2013 was an interesting year for the NFL in terms of quarterbacks. We saw the decline of Matt Schaub, the reemergence of Philip Rivers, the rise to stardom in Nick Foles, and the pure dominance of Peyton Manning, as well as the younger QBs (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick).
With the NFL preseason just about halfway over, what better time to come up with a top 10 list of the best QBs heading into 2014 (this is a trick question, as there is no better time)? Obviously the list might not be 100% accurate at the end of the year, but these are basically my predictions in terms of quality QB play for the 2014 season.
Making the list was a challenge, as today’s game features more capable QBs than ever before. Surrounding talent/team success played part of a role in making this list for some quarterbacks, but I tried not to make it an emphasis. THIS NOT AN OVERALL RANKING OF QUARTERBACKS, just who I think are the best heading into 2014.
Finally, unless you have the ability to see into the future, please note that this is an opinion based list, so yes, I’m expecting to be wrong on some of the picks.
So without further ado, I present “The 10 Best QBs Heading Into 2014.”
10. Matt Ryan
2013 Stats: 439/651, 67.4 Completion Percentage, 26 TD, 17 INT, 89.3 Passer Rating
The 29 year old Falcons QB is entering his 7th season in the NFL, hoping to shake off a mistake filled 2013 season, in which Atlanta played for a 4-12 record, unwelcome territory considering the previous success of the past 5 years of Matt Ryan’s career.
As is expected, Ryan should be much better in 2013, but with the loss of tackle Sam Baker, the Falcons struggling offensive line may not hold its ground. Still, the return of WR Julio Jones should give Ryan the boost he desperately needs.
Despite struggling in 2013, Ryan’s completion percentage only declined by 1.2 points from 2012, so even in those losses, he was still extremely accurate, which is welcome news with Jones back. Though future HOF TE Tony Gonzalez is gone, this should also open up younger talent at the TE position, giving Ryan a fresh set of new targets.
Ryan has never really been a mobile QB, but his deadly accuracy should be enough to keep the Falcons contending. We shall see if it’s truly the case in 2014.
9. Ben Roethlisberger
2013 Stats: 375/584, 64.2 Completion Percentage, 4,261 yards, 28 TD, 14 INT, 92.0 Passer Rating
Big Ben has always been an interesting case. While he’s never put up the gaudy stats of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers for most of his career, he’s made up for it with his world famous ability to extend a play in the pocket, thanks to his scrambling abilities and strength.
After suffering an 0-4 start, the Steelers under Big Ben finished the regular season with a 8-4 run, becoming a “BS no penalty call in the Chargers/Chiefs Week 17 Game” away from sneaking into the playoffs. During that 8-4 run, Big Ben thew for 23 TD and 9 INT for a completion percentage of 64.1 and a passer rating of 95.0.
Not much should change in terms of the quality of QB play from Big Ben in 2014, but the talent surrounding him is questionable. The Steelers defense that was once feared throughout the NFL has significantly declined, and with the recent arrests of running backs LeVeon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, that only leaves rookie Dri Archer as a dependable player in the backfield.
I expect some struggles from Big Ben (but overall consistently good QB play), but if Archer and WR Antonio Brown can hold their ground, it’s a definite possibility Ben will climb higher on this list at the end of the year.
8. Tony Romo
2013 Stats: 342/535, 63.9 Completion Percentage, 3,828 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT, 96.7 Passer Rating.
Perhaps the most underrated quarterback in NFL history, Tony Romo has played exceptionally well on Cowboys teams that continue to be mediocre. As a result, the “choker” status sticks out, and it always seems like the pieces for Dallas fall apart at the wrong time.
But for the last 3 years, Romo has kept the Cowboys relevant in playoff talk going into week 17 thanks to efficient passing and large volume yardage. This isn’t garbage time either, the Cowboys were desperately fighting for a playoff spot, and the usual week 17 match ups decided the NFC East Division Title thanks to Romo’s underrated ability in the clutch.
