- NFL Backup Quarterback Situations, Ranked: From the Jets to the Best
- The Jets
- The Zero Pass Attempts Club
- The Guys Who Have Hardly Touched an NFL Football
- The Young Passers Who Have Failed to Live Up to Their Promise
- The Replacement-Level Career Backups
- The Mizzou Tier
- The Fourth-Round Rookies
- Was a Big Deal for One Season
- The Mostly Competent Career Backups
- The Taysom Hill Tier
- The Recent Starters
- The First-Round Rookie
- The Former Rookie of the Year
- The One Guy Who Has Truly Flashed Potential
- NFL quarterback rankings for 2019
- These are the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL, according to ‘Madden 20’
The 11 hunkiest quarterbacks of the NFL
- Tom Brady, the Golden Boy
- Jimmy Garoppolo, the Heir Apparent
- Russell Wilson, Mr. Nice Guy
- Cam Newton, The Southern Gentleman
- Colin Kaepernick, the Body
- Aaron Rodgers, the Bachelor
- Mark Sanchez, the Smoldering Sensation
- Andy Dalton, the Ginger
- Blake Bortles, the Rookie
- Jay Cutler, the Bro
- Johnny Manziel, the Frat Boy
- Ranking the 12 quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers fall to the back half of the list
- Nine black quarterbacks will start in Week 13, but who has the juice?
- 100 percent pure juice
- CONCENTRATED JUICE
- Juice substitute
NFL Backup Quarterback Situations, Ranked: From the Jets to the Best
Welcome to The Ringer’s weekly NFL rankings, where we’ll break down the good, the bad, and the absurd of the 2019 season. Every Tuesday, we’ll have a ranking of the moments, players, or story lines that are driving the conversation around the league. This week, we’re going through each franchise’s backup quarterback situation to determine which are messes—and which could save their teams.
In Ron Jaworski’s 2010 book, Games That Changed the Game, the former quarterback and then–ESPN analyst details a time when he and Jon Gruden visited Colts practice before calling one of their games. There, Gruden noticed that Peyton Manning was taking virtually every rep, and he asked offensive coordinator Tom Moore about it.
“Fellas,” Moore told them, “if ‘18’ goes down, we’re fucked. And we don’t practice fucked.”
While the Eagles’ recent Super Bowl run with Nick Foles may cast some doubt on the widespread applicability of Moore’s statement, his logic is still true for most teams. And through just two weeks this season, we’ve already seen that situation become a reality for the Saints, Steelers, Jaguars, and Jets. With Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Nick Foles, Sam Darnold, and Trevor Siemian each sidelined for at least the next few weeks, their teams’ preseason aspirations have already taken a dramatic hit. And that doesn’t even include the Colts, whose Super Bowl hopes essentially went down the toilet the moment Andrew Luck announced his retirement just before the season, or the Giants, who just promoted Daniel Jones and made Eli Manning their new backup:
Daniel Jones has been named Giants starting QB
— New York Giants (@Giants) September 17, 2019
This quarterback carousel brings up a question: How prepared is each NFL franchise for their starting QB to go down? In the words of Moore, how fucked would they be if they need to go to their backup?
To find out, let’s dig into all 32 teams’ backup quarterback situations entering Week 3—excluding Teddy Bridgewater, Mason Rudolph, Gardner Minshew II, and potentially Luke Falk, who are all slated to become at least temporary starters for their teams. Obviously, ranking so many quarterbacks who have barely played is a virtually impossible task—but that won’t stop us. Here are all 32 backup quarterbacks, ranked and organized into tiers:
32. Le’Veon Bell in the Wildcat? Adam Gase Himself?
The poor Jets. Siemian’s ankle injury has thrust Falk, the former sixth-round pick who had never entered a game before Monday, into the de facto starting role in New York. The Jets will likely sign someone soon as they wait for Sam Darnold’s return from mono, but for now, there’s really not another backup option on the roster. Falk was on the practice squad before being called up this week. There are no other QBs on that squad.
The Zero Pass Attempts Club
31. Tim Boyle, Packers
In three years at UConn, Boyle tossed just one touchdown and a whopping 13 interceptions on 275 attempted passes. He averaged 4.5 yards per attempt and a measly 49.5 yards per game. He then transferred to Eastern Kentucky for a season, where he threw 11 touchdowns and another 13 interceptions on 327 attempts.
30. Brandon Allen, Broncos
29. Devlin Hodges, Steelers
Allen is a former sixth-round pick who has bounced around the league but never entered an NFL game. Hodges signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent this year and will now be thrust into the backup role after Roethlisberger’s injury—at least until Pittsburgh signs someone else (and it’s already looking). The Samford product is the all-time FCS passing leader—that has to count for something. But both of these guys find themselves in this position due to injuries (the Broncos’ Drew Lock and the Steelers’ Roethlisberger), so it’s hard to fault their respective teams for being so thin entering Week 3.
The Guys Who Have Hardly Touched an NFL Football
28. Cooper Rush, Cowboys
Rush has thrown three passes in his NFL career. One of them was caught for 2 yards. All three of those pass attempts came in 2017.
27. Joshua Dobbs, Jaguars
It was terribly unlucky timing for the Steelers to trade Dobbs to the Jaguars last week now that Roethlisberger has gone down. A former fourth-round pick out of Tennessee, Dobbs was the QB3 on the Steelers depth chart after Rudolph beat him out for the backup spot this offseason. Now he’ll be backing up fill-in starter Minshew until at least Week 11, when Foles may be able to return from his clavicle injury.
26. Kyle Allen, Panthers
Allen started a meaningless Week 17 contest last year, the only significant action of his rookie season. Playing against the Saints’ second-stringers in that game, Allen looked pretty solid, completing 16 of 27 passes for 228 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. He also rushed five times for 19 yards and another score, leading Carolina to a 33-14 win. That came one week after Taylor Heinicke started for the Panthers in Week 16 and threw three interceptions before injuring his elbow. Those two contests—which Cam Newton missed after being shut down for the season with a shoulder injury—were crucial for the Panthers’ backup QB battle: Allen had entered 2018 as the Panthers’ fourth-stringer, but his Week 17 audition was good enough to earn him the backup job this season. That could soon become a starting role:
#Panthers QB Cam Newton’s status for Sunday is up in the air after he aggravated a foot injury, per @RapSheet and me. He’s rehabbing while teammates practice. Ron Rivera talks later.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 17, 2019
The Young Passers Who Have Failed to Live Up to Their Promise
25. Brett Hundley, Cardinals
Hundley started nine games for Green Bay in 2017, and let’s just say there’s a reason the Packers moved on from him that offseason. His adjusted net yards per attempt (a stat much like passer rating that takes into account yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks) of 3.71 is the fourth-worst mark of this decade.
24. Josh Rosen, Dolphins
Poor Rosen was traded from the worst team in the league in 2018 to the worst team in the league in 2019. Rosen has certainly failed to perform thus far—his 7-of-18 for 97 yards and an interception on Sunday against the Patriots was awful, but also so typical for him that it barely registered for NFL fans outside of Miami.
Rosen deserves some benefit of the doubt, given the situations he has been put into. The Cardinals had by far the worst offense in the league last season, and the Dolphins are on track to be the worst team of all time:
I can update this now. Miami is the worst 0-2 team in DVOA history. pic.twitter.com/jnddW45sT7
— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) September 16, 2019
But Rosen still couldn’t beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job in training camp. Rosen hasn’t gotten a fair shake in the NFL, and that’s a shame—but he also might just be bad.
The Replacement-Level Career Backups
23. Josh Johnson, Lions
22. Matt Barkley, Bills
21. Sean Mannion, Vikings
20. Drew Stanton, Browns
19. Geno Smith, Seahawks
These guys are all boring, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency NFL quarterbacks. They’ve all been in the league since at least 2015, yet have failed to make much of a mark: Every single one has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in their career.
