I am riding a crazy post-debate high right now, and it got me thinking about leadership. As in, the President of the football field: the quarterback.
It’s weird to think, but there are only six, SIX, active NFL quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings. Six out of 32+ starting QBs in the NFL. That’s 18%, according to the calculator on my computer.
There are plenty of contenders for the Super Bowl this year, but many of those teams are helmed by quarterbacks that are questionable at best and straight-up terrible at worst.
So having identified the contenders over the last two weeks, who actually has the leader to win it all?
Ranking the QBs of Super Bowl Contenders 1-16
Is QB the most important factor in winning a title? No. Trent Dilfer was speaking before Monday Night Football about how there are exceptions to the rule.
Trent Dilfer himself was an exception to that rule.
Trent Dilfer was a terrible quarterback, is what I’m saying. And what he was saying, in a way. But unless you’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime defense, you still need great to excellent QB play. And no one has that good of a defense this year.
So who can take their team to the promised land?
1) Eli Manning
Ok, Ok. Call it East Coast bias, call it a man who will attend his second Giants game of the season this weekend. But the facts are the facts: Eli is the reigning champ, he’s got another title under his belt, and with everyone and their mother jumping on the Giants bandwagon all of the sudden, it’s pretty clear that AT THIS MOMENT, Eli is king when it comes to title-winning QBs.
Is he the best QB in the league? No. Do Giants fans trust him fully? Uh, well, um… not quite. But his two rings, including the most recent, tell a different tale. He still looks like he wears footy pajamas, but still.
Do I think the Giants are the top Super Bowl contender? No. Too many lucky breaks are required to win a title, and getting them two years in a row in the modern NFL is a Herculean task.
The Giants will lose several more times this season. But with a rapidly imploding NFC East, they’ve got a decent shot at a first-round bye, and that gives them a leg up on a repeat title.
2) Tom Brady
Maybe a better choice for no. 1, but with his 0-2 record versus Eli, you can’t put him on top.
Tom showed some cracks this weekend, getting punked by the Seahawks D. And his recent results are a little disheartening. But he’s got the most rings, and he’s gotta be near the top for that reason.
As for the Patriots, you can never count them out, especially in a weak AFC and a weak division. They will go as far as Brady takes them, and that’s that.
3) Aaron Rodgers
The reigning MVP showed that the Pack are still firmly in the title hunt this weekend with a blowout win over the Texans. There’s no question he’s got the juice for another championship.
But this is a situation where his team may end up costing him a title. Injuries on defense, injuries in the backfield, and injuries to his wide receivers all have a way of making Rodgers look vulnerable.
The Packers have a tough road to winning the division, but a wild card berth is no great hurdle to the Super Bowl anymore, and this remains a dangerous team.
4) Peyton Manning
Monday night’s ridiculous comeback shows that the elder Manning is still a ridiculously good QB. He throws wounded ducks, for sure, but they are certainly prettier than Phil Rivers’ floating butterflies begging to be picked off.
Manning is a great leader, he makes dudes like Brandon Stokley look like Pro Bowlers, and I am not prepared to live in a world where Brandon Stokley is still relevant.
But the Broncos had to be losing by 24 points to come back from down 24 points, and that’s not a good situation for any team with title aspirations. Crushing the Chargers means the Broncos have the early jump on the division, but a first-round exit is a real possibility if they are forced to match up with Baltimore, Houston, or especially New England.
5) Ben Roethlisberger?
So here’s where it gets icky.
I still feel like the Steelers will come on strong, and I’m fairly sure they’ll grab a wild card spot. But they are a fundamentally flawed team, and they are asking a LOT of Big Ben.
He’s averaging 40 pass attempts per game so far, which puts him in the range of Drew Brees (absent from this list unless his team pulls it together) and the like. Roethlisberger is NOT a Brees-level passer. He’s the B+ of quarterbacks, if you limit his exposure. He’s sixth in yards per game, mostly due to the Steelers’ complete lack of a run game.
Can his arm carry Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl? I say no, but his two rings give him an advantage over these next few dudes.
6) Matt Ryan
“Default, the two sweetest words in the English language.” – Homer Simpson. So yeah. Do you really trust Matt Ryan after his picktastic performance?
