Sports fans are obsessed with rankings, and football fans are obsessed with quarterbacks.
Enter ESPN.com NFL reporter Mike Sando, who polled 42 league insiders about quarterbacks around the league. Sando spoke with 10 general managers, five head coaches, seven offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, eight personnel directors, and seven position coaches and executives. He then divvied quarterbacks into five different tiers.
Three quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger – achieved Tier 1 status: “Can carry his team each week. Team wins because of him.” Twelve quarterbacks – Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton – achieved Tier 2 status: “Can carry team sometimes but not as consistently.”
You’ll notice that the names Jameis Winston, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota are not in the previous paragraph. That’s because those three – along with Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins, Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford were ranked in Tier 3: “Legit starter but needs heavy run game/defense to win.”
Sando doesn’t necessarily agree with that.
“Jameis Winston, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota would be the three guys that I would put asterisks by – not just myself, but by the feedback I get from the people in the league.,” Sando said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And then to a lesser extent, probably Blake Bortles. I think people see Bridgewater, for sure, as maybe just (being) a good third-tier guy. But Carr and Mariota and Winston, guys in the league think that they have – not that they’re a slam dunk, but that they could actually get into (tier) two but maybe even flirt with the top tier.”
Sando also felt that Newton, Wilson and Luck could easily be in Tier 1.
“I think Newton, Wilson and Luck, if it were me, I might put them in the first tier now,” he said. “I think those guys are clearly on their way. Luck, with what happened last year, we’ll have to see, but there’s nothing not to like about him in the long-term. I think Brees, his defense is so bad that he’s playing a different game than these other guys. When you watch from afar, maybe you see a little slippage in him physically, but if he had a great defense and they were still winning 12 games, I think people would say Tier 1 unanimously. I do. Whereas with Newton and Wilson, it’s more like hey, these guys have played at a Tier 1 level; let’s just see another year of it. Because we don’t know how they would do if they didn’t have top-five defenses – which, they’ve always had top-five defenses when they’ve won, so its an easier game.”
One insider said that Roethlisberger probably deserves to be in the top tier, but just barely. Sando doesn’t quite agree, but he can understand why someone might feel that way.
“Well, he misses a few games, so (there’s) a little bit of an availability issue,” Sando said. “I think he hasn’t maybe done it as long without having a good defense. Remember, early in his career, he was kind of like where Russell Wilson and Cam Newton were. You know he’s good, they’ve won; but you sort of gave the credit more to the rest of the team. I think that was true for Roethlisberger for a while, and I think as he’s gotten experience, he’s become probably smarter and grown. (He received) 33 out of 42 votes in the top tier. I think he’s a little bit better than ‘as low as a 1 could be,’ but I think maybe the consistency isn’t quite what it’s been for a Tom Brady.”