The Mizzou Tier
18. Chase Daniel, Bears
17. Blaine Gabbert, Buccaneers
Gabbert has technically thrown more touchdowns (48) than interceptions (47) through his eight years in the league, as has Daniel (four to three) so that separates them from the previous category of guys. But that hardly makes either of them convincing backups. Before last season, Daniel had thrown just one touchdown pass in 57 appearances, and Gabbert has an incredibly low career-adjusted net yards per attempt (4.27). He’s on his fifth NFL team for a reason.
The Fourth-Round Rookies
16. Ryan Finley, Bengals
15. Jarrett Stidham, Patriots
Finley and Stidham were both solid college starters who were taken in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft. That’s pretty much all that can be said about them at this point. There’s a certain thrill that comes with the unknown of having a rookie backup, but neither Finley nor Stidham has the promise of a Dwayne Haskins (more on him in a minute).
Was a Big Deal for One Season
14. A.J. McCarron, Texans
The Browns once nearly sent second- and third-round picks to Cincinnati for McCarron ahead of the 2017 trade deadline, but they messed up the paperwork and the deal didn’t go through. This came months after the Broncos reportedly tried to trade for McCarron in the offseason. This interest all seems to stem from the brief three-game stint McCarron spent as Cincinnati’s starter in 2015, during which he completed 79 of 119 passes (66.4 percent) for 854 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. That’s a pretty good stretch, but given the track records John Elway and Hue Jackson have with quarterbacks, their interest in McCarron is probably more of an indictment against him than an endorsement.
The Mostly Competent Career Backups
13. Mike Glennon, Raiders
It’ll always be a mystery why the Bears handed Glennon a three-year, $45 million contract with $18.5 million in guarantees in 2017. After benching him for Mitchell Trubisky by Week 5 of that season and then cutting him the following spring, it’s clear Chicago quickly found out that Glennon is not starting-quarterback material.
12. Matt Moore, Chiefs
Moore has been in the league since 2007. He has 45 career touchdown passes. The person he’s backing up, Patrick Mahomes, threw 50 touchdown passes just last season. So while Moore is one of the better backups on this list, the Chiefs would still have as large a drop-off in QB quality as any team in the league if something were to happen to the 2018 MVP.
11. Matt Schaub, Falcons
It’s been a decade since he did it, but Schaub is the only backup quarterback on this list to have once led the NFL in passing yards, doing so in 2009 when he threw for 4,770 as the Texans starter. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and has a career ANY/A of 6.44, which ranks 14th among active quarterbacks with at least 500 career pass attempts—that’s better than guys like Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, and Eli Manning. But Schaub is also 38 and hasn’t attempted more than 80 passes in a season since 2013, so it’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank at this point.
10. Josh McCown, Eagles
McCown is the platonic ideal of a career backup: He’s played for eight different teams since being drafted by the Cardinals in 2002 and has spent time with even more squads during various training camps over the years. Yet McCown has been sneakily solid, especially in 2017 when he threw for 2,926 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 13 games as the Jets starter. The biggest downside to McCown is that he is now on the wrong side of 40. In his defense, he doesn’t look like it:
The Taysom Hill Tier
9. Taysom Hill, Saints
Hill is the Saints’ jack of all trades. He’ll run routes, play special teams, even block if he’s asked to. That versatility makes him a unique backup, and while Teddy Bridgewater will take over for Brees, head coach Sean Payton still has a secret weapon in Hill. In the preseason, Hill played the second half of the team’s game against the Chargers, and he threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 55 yards on the ground. Sure, that’s just the preseason, but it shows that he can be a competent fill-in when necessary.
The Recent Starters
8. Brian Hoyer, Colts
Hoyer has started 33 games over the past five seasons, and the results haven’t been half bad: 59.3 percent completion rate, 41 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, and 6.2 adjusted net yards per attempt. Those starts came with four different teams: the Browns, Texans, Bears, and 49ers. His star faded some after Jimmy Garoppolo took over the Niners’ starting job toward the end of 2017, but Hoyer is a reliable backup.
7. Blake Bortles, Rams
Bortles may have served as little more than the butt of jokes in his five-year stint in Jacksonville, but even one of the worst starting quarterbacks in recent years is still one of the league’s best backups.
6. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
After six seasons and 88 games in which he failed to break out in Miami, it’s probably safe to say that Tannehill’s days as a starting NFL quarterback are over. But Tannehill could end up with a Schaub- or Moore-like back half of his career and spend many years as a competent backup.
5. Tyrod Taylor, Chargers
Taylor is in his ninth season in the league, and at this point his strengths and weaknesses are abundantly clear. He’s one of the league’s best at avoiding interceptions and can pick up crucial yards with his legs, but he regularly plays himself into sacks and relies too heavily on dink-and-dunk passes. In other words, Taylor won’t lose you too many games—but he won’t win many, either.
4. Eli Manning, Giants
Eli has been one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks for a while now, but he can still easily hold his own with nearly every player on this list. Welcome to the bench, Eli!
The First-Round Rookie
3. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
Haskins may not truly be a top-five backup in terms of his immediate readiness to take over, but his ceiling is higher than virtually every other player on this list. Ringer draft analyst Danny Kelly had Haskins as the no. 2 quarterback and 15th-highest ranked prospect overall entering the 2019 draft, and when Washington took him with the 15th pick, it was instantly one of the smarter moves the franchise has made in recent years.
Haskins put in a not great, not terrible preseason, completing 32 of 58 passes for 409 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. And with Washington sitting at 0-2, Haskins may find himself in the starting role—and reunited with college teammate Terry McLaurin—sooner rather than later.
The Former Rookie of the Year
2. Robert Griffin III, Ravens
I’ll never quit believing in RG3, even if his play since his 2012 rookie season has been mediocre at best. In the 31 games he’s played in since that Pro Bowl year, his stats are tough to digest: 62.2 percent completion, 23 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and 5.1 adjusted net yards per attempt. He takes a sack on 10.1 percent of his dropbacks, which is one of the worst era-adjusted sack rates since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger and is at least partially due to his penchant to hold onto the football.
Still, if Griffin were ever to get time in the Ravens offense, he could thrive. It’s obvious that when the Ravens signed RG3 last offseason, they believed the dual-threat quarterback would be the perfect backup for Lamar Jackson in this scheme.
The One Guy Who Has Truly Flashed Potential
1. Nick Mullens, 49ers
After bursting onto the scene in a Thursday Night Football game for the ages last season, Mullens was quietly solid for the back half of San Francisco’s 2018 campaign. Mullens’s ANY/A of 6.7 was 15th-best in the league among the 33 passers who registered at least 200 attempts. That may not be replicable over a larger sample size or in an offense that isn’t built by Kyle Shanahan, but it was an incredibly promising level of production for the then-rookie. To put that number into perspective, Andrew Luck registered a 5.7 ANY/A in his rookie season.
Mullens is not the next Luck, of course, but if Garoppolo ever misses time, Niners fans should feel confident in their backup. Look at the other 31 names on this list: Outside of teams with rookies on the bench, there is no other squad that can put the same faith in their backup. The Niners are the only team that wouldn’t be fucked.
The practice of ranking NFL quarterbacks has never been tougher, because the league has never had this many strong QBs at once. In 2019, the NFL continues to benefit from an intriguing intersection of future Hall of Famers and rising superstars.
Sporting News’ NFL team — writers Vinnie Iyer, Bill Bender and Tadd Haislop — did not shy away from the challenge of this increasingly difficult offseason tradition. Before you see our current list, however, be wary of our criteria.
