Otherwise, let’s continue where we left off.
- Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos)
It’s sad how one bad game can ruin the perspective of Peyton Manning’s deep ball in 2014. It seems no matter what he does, Manning can never get any props if it’s short of a 2nd Super Bowl ring. Which is a shame, because I think he’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
And in 2014, his deep ball looked that way for a while. There was barely any decline in the 2nd half of the season from the first half, and Manning showed that even at his old age, he could play the quarterback position better than most. It seemed like all of his completions were perfectly placed passes.
But what about December where he supposedly “declined”? His deep ball must have been terrible! On the contrary.
Completing 55.5% of your deep passes in December? At age 38+? Keep in mind the 2 picks came from one game (Week 14 against the Bills), so Peyton played an otherwise excellent December on the deep ball. And yes, he made them look beautiful, which sums up his 2014 season perfectly.
Best Deep Ball: Week 16 at CIN, 3:53 3Q: When I saw this throw on TV, I didn’t think there were many deep passes better on the season. This was a rocket to Demaryius Thomas that could not be thrown any better. 46-yard play.
- Josh McCown (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now with the Cleveland Browns)
Josh McCown somehow convinced the world he deserved a QB1 deal from a fluke 1 INT half season in Chicago, and tricked the Bucs into making him the starter. And when talking about his deep ball, there really isn’t much to say. He’s the typical inaccurate journeyman QB, yet somehow has been able to play with receivers such as Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Mike Evans.
McCown wasn’t god awful I suppose, but there really isn’t much to vouch for. There were a few moments of bad luck towards the end of the season that help him out, but otherwise, he barely did enough (Week 11 vs. WSH for example) to avoid getting an F grade.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 11 at WSH, 14:13 4Q: A dime to Mike Evans for a 56-yard touchdown. This was a deep ball completion that was well deserved (I’m struggling to figure out compliments if you can tell.)
- Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Cam Newton is an interesting case. He got screwed over by his receivers dropping some excellent passes or not being on the same page, yet has been able to stand on his own in spite of this. While not an excellent deep ball passer, Newton’s film was a nice surprise.
Take his week 5 game against the Bears for example. He went 3/7 on the deep ball, but only one of his incompletions was a non-catchable ball. The rest were drops/miscommunications you can blame on Kelvin Benjamin. Even the sole completion to Benjamin ended up being a fumble.
Cam’s film has enough overthrows to bring the grade down, but this was still an above average downfield season for him.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 4 at BAL, 8:41 2Q: Newton fires a great bucket left pass to Benjamin for a 28-yard touchdown.
- Kyle Orton (Buffalo Bills, now retired)
In 2014, the Buffalo Bills managed a 9-7 record thanks to the winning efforts of Kyle Orton. Or at least that’s what I’m told, because Orton was awful on the deep ball. You may be thinking, how can a 42.7 CMP%, 6 TD and 3 INT be awful?
Here’s the catch; he was terribly inaccurate, even on his completions. Orton benefitted from having very athletic pass catchers in Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. From passes thrown too high, too low, or too behind, Orton somehow escaped with many completed passes. Even the on target completions aren’t something to remember for a lifetime.
I guess that sums up Kyle Orton’s NFL career.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 5 at DET, 9:57 4Q: Orton fires an on target dime to Marquise Goodwin for 42 yards.
- Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
An early MVP candidate, Philip Rivers had a remarkable start to the deep ball in his first 6 games, only throwing 1 pick to 5 touchdowns. Many of these were throws you couldn’t miss on the highlight reel.
However, it was clear Rivers did not play a healthy 2nd half, where his deep ball productivity (and overall play) declined, throwing 8 picks in his last 10 games on the money shot. This is a shame because Rivers was on pace for an A+ grade.
Still, the decline was not terrible, as Rivers proved he was still solid on the downfield throw. Combine that with his incredible start, and you get a grade that’s a lot better than what the stats might indicate.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 2 vs. SEA, 3:08 3Q: One of Rivers’ signature throws on the season came against the Seahawks, where he somehow avoided a sack and fired a beautiful pass in the end zone to Antonio Gates for a 21 yard touchdown. The vision on this particular pass was perfect.
- Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Coming off his best season yet, Ben gave us the goods when it came to the deep ball in 2014. Obviously, his 2 six touchdown games have to be high on the list, but the one against Baltimore gets a special shoutout because he threw 5 touchdowns on the deep ball in that game, which is incredible. Ultimately, this helped him lead 2014 in deep ball touchdowns (14).
Sure, there are some bad throws, but there isn’t a whole lot to convince me that I should knock off his grade by much. I also consider Big Ben’s style of backyard football play innovative in the sense that it opened the doors for many mobile quarterbacks in the league. When you get right down to it, Ben Roethlisberger looked excellent on the deep ball, with few flaws as a whole.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 1 vs. CLE, 9:59 2Q: This was prime Big Ben, as he avoided a sack, bought time, and fired a phenomenal end zone pass placed perfectly in Antonio Brown’s hands for a 35-yard touchdown.
- Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
This is it. In my opinion, nothing gets better than Aaron Rodgers’ deep ball. 2014’s MVP winner delivered and gave us a season to remember on the deep ball. Rodgers did all, from throws across his body, to incredible pocket presence, to crafted scrambling skills, to drop backs on play action, and of course, the throws themselves were scary accurate.
