Position Rankings: People John Unitas Jr. Would Rather See Portraying His Father on Film than Joe Flacco

So Joe Flacco’s doing Joe Unitas a favor (presumably at a fair compensation level) by starring in the football scenes of the upcoming film “Unitas We Stand” as Unitas’ dad Johnny, a development that will no doubt leave the city of Baltimore completely enraptured with pleasure whenever it comes out. Will Flacco pull off the flat top nearly as well as Johnny U did? Only time will tell. Did Unitas himself ever come close to being 6 feet 6 inches without wearing platform shoes? Not in the slightest. But it’ll be nice to have an actually accomplished quarterback mimic Johnny U’s legendary perfect mechanics on film (as opposed to a random DIII quarterback or actor they picked up off the street) and I’m sure the entire Unitas clan is thrilled that another Baltimore hero is paying homage to their beloved family member…

Actually, I’m being told now that that’s not the case and John Unitas Jr. hates the decision:

John Unitas Jr. called Flacco a “goofball” in comments about the movie to USA Today Sports on Sunday and said he is considering taking legal action if Joe Unitas makes any profits from his father’s name. Unitas’ second wife, Sandra, unsuccessfully sued John Unitas Jr. in the past for control of Unitas Management Corp., which controls the rights to Johnny Unitas’ name.

“If you want a quarterback, go with Peyton Manning,” he told USA Today Sports. “My father was just like that. This is a joke.”

Hey! That’s really mean, John! Of course Peyton Manning would have been a better choice, but it’s not like he’s ever taken time out of his rigorous offseason workout schedule to accommodate the very whim of any company that wants to film him within a 10,000 mile radius! Wait a minute, that’s what he’s done every offseason since 1999. My mistake. Still, my original point remains: Joe’s not that bad! Hold on, John Unitas Jr.’s son J.C. isn’t happy, either:

His son, J.C., ripped Flacco’s casting in a post on his Facebook page, writing that it is an “embarrassing choice,” according to USA Today.

According to USA Today, J.C. Unitas wrote: “My grandfather and his legacy deserves only the best, and this is not it. Has Baltimore forgotten that Trent Dilfer also won a Super Bowl while playing for Baltimore?”

Now THERE’S a real low blow. It’s not Joe’s fault that Peyton Manning’s both a better quarterback and actor than he’ll ever be. But getting compared to the Trenterception himself is an indignity that is only befitting the lower class of common criminal or Kevin Kolb. If you’ve got such a problem with this casting, J.C. and John Jr., why don’t you try to convince an above-average NFL quarterback to do a film in July right around the time training camp starts? See how you like them apples! Anyway, here’s how I imagine their wish list for actors to portray their dear father/grandfather pans out:

1. Peyton Manning. “Most similar quarterback, mechanics-wise, to Dad; same sort of authority on the field; and his forehead can be digitally shrunk in post-production. Only downside: he’s 6’5”, which makes him just as goofy-looking as Flacco. Will Peyton consent to getting his feet chopped off for role? Must ask during pre-film interview.”

2. John Unitas Jr. “If anybody knows what Dad was all about, it’s me – his beloved first-born son. Hell, I’ve even thrown the ball twenty-five yards in the air before! With the aid of three of four bounces. Only downside is I’m in my fifties and haven’t picked up a ball since 1986. Can hair and makeup convincingly whack off twenty-five to thirty years off my face? More importantly, will director believe my story that Dad needed an oxygen tank during the final drive of the 1958 NFL Championship Game?”

3. J.C. Unitas. “A little wet behind the ears, but actually played quarterback at Villanova and has his granddad’s mechanics down pat – mostly because I forced him to watch those old films of Dad playing 16 hours a day when he was growing up.”

4. Daniel Day-Lewis. “I’m a little leery of any non-football player taking on my dad’s role, but if anybody could do it, it would be this guy. My God, I was convinced they had actually resurrected Lincoln to play in that movie! Have to see how he throws a spiral, though.”

5. Meryl Streep. “Look, we’re all in agreement that she’s the best actor – male or female – alive, right? And when you have all the football gear, you can’t make out the Adam’s apple or tell the difference or anything. So what’s the problem? Why aren’t we pulling out ALL the stops for Dad?”

1694. Brett Favre. “His agent has told me multiple, MULTIPLE times he’s available. Eh, he’s a bigger name than Flacco, but Dad would never have approved of the way he used cellphones.”

1695. Jaleel White. “For the last damn time: NO URKEL. It wasn’t funny the first time you dropped his name in the suggestion box, J.C., and it sure as hell ain’t funny the 400th freaking time.”

1696. Joe Flacco. “There’s a 0.000001% possibility he may eventually surpass my father’s greatness and become the greatest quarterback in Baltimore football history. HE MUST BE STOPPED.”