2019 NFL PREDICTIONS:
Standings, playoffs, Super Bowl pick and more
These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season.
Get it? Got it? Good. Let’s get into SN’s NFL quarterback rankings for 2019.
NFL quarterback rankings for 2019
The top tier
(Elite QBs; best MVP candidates.)
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The reigning league MVP is seeing some personnel change around him, but his play last season proved how much he can elevate his backs, receivers and tight ends. Mahomes has raised the standard for all young guns coming into the league.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers is due for a durable, MVP-like season, and he will feel rejuvenated with new, offensive-minded coach in Matt LaFleur letting him loose with a versatile receiving corps. LaFleur also will use the Green Bay’s strengths up front and in the backfield to full advantage.
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
No matter how one measures his play, the GOAT was “only” superhuman last season, showing mild decline at age 41. Brady will be getting used to life without Rob Gronkowski in 2019 and leaning a little more on the run, but it’s hard to rank him any lower until he retires.
MORE: Gronk saved best for last with Pats
4. Drew Brees, Saints
Brees was right there with Mahomes and Brady in the MVP conversation last season, and he is one of those legends many will grow to appreciate more years down the road when they look back on how prolific he was. Now at 40, Brees in a couple years could even become known as a better age-defier than Brady is now.
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson has had a roller-coaster offseason, first getting his big contract and then losing his longtime go-to guy in Doug Baldwin. But here’s to a QB who consistently puts his team on his back, right arm and legs. Wilson will need to do even more of that in 2019.
The second tier
(Slightly more dependent but still great QBs helped by fine offenses.)
6. Philip Rivers, Chargers
Rivers looks like a young 37 with his ironman status. His two seasons with coach Anthony Lynn in Los Angeles have produced stellar play, throwing it back to his late 20s.
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan’s MVP year in 2016 was written off as a late-career anomaly when he struggled under Steve Sarkisian the very next season. In 2018, Ryan quietly rounded back into that form with similar numbers. Now with a familiar new coordinator in Dirk Koetter, expect the QB to adapt well and find comfort quickly.
8. Baker Mayfield, Browns
This is not just more Cleveland hype for 2019. Mayfield put together a terrific rookie season, one that could have been even better had Hue Jackson allowed him to compete for the job in the preseason, or had Freddie Kitchens been coaching him all the way. Now Kitchens is doing just that, and Mayfield has an elite No. 1 wideout in Odell Beckham Jr.
MORE: Curbing Cleveland’s enthusiasm
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
No, we did not put Big Ben behind Baker just to stir conversation in the AFC North. Given current trajectories, it made little sense to go the other way around. Roethlisberger will be impacted by the absence of Antonio Brown, and the Steelers will lean more on the running game and defense this season to compensate for the fade in Roethlisberger’s athleticism and ability to carry the team. Big Ben is still a fine, winning gunslinger, but going forward, Mayfield has the edge in intangibles.
10. Carson Wentz, Eagles
Wentz, a physical and athletic freak who got strong MVP consideration in his second season before his knee injury, would be ranked higher if not for concerns about his durability going into Year 4. He has a good chance to quickly change that narrative this season. The Eagles no longer have a good backup plan, and they are investing more in Wentz’s playmakers and protection.
11. Jared Goff, Rams
The notion that Goff is a system QB is not an insult; he should not apologize for his coach tailoring an offense to his strengths and allowing him to operate with the best wide receiver trio in the NFL. Goff proved last season he can get the job done even when other parts of the offense are not working. It just comes with more streakiness than consistency.
The third tier
(Younger QBs who have shown flashes and are on the cusp of greatness.)
12. Deshaun Watson, Texans
Considering Watson has been running for his life behind what have been some of the NFL’s worst pass-protecting lines, he has done well to survive and find ways to make plays. With the Texans’ investments at tackle and with better overall health among his targets, Watson in 2019 should have his best passing season yet, with less dependency on scrambling at the first sign of trouble.
13. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019.
MORE: NFL’s 25 highest-paid players
14. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
Trubisky felt the free-wheeling groove in Matt Nagy’s offense last season, and he compensated for the passing lumps he took with fearless running and smart, short-to-intermediate distributing to an array of targets. For Chicago to go further in the playoffs, its QB will need to show more confidence.
15. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Jimmy G was a tough QB to rank coming off a torn ACL, but before he was injured last September, he showed signs of his ability to light up a defense. He returns to a more loaded offense with Tevin Coleman, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd adding to Dante Pettis, George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin and Jerick McKinnon. Expect Garoppolo to pick up where he left off (and then some) in his true Year 2 under coach Kyle Shanahan.
The fourth tier
(Older QBs with some standout accomplishments, but pressure to perform in 2019 is on.)
16. Matthew Stafford, Lions
Rumors have suggested Detroit recently thought about replacing Stafford and/or is thinking about replacing him in the near future. The Lions finally have succeeded with reigning in the high-volume gunslinger as they have shifted toward a more run-oriented offense. Stafford will continue to miss Golden Tate, but he will appreciate how a player like T.J. Hockenson can help relieve pressure.
17. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins was another tough QB to rank, but his first season in Minnesota was not nearly the expensive bust it has been made out to be. With no reliable protection, a lack of a key third target and more coaching-staff changes, for Cousins to bounce back in 2019, he needs to connect with big plays downfield more consistently and cut down on the ill-timed mistakes.
18. Cam Newton, Panthers
Newton is entering the 2019 season with concerns about his throwing shoulder and coming off a season he was not healthy enough to finish. Given the current landscape of QBs in the NFL, the 2015 league MVP being ranked in the middle of the pack is not disrespect; it’s reality. Last season, Newton did improve from 2017 with a better completion percentage and yards per attempt, but he still ranked No. 17 in passer rating (20th in ESPN’s QBR and 23rd in Pro Football Focus’ QB grades). In 2019, with offensive coordinator Norv Turner having the desired running game down with Christian McCaffrey, Newton will benefit from D.J. Moore and his other quick weapons in the downfield-passing aspect of the offense.
MORE: Top 10 QBs for 2020 NFL Draft
19. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
It was tempting to rank Winston higher just because Bruce Arians seems like a coach who can get the best out of the QB. But Winston got toggled with Ryan Fitzpatrick last season because he kept committing turnovers with sloppy passing, enough for the Bucs to think about starting over at QB in 2020. Winston was supposed to be a can’t-miss QB as the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, but it’s now or never for him to tap into his potential. If anyone can turn Winston into a Big Ben clone, it should be Arians.
20. Marcus Mariota, Titans
Here is another frustrating QB to rank. Mariota has been through the wringer with offensive schemers, and health has not been on his side. Neither has game-planning in one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses. Tennessee has invested more in his targets with wide receivers Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown to complement Corey Davis. We can’t totally believe in Mariota until we see him respond.
The fifth tier
(Second-year QBs trying to make the leap, plus subs trying to make it as starters.)
22. Sam Darnold, Jets
Darnold last season had an underrated receiving corps with Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon, and now has the ultimate backfield outlet in Le’Veon Bell. He is the kind of smart, pro-style passer new coach Adam Gase can mold.
23. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Jackson was trying to figure things out as a passer last season, yet he still managed to lead Baltimore to a division title. The drafting of Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin suggests the Ravens are OK letting Jackson throw more downfield without curbing his special athleticism.
MORE: How to defend Lamar Jackson
24. Nick Foles, Jaguars
Foles has had success in Philadelphia, but it’s been a different story elsewhere in his seven-year career. There are some favorable elements for him in Jacksonville, but many of those are rooted in the running game and defense. Foles is bound to return to his streaky nature as a downfield passer.
