|Michael Vick flashes his new 100 million dollar smile. (AP)|
With his new contract, Philadelphia's Michael Vick joins the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. In fact, he's this close to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the league's two most celebrated and highest-paid quarterbacks.
The question, of course, is that while Vick is their tax bracket is he in their neighborhood?
You know what I mean. He's paid like one of the game's best. But so is the Giants' Eli Manning, and nobody confuses Eli with his brother. Yes, he's good, but he's not Peyton-good and, sorry, Eli, but not Tom Brady- good, either.
So where exactly does Vick stack up? I have my opinion, which is why I'm here. Vick is one of the game's top quarterbacks and one of its premier playmakers, but he's not in the top five at his position. Not yet he's not. The Eagles believe he can be, paying him like an elite quarterback, but there's that tricky issue of winning big games and breaking through to a Super Bowl.
Until then, this is what the field looks like:
1. Tom Brady, New England: He won three Super Bowls. He's been to four. He's a two-time league MVP, including a first-ever unanimous choice last season. He holds the league record for most TDs in one season. He's the first quarterback to go 16-0 in a regular season. He's 14-5 in the playoffs, his touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio is the best in the history of NFL quarterbacks with 2,000 or more attempts, and his 125-37 record is Numero Uno among quarterbacks with at least 100 starts in the Super Bowl era. Oh, yeah, he also threw 335 straight passes without an interception, another NFL first. Let's see, he's accurate, he's successful and he's proven. If I have one game to win, I give the ball to Brady.
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis: He's a four-time league MVP, a five-time first-team All-Pro, 11-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl-winner. He's 141-67 in the regular season and never missed a start in 13 seasons, the longest current streak in the pros. He ranks third all-time in completions, yards and touchdowns and fourth in career victories and has 13 straight seasons with 25 or more touchdowns. He also reached the playoffs the past nine years, including two Super Bowl appearances. In short, there's nothing he can't do -- including call his own plays. The guy is smart, accurate and inordinately successful. In fact, some consider him the platinum bar by which everyone else is measured, but there's one difference between him and Brady -- and it's the playoff record. Manning is 9-10.
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3. Drew Brees, New Orleans: It took him four years to prove he belonged, but he's making up for lost time. Since joining New Orleans he's become an elite quarterback, not only leading the Saints to three playoff appearances and two conference championship games but winning the franchise's first-even Super Bowl two years ago. He's only the second quarterback in league history to throw for more than 4,000 in five straight seasons, including 5,069 in 2008, and set an NFL record with a 70.6 completion percentage in 2009. He's also the third most accurate passer in league history. He's done the unimaginable, which is to make the Saints a league powerhouse -- going 49-30 with them in regular-season play and 4-2 in the playoffs. Five years ago, he was supposed to be finished because of a severe shoulder injury. Good thing the Saints never bought it.
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: He's more upwardly mobile than anyone on this list, thanks to the past two seasons when he won a Super Bowl, put the Packers in the playoffs twice and cured a post-partem depression brought on by the departure of Brett Favre. Of the three, replacing Favre was the most difficult. People in Green Bay loved the guy and wanted him back ... until, that is, they caught Rodgers' act. He became the NFL's only quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter, and in 32 regular-season starts produced 19 games without an interceptions and 18 with a passer rating of 100 or more. He already ranks first in franchise history in passer rating (97.2) and completion percentage (63.9), but, more important, he just took home a Lombardi Trophy after winning four playoff games away from Lambeau.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: He doesn't compile the numbers of, say, Brady or Manning, but he knows how to make big plays. There are few quarterbacks I trust more in critical situations, with Roethlisberger proving over and over again that he's a Big Game quarterback. He's been to three Super Bowls in the past six years and won two -- including Super Bowl XL when he became the youngest winning quarterback (he was 23) in the game's history. He reached three conference championship games in his first five seasons. He's 10-3 in the playoffs and 69-29 in the regular season. He led 23 fourth-quarter comebacks that resulted in victories, and his 51 regular-season victories in his first five seasons are the most in league history. Bottom line: This guy is a winner. People tell me he's not all that talented and benefits from his supporting actors, but I tell them to look at the record. He holds the Steelers' top five passer ratings of all time and is the career leader at 92.7. More important, he keeps finding ways to win -- with that 58-yard completion vs. Baltimore on third-and-19 in last year's playoffs a perfect example.