We know he’s not elite, but he’s awfully close. The Cowboys defense was atrocious last year, including a disastrous performance against the Broncos, in which Romo still managed to throw for over 500 yards and 5 TD passes. His late interception changed perspective, and many unfairly blamed him for the loss.
The defense won’t look any better in 2013, but TE Jason Witten, RB DeMarco Murray, and star WR Dez Bryant, Romo should stay exceptional in 2014, and I expect him to improve this year (the team Romo was on in 2013 was worse than the 2012 team, which he struggled more so than 2013). The 34 year-old veteran is due for a playoff run, and while that might not be a possibility this year, if the cards play right on offense, we could definitely see it coming.
7. Andrew Luck
2013 Stats: 343/570, 60.2 Completion Percentage, 3,822 Yards, 23 TD, 9 INT, 87.0 Passer Rating
Numerous experts have praised Andrew Luck as a top 5 quarterback already. While I hesitate to agree on that, his ability in the clutch, mobility, and consistent leadership easily put him on pace to do so. Carrying a mediocre supporting cast around, Luck still managed to perform well as a young quarterback.
Though Luck’s TD numbers are about average, he lowered his turnover rate in 2013, and we should see significant progression in 2014 from him, to the point where he may play at the level of the elites.
I see Luck as the next Steve Young, not in terms of style, but rather stepping out of the shadows of another great. In other words, Joe Montana is to Steve Young and the 49ers as Peyton Manning is to Andrew Luck and the Colts. I expect Luck to not only step out of Peyton’s shadow, but thrive in 2014.
It’s only a matter of time before the elite QBs such as Peyton, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees near retirement, and Luck is inching closer near that mark of elite play.
6. Philip Rivers
2013 Stats: 378/544, 69.5 Completion Percentage, 4,478 yards, 32 TD, 11 INT, 105.5 Passer Rating
What seemed like a once great quarterback exiting the doors vanished. After declining in 2011 and 2012, Philip Rivers suddenly thrived in 2013, returning to his glory days from 2006-2010. Under a new non Norv Turner system, Rivers’ skill set was fresh, and his terrific play was enough to guide the Chargers to the 6th seed in the AFC, which included a playoff win against the Bengals and a Comeback Player Of The Year award.
Rivers at his best has always been a dangerously accurate quarterback, and like Tony Romo, is due for a deep playoff run. His mechanics were changed under new head coach Mike McCoy, in which he got the ball out quicker and had much better pass protection. Ultimately, it made a big difference for the Chargers.
Though I don’t expect an AFC West Division Title with Peyton Manning on the Broncos anytime soon, the Chargers can very likely return to the playoffs as a Wild Card team again under Rivers. I expect around the same QB play as 2013, which would be good enough to get SD into the playoffs once again.
5. Russell Wilson
2013 Stats: 257/407, 63.1 Completion Percentage, 3,357 yards, 26 TD, 9 INT, 101.2 Passer Rating
The defending Super Bowl Champion QB has a lot of expectations coming into 2014, which I believe he will exceed with flying colors.
Russell Wilson has not posted the amount of passing attempts fellow young QB Andrew Luck has, but makes up for it with above average TD passing and exceptional efficiency. Though he’s got the best defense in the NFL backing him up, the Seahawks would be nowhere near the Super Bowl without Wilson, who has excelled under head coach Pete Carroll’s aggressive go-for-it style of play.
I predict Wilson will be much better in 2014. For a young QB, his mobility is top notch, the decision making superb, his ability in the clutch is exceptional, and his deep ball accuracy is ridiculously smooth. That offensive line isn’t getting much better, but we could be seeing the next elite QB once Wilson’s training wheels finally break.
Game Manager? Hardly.
4. Tom Brady
2013 Stats: 380/628, 60.5 completion percentage, 4,343 yards, 25 TD, 11 INT, 87.3 Passer Rating
Let me explain myself, Patriots fans, before you bash me for putting Tom Brady this low on the list.
2013 was a decline for Brady. While it’s true he played with a cast without the quality of his previous teams, Brady himself struggled, becoming surprisingly off on a significant amount of throws. These struggles included 0 TD in the playoffs (unless you count the garbage time TD against the Broncos). The Patriots easily won against the Colts, but this was due to a dominant running game and defense. Brady threw 0 TD in that game.