25. Jacoby Brissett, Colts
With Andrew Luck suddenly retiring before the 2019 season, there is one less QB in the top tier and one more here. Brissett had an extended starting stint in 2017 with a much lesser team around him. He has a strong arm and good mobility, and he has the right coach in Frank Reich to help harness these raw abilities to be more efficient in the system. Brissett will be a highly dependent QB at first, but he has plenty of positives on which to lean.
26. Josh Allen, Bills
Allen last season put up some pleasing fantasy stats because he produced while running with reckless abandon, adding some big plays with his big arm later in his rookie year. There is plenty of style in Allen’s game; now we will see if there’s Year 2 substance behind Buffalo’s dedication to improving the offensive line and making both the backfield and receiving corps deeper.
The sixth tier
(QBs who have been adequate but are fading fast.)
27. Andy Dalton, Bengals
Dalton gets an extension of his starting status in Cincinnati with Zac Taylor giving the offense a fresh, wide-open look. The Bengals hope that development, plus a good supporting skill cast, can push Dalton closer to his ceiling. But that’s still pretty low in relation to the QBs above; Dalton remains a dependent QB regardless.
28. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
The Fitzmagic was rediscovered for stretches in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers simply let him chuck the ball all over the field for Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken. The streaky, well-traveled veteran is bound to return to more journeyman fill-in status in a different offense, where he will be challenged to keep his bridge gig ahead of Josh Rosen.
28. Derek Carr, Raiders
Coach Jon Gruden is sticking with Carr, hoping the big changes to the receiving corps (Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow) and a promising rookie feature back (Josh Jacobs) can smooth out the QB’s recent bumpy ride. In trying to live up to his big contract, Carr’s lack of consistency in accuracy and decision-making has let him down.
The seventh tier
(QBs who have won Super Bowls, but age has caught up to them.)
29. Eli Manning, Giants
Manning’s deteriorating physical skills are evident. He is keeping the job for now because he is an established leader for the Giants’ gradual transition to Daniel Jones, for whom Manning is the ideal mentor.
30. Joe Flacco, Broncos
Flacco’s big arm is not as booming anymore. He will need to come through more with the mental aspects of his game to contribute effectively as a bridge QB in an offense built around its running game. He will feel the heat of Drew Lock while trying to keep the pocket warm for the rookie.
MORE: Ranking every first-round QB since 2000
The top rookies
(QBs we’re getting to know as pros.)
31. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Coach Kliff Kingsbury promises not to hold back the offense for Murray, looking to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, David Johnson, Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler give Murray favorable targets on every level to make that happen. The trick will be Murray harnessing his electricity to match a higher degree of difficulty in the NFL.
32. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
Haskins needs to prove he does not have happy feet in the pocket, but rather the presence to stand tall and deliver strong, accurate throws while under pressure. Physically and arm-wise, he is ready to play soon.
(Other notable QBs.)
33. Case Keenum, Redskins
34. Tyrod Taylor, Chargers
35. Josh Rosen, Dolphins
36. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
37. Nick Mullens, 49ers
38. Blake Bortles, Rams
39. Daniel Jones, Giants
40. Drew Lock, Broncos
These are the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL, according to ‘Madden 20’
- “Madden” rates more than 3,000 NFL players each season, but the game’s ratings adjusters say that quarterbacks are the hardest to judge.
- Reigning NFL MVP and “Madden 20” cover star Patrick Mahomes has ascended to the ranks of Madden’s top-rated quarterbacks, while Aaron Rodgers has fallen out of the top five.
- “Madden NFL 20” is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Quarterback is the most vital position on the football field and NFL teams will pay top dollar to ensure they have a top player commanding their offense. After all, having an efficient quarterback can make the difference between turning a mediocre team into a potential playoff contender.
“Madden 20” has rated more than 3,000 players for the current NFL season and Electronic Arts has promised that this year’s game will have more lower ratings to make the game more realistic and help elite players stand out on the field. The game is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
While every player rating is based on more than 50 different attributes, the game’s ratings adjusters said that quarterbacks take the most time to judge properly because they have eight extra stats that are exclusive to their position. Mobile quarterbacks like Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson also require extra attention to ensure that they’re properly balanced compared to running backs.
Read more: The creators of ‘Madden’ revealed their process for rating nearly 3,000 players every year, and it’s a fascinating look inside one of the most popular video game franchises on the planet
While both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers managed to earn a max rating of 99 overall last year, none of the league’s signal callers managed to make the 99 Club this year. While Rodgers threw just two interceptions last season, “Madden 20” no longer considers him among the league’s top five quarterbacks. Instead, the game has boosted cover star Patrick Mahomes and resurgent Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to the top of the ranks.
EA will continue to adjust player ratings as the season progresses, so there’s plenty of time for these ratings to shift, but here’s how “Madden 20” currently rates the NFL’s top 32 quarterbacks.
Can being taller make you a more successful quarterback? Tall signal-callers have a distinct advantage over shorter players—and not only because they have a better view over their offensive linemen, a new study found.
Taller players are better at being able to identify targets that are “in their middle-distance vision,”—about 20 yards away in football terms, according to Teng Leng Ooi, a professor of optometry at The Ohio State University. The study, which was published in Science Advances, found that taller athletes have advantages due to having better “spatial relations” and a “better perspective of the ground.”
“That could be because they’ve spent a lifetime of looking at the ground from a higher vantage point,” Ooi said.
The study looked at 24 subjects, split evenly between tall (around 5’10”) and short (around 5′), and had them predict the distance of targets in various settings, including in full light, pitch black, and dimly lit settings. The research found that even when the taller subjects were sitting and the shorter subjects were standing, the taller ones were still better at predicting the distance.
“Maybe taller athletes have advantages on the field, especially in sports such as tennis and football,” she said.
While those findings are interesting when it comes to quarterbacks, there are some players that have bucked that trend in a big way in the NFL. According to USA Today, as of the 2015 season, 6’3” was the average height for quarterbacks in the league. So for our list, we looked at quarterbacks that have excelled in the league that were 6’0” or shorter—hardly short by the standards of this experiment or everyday life, but certainly on the shorter side for the typical NFL QB.
Here’s a look at some of the quarterbacks that have kicked ass despite their short stature.
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The 11 hunkiest quarterbacks of the NFL
The NFL season kicks off Thursday night in Seattle with the defending champion Seahawks taking on the Green Bay Packers. And we’re dreaming of this year’s crop of handsome quarterbacks — from fresh-faced newcomers to veteran studs — who know how to hike up our heart rates.
Tom Brady, the Golden Boy
Tom Brady smolders on the field and in magazine spreads.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
New England Patriots
Status: Married to supermodel Gisele BÜndchen
Brady — the face of Ugg and owner of three Super Bowl rings — is still the NFL’s reigning golden boy, and is currently on the cover of fashion quarterly Man of the World. Even Giants receiver Victor Cruz gives him props. “I know it’s cliché, but I have to go with Tom Brady,” says Cruz, asked by The Post who the game’s best-looking QB is. “Cam Newton is creeping up the rear, but until someone can wear a suit like TB does, it’s pretty much in his hands.”
Jimmy Garoppolo, the Heir Apparent
Garoppolo can easily fill Brady’s Uggs.Jason DeCrow/AP; Fred Kfoury III/Icon SMI/Corbis
New England Patriots
Garoppolo had better get fitted for his Tom Ford suits. The rookie out of Eastern Illinois University is Brady’s heir apparent when the elder quarterback packs it in. And let’s just say he is definitely suited to shine Mr. Brady’s Uggs. With dreamy bedroom eyes and a dapper wardrobe, he will certainly be at the top of Boston’s hottest bachelor list. And for now, the Illinois native is sticking to the single life. “I just don’t have time. Too busy,” he has said of dating.