Atlanta is undefeated because they’ve played a weak schedule. They are the Rutgers of the NFL at this point. Beating up on Howard, or the Chiefs, but barely getting by Syracuse, or the Raiders, does not inspire confidence. And a lot of that starts on top.
Ryan came out of the gate on fire, but he also played some very poor defenses. The thing is, the Falcons have an easy schedule moving forward as well.
When it comes down to the playoffs, is Ryan going to melt down again like he did versus the Giants? I say yes, but less so than for these next folks.
7) Alex Smith
The Bad Alex Smith was in full effect this weekend, tossing INTs and looking totally lost. No one has had a better PR campaign in the last two years, and it seemed like Smith had convinced everyone that having a killer defense and limiting mistakes made him championship-worthy.
He may still get there on the back of Patrick Willis, but Smith is liable to melt down at any time. He’s got the most Trent Dilfer potential on this list, after this next guy.
8) Russell Wilson
Hey, why not? He is unstoppable at home – he won’t let MVPs or NFL rules get in his way. He has a winning attitude, grittiness, intangibles, or whatever. That counts for something. Sorta.
Unheralded, inexperienced QBs have won the Super Bowl before – Kurt Warner was technically a rookie, and Roethlisberger was just 23. This team with home field advantage is an NFC championship lock. But on the road, not so much.
9) Matt Schaub
Why is he this low? Because I literally just had to look up his name after blanking for a second. You don’t blank on Rodgers or Brady or Manning. This dude, you can forget about often.
The defense and run game are great, but losing 42-24 at home after coming in undefeated is not a good look. Schaub in general is not a good look. Sleepy eyes.
We’ll know a lot more about this team after they tangle with this next guy this weekend.
10) Joe Flacco
Listen to this song while you read this next part, it’ll make it 10x funnier.
Pretty Flacco is a perfectly serviceable quarterback, but with his team totally ripped to shreds, he is about to get the Roethlisberger treatment (uh, not like that) in terms of exposure. (Jesus, not like that either!)
Flacco threw just 26 passes versus the Cowboys, and the Ravens barely held on. He threw 42 times in a loss to Philly. He had a 55 passer rating in a 9-6 win over the Chiefs. His performance is not directly related to that of the Ravens – when they have a full-strength team.
Losing Ray Lewis is a slightly overrated thing given how he’s a shell of his former stabby self, but losing Ladarius Webb is not fun. And more Flacco is no fun for anyone.
11) Jay Cutler
Nope, sorry. Don’t trust him. Don’t believe it.
Too mopey. Ranked 25th in QB rating, behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kevin Kolb and Jake Locker. Seven TDs, seven INTs.
He’s seventh in yards per attempt, but he also has fewer completions than Matt Cassel.
Also, everyone hates him on a personal level, even if they’ve never met him or been in the same state as him.
12) Christian Ponder
Sure, OK. I don’t get this Vikings team. I haven’t seen them play on TV yet, and when I do, maybe I’ll figure it out.
Losing to RGIII in DC is no great shame, but they got rolled, and Ponder had to throw 52 times, which is not a recipe for success.
They’ve got a late bye, a date in Seattle, two games versus Chicago and Green Bay after Thanksgiving, plus a Christmas week game versus Houston. Let’s hold off until then to make a judgement call on this team.
13) Michael Vick
It’s getting uglier.
Vick is so deliriously bad at football now, it’s like karma caught up with him or something.
That plus bad coaching equals no title for the Vickster (can we call him that? That’s kind of a fun name).
14) Phillip Rivers
No way after Monday night. Don’t trust this dude, even in those sick powder blue uniforms.
15) Whatever Corpse Arizona Throws Out
This team is fading fast. They look awesome in those all-black uniforms though. I’m looking for any and all bright spots down here.
16) The Jets
That’s basically it as far as legit contenders go, right? We can revisit this list in a few months, but is there anyone else with any shot at a Super Bowl this year? Tony Romo? Sam Bradford? I think we’re done here.
Last week’s reverse jinx on the two NY teams worked, and I correctly called the Ravens and Denver. So, yeah, I went 2-3. Ugh.
This week, I think the Seahawks get a big road win in San Francisco, the Ravens will beat Texas in Houston, the Patriots will destroy the Jets, the Giants shut down RGIII, and the Bears win a close one versus Detroit.
Those are my picks, unless they are wrong, in which case I am drunk.