6. Philip Rivers, San Diego: Nobody did more with less last season. San Diego suffered so many injuries that it suited up 74 players -- tying an NFL single-season record -- with Rivers forced to find 17 receivers. Yet he threw for an NFL-high 4,710 yards and led the Chargers to another winning season. The guy hasn't had a losing year since he took over. Moreover, he's the only quarterback out there to put up passer ratings of 100 or better in each of the past three seasons. He is 55-25 as a regular-season starter, 32-9 at home and led the Chargers to four straight division titles, including a franchise-best 14-2 record in 2006. Moreover, Rivers is resilient, playing on a torn knee ligament in the 2007 conference championship game. He is everything you want from a quarterback, with only one element missing -- a Super Bowl. I know, Dan Fouts never made it there, and he's a Hall of Famer. Rivers should be, too, but taking the next step would help.
Which QB would you most want directing your team?
Total Votes: 42,998
7. Michael Vick, Philadelphia: Until last season, he was known as a playmaker -- part quarterback, part running back, always in motion. Then Vick posted the best completion percentage and the highest passer rating of his career, and, suddenly, the Eagles viewed him as a franchise quarterback. So they dismissed Kevin Kolb, sank a zillion dollars in Vick and hope for the best. We all know the guy is one of the game's difference makers -- someone who can beat you with his arm or legs -- but he needs to be known as a winner, too. He's been to one conference championship game and has three playoff appearances, but he's 2-3 overall. Plus, when you talk about Vick the conversation inevitably starts with his running, and why not? His 11 100-yard performances are an NFL record for quarterbacks. That's great, but it's not how you win at this level. Accurate passing is, and Vick is headed in the right direction -- ranking fourth in last year's passer ratings. He had over 3,000 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and a 100-plus rating. The only other guy to do that was Hall-of-Famer Steve Young.
8. Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants: Earlier this summer he produced headlines when he said he considered himself in the same league as Brady. He's right, of course. They both play in the NFL. But that's where the comparison ends. I know, he beat Brady in Super Bowl XLIII, but he's been wildly inconsistent since. That game was supposed to launch his career. Instead, here we are in Manning's eighth season, and Giants' fans wonder why he hasn't graduated to the next level. Good question. What I like about him is that he wins. He has had the Giants in the playoffs in all but two of his seasons as a starter, and he not only won a Super Bowl but was the game's MVP. What I don't like about him is that he seems to have hit a wall. In his past three years, or since the Super Bowl, he has 49 interceptions (including a league-high 25 last year) and hasn't won a playoff game. Worse, he's been to only one. He looks as if he's plateaued, and that's never good when you're 30.
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta: He's been to the playoffs twice in three seasons, has a 19-3 regular-season record at home and last year guided the Falcons to the NFC's best regular-season record. OK, so he lost to Green Bay and hastened the defeat with two costly interceptions. Still, it would've been nice if Atlanta didn't hemorrhage 48 points. Ryan is one of the game's top young quarterbacks, a guy who doesn't put up big numbers but knows how to win. He's 33-13 as a starter, with his 33 victories tying Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino for the most since the AFL-NFL merger by a quarterback in his first three seasons. He's also someone who knows how to take care of the football. He has 23 interceptions the past two seasons, including nine in 2010, and only five lost fumbles. I admire how he filled the void left by Vick and became the face of the franchise, but he comes up short in playoff performances. He's 0-2, with two TDs and four interceptions. In short, "Matty Ice" he isn't, and that must change if he's to move forward.
10. Joe Flacco, Baltimore: I love guys who win, and Flacco wins a lot. In each of his first three seasons he has had the Ravens in the playoffs, including the conference championship game as a rookie. He also has 32 regular-season victories in three years and at least one playoff win each season, including the first post-season defeat of Tom Brady in Foxborough. Impressive. So he doesn't put up huge numbers. Big deal. He wins. He's also improving with each year. In 2009, he set a franchise record for best completion percentage (63.1). Last year he set a franchise record for best pass rating (93.6), while producing a personal-best 25 TD passes. Don't tell me Flacco is an ordinary Joe. He's not.
Mark Sanchez, N.Y. Jets
Yeah, so his regular-season numbers are underwhelming. This is what I like about him: He plays best when games matter most. He's 4-2 in the playoffs, twice reaching the conference championship game in two years as a pro, and did all that on the road. You heard me: No home games for him or the Jets, which is what happens when you play in the same division with New England. Nevertheless, he beat Brady in last year's playoffs. He beat Manning, too. And he came oh-so-close to catching Roethlisberger, rallying the Jets from a 24-0 deficit to a 24-19 defeat. No one on the Jets was more effective in last season's playoffs. It's the months prior to January that are the concern.