Russell Wilson, Mr. Nice Guy
Wilson looks great in a suit or in sweats.Allen Berezovsky/WireImage; Elaine Thompson/AP
Status: Linked to Olympian Lolo Jones
Wilson was once drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, but he stuck with the pigskin and has become the darling of the Emerald City after bringing home the Lombardi Trophy in February. Not long after, he and his wife, Ashton Meem, filed for divorce amid rumors she cheated on him with teammate Golden Tate.
Cam Newton, The Southern Gentleman
Cam Newton looks so good in clothes, he has his own clothing line.Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Status: Reportedly dating an ex-“dancer” named Hazel
A true Renaissance man, the Atlanta native has leading-man good looks and a clothing line called MADE Cam Newton. A Heisman winner, he was the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Colin Kaepernick, the Body
Kaepernick’s guns are best when on display. Allen Berezovsky/WireImage; ; Bob Levey/Getty Images
San Francisco 49ers
Status: Linked to singer Teyana Taylor and now fitness model Brittany Renner
The tatted-up and rock-hard University of Nevada grad, who was also drafted by the Chicago Cubs, appeared nude in ESPN mag’s 2013 body issue. His pet tortoise, Sammy, has 7,600 followers on Twitter.
Aaron Rodgers, the Bachelor
It’s easy to see why Olivia Munn chose Aaron Rodgers as her man candy.Frank Trapper/Corbis; Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Green Bay Packers
Status: Dating actress Olivia Munn
Rodgers was dogged by gay rumors late last year after his male ex-roommate intimated that the pair had a relationship, prompting him to say, “I’m not gay. I really, really like women.” The blue-eyed treasure of Green Bay has one Super Bowl ring.
Mark Sanchez, the Smoldering Sensation
The butt fumble bruised Sanchez’s ego, but not his looks. Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Michael Perez/AP
As a Jet, Sanchez landed on the cover of GQ. Released last year by New York, he landed in Philadelphia, where he’s now the No. 2 quarterback. But the headband-wearing stud is still No. 1 in the looks department in the City of Brotherly Love. Sanchez has romanced Eva Longoria and Kate Upton.
Andy Dalton, the Ginger
Red hair has never looked so good.Christian Petersen/Getty Images; Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Status: Married college sweetheart
Nicknamed the Red Rifle, Dalton has reportedly been the object of bigotry due to his fiery hair hue. In 2011, an unnamed coach said he’d hesitate to draft the QB, supposedly saying, “Has there ever been a redheaded quarterback in the NFL who’s really done well?” With his chiseled looks, we say yes.
Blake Bortles, the Rookie
Blake Bortles’ girlfriend Lindsey Duke helped him rise to fame.Nam Y. Huh/AP
Status: Dating college sweetheart and Instagram star Lindsey Duke
When the world learned of Bortles’ gal pal Lindsey Duke via her Instagram bikini snaps last year, the Internet became a soggy mess of man drool. But the strapping quarterback is just as easy on the eyes.
Jay Cutler, the Bro
Jay Cutler married a reality TV star, but he’s still down-to-earth.Charley Gallay/Getty Images; George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Status: Married to reality star Kristin Cavallari
Cutler’s so laid-back he inspired a Tumblr where a cigarette is Photoshopped into his mouth. But the dreamy footballer has said, “I don’t smoke at all, bro. I hate cigarettes.”
Johnny Manziel, the Frat Boy
Johnny Football’s summer antics were immortalized on Instagram.Rich Graessle/Icon SMI/Corbis; Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Status: Reportedly dating Texas Christian student Colleen Crowley
The NFL’s resident frat boy won the Heisman and earned the nickname “Johnny Football” at Texas A&M. Pals with rapper Drake, he recently flipped off the Redskins bench.
Ranking the 12 quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers fall to the back half of the list
It’s time to let old things die — not literally, of course, but it is time to move on from the old superstar quarterbacks who once ruled the NFL, especially come January, and embrace a new generation of quarterbacks who are ready to begin writing their playoff legacies.
Welcome to the NFL playoffs where — fair or not — quarterback legacies are made and destroyed. Even without the six Super Bowls, Tom Brady would be regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks to have ever played the game, because he’s accomplished enough in the regular season alone to be worthy of such an honor, but it’s his iconic performances in January and February that make him the greatest quarterback of all time. Maybe if Dan Marino had won just one lousy Super Bowl, he would’ve been the quarterback Brady had unseated as the greatest of all time. If Philip Rivers had managed to win two Super Bowls in surprising fashion and it was actually Eli Manning with zero rings, imagine how much different the discourse would be when the two are inevitably in the Hall of Fame discussion.
But you don’t need me to tell you this. You know this. They know this. We all know this.
Game of Thrones via Giphy
With all that in mind, after I spent the regular season ranking all 32 quarterbacks on a weekly basis, it’s now time to rank the 12 quarterbacks who made it all the way to January. It’s a loaded field featuring two all-time greats in Brady and Aaron Rodgers, who should be first ballot Hall of Famers whenever they do retire, but are playing nowhere close to their respective peaks right now, two quarterbacks under the age of 25 who have claimed the past two MVP awards with record-setting seasons in Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson (this year’s award is already his, even if it officially hasn’t been handed out yet), and two quarterbacks who had already been written off by pretty much everyone, but submitted two incredible seasons that many didn’t think they had in them in Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins.
Before we get to the rankings, I do want to lay out the rules — rather, just one rule in particular. This list is not a list of how these quarterbacks stack up on the all-time leaderboard. This is a list of the best quarterbacks RIGHT NOW. In that sense, you will not see Brady and Rodgers near the top of the list even though they’re two of the most accomplished quarterbacks out of the 12. You won’t see them near the top because neither of them is playing particularly good football right now, neither of them played well all season long, and all I care about for the purposes of this story is this postseason — not last postseason or next postseason or two postseasons ago.
So then, nobody should have any complaints when we begin the list with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
View Profile Josh Allen BUF • QB • 17 12
There’s no doubt Allen improved in Year 2 after a wildly inconsistent rookie season. But he did not improve nearly as much as the narrative suggests.
However, the advanced metrics are less kind to Allen. By both DYAR and DVOA, he finished the season ranked 27th — one spot ahead of Mitchell Trubisky and one spot behind Andy Dalton. By total QBR, which factors in running (a real strength of Allen’s), he finished the season ranked 26th — one spot ahead of Case Keenum and one spot behind Jared Goff. Last season, Allen ranked 33rd, 33rd, and 26th in those respective categories.
So, again, did he improve? Yes. Did he improve by a ton? Not really.
Allen is still the biggest question mark on an otherwise good Bills team. The good news for the Bills is that, at the very least, Allen has stopped turning the ball over. After his three-interception nightmare against the Patriots in Week 4, Allen produced only three interceptions the rest of the way. That’s important. Allen might not win the Bills a playoff game, but he also might not lose them one by giving the ball to the other team. The bad news, though, is that Allen is still a highly erratic passer and he might just lose the Bills a game by missing open receivers on throws that NFL quarterbacks are expected to make 10 out of 10 times.
NFL Game Pass
Those misses are even more maddening because the same quarterback is capable of making throws like this:
NFL Game Pass
What the Bills need is more consistency out of their quarterback. If Allen plays well, the Bills are good enough to embark upon a playoff run. But if Allen plays the way he’s played for most of his career, the Bills probably won’t be able to get past the divisional round.
View Profile Carson Wentz PHI • QB • 11 11
It sounds strange to say this, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Against the Seahawks on Sunday, Wentz will be making the first playoff start of his career. To this point, Wentz has never thrown a pass in a playoff game, which isn’t really something I can hold against him considering he played a role in each of the Eagles’ playoff appearances the past two seasons, but has never gotten the chance to finish what he started due to untimely injuries. This year, Wentz gets that chance.
