O'Hara: Ranking the Top 12 QBs: Production, Winning Give Stafford Spot

Posted Jul 25, 2012

Part three of O'Hara's three-part series on Quarterbacks

Performance and production carry a lot of weight in any of my player ratings. I want players who produce and win games.

Past performance is also part of the equation and has a bearing in my ranking of the NFL’s top 12 quarterbacks. Royalty means something, which is why I give Peyton Manning a high rating despite missing all of last season.

My list has 12 quarterbacks for a reason. Twelve teams make the NFL playoffs, and I pick quarterbacks I consider capable of leading a team to the playoffs.

Here is my list of the top 12 quarterbacks. As always, feel free to disagree and share your opinion with me and others:

1. Tom Brady, Patriots: He’s one of the QB royals who still produces at a high level. He led an ordinary Patriots team to a 13-3 record and his fifth Super Bowl appearance last year, and he threw for 5,235 yards and 39 TDs. He’s the best of his era and deserves No. 1 on my list.

2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Great quarterback, great future, great performance in leading the 2010 Packers to a Super Bowl championship and great 2011 season – 45 TDs, 6 interceptions, 122.5 passer rating and a 15-1 record for the Packers. Rodgers has a strong case to be No. 1, but Brady’s five Super Bowls gave him the edge.

3. Drew Brees, Saints: Perhaps the NFL’s most important player to a franchise, and a passing machine. He set the one-season record for yards last year with 5,476. It was his second 5,000-yard season. Take nothing away from Brees, but I like Brady and Rodgers more.

4. Eli Manning, Giants: He’s 2-for-2 in Super Bowl appearances, and both times beat the Patriots on Giants teams that had a lesser record – 10-6 in 2007 and 9-7 last year, when they beat the Cowboys in the last game to make the playoffs. Playing at home is no real advantage for teams playing the Giants. Eli’s coming – and winning on the road. No more questions about his toughness or ability to lead. He’s Peyton’s little brother only in age.

5. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: He isn’t a picture-perfect passer, but he stands up to the pass rush, takes a beating and wins games. However, at 30 and going into his ninth season, there’s a real question of whether his best days are behind him. He had 21 TD passes against 14 interceptions last year and did not play well in the playoff loss at Denver.

6. Peyton Manning, Broncos: After not missing a game for 13 seasons with the Colts, he missed all of last season because of a neck injury. That ended his stay in Indy, and he signed with Denver after being released. Peyton is still one of the NFL’s most dynamic figures, but a huge question hovers over him. The 2012 season will be a great story in Denver, but will it be a great season?

7. Philip Rivers, Chargers: All six quarterbacks ranked ahead of him have played in at least one Super Bowl and won at least one championship. The Chargers have been the NFL’s biggest under achievers, and 2011 was one of Rivers’ worst seasons – 27 TDs, 20 interceptions, 88.7 rating and out of the playoffs. I can’t argue with anyone who rates him lower.

8. Joe Flacco, Ravens: I might not pick him this high if I had to draft the eighth QB for a fantasy league, but Flacco plays his role in making the Ravens a consistent playoff team. They’d have beaten the Patriots in the AFC Championship last season if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone. Flacco delivered in the clutch.

9. Matthew Stafford, Lions: In the next couple of years, we easily could be talking about Stafford in the top five – at least. All he needs is time. His passing ability is obvious, and he has the intangibles that aren’t as readily apparent. The NFL has a lot of outstanding quarterbacks, and Stafford is one of them – and better than most of them.

10. Cam Newton, Panthers: He’s a great athlete, and that’s often a qualifying knock against quarterbacks. Not with Newton. His athleticism enhances his ability rather than overshadowing his weaknesses. His rookie season was one for the ages – 21 TD passes against 17 interceptions, 14 rushing TDs, 51 rushing first downs – and only five fumbles, despite having the ball that much.

11. Michael Vick, Eagles: Last season was a mess for Vick and the Eagles. There was too much hype, too much talk, and too many hard hits for Vick. He missed three games and had a down season – 18 TDs, 14 interceptions and only one rushing TD. One amazing stat for Vick: 21 TD passes in 2010 are his career high for a season.

12. Tony Romo, Cowboys: Playing in Dallas is a double-edged chainsaw for Romo. His big stats are taken for granted. His miscues are highlighted. His stats for the last six years are terrific – 149 TD passes, 80 interceptions – but the Cowboys have won only one playoff game. Right or wrong, most of that falls on the quarterback.

Others: Jay Cutler gets a lot of mention to be ranked among the best. He’s talented, but I don’t see it. When he went out for the last six games in 2011, the Bears were 7-3, and he had 13 TD passes and seven interceptions. The Bears built their record on Matt Forte’s running and the defense. Matt Ryan of the Falcons has had good stats in four seasons, but he hasn’t won a playoff game, despite the running presence of Michael Turner.

The 49ers are coming off a big year, but they plainly were hoping to land Peyton Manning. That doesn’t say much for their confidence in Alex Smith. Matt Schaub has had good stats in Houston, but there’s nothing about his game that excites me. And the Texans made the playoffs for the first time ever with him on injured reserve the last six games. Rookies Andrew Luck of the Colts and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins – drafted 1-2 this year – are young guns to watch. They have to throw at least one pass before making anyone’s top 10.