1886 was an interesting year. Grover Cleveland became the only president to hold his wedding in the White House. The first train load of oranges departed Los Angeles on the Transcontinental Railroad. Ty Cobb was born. 1886 was also the year Sporting News (you know, the former “Bible of Baseball”) was established.
Now, most of us feel a surge of bitter nostalgia when the now exclusively-electronic website is mentioned; not because it reported anything necessarily wrong, but because the lack of popularity drove it to a biweekly release in 2008, and then monthly in 2011. But the most publicity the site has received in years erupted this past week on January 7th, and this isn’t the publicity they were looking for.
Writer Vinnie Iyer created an article for Sporting News involving the hottest sport in America, getting ready to play its coldest championship next month. The National Football League is holding Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2nd in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Playoff football is some of the most popular and exciting spectacles on television, and the wild card round did not disappoint: three of the four games were decided by three points or less. The Colts, Niners, Saints, and Chargers all escaped Wild Card Weekend with their teams intact, and ready for a real challenge. With the remaining playoff spots narrowed down to eight, Iyer focused his article on the remaining eight quarterbacks. This is where it gets interesting.
The NFL has been adapting, changing, going through metamorphosis like a small, adolescent larva. The emergence of the scrambling quarterback has been exciting as of late. It adds a brand new element to the game, which, before the 2012 Draft, came few and far between. Flashes of early Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, even Randall Cunningham could be seen in these new guys. This new breed is exciting, but challenging to judge when it comes to a quarterback’s responsibilities. Comparing a pocket passer to a run-first scrambler is difficult to do. But until the future of the NFL reveals itself with this fresh, young talent, the here and now includes the road to the Super Bowl.
Iyer ranked the remaining eight quarterbacks in various quarterback credentials: arm strength, accuracy/delivery, mobility/athleticism, and pocket presence/awareness. He even included intangibles, which would typically result in a tipped cap from yours truly. True leadership can’t always be written down or measured. Each category was assigned point values, and each QB was then given an overall ranking based on each category. The results were as follows:
1. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson – 28
4. Drew Brees – 22
5. Cam Newton – 21
6. Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick – 19
8. Tom Brady – 15
Before we go anywhere, let’s take a deep breath and really examine this list. Which quarterback has the highest win percentage over their career? Which quarterback has the most Super Bowl wins? Which quarterback took a pay cut in order to free up cap space for the sake of his team? How about the eighth best quarterback remaining in the NFL playoffs? New England veteran Tom Brady was ranked dead last among the left over play callers on this list. Oh boy, Sporting News really nailed this one.
Let’s begin with intangibles. Brady ranked fifth. The man that lost 6 of his 7 leading receivers from the year previous to free agency or injury, and still lead his team to a 12-4 record. The man that lead a team without its starting two defensive captains in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. The man that has earned a first-round bye despite having never thrown a pass to 9 of his targets heading into the 2013 regular season. He ranks behind Manning, Wilson, Brees, and Luck. I truthfully could not come up with a legitimate argument for any of those players to be ranked above Brady. None whatsoever.
How about pocket presence/awareness? Tom Brady ran nearly a 5.3 at the combine in 2000. The guy moves like a watered down sponge outside of the pocket. But a huge reason Brady is considered one of the greatest pocket passers in NFL history is because of his movement and awareness inside the tackle box. He moves subtly, a step forward, a slide back, a quick pivot. But the countless times I have seen Brady buy himself time while keeping his eyes downfield and finding a target is absolutely astounding. Iyer ranked him sixth. I would be thoroughly impressed if a genuine NFL insider could look me in the eyes and say Cam Newton is a better pocket passer than Tom Brady. Or Kaepernick. Or Rivers.
I could break down each and every category and tell you why Iyer is utterly insane, but Brady’s stats can speak for themselves. Tom Brady ranks #1 all time with his .775 win percentage (the next two on the list: Roger Staubach and Joe Montana). He remains the only player to ever win the NFL MVP unanimously in 2010. He has three Super Bowl wins, two SB MVPS, nine pro bowls, and the sixth highest passer rating of all time. But according to a man who spelled Cam Newton’s name wrong in the final rankings on his article, he is of lesser value.
Articles like this are why real sports fans stopped reading Sporting News over the past two decades. They report old news and garbage articles like this. For crying out loud, Philip Rivers?! Any NFL fan with any sense at all puts Brady among the best ever, and certainly a top three spot in this group. With one of the most depleted teams in NFL history Brady has given his team a legitimate chance at their 4th Super Bowl title in 13 years. I guarantee that a majority of fan bases for teams on this list would prefer if Brady took snaps for them this weekend.
Iyer did New England fans a favor this week. Tom Brady was drafted 199th overall, so that chip on his shoulder will exist until he retires. Articles like this only light the fire under Brady and his quest for greatness. As for Iyer’s theory that Luck or Manning will take on Wilson come February, keep an eye on the all time leader in playoff wins.