Unfortunately for Wentz, the one time he actually managed to stay healthy enough to survive until the postseason, the rest of his team didn’t. The Eagles enter the postseason shorthanded at offensive line, tight end, wide receiver, and running back. Zach Ertz is probably out. Lane Johnson might be out. Brandon Brooks is definitely out. Alshon Jeffery has already been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Nelson Agholor is also in doubt. Jordan Howard hasn’t really played since Week 9. Miles Sanders is banged up.
In a must-win Week 17 game, Wentz was throwing passes to guys named Boston Scott, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett, Greg Ward, and Robert Davis. You get the point. Wentz has been operating in less than ideal circumstances.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this has been Wentz’s worst season since his rookie year. From 2017-18, Wentz completed 64.7 percent of his passes, averaged 7.6 yards per attempt, and generated a 102.0 passer rating. This year, Wentz completed 63.9 percent of his passes, averaged 6.7 yards per attempt, and generated a 93.1 passer rating. He posted a negative completion percentage above expectation, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He ranked 17th, 20th, and 11th in DYAR, DVOA, and total QBR, respectively.
Again, it’s not all Wentz’s fault. The circumstances around him matter. But it’s a shame that his postseason debut will come after his worst season since he was a rookie.
View Profile Aaron Rodgers GB • QB • 12 10
It’s time for everyone to acknowledge that Rodgers is no longer the quarterback he once was and hasn’t been that quarterback for a few years now. Over the past three seasons, Rodgers is completing 62.6 percent of his passes, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, and has posted a 96.6 passer rating. Those aren’t terrible numbers or anything. I’m not saying Rodgers is a bad quarterback. I’m just saying he’s no longer the fire-breathing dragon he once was.
I’ll let The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin take it away from here, because he’s been championing this cause for a while now.
Rodgers’ decline is evident when looking at the tape.
Green Bay Packers BYE-WEEK CLINCHING WIN highlights @ Lions #Packers #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/a1js8ZqeEa
— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) December 31, 2019
And it’s evident when looking at the advanced metrics.
— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) December 30, 2019
We keep waiting for Rodgers, now 36, to break out under Matt LaFleur. We’ve been waiting for 17 weeks. It just hasn’t happened yet. At this point, I’d say it’s reasonable to assume it’s probably never going to happen. It’s not like he’s peaking entering the postseason. In the final eight games of the season, he completed 58.7 percent of his passes, averaged 5.9 yards per attempt, and posted an 84.2 passer rating — all of which are actively bad numbers.
Historically speaking, Rodgers is the second third best quarterback on this list (I somehow forgot about Drew Brees when I initially wrote this blurb). There’s no denying that. But there’s also no denying that based on his performance this season, he deserves to be ranked in the bottom half of this list.
View Profile Tom Brady NE • QB • 12 9
Likewise, Brady isn’t performing anywhere close to his peak. It’s not entirely Brady’s fault. Unlike Rodgers, who has received great pass protection all season, Brady hasn’t. The Packers’ offensive line is ranked first in pass block win rate. The Patriots? 18th. Brady has also been forced to deal with the absences of Rob Gronkowski and Josh Gordon, both of whom he hoped to be targeting frequently. Outside of Julian Edelman, Brady just hasn’t had reliable receivers to throw the ball to. The lack of separation created by the Patriots’ receivers coupled with the banged up offensive line’s inability to provide adequate pass protection has caused Brady to submit his worst season since 2013.
Brady finished the season averaging 6.6 yards per attempt (his lowest average since 2002). He ranked 16th, 17th, and 16th in DYAR, DVOA, and total QBR, respectively. And he posted the league’s eight-lowest completion percentage above expectation, ranking between Eli Manning and Baker Mayfield.
With Brady, the Patriots have been known for their ability to mount game-winning drives. But this Patriots team feels like the exact opposite in the sense that they’re just not built to come from behind. Just look at how Bill Belichick approached the end of the first half against the Dolphins on Sunday. In a tied game, the Patriots chose to run out the clock instead of trying to move the ball into field goal range with 57 seconds left. That really tells you all you need to know about what Belichick thinks of his own offense.
It’s not all Brady’s fault, but Brady hasn’t been good enough to overcome a less than ideal situation around him, which is notable. That said, nobody should be foolish enough to write him off in the postseason. It’s just that, for the first time in a while, Brady doesn’t inspire fear in the opposition the way he has for the better part of the past two decades.
View Profile Jimmy Garoppolo SF • QB • 10 8
The best thing Garoppolo has going for him is Kyle Shanahan, who continues to create open and short throws for his quarterback — only two quarterbacks averaged fewer air yards per pass, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. But Garoppolo himself deserves credit for running the offense by design. He’s answered most of the questions we asked heading into the season and again after the 49ers leapt out to an 8-0 start thanks to their defense. Down the stretch, when the 49ers’ defense was unable to dominate the way they did in the first half of the season, Garoppolo played well against tough opponents — so well that the team was still able to earn the top seed in the conference.
Here’s how Garoppolo performed against the rest of the playoff field in games that all came after Week 8:
- 24 of 46 for 248 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a 66.2 passer rating in a loss to the Seahawks
- 14 of 20 for 253 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 145.8 passer rating in a win over the Packers
- 15 of 21 for 165 yards, one touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 110.2 passer rating in a loss to the Ravens
- 26 of 35 for 349 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and a 131.7 passer rating in a win over the Saints
- 18 of 22 for 285 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 118.7 passer rating in a win over the Seahawks
He finished the season ranked 12th in DYAR, 11th in DVOA, and 12th in total QBR. That’ll be good enough for the 49ers to reach the Super Bowl. Really, that’s the main takeaway here. Garoppolo might not be the best quarterback in the NFL. But he’s good enough to help the 49ers get to where they’re trying to go.
View Profile Deshaun Watson HOU • QB • 4 7
Watson’s slump down the stretch caused him to fall down the board. After dismantling the Patriots in Week 13, Watson completed 60.6 percent of his passes, averaged 6.6 yards per attempt, threw two more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (3), and posted a 70.1 passer rating in his final three starts of the season. Still, his entire body of work this season remains impressive. He finished as the league’s seventh best quarterback by total QBR, but finished only 13th and 12th in DYAR and DVOA, respectively.
Even though Watson is ranked on the back half of this list, he’s the kind of quarterback who is capable of getting blistering hot in January and leading an otherwise meh Texans team on a deep run. The Texans have bigger question marks than Watson, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It might just be too much for him to overcome. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable betting against him.
View Profile Kirk Cousins MIN • QB • 8 6
What a world we’re living in: Cousins is ranked above Rodgers, Brady, and Watson. Who saw that coming before the season?
It’s entirely fair to still have questions about Cousins’ ability to win big games, because he’s seldom done that throughout his career. It’s undeniable. But it’s also undeniable how well he’s played for the Vikings this season, even if his otherwise impressive season ended with a whimper in a diabolical loss to the Packers. Cousins still finished the season with career-highs (not counting the first three seasons of his career, when he hadn’t yet emerged as a full-time starter) in touchdown percentage (5.9), yards per attempt (8.1), and passer rating (107.4). He ranked seventh in DYAR, 10th in DVOA, and 13th in total QBR.
Cousins is still a quarterback who is very much dependent on the players around him — particularly his offensive line. If defenses can apply pressure, Cousins’ level of play tends to suffer. But Cousins played better than the six aforementioned quarterbacks this season. That’s why he sneaks his way onto the top half of this list.
View Profile Ryan Tannehill TEN • QB • 17 5
Indeed, it’s a very, very mad world. First, Cousins at No. 6. Now, Tannehill at No. 5.
