personally prefer Eli because he gives you a chance to match the scoring output of a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. I'd rather take the upside than hoping to go into every game needing my defense to show up in order to have a chance at winning.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 9:51am

And if you string together 3 or 4 of those games together after January 1st, you win a championship.

by aces4me :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:14am

If you aren't going to be one of the very best quarter backs you might as well have a high variance in my mind. 2 great years and otherwise unremarkable is way better than an entire career of good enough to not get fired. If you not one of the strongest poker players in the room you are way better off in a high variance game than a low variance one. If you can't be good being lucky is really your only chance.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:40pm

Out of interest does anyone recall why Eli was picked ahead of Rivers and Roethlisberger?

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 1:38pm

Eli was the consensus number 1 overall player. He played in the SEC, was in a pro style offense, had the prototypical look and measurables that a qb should have. According to Ernie Acorsi - the talent around him at Ole Miss wasn't good, so you could see he knew how to "carry a team". It also helped that his father was a good qb and his brother had just won the mvp. That gave the view that Eli had the genetics needed to be good or, if you prefer, at least the requisite work ethic to not be a Ryan Leaf or Jamarcus Russel.

Rivers was good, but he was in a smaller school and at the time, people had questions about his mechanics. His delivery was quirky and that scared some people. I remember Greg Cosell felt like the herky delivery would compromise the arm strength and not let him drive the ball down the field if he got pressured.

Roethlisburger had the best measurables of any of these players - strongest arm, biggest body, best overall ability - but he played in the MAC and there were real questions about his ability to play against big time competition.

I do think the Manning name helped a lot, giving this real sense of de-risking. And if you think about it, it is pretty remarkable that the Manning family has produced two number 1 overall picks and the 2nd pick in the draft. When you see how well Archie and especially Peyton were as qbs(at that time), it really felt like there was no way Eli was going to be a bust.

Also interestingly - I asked Greg Cosell on twitter to rank the top 5 qbs currently active(this was around 2011) to come out of the draft. His ranking - 1) Carson Palmer, 2) Matthew Stafford, 3) Peyton Manning, 4) Eli Manning, 5) Matt Ryan.

Cosell loves qbs who play in pro style offenses - have height and size, and good arm strength. He's old school in his evaluation in that way.

by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:10pm

I seem to remember -- though this is four or five computers ago at this point -- that I had them Roethlisberger/Manning/Rivers, in that order. Manning's poise and production despite playing with far, far sub-par talent went along way. Roethlisberger's MACtion was held against him, while Rivers had some weird mechanics and issues with the deep ball some people were concerned about.

I, uh, also thought Robert Gallery would be one of, if not THE, best player in that class so, um. Yeah.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:30pm

It also shows how different the league was back then. All three QBs were considered good prospects, yet both Arizona and Oakland(with no QBs of the present or future) elected not to go Qb. I can't see that happening again.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:35pm

*Everybody* thought Robert Gallery was going to be an all-time, surefire HoF player and that for once Al Davis was doing the right thing in drafting him.

Thanks guys for the info on Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger. Noting that Matt Schaub and Luke McCown were 5th & 6th QBs drafted that year. All in all, not a bad bunch given that some years you get hardly anyone.

by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 4:38pm

Second only to the legendary Class of 83. Marino, Elway and Kelly are a great top three; Ken O'Brien was a very adequate starter for many years and Tony Eason also exists. The less said about Todd Blackledge, the better.

'71 also should get mentioned more when talking about great QB classes; not quite the heights of either '83 or '04, but you get Ken Anderson and Joe Theismann and Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning and Lynn Dickey and Dan Pastorini; that's a whole bunch of solid quarterbacking play, there.

Aaaand then you have a year like 2007. When Trent Edwards is the best QB in a class, you've got issues. Kevin Kolb! Drew Stanton! Tyler Thigpen! JaMarcus Russell! Troy Smith! Brady Quinn! Oh boy!

by LyleNM :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 4:42pm

And the 2012 class that was supposed to challenge 83 is starting to look like Russell Wilson and a whole lot more disappointment than we should have expected.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 7:33pm

With Wilson drafted 75th! I kept watching Wilson play at Wisconsin, and thinking he had to be a 1st rounder. Good arm with the fast release of a major league shortstop, great feet, with a talent for keeping his eyes downfield, calm demeanor at all times. I kept hearing the paid yappers saying he was too short to go in the 1st. I kept thinking that he he didn't seem that much shorter than Brees.

by PaddyPat :: Sun, 12/03/2017 - 2:17am

Luck was definitely a hit. He may not have entirely lived up to hopes thus far, but a lot of that is injuries and poor surrounding talent. He has delivered all a team can reasonably ask for from a number 1 pick. Kirk Cousins has also been a surprise. 3 QBs from a draft is reasonable, it seems to me. Other spot starters have been largely rubbish, with Tannehill rounding out the picture at around replacement level thus far. 2 stars, one decent starter, and one replacement-level starter isn't a terrible haul.

by ammek :: Fri, 12/01/2017 - 4:15pm

I remember MDS arguing on this site that Manning would not have been picked first if his name had been Eli Jones.

The year 2004 was certainly a turning point in terms of where QBs have been drafted subsequently. The rule changes, and the success of that class.