You can find my Top 15 Quarterbacks Of 2014 article here.
2015 has been widely accepted as a down year for the NFL, especially after a fantastic 2014. Most of this is due to vast injuries at many positions, as well as the offensive rules making it harder for teams to keep up on defense, resulting in a massive overload of stats (5 QBs threw for at least 35 touchdown passes in 2015).
With that said, there was still enough quality QB play that we weren’t all disappointed. Naturally, as is the case with every year, I provide you with a list counting down the best quarterbacks from the 2015 season.
If you’re a newcomer following me from my current Deep Ball research, rest assured that this list will be far less confusing. However, be aware that stats were NOT considered when I made this list. All that concerns me is how I saw the QBs play. This list is not designed to be controversial in any way, but because my opinions will likely be different than the rest, this might as well be the case.
Enough talk. Let’s countdown the Top 15 Quarterbacks of 2015, Brick Wall Blitz Edition.
- Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
Let’s travel back to 2014. The Chicago Bears were predicted by many (including me) to be a playoff contender. Jay Cutler was coming off a solid 2013 season, and head coach Marc Trestman appeared to turn the corner for the franchise, along with star receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
The resulting 2014 season was an unforeseeable disaster. The entire offense failed to connect as a whole, which Cutler took much of the blame for. After a 5-11 finish, Trestman was fired in only his 2nd year, and former Broncos coaches John Fox and Adam Gase were brought in to fix a QB described as unfixable.
Despite talks that the Bears would appear to move on from Cutler, his 2015 play was optimistic enough to put those talks at ease.
With Gase’s scheme, we saw the real Jay Cutler at play (No, not the bodybuilder, though you’d be forgiven for thinking that.). While he wasn’t excellent, he did well in an offense that suited his strengths. His best throws were fantastic, and at times Cutler showed brilliant mobility and decision-making. Highlights include the 4th quarter game tying drive against the Lions in Week 6, and Week 5 at the Chiefs.
There’s not much else for me to say besides that. Jay Cutler is inconsistent with his reads, but he’s also a good quarterback when given an actual scheme, and 2015 proved that it’s possible to build a team around him.
Best Game: Week 14 vs. Washington
- Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
If you’re an Atlanta Falcons fan, chances are you have mixed opinions on Matt Ryan. On one hand, you consider him a good or great QB that’s given the Falcons much success since his 2008 rookie season. On the other, while you may appreciate what he did in the past, you’ve become impatient with his recent Win-Loss total, as well as his statistical output not being as good as other QBs.
All things considered, this was not a standout year for an otherwise really good quarterback, but it’s not the mess people claim it to be.
Yes, Matt Ryan threw some costly turnovers this season, and at inopportune times as well. Aside from Julio Jones, however, his receivers offered in the way of help, also dropping passes and running the wrong routes at inconvenient times.
In terms of accuracy, Ryan nailed it as usual. His arm strength and mobility aren’t near the top (they never were), but he’s been able to offset this with smart throws and careful reads. I wouldn’t worry about the other traits too much heading into 2016.
About to be 31, Matt Ryan is an underrated signal caller. With non-Julio receivers that can catch the ball, and less turnovers in crucial moments, Ryan will have a better 2016 season (healthy of course). 2015, however, was another fine season for him.
Best Game: Week 2 at NYG
- Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
I don’t consider Derek Carr’s 2014 rookie season that high in regard. His footwork and panic when pass protection failed was concerning, and his accuracy as a whole really didn’t help matters.
That’s why his 2015 season was a pleasant surprise to me. With the help of an improved receiving core and a top OL (for most of the season, anyway), Carr was able to correct many of the decisions that plagued his rookie season for the better, and packed in a quality year.
The footwork and panic problems from the year were toned down to a degree, as Carr was able to make smarter, tighter throws from the pocket, and in the first half of the season this was especially apparent. His deep passing was off the charts during this stretch, but when the offensive line collapsed in the 2nd half, some of those issues came back.
Still, Carr’s sophomore year showcased a significant leap in progression, one that Raiders fans should be very pleased by.
Best Game: Week 3 at Cleveland
- Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
Often the butt of jokes for his playoff record (and hair), Andy Dalton has been generally accepted as a roller coaster QB, with many ups, downs, twists and turns.
This was toned down to an extent for 2015, in which he had a career year. The talent around Dalton was off the charts, featuring AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovanni Bernard, Marvin Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and a superb offensive line. With that help, Dalton was able to make better throws while lessening the bad plays.
While he had his best year, Dalton still tended to rely on his receivers to make plays happen, as questionable accuracy once again surfaced before his injury. This bogs him down on my list, yet when compared to his peers, Andy Dalton had a quality year.
Best Game: Week 1 at Oakland
- Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)
Ryan Tannehill’s reputation is unearned, as beyond what the stat sheet may say, he actually had a really good 2015 season, perhaps a career best.
While 2014 appeared to be the turning point for the Dolphins organization, a disappointing start (and finish no matter) to the season prompted in another failure to reach the postseason and Lamar Miller leaving.