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SSLYAR’s Post-2012 Quarterback Rankings

Back in August, I posted my preseason quarterback rankings with the intention of running an updated list at the end of the season so we could see how much things changed and laugh uncontrollably at the thought of Philip Rivers being the sixth-best quarterback in the league. Well, the time has come for me to correct the past and make the official, completely non-subjective list to which everyone must strictly adhere of the best quarterbacks currently playing. Like August’s rankings, I ordered the list based on general performance in the last three years (but with the most weight being placed on the 2012 season) and jiggled things around a little bit as I saw fit based on subjective factors such as supporting casts, quality of coaching staffs, and how much I may or may not hate each player. Also as in August, we’re breaking this thing down in tiers; if you’ve ever wanted to see Ryan Fitzpatrick compared to Steve DeBerg, THIS IS YOUR MOMENT. First, let’s take a brief moment to acknowledge all the quarterbacks who left this list over the past season…

Rex Grossman (PRE: #32) fell all the way to Washington’s third-string quarterback position but had his least mentally scarring calendar year since 2002, so all in all things worked out okay…Matt Cassel (#31) did his best to show the world how a team with five Pro Bowlers could still manage to wind up 2-14…The most action Tim Tebow (#30) got all season was that time he ran shirtless in the rain during training camp…Matt Hasselbeck (#29) simply refuses to die, much like a vampire, zombie, or other mythological creature…Based on the way he played last year, the Dolphins might have actually made the playoffs if he they’d kept Matt Moore (#28) at starting quarterback; on the other hand, barely sneaking in as the #6 seed has worked out SO WELL for Cincinnati the past two years…And in a truly remarkable occurrence, Kevin Kolb (#27) got hurt, which paved the way for three months of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley action, which in turn paved the way for overflowing unintentional comedy for everyone except Cardinals fans…

On to the rankings… 

The Kordell Stewart “Only as a Last Resort” Division

32. Jason Campbell, Chicago Bears (PRE: #21)
31. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (PRE: #24)

Campbell proved to be slightly better than Caleb Hanie during his brief stint as starting quarterback for the Bears – obviously, this is high praise. He’s hanging on to his spot in these rankings based on the goodwill he built up in his two years in Oakland. And, frankly, the only reason I’m including Sanchez again is so I can run this GIF one last time:

NY Post

The Tim Couch “You Kinda Have to Play Even Though You Maybe Shouldn’t” Division

30. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns (PRE: unranked)
29. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (PRE: unranked)
28. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (PRE: unranked)

To put it politely, I’d say the jury’s still very much out on any of these guys turning into reputable NFL quarterbacks. Particularly in Weeden’s case, since he just turned 75 in January.

The Kerry Collins “Inoffensive White Guy” Division

27. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks (PRE: #26)
26. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (PRE: unranked)
25. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys (PRE: #19)

For whatever reason, I still think that Matt Flynn’s going to be an above-average starter whenever he gets a chance. The fact that Russell Wilson beat him out in preseason doesn’t look like such a bad thing anymore and if some AFC team with a soft schedule next year (Kansas City?) picked him up, I could see that team sneaking its way to 10 wins and a wild-card slot. On the other hand, Matt still hasn’t thrown more than 200 passes in the pros, so it’s all wild speculation at this point. Part of me kinda thinks I’m underrating both Bradford and Orton, but screw it.

The Jeff George “DON’T YOU REALIZE YOU’RE SQUANDERING YOUR GIFT?!?!?!” Division

24. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (PRE: #12)
23. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (PRE: #14)

Both guys have oodles of talent, not so many oodles of coverage recognition skills, and reckless playing styles that cause them to reliably miss time each year and pave the way for someone truly bad to take their place and ruin their team’s season. In their defense, though, Jeff George was a bigger schmuck than both of them combined – and I say this remembering full well that Vick ran a dogfighting ring). So at least they have that going for them.

The Steve DeBerg “Just Good Enough to Get You Beat” Division

22. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills (PRE: #25)
21. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (PRE: #18)
20. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders (PRE: #20)

Cutler and Vick are both way better than these three when they’re on and not hurt, but they’re rarely on and not hurt. What Fitzy, Shawshank, and Carson Palmer Scott have shown us over the past three years is that if you don’t get hurt, you don’t actively try to get your offensive line to murder you, and you’re able to at least get the ball within A.J. Green’s catch radius 40% of the time, you can skate along as a starting quarterback for a LONG time. Seriously, Ryan Fitzpatrick has now started 67 games in the NFL. How is that even possible?

The Jim Plunkett “At a Crossroads” Division

19. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (PRE: #16)
18. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (PRE: #22)
17. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (PRE: #6)
16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (PRE: #11)

HERE’S an interesting tier. Now seems like as good a time as any to remind everyone that Andrew Luck finished