The thing is, I actually would be surprised if anyone had qualms with ranking Tannehill this high. That’s how great he’s been since the Titans handed him the starting job in Week 7. With Tannehill under center, the Titans posted a 7-3 record to sneak into the playoffs. Tannehill emerged as a darling of the analytical community, leading the league in completion percentage above expectation by a significant margin and finishing the season top-five in DVOA and top-10 in total QBR. Only Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford averaged more air yards per attempt than Tannehill, and 19.6 percent of his passes were thrown into tight windows, which was the sixth-highest rate. Put another way, Tannehill was frequently bombing the ball downfield to well-covered receivers and he still completed 70.3 percent of his passes.
Ryan Tannehill completed better than 70% his passes for more than 9 yards per attempt this season.
The last time that happened in the NFL was Joe Montana in 1989.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 30, 2019
By the time the season ended, he was third in completion percentage (behind two quarterbacks who seldom threw the ball downfield), second in touchdown percentage (behind only Lamar Jackson), first in yards per attempt (by a full yard!), and first in passer rating (above Drew Brees). I have no idea if this is going to continue for much longer, but for now, let’s just appreciate what he’s doing.
View Profile Russell Wilson SEA • QB • 3 4
Before the 12s come yelling at me, allow me to explain. This is not a shot at Wilson, who would be second on my MVP ballot behind only Jackson if I had an MVP vote. Wilson is awesome. He’s always asked to cover up so many of the Seahawks’ deficiencies. Once Tyler Lockett got hurt, the offense suffered. Wilson is still amazing. It’s just that the final four quarterbacks are so incredibly great that one of them had to fall to fourth place and it just so happened to be Wilson. If you wanted to reverse the order ever so slightly, I wouldn’t argue. That’s how tight the 4-2 positions are.
I suppose Wilson got dinged because he didn’t play as well down the stretch as he did in the first half of the season.
Wilson still finished the year fourth, seventh, and sixth in DYAR, DVOA, and QBR, respectively. He pieced together an awesome season. It’s just that, by the time the season ended, the three quarterbacks positioned ahead of him were playing better football.
But we all know what Wilson is capable of. No team should want to play the Seahawks — not because of their defense or their coaching staff or whatever, but because Wilson is one of those quarterbacks capable of singlehandedly turning what should be a loss into a miraculous win. He might actually be the most frustrating quarterback to face out of all 12 quarterbacks appearing on this list.
View Profile Drew Brees NO • QB • 9 3
I would be absolutely terrified of facing the Saints in the postseason, even though they’ll have the misfortune of playing away from home if they make it past this weekend, because their offense is peaking at the right time. Since returning from the thumb injury that cost him five starts, Brees is completing 74.6 percent of his passes and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, and has thrown 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Most of what he does is underneath, evidenced by his 6.7 air yards per attempt (fourth lowest), but you can’t fault the approach given how well it works. Once again, he led the league in completion percentage and he averaged 7.9 yards per attempt (ninth highest) and a touchdown on 7.1 percent of his passes (third highest). As a result, the Saints finished with the league’s fourth-best offense by DVOA, one spot ahead of the Seahawks and one spot behind the Chiefs.
Unlike Rodgers and Brady, Brees is the all-time great quarterback near the end of his career who isn’t fading.
View Profile Patrick Mahomes KC • QB • 15 2
Speaking of the Chiefs, things were looking bleak for them when they lost the reigning MVP to a dislocated kneecap in October. After Week 8, the Chiefs were 5-3 with Matt Moore slated to start against the Vikings in their next game. Meanwhile, the Patriots were cruising at 8-0. Yet the Chiefs still managed to chase down the Patriots and claim the second seed in the AFC, giving them a first-round bye.
The Chiefs’ defense played a substantial role in their 7-1 run to finish the season, but Mahomes was his usual brilliant self. The touchdowns might’ve dried up a bit, but it’s not like he was going to throw for 50 touchdowns again. Mahomes completed nearly the exact same percentage of his passes as last season, he cut his interception percentage in half, and even though his average yards per attempt fell by half a yard, he still finished the year ranked fourth in YPA. He also ranked third in both DYAR and DVOA, and second in total QBR (only Jackson had him beat).
It certainly feels like the Chiefs are on a collision course with the Ravens, which would pit the two most-recent MVPs against each other.
View Profile Lamar Jackson BAL • QB • 8 1
No debate here. Jackson was the best player in football in 2019 by a wide margin.
In a 15-game season, he completed 66.1 percent of his passes (ninth), averaged 7.8 yards per attempt (12th), threw 36 touchdowns (first), got picked off on only 1.5 percent of his passes (10th lowest), and generated a 113.3 passer rating (third). That’s what he accomplished as a passer. As a runner, he rushed for (a record) 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the league’s best quarterback by total QBR, and ranked fifth in DYAR and second in DVOA. To this point, nobody has really figured out how to stop him, which is why the Ravens are 14-2 and haven’t lost a game since Week 4.
A year ago, Jackson wasn’t an effective passer and it cost the Ravens in the playoffs. Remember when people were calling for Joe Flacco to be re-inserted at quarterback?
Things should go very different this time around.
Nine black quarterbacks will start in Week 13, but who has the juice?
Raise of hands: Before Tuesday, how many of you realized Geno Smith was on the roster of the New York Giants?
Yes, Smith’s been pacing the sidelines for the disappointing Giants (2-9) this season. Now Smith, the former second-round pick who has played four games the past three seasons, gets to make NFL history. When he takes his first snap at the start of Sunday’s game at Oakland, the Giants will end their run as the only team never to start a black quarterback.
Smith will be one of nine black quarterbacks to start in Week 13. Have African-Americans finally broken through at a position they were long discouraged or blocked from playing because teams thought they lacked the smarts? Is the quarterback position in the NFL getting blacker?
Yes and no.
There have been at least 10 weeks (not counting Week 13) in which nine black quarterbacks have started for NFL teams since 2000, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That includes opening day in 2013 and as recently as Week 5 this season (Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, EJ Manuel, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston and DeShone Kizer).
In 2003, there were two weeks in which 10 black quarterbacks started: Jeff Blake, Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, Kordell Stewart, Anthony Wright, Byron Leftwich, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Quincy Carter.
Of the 10 instances of nine black starters, four were in 2000, one in 2003 (Week 12, before the number rose to 10 in Weeks 13 and 14) and four in 2013. Then there were fewer than nine black starters until Week 5 this season.
Considering there were five returning black starters heading into the 2017 NFL draft (Newton, Russell, Prescott, Winston and Taylor), the numbers appear to be trending upward.
But it’s not necessarily the number of black quarterbacks who line up on any given week that’s a sign of progress. It’s the number of players who have truly earned the right to run a team with the full trust of their organization.
“Will a team trust you enough to build around you?” is how former Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Blake described true power at quarterback. “When Tom Brady talks, everybody listens. When Philip Rivers talks, everyone listens. The key question for a black quarterback is will you get that authority.”
That’s called having juice. Let’s take a look at the nine black quarterbacks who’ll play in Week 13, and see who has it:
100 percent pure juice
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 26 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Let’s be real here: Who drafts a guy who might be 5-foot-11 with the thought he’d be a franchise quarterback? Certainly not the Seattle Seahawks, who picked up Wilson with a third-round pick with the thought that he could be the backup behind Matt Flynn, who signed a three-year deal worth $26 million just months before the draft.
But Wilson took the starting job in preseason of his rookie year and has had a stranglehold on it since. He threw for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns that first year, with the scoring passes tying the rookie record of Peyton Manning. His ability to extend plays gave the Seahawks a new dimension on offense, and it helped that he stepped into an offense where he could hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch and throw to Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate and Zach Miller.
Wilson took the Seahawks to the playoffs in year one and helped the team win the Super Bowl in year two.
Let’s go through Wilson’s accomplishments:
- Super Bowl.
- Playoffs every season.
- Married Ciara.
