For a number of years, the best quarterbacks in the NFL has been an elite group of players who appeared on a different level to the rest of the signal callers in the league, but that could be changing this season. While Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady had to make room for Aaron Rodgers, and more recently Andrew Luck, the top five in the business have been an untouched group over the past few seasons. But with some members of that party showing signs of reaching the end of their careers, while others are struggling with their form this season, an emerging group of quarterbacks are making a claim that they could be closing in on that top-five list.
In Manning, Brees and Brady, three of the best quarterbacks in the league are now well into their 30s and inevitably coming to the end of their professional careers, and only Brady has started this season particularly well out of that trio. While Luck is only 26, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback has looked nothing like the man who threw 40 regular season touchdown passes in 2014, struggling with a shoulder injury in recent weeks. With the likes of Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer, the top five quarterbacks in the league could look a lot different by the time the regular season comes to an end.
So let’s have a closer look at the top five quarterbacks in the league, as well as those potential new superstars.
While the Denver Broncos have enjoyed an encouraging start to the season, much of their success has come down to their dominant defense rather than their offense. During the early stages of this season, 41 of the Broncos’ points have come from takeaways. Forty-seven of the team’s points have come from the kicker’s boot with 18 coming from the defense, accounting for 65 of their 113 points – the highest in the NFL this season. Not once has Manning finished a season leading a team with a kicker and a defense scoring 40 percent of the franchise’s points that season, and the veteran has made it very clear he knows Denver’s offense needs to improve.
With seven interceptions to his name this season, Manning has struggled to get any real cohesion with his offensive unit, failing to link up well with either C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman. But if the 14-time Pro Bowler has shown anything throughout his career, it’s that it’s never a wise decision to write off Peyton Manning. The fact that Denver have been winning without their quarterback yet finding his rhythm is a positive sign for Broncos, especially on the back of last season’s playoff disappointments. At 39, time is running out for Manning to win his second Super Bowl, although the likes of betfair and other bookmakers have the franchise at 10/1 when this article was produced.
Ever since his arrival in the NFL with the Colts in 1998, Manning has been one of the best quarterbacks to have ever graced the game. The problem has been that his phenomenal talent hasn’t delivered him the truckload of Super Bowl rings it should have done – highlighted by the fact younger brother Eli Manning has won the Super Bowl twice despite not being the same player. The Broncos might not be playing at their best this season, none more so than their quarterback, but there is all the pieces in this current team to win a third championship. If the team’s leader can find his groove over the next few weeks, this Broncos team need to be watched.
From the three veterans currently in the top five, it’s Drew Brees who has looked most off the pace this season. After a dismal start to the year in which the New Orleans Saints have gone 1-4, the 36-year-old has looked like a player nearing the end of his career. While the quarterback’s offensive line haven’t stepped up to the plate this year, Brees has struggled with both form and fitness throughout the early stages of the new campaign. A shoulder injury has clearly been bothering the Saints’ leader in recent weeks, and the issue will have played a part in Brees’ poor start to the year, resulting in some questioning whether the quarterback is still the player he once was.
While the nine-time Pro Bowler notched up the 400th touchdown pass of his professional career, it was one of just six scoring plays involving Brees from the opening four games – a very modest return from a quarterback who has twice gone beyond the 40 touchdown pass figures in a regular season. After being drafted in the second round in 2001, Brees has gone from underrated quarterback to one of the modern game’s most reliable signal callers, but this season has shown a veteran who is looking every bit of 36 years of age.
It might be too early to call time on the Saints star’s career but New Orleans fans will know their season could now hinge on their quarterback finding his mojo. After all he has achieved during his career, and especially during his time in Louisiana, Brees has proven he has both the talent and mental strength to get through a bad patch. The question is now whether or not the 2009 Super Bowl champion still has the body capable of getting through a full season and doing it at the top of his game. If the quarterback can’t turn things around quickly, the Saints will soon be waving goodbye to their playoff hopes.
