A year ago this week, I ranked the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. It was based on how they were playing at that time. In order, the list was: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick and Eli Manning. Today, the list is revisited and updated. Again, this isn’t based on career achievements, but where they rank now.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Coming off, perhaps, the greatest individual season ever. He threw for 4,643 yards with 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 122.5 passer rating was an NFL record. He led the Packers to a 15-1 record. Counting the playoffs, he is 20-2 over his past 22 starts. He is only 28.
2. Drew Brees, Saints
In the 2011 season, Brees broke Dan Marino’s record by throwing for 5,476 yards. He also set NFL records for completions (468), completion percentage (71.2) and 300-yard passing games (13). With Brees, the Saints set NFL records for total yards (7,474) and first downs (416).
3. Eli Manning, Giants
Before the season, Manning answered a question by saying, yes, he considered himself an elite quarterback. Everyone either laughed or went crazy. After a brilliant regular season, Manning produced his second late, winning drive in a Super Bowl. Eli was right. He is an elite quarterback.
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
Let’s not let the Super Bowl loss cloud our judgment. Brady is getting along in age (34), but he is coming off another outstanding season: 5,235 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s 27-5 over the past two regular seasons despite a lousy defense and only marginally talented receivers.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Hands down, the toughest. His gunslinger style leads to injuries and risks, but no quarterback is better at extending plays and turning catastrophes into huge gains. He will turn 30 next month but has three Super Bowl appearances and two rings. No longer a game manager, but a game-changer.
6. Cam Newton, Panthers
In an amazing rookie season, Newton, 22, joined a team that won two games in 2010 and led it to six by becoming the first player to throw for 4,000 yards (4,051) and rush for 500 (706). He set an NFL record with 14 rushing touchdowns and tossed 21 more. Just think how good he will be with more experience.
7. Matthew Stafford, Lions
The league’s comeback player of the year led the Lions to their first postseason appearance since 1999. He became the fifth player (and third in 2011) to throw for 5,000 yards (5,038). What’s especially striking is the kid just turned 24 Tuesday. If he stays healthy, he will find his name at the top of this list.
8. Tony Romo, Cowboys
It’s hard to look past Romo’s lack of success in big games. However, he has raw talent, and his 96.9 career passer rating is second all-time to Green Bay’s Rodgers (104.1). He will turn 32 in April, so time is running out to show he can play big in big games.
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons
His nickname of “Matty Ice” should be sidelined until he does something during the postseason, where he is 0-3. He’s only 26, so we cut him a little slack, especially because he is 43-19 as a starter during the regular season.
10. Joe Flacco, Ravens
A few quarterbacks could have slipped into this spot: Houston’s Matt Schaub, St. Louis’ Sam Bradford, San Francisco’s Alex Smith and, if healthy, Peyton Manning. But for now, we’ll go with Flacco because of his back-to-back 12-4 regular seasons.
A name not under consideration? Josh Freeman.