That earns Wilson juice for life.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 26 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
Unlike Wilson, Newton came to Carolina to be the top gun. You earn that level of instant respect when you’re 6-foot-5 with a strong arm and entering the league off a Heisman Trophy and national championship win.
But here’s the early-career difference between Wilson and Newton: While Wilson entered the league with a Seahawks team with a strong defense, in Newton’s first year (2011) the Panthers gave up 7.6 yards per pass attempt (worst in the league) and 6.2 yards per play (third worst).
That the Panthers improved to 6-10 (from 2-14 in 2019) had a lot to do with a versatile offense bolstered by the addition of Killer Cam. Newton threw for 4,051 yards (10th in the league) and 21 touchdowns. His favorite target was Steve Smith, who joined Newton in the Pro Bowl.
Newton was a rushing threat as well, with 706 yards. With running backs DeAngelo Williams (836) and Jonathan Stewart (761), the Panthers became the first team in NFL history to have three players run for more than 700 yards in a season.
Newton’s professional résumé is impressive: Super Bowl appearance, NFL MVP, three-time Pro Bowler. All while having a bunch of talented receivers come and go.
There’s one accomplishment that’ll get him juice for life stature: win a championship.
DAK PRESCOTT, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is pressured to pass during a game against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 12 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Prescott in the fourth round of 2016 intending to slowly groom him behind established starter Tony Romo. But Prescott started the regular-season opener after Romo suffered a vertebral compression fracture in the preseason, and he eventually led the Cowboys to the NFC East title with 3,667 passing yards and 29 touchdowns (23 passing and six rushing). Prescott was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year and looked like the future.
It was all good just a year ago.
Last year for Prescott and the Cowboys: No Romo, no problem. This year: No Ezekiel Elliott, big problem.
As a possible Elliott suspension hung over the team like a cloud to start the season, Prescott — and the Cowboys — were sluggish during a 2-3 start. The Cowboys won three straight after the bye week and once again appeared a threat. But Elliott accepted his six-game suspension after a Nov. 5 win over the Chiefs, and the Cowboys dropped three straight before beating Washington, 38-14, on Thursday night.
Prescott’s stats in the first three games after Elliott was shut down? Five picks. Zero touchdowns.
He improved in Thursday’s win over Washington, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions.
For Prescott’s sake, there’s a lot more to these final games than salvaging a winning season. The second-year quarterback has to prove he can thrive through adversity.
JAMEIS WINSTON, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Nov. 5 in New Orleans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Winston won a national championship and Heisman while at Florida State.
Three seasons in, Winston has shown signs he’s capable of being a very good quarterback. In his first year he passed for 4,042 yards, becoming the third rookie to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season. In his second year he led the Buccaneers to their first winning record in six years (9-7) and became the first NFL quarterback to begin a career with two straight years of throwing for more than 4,000 yards.
But Winston still hasn’t reached the playoffs (Tampa Bay lost out in a tiebreaker last season). That likely won’t change this year for the Buccaneers (4-7) with Winston missing three straight games with a shoulder injury.
TYROD TAYLOR, Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball as P.J. Williams of the New Orleans Saints attempts to tackle him during the second quarter on Nov. 12 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tyrod Taylor signed as a free agent with Buffalo after playing behind Joe Flacco for four years in Baltimore (including the 2013 Super Bowl win over San Francisco). He signed with the Bills in 2015 and immediately won the starting role, playing well enough to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl (replacing Newton, who was playing in the Super Bowl).
But his status in Buffalo is tenuous at best. Two weeks ago the Bills lost a game to one of the hottest teams in the league, the New Orleans Saints, and afterward coach Sean McDermott benched Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman, even though Taylor had led the Bills to a 5-2 start.
That move alone should have threatened McDermott’s job security, especially after Peterman threw five picks in the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers and was quickly yanked.
Taylor started the next week, leading the Bills to a 16-10 win at Kansas City. The Bills (6-5) still have a shot at the playoffs. But Taylor could be looking for a new home next season.
GENO SMITH, New York Giants
New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith in action during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 11 at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
He’s on the roster of a dysfunctional team that gave up on the season long ago. The Giants are awful on offense, and that happens when a team loses two top receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, to injuries. Playing with few options at receiver and a barely-there offensive line, Eli Manning — who has started 210 straight NFL games, the second most in league history — has had his worst season since going 1-6 as a starter in his rookie season.
Enter Smith, who was a second-round pick by the Jets in 2013. He started for the Jets his first two seasons and in year two even recorded the only perfect passer rating in the NFL that season while passing for 358 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a win over Miami in the last game of the 2014 regular season.
The expected progress in year three never happened. Smith’s jaw was broken in a fight with teammate IK Enemkpali after a dispute over a $600 plane ticket. He’s played in four games since (one start).
The good news: These next few games can be a make-or-break stretch for Smith’s career.
The bad news: He’s playing for the Giants.
Brett Hundley, Green Bay Packers
Brett Hundley of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on Aug. 31 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Brett Hundley, drafted by the Packers (2015, fifth round) out of UCLA as a backup to Aaron Rodgers, was thrust into the starting lineup after the two-time NFL MVP suffered a broken right collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 15.
After a shaky first game (87 passing yards), Hundley appears to be getting more comfortable under center. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns (with a career-best passer rating of 134.3) in Sunday’s loss on a last-second field goal at Pittsburgh.
But the Packers are 1-4 since Rodgers went down, and a lot has to do with the team’s offensive line, which has been hampered by injuries. If Hundley can play well, string together a few wins and keep the team in playoff contention until Rodgers returns (he can come back in Week 15), he might be able to earn an opportunity with another team, and away from being Rodgers’ backup for life.
JACOBY BRISSETT, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Jacoby Brissett of the Indianapolis Colts scrambles with the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 26 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
In January, Andrew Luck had what was described as a “simple labrum repair” by his coach, but he never quite healed. The Indianapolis Colts, desperate for a quarterback, got Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots in a trade just before the season. The thought at the time: Brissett, a third-round pick by the Patriots in 2016, would help hold the position down for a couple of weeks until Luck returned.
Luck never returned. He won’t return this year. Scott Tolzien started the season as quarterback but was replaced by Brissett in Week 2.
Brissett’s performance as a fill-in: rather average, and definitely not spectacular. He’s thrown only five interceptions this year and has more passing yards than Prescott, Marcus Mariota and Flacco.
He’s leading an offense that’s extremely average, especially in the second half of games, where the Colts rank 31st in second-half points (6.7) and last in red zone efficiency. The Colts rank 26th in the league in passing yards (2,214) and are tied for last in the league in passing touchdowns (nine) and 24th in rushing yards (1,048). Their quarterbacks have been sacked the most of any team in the league (47).
In other words, they’re playing like a team that can’t wait to get to next season.
But, like Smith in New York, Brissett is playing for a lot more in the remaining games of the regular season.
DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
All Kizer had to do was beat out Brock Osweiler in the preseason to win the starting spot.
That was the easy part.
The hard part is playing for a bad team. Kizer, a second-round pick this season, started the first four games, was replaced by Kevin Hogan in game five and regained his starting position the next week.
Cleveland has remained bad through all the change. The Browns are 25th in passing yards (2,231), tied for last in touchdown passes (nine) and have thrown a league-high 20 interceptions (14 by Kizer, who is the individual leader).
And to think: The Browns could have drafted Deshaun Watson. Or signed Colin Kaepernick.
Kizer did have his best game of the season in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati with 268 passing yards and no picks.
Should we judge Kizer’s future as a viable NFL quarterback by what’s happened to him in Cleveland this year?
We shouldn’t. But they (team owners) will.
Advice to Kizer: Ball out.
Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at The Undefeated. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright, and watching the Knicks play an NBA game in June.