It seems safe to say Brady may be near the end.
However, because the Patriots organization is well run, this may not be the case. Brady’s #1 guy in Rob Gronkowski should FINALLY start healthy (for the sake of my fantasy team), and Brady’s got weapons in Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman that should be able to progress enough for Brady to return to his prime state. And Brady has ALWAYS been deadly accurate when the cards are played right.
While I wouldn’t call his 2013 season “More With Less”, Brady, for the most part, played well enough to guide the Patriots to yet another AFC East Division Title. It’s definitely possible for Brady to exceed 35+ TD once again.
No one can deny Brady is a hard working QB, and very few QBs have been able to pass his body of work and excellence. I sense 2013 was an off year, and he should return to Tom Terrific in 2014.
3. Drew Brees
2013 Stats: 446/650, 68.6 Completion Percentage, 5,162 yards, 39 TD, 12 INT, 104.7 Passer Rating
One of the most efficient long bomb passers EVER, Drew Brees is one of a kind, and has almost always had the long volume bombs of Warren Moon, and the pin point accuracy of Kurt Warner. The long volume yardage would mean nothing without a solid completion percentage, and Brees has an extreme amount of that, and then some.
You’d think he’s the most accurate Hail Mary passer of all time.
Despite his size, the Saints star QB doesn’t seem to be declining at all, providing New Orleans 8 years of top level QB play. Though the turnover rate prevents him from being the #1 QB in my eyes, Brees has stayed consistently elite for a long time, and his career is something few others have accomplished in terms of pure sustainability.
I see Brees finally performing a bit better than Tom Brady, who has usually had the edge season-by-season. And who knows, we could see another Super Bowl added to Brees’ collection if he continues his excellent quarterback play.
No worries here, Who Dat Nation (knock on wood).
2. Aaron Rodgers
2013 Stats: 193/290, 66.6 Completion Percentage, 2,536 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT, 104.9 Passer Rating
The best QB of the 2010s by far when healthy, Aaron Rodgers has played at a level of smart decision making that has never been seen before.
While the struggles were there in 2013, and the health concerns present, Rodgers’ return in week 17 of the 2013 season saw him guide a mediocre Packers squad to another NFC North title in a closely contested match against the Bears, where he threw a last second game winning TD to WR Randall Cobb.
Aaron Rodgers in my eyes is already a Hall Of Famer, providing quality over quantity from 2008-2013, including outstanding playoff performances and a dominant peak. His severely minimal mistakes, combined with huge TD volume and efficiency, make him standout among the elites, and the expectations are that he will continue his reign of terror on the NFL.
Needless to say, because of his injury in 2013, I have him as #2 on the list, behind a fellow elite quarterback.
1. Peyton Manning
2013 Stats: 450/659, 68.3 Completion Percentage, 5,477 yards, 55 TD, 10 INT, 115.1 Passer Rating
We are all witnesses to the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. No I’m not talking about Joe Montana. I’m talking about The Sheriff himself, Peyton Manning.
The 38 year-old QB ages like wine, constantly improving his game and conquering the NFL as THE poster boy for field generals. His 2013 MVP season was yet another masterpiece, and ranks as one of the greatest seasons in individual QB history, setting records for TD passes and yardage.
It’s no secret that Peyton’s never had the strongest arm, but he’s got the smartest. He makes the players around him better in ways no other QB in NFL history has been able to achieve, and his window of excellence ranks high among the rest.
Is there really much to say?
With Peyton at QB, the Broncos will remain a threat until the day Peyton retires. And with his level of play getting better as each year goes by, it’s no surprise that I have him as the best QB heading into 2014.
Scoff at Peyton Manning for being a “playoff choker” all you want, but he’s better than your favorite quarterback, no debate necessary.
Thank you for viewing this list, and do not be afraid to voice your opinion on snubs, your list, or agreement (irrational comments and insults are frowned upon).