Any time you rank a group of things, people get angry. And when you start ranking NFL quarterbacks and then (stupidly?) throwing labels on them, people get real angry. So be prepared to get mad at the following list of quarterbacks, from best to worst.
Prepared to get especially mad because there's really not a precise way of categorizing guys. There's a group of "elite" quarterbacks up top (my group only features four of them, but it can vary dependent on your preferences), there's another group of quarterbacks who have proven they can win right below that, there's a great crop of "young guns," there's a big slew of veteran quarterbacks stuck in limbo in terms of their future as franchise guys, and there's even a glob of young "put up or shut up" quarterbacks.
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I've got them roughly grouped like that below, but the defining criteria for this list is that I've picked, in order with one or two quarterbacks from each team, the signal caller who I think gives me the best chance to win a Super Bowl in 2013 if all things -- wideouts, offensive line, defense -- were created equal.
It's not a list for building a franchise for the long-term future, it's a list for winning this season. And it's also an indication of how deep and talented the quarterback pool in the NFL really is. Feel free to leave your list in the comments or tell me your thoughts on my list on Twitter @WillBrinson.
The next group
Ready for a leap?
10. Cam Newton, Panthers: Newton's 2012 doesn't get its due because expectations were high and people wanted him to fail. But Newton caught fire during the second half of the season and I think we'll see him make a jump into the next group this coming season. The biggest concern has to be his lack of weapons -- Steve Smith is aging, Brandon LaFell needs to improve, Greg Olsen is underrated but not entirely dynamic ... and there are too many running backs on the roster. Plus, Rob Chudzinski left Carolina for Cleveland. The latter terrifies me, but Cam has all the tools to put together a complete season in 2013. Just don't expect the critics to stop complaining until the Panthers produce a winning season, which might be tough with their defense.
16. Philip Rivers, Chargers: So sue me, I still believe. There's not much of a reason to trust Rivers, who has approximately 5 million turnovers in the past two years. But I don't like to put the blame on Rivers as much as I do coaching and personnel decisions: playmakers like Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson departed and were replaced by guys like Ryan Mathews and Robert Meachem. Antonio Gates is older. Prior to drafting D.J. Fluker, Rivers' offensive line was just flat-out offensive. With Mike McCoy running the ship, I think Rivers can bounce back. The Chargers might not be a great -- or even good -- team in 2013, but I think Rivers reminds us that he's a capable franchise quarterback.
Put up or shut up
24. Christian Ponder, Vikings: Ponder's got a playoff trip under his belt but there have to be concerns about his viability as a franchise passer: even without big-time weapons staying healthy the whole season (see: Percy Harvin), he still had the benefit of passing in an offense that revolved around Adrian Peterson. That makes life pretty, pretty easy and Ponder still didn't produce monster numbers. With Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings on board now -- everyone, including teammate Jared Allen -- knows that Ponder has to be the man.