This has less to do with Tannehill and more with the quality of his offensive line, the coaching, and his receivers to an extent. Tannehill’s leap in deep ball quality surprised me, and his general poise, decision making, and mobility all looked even better than they did before. A smart QB, he’s able to play at his best on roll out plays, showing great accuracy there.
Trust me, as this is not as crazy as Brent Grimes’ wife. Ryan Tannehill continues to provide quality seasons that go under the radar, and hopefully Adam Gase will be able to provide a scheme that can fix the offensive woes (also kidnap Lamar Miller).
Best Game: Week 17 vs NE
- Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Drew Brees has always been a fascinating quarterback. When talking about The Big 4 (including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers), Brees’ name, while generally acknowledged, has been brought up the least, despite being a future Hall of Famer.
His 2015 season won’t change matters, but it was a standard Brees year. His height limits his decision making a bit, but his smooth mechanics and nimble footwork more than make up for these traits. When he’s hot, he’s on fire, as he’s proven in the past. Struggles early lower him on this list, but he was able to improve in the 2nd half to stay in the top ten.
You could describe Drew Brees’ 2015 really shortly; he was very good, but had the dishonor of playing with possibly the worst defense in NFL history, limiting his chances of lifting the Saints to victory. Nevertheless, this is a great QB the Saints need to keep building around in hopes to return to the playoffs in 2016.
Best Game: Week 16 vs Jacksonville
- Sam Bradford (Philadelphia Eagles)
Hang in there, Eagles fans. If you think you were confused when I gave Sam Bradford an A on his 2015 deep ball, you’ll be shell shocked by his overall ranking.
Yes, like Tannehill, I think Bradford is a very good quarterback, as well as a misunderstood one. He doesn’t have the fancy passing stats of every quarterback that’s ever gotten praise in the league, but there’s a reason for that; the offenses he’s been in haven’t been good.
This is often sourced out to Bradford, and having watched him over the last six months, I can say it’s blame that doesn’t deserve to be attributed. As aforementioned, Bradford’s deep accuracy is excellent (2nd behind Carson Palmer in Deep Ball Accuracy), and his game on the whole is of consistent quality. Sadly, too many times has Bradford been let down by drops, bad pass protection, inefficient running games, and failures at the catch point, all of which were present in 2015.
Eagles fans don’t realize they have a good QB at the display, and not many others realize this either. Bradford’s 2015 season is one you’ll need to look through multiple times to truly appreciate and understand.
Best Game: Week 17 at NYG
- Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Often compared with certain QBs because of his “mediocre” regular seasons and great postseasons, Eli Manning is actually a much better QB than mediocre, and as 2015 testified, a great one too.
For one, Eli panics much less than those certain QBs, and is smarter with his decision making. He also doesn’t provide as many turnovers from dumb decision making, just accuracy.
In the 2nd year in Ben McAdoo’s offense, Eli continued to be more comfortable with his throws and reads despite being behind one of the worst supporting casts in the league (save Odell Beckham). His accuracy has never been his strongest suit, but his decision making has.
In short, Eli Manning’s always been able to give his receivers chances for big plays, and his placement was even tighter in 2015, in what some might say his best season.
Best Game: Week 14 at Miami
- Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
My friends and I have always loved Philip Rivers. Perhaps part of it is because of his silly attitude, but his accuracy and best throws as a whole have left little to be undesired.
Most people have acknowledged Rivers as a great QB, perhaps a future Hall of Famer. Those same people also tend to agree that he was let down by his team in 2015. With one of the worst offensive lines of the season, as well as injuries plaguing his weapons, the Chargers went a dismal 4-12.
At full health, though, Rivers provided a step up from his 2014 season, although not as big of a step as the first half of that season. His ball placement and footwork are still sublime, it’s just the cast around him that’s declined.
Let’s just hope the Chargers can get more wins than the Rivers family has kids in 2016, so that Philip Rivers can get back to the playoffs.
Best Game: Week 12 at Jacksonville
- Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
One thing’s for certain: Russell Wilson is a very, very, very interesting person, as exemplified by his Twitter account.
One thing is also for certain, he’s a great quarterback.
Perhaps the most impressive athlete at the QB position today, Wilson combines dangerous running with amazing mobility and fantastic arm strength. In 2015, he improved upon a somewhat underwhelming 2014 season to take control of the Seahawks offense.
So why is he only #6? His struggles in the first half of the season are the reason for it. Many times Wilson would turn down open receivers or panic despite good protection. He managed to lessen this in the 2nd half, playing more consistent, and more importantly, patient.
The stock is very high for Wilson to deliver an MVP-caliber season, and he’s already stepped in with the elite quarterbacks of our time.
Best Game: Week 14 at Baltimore
- Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Don’t believe anyone who tells you Aaron Rodgers’ play declined in 2015.
Granted, because 4 other quarterbacks played at a higher level than him due to better situations, that may seem to be the case, but Rodgers had another stellar year in regards to what he had to deal with. The run game was surprisingly bad, the receivers (especially without Jordy Nelson) were inefficient, and yet Rodgers carried his team to the playoffs yet again, and was a 2nd Hail Mary away from the NFC Championship Game.
