With this being the first year of SportsTalkATL, this is the first time I have really gotten to see what most fans around the city think about each of the teams and their respective players. In particular, many fans genuinely wanted and may still want Matt Ryan out of Atlanta. Ryan has had his fair share of mistake over the years, but has already established himself as the best quarterback in Falcons franchise history, and anything other than praise for the former #3 overall pick is unwarranted. Ever since coming out of Boston College, Ryan has impressed. In his first two NFL seasons, he did what no quarterback had done in the franchise’s first 40 years of history: lead a team to back to back winning seasons. He has only grown since his beginning seasons and has been on the cusp of being “elite” for a few years now. Nobody outside of Atlanta is going to give Ryan credit until he leads the Falcons to at the very least a Super Bowl appearance, but it is hard not to watch this guy each week and not want to compare him to some of the best quarterbacks in the league. Let’s take a look at my top 10 quarterbacks.
10. Cam Newton
I am not the biggest Cam Newton fan, especially since he plays for the division rival Carolina Panthers. However, it is hard not to be impressed how he is carrying an offense that is lacking any weapons to speak of. He has also put together some of his best performances against the Falcons. He is a true talent, but it is the steps he has taken in the maturity department this season that has him cracking my top 10 list.
9. Tony Romo
Romo has always been able to put up good numbers, but it has been has inability to win that kept him out of the elite quarterbacks conversation. However, Romo collected a division title and his first career playoff victory. He was also one controversial play away from being a participant in last season’s NFC championship game. Last year, Romo was one of the best quarterbacks in the league, throwing 34 TDs compared to just 9 INTs. If Romo can avoid the turnover bug, he is one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Hopefully he can have a speedy recovery from his injury and return sooner rather than later for the Cowboys.
8. Phillip Rivers
Rivers is one of the most competitive guys in football and it makes him one of the most fun players to watch each Sunday. He has yet to ever get over the hump in the playoffs, but the stats do not lie, he is one of the best in the business. He has had a completion percentage of over 65% in every season since 2008 and has has over 4,000 yards passing in 5 of the last 6 seasons.
7. Drew Brees
Saints fans might not agree, but Drew Brees is no longer a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. The regression over the pass two seasons has been noticeable and it does not help that the Saints are giving away all their weapons. In the past, Brees has shredded the Falcons, and the Sean Peyton and Brees combination should never be counted out, but they are off to a rough 1-3 start. If things do not start to look better, the Brees era could be coming to an end in New Orleans.
6. Peyton Manning
Even though the Broncos are off to a hot 4-0 start, it has been the defense that has carried the team to most of its victories. After his unbelievable 2013 season at age 37 in which he had a passer rating of over 115, Manning’s rating dipped to just over 100 in 2014 and is sitting at 80.8 through four games this year. Manning’s age is clearly catching up to him, as this is the shakiest he has looked under center since his rookie season. He is still a great offensive mind, but the arm may not be able to hold up the whole season.
5. Matt Ryan
Yes, I put Matt Ryan ahead of Peyton Manning. No, he does not have the accolades Manning does, but he is the better quarterback today. He has had a terrific start to his season, and the Ryan to Jones combination has become the most deadly in the NFL. With the offensive line able to keep Ryan clean and the Falcons’ newfound ability to run the ball, Ryan could be in for the best year of his career.
4. Andrew Luck
Luck is one of the best quarterback prospects to ever come into the NFL. A Stanford product, Luck was given the role to carry a very flawed Indianapolis team. He has not disappointed. He led the Colts to playoff appearances in each of his first three seasons, including an AFC championship appearance last season. He may one day own the number one spot on this list, but he has to cut down on his turnovers first.
3. Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger is two-time Super Bowl champion and all-around one of the grittiest competitors in the game. He fits the Steelers mantra perfectly and has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Last season, Roethlisberger threw for close to 5,000 yards, 32 TDs and 9 INTs. It was a career year for him, and he was on his way to putting up similar numbers before coming down with an unfortunate knee injury in week 3.
2. Tom Brady
Will Tom Brady ever stop being Tom Brady? Brady is seemingly ageless and gets it done no matter who is playing around him. Last year’s comeback Super Bowl victory might have put Brady in a class of his own when it comes to the greatest quarterback of all time conversation. Brady is on fire through his first 3 starts of this season. He has thrown for over 1,100 yards and 9 TDs compared with 0 INTs. Coming off a bye week in week 4, expect Brady to go right back to work on Sunday against the Cowboys.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers is currently in a class of his own. He is the best quarterback in the NFL by far (sorry Brady). Playing Rodgers has to be the most frustrating things for NFL defenses. He is so smart and has such a quick release that is nearly impossible to get to him, and if you do get to him he has the quickness and awareness in the pocket to escape and hit a receiver down the field. Every time Atlanta plays this man, I find myself with my face in my hands. He shreds NFL defenses with a smile on his face every Sunday. It doesn’t hurt that he has offensive mastermind Mike McCarthy on the sideline as his head coach either. It’s your world Mr. Rodgers, we are just living in it.