On the back of a 2014 season in which Tom Brady booked himself further in NFL history by guiding the New England Patriots to a fourth Super Bowl championship only to then find himself dragged through the mud due to “Deflategate”, the 38-year-old has done his best to let his football do the talking. After initially being handed a four-game ban, Brady’s suspension was overturned and the veteran was able to lead the team to four straight wins to start the new season. With the Patriots looking every bit potential Super Bowl winners again this campaign, their quarterback is still showing no signs of slowing down.
Having seen his ban overturned, Brady wasted little time in silencing his critics, throwing four touchdown passes in the Week 1 victory over the Steelers to hand him the 161st win of his career, breaking the record held by Brett Favre for most wins by a quarterback with a single NFL club. The three-time Super Bowl MVP followed that performance up by throwing three touchdowns for 466 yards against the Bills, continuing his remarkable start to the season. After four games of the new campaign, the quarterback has 11 scoring passes to his name.
Brady underwent a huge fall from grace last season. Having guided the team into the playoffs on the back of a 12-4 season, the Patriots captain threw 10 touchdown passes in the postseason on his way to lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for a fourth time in his career. NFL fans love to hate Brady and “Deflategate” certainly hasn’t helped the Californian’s image. But the public’s perceptions haven’t really ever bothered a player loved by many but hated by more. All the criticism looks to have, if anything, inspired Brady to play better, and you’d be a brave soul to bet against this Patriots team.
If there was any doubt that Aaron Rodgers was one of the best quarterbacks in the league, his form throughout last season will have proven beyond doubt that he is at the top of his game. The 31-year-old earned his second NFL MVP award at the end of last year, despite the fact Rodgers couldn’t go on and guide the Packers to the second Super Bowl in his career. Playing some of the best football of his career, the four-time Pro Bowler has picked up from where he left off last season, playing a huge role in Green Bay’s perfect start to the new year.
The Packers certainly look in the driving seat when it comes to the NFC. With 13 touchdown passes to his name from the opening five games of the year, Rodgers and his offense are looking as prolific as they were last season. While Brady and his Patriots are tearing up trees in the AFC, Green Bay have been putting together a similarly impressive start to the season, and one in which Packers fans will be feeling confident about continuing as long as their quarterback is in this sort of form.
by Mike Morbeck
While Brady, Manning and Brees often make the headlines ahead of Rodgers, there aren’t many teams in the NFL who wouldn’t jump at the chance to have the Packers’ quarterback calling their plays. At 31, the Green Bay captain still theoretically has a lot of football left in him, and Packers fans will be hoping that includes at least another Super Bowl success. Now in his 11th season in the NFL, Rodgers has secured his status as a top modern day quarterback. But there is still time for the Packers man to ensure he goes down in history as one of the best of his generation.
Not many rookies have arrived in the NFL under the same sort of scrutiny as Andrew Luck, and it’s fair to say the Colts quarterback lived up to the hype during his first three seasons in the league. Having led Indianapolis into the playoffs for three years in a row, the youngster secured his place among the best quarterbacks in the NFL last year when he led the league in regular season touchdown passes. But it’s been a different story this year, with both Luck and the Colts failing to get out of second gear so far, slumping to 1-4 from the opening five games, and the former number-one Draft pick is facing an uphill battle to try and get the team’s season back on track.
But while there are a lot of people already writing off Luck following his tough start to the season, Colts fans have learned over the past three years that their young quarterback is not like the majority of other quarterbacks in the NFL. While he might not yet be on the same level as the likes of Manning and Brady, Luck definitely has all the tools to become an all-time great. This might have been a shocking start to the season for the 26-year-old but the very best players in the world have the ability to drag themselves from the ground and get back to winning games. On the evidence of his career so far, Luck could well be one of those players and it would be wise to stick with him through this.
Best of the rest
If he had played in another era, there is a good chance Ben Roethlisberger would have been one of the best quarterbacks in the game. The presence of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady has ensured the Steelers quarterback has spent his entire career somewhat in the shadows of greatness. As those future Hall of Famers near the end of their careers, however, the likes of Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan both have time to cement their own legacies.
At 27, Dalton has slowly established himself as one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league, helping turn the Bengals into genuine Super Bowl contenders. Despite failing to lead the Falcons into the playoffs for two years in a row, Ryan is rightly viewed as being one of the most underrated signal callers in the league, and a player who could still yet achieve big things in the game.