Yes, Rodgers’ stats were underwhelming, the exciting deep balls weren’t as frequent as we’d come to be used to, and yes, he posted under a 100.0 passer rating for the first time since 2008.
None of those matter in the end though, as he was virtually the same fantastic QB he’s always been. The mobility, accuracy, and decision making were as great as usual, just in lesser quantity because his receivers could not get open.
Things should be a bit better for the Future Hall of Fame QB in 2016, and in context, he had another great year.
Best Game: Week 1 at Chicago
- Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Speaking of future Hall of Fame QBs, we move directly to Tom Brady.
The Patriots offense in 2015 (and at full health) played to the best of Brady’s strengths, and he was able to continue his excellence at decision making, footwork, and reads. While I never truly considered him a runaway MVP candidate in 2015 (he made more easy throws than his peers, lessening his impact slightly in my opinion), he was definitely up there.
Of course, when Dion Lewis, Gronk, Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, and Danny Amendola, among others, suffered injuries, that, combined with the offensive line put more pressure on Brady, and as a result his play declined.
While the consistency wasn’t always there, Brady managed to provide enough quality moments over the 2nd half of the season to prevent a slide on the list. With a couple good years left in him, Brady has continued to add great years on to his resume as one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
Best Game: Week 2 at Buffalo
- Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
What do you know, we move to yet another future Hall of Fame quarterback.
With a stud receiving cast, run game, and improved offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger’s quality of play has increased. Unlike Andy Dalton, however, Ben has made sure that his receivers relied on him for big plays, and when healthy his level was insanely good.
There were a few notable moments where Ben simply threw horrible turnovers, but these are outnumbered by the sheer quality of his best throws, his ability to extend throws, and his placement. Ben’s backyard style of football that innovated the millennial era of QBs was put to full use in 2015, even later in the season when he could barely sit up straight without suffering an injury somewhere on his body.
I argue that 2015 was Big Ben’s best season yet (more on that soon), despite what most of the stats may say. While many of his peers are on the decline or are in worse situations, Ben manages to be in a great situation while at the same time extending his prime. 2015 was a fantastic year for the Steelers quarterback, one full of exciting plays, moments, and excellent accuracy.
Best Game: Week 2 vs SF
- Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)
On occasion, a great story can lead to a great season.
Carson Palmer’s 2015 is one of those occasions.
After experiencing several up and down seasons with the Bengals and Raiders following his breakout 2005, Palmer went to the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, and by 2014, had been comfortable in the offense. This ended in tragedy, as he tore his ACL in a week 10 game against the Rams. Many analysts, because of this, predicted Palmer’s play in 2015 would regress to where he was between 2015 and 2013.
What we got, however, was an MVP-caliber year.
Taking full advantage out of rehab, Palmer delivered the goods, offering some of the best ball placement you’ll ever see and excellent (and unseen when in regards to, you know, Carson Palmer) use of mobility. With quality QB on top of a great supporting cast, the Cardinals won the NFC West for the first time since 2009, and made the NFC Championship for the 2nd time in team history.
Now, a question you may be asking yourselves is this; Was Palmer’s career year in 2015 a fluke? While these seasons from obscure QBs tend to be so, the answer here is no. If anything, Bruce Arians’ Fountain of Youth offense played to Palmer’s strengths, offering deep shots on the constant.
If you like excitement in your QBs, Carson Palmer provided loads of it in 2015. His intelligence created plays for his receivers to make, and ultimately led to an excellent season for the 36-year-old signal caller, one to remember.
Best Game: Week 11 vs CIN
- Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Originally, before making this list, I had Carson Palmer as the #1 QB of 2015, and Cam Newton at #2. However, throughout 2015 I had a tough time deciding between the two, and thought they were evenly split for a while.
Ultimately, it was a tough decision to make, but I went with Cam Newton.
Palmer pretty much had my #1 QB vote before the finger injury he sustained got a hold of him in the playoffs, leading to (understandably) erratic play, helping Newton get the edge.
But make no mistake, Cam doesn’t earn the top spot on this list just because someone handed it to him. Cam himself had a career year, and a fantastic one at that. Sure, like Wilson, he didn’t have the stats at the first half of the season. Unlike Wilson, however, Cam actually played consistently well before his stats (Re: receivers catching the ball) exploded in the 2nd half.
Cam’s athleticism has always been a selling point, and it’s impressive as hell. But what really sells me is how much his pocket movement, mobility, and decision making have improved. While somewhat inconsistent, his completions tend to be dead on, making up for any lack of accuracy with big plays. In addition, his ball placement in the red zone was something to behold, as he combined tight placement with fastball throws.
Combined with a better cast, Newton helped lead the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season, and ultimately a trip to the Super Bowl. Cam’s ability as a mobile QB is up there with Russell Wilson, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers. And in 2015, we were finally able to see what he could do with a better supporting cast.
It’s not the greatest season of all time, but it’s the best QB season of 2015.
Best Game: NFC Championship Game vs Arizona
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