Aaron Rodgers was one of three quarterbacks to only throw 1 pick on the deep ball (Buffalo), but he was the only one to do so while starting more than 8 games, which is impossible. There’s nothing to nitpick at all, aside from a few throws, because Rodgers’ insane athleticism and arm more than make up for it. There’s not even a flaw worth mentioning when it comes to this aspect, period.
There’s so many beautiful throws from Rodgers on the money ball in 2014, and I can’t do justice to them just by saying it. But what I can say is it’s getting better and better by each passing year. Nothing is better than this.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 14 vs. ATL, 10:38 4Q: Rodgers’ signature play action drop back touchdown throw, in which he fired an amazing cannon to Jordy Nelson for a 60-yard touchdown. In addition, this beautifully placed throw broke the record for most yards in a QBs first 100 starts. Wow.
- Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)
A 2nd team All Pro in 2014, Tony Romo, like Roethlisberger, came off his finest season yet, and his deep ball was a big time indicator of such. While he threw 3 TD and 3 INT on this part in his first 6 games, he went on a roll in his last 10, completing 53.3% of his passes while throwing 9 TD and 3 INT.
And believe me, Romo passes the eye test. A mobile quarterback with the same skill set as Roethlisberger and Rodgers, he had plenty of spin to show even with an excellent offensive line. Since he’s a guy that’s always been known to extend plays and buy time in the pocket, that’s pretty much what he did in 2014, with the smooth accurate touch and improvisational skills that set up big plays. Heck, his final deep attempt of the season was an unbelievably perfect throw to Terrance Williams (more on him later) for 51 yards after climbing the pocket.
With a team no longer bringing him down, Romo thrived, giving us a terrific season on the deep ball, let alone overall.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 5 vs. HOU, 6:18 3Q: This one should be obvious. It’s the spin play where Romo made J.J. Watt look silly, avoiding the sack before firing an beautiful end zone pass to Terrance Williams for the 43-yard touchdown. The perfect example of Romo’s improv skills.
- Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
5 touchdowns to 9 interceptions? This sounds like an awful deep ball season. Not even close. For one thing, 6 of Matt Ryan’s picks came in 3 games. In addition, his accuracy was off the charts, including some above average mobility and nice ball placement.
Matt Ryan has taken charge as the most underrated active QB in the league, which sucks because he’s been the best thing to happen to the Falcons in a long time. The pick sixes were really bad, but otherwise Ryan had a good year throwing the ball long. I look forward to more of this in 2015.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 16 at NO, 12:51 1Q: Perfectly on target, Ryan delivered a smooth sailing air mail special to Devonta Freeman for 36 yards.
- Mark Sanchez (Philadelphia Eagles)
From the Buttfumble guy to a decent QB in 2014, Mark Sanchez looked alive under Chip Kelly. The 3 TD 6 INT ratio looks bad, but Sanchez was actually better than Nick Foles on the deep ball in 2014.
To start, Sanchez did what Foles could not; become watchable under pressure. At times he showed the pocket presence of Rodgers, Ben, and Romo, while making good sidesteps and solid deep throws. Of course, since this is Mark Sanchez, we can expect some downright stupid plays as well, and there were plenty (even in Chip Kelly’s QB enhancing system). Still, there’s a lot less mistakes than Foles, giving Sanchez a respectable grade this time around.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 9 at HOU, 13:17 2Q: His first attempt of the season was also his best, as Sanchez threw a terrific strike to Jeremy Maclin for 52 yards.
- Geno Smith (New York Jets)
You guys know I have a soft spot for Geno Smith. He’s pretty Tim Couch-esque in that he gets ripped apart as a bust when in actuality he’s been in a terrible situation. As such, his mobility (which I consider to be nearly as good as Russell Wilson’s) and arm strength go underrated because people only remember the mistakes and not the fact that Rex Ryan coached him.
Yes, there are plenty of bad throws. Yes, there are throws you wish you could unsee (if you’re a Jets fan). And yes, there are throws that will last a lifetime for the wrong reasons. But the connections are just beautiful. In fact, I can’t think of more than 3 completions on the deep ball that were off target. And that’s Geno’s saving grace. In fact, he completed 6/6 deep passes in week 17 for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. Terrific numbers.
Smith is still relatively young, and with a good coach he can thrive. Hopefully Todd Bowles gives him a chance to shine and turn around his career. There’s plenty of promise, even with a bunch of ugly throws.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 17 at MIA, 11:46 3Q: Facing extreme pressure, Geno backpedaled and heaved up a perfectly placed pass to Eric Decker who took it for a 74-yard touchdown. Beautiful.
- Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
Ugh. I don’t say that to disregard Alex Smith’s deep ball as much as I do as a response to his playing style. Alex Smith is that outspoken member of D.A.R.E. that likes to brag about how he doesn’t take risks and annoys everyone.
To my surprise, when Smith does throw the money ball, it’s not bad at all. It’s also not something to build a statue for, but you won’t find me ripping this apart limb by limb. And yes, despite throwing zero touchdowns to a wide receiver, Smith actually has 2 TD passes on the deep ball. Both of these were to recently released tight end Anthony Fasano.
Overall, some good stuff, but I just wish Alex would take more risks once in a while. He’s holding back Kansas City.
Best Deep Ball Throw: Week 15 vs. OAK, 9:44 2Q: This was a dime to Albert Wilson for 48 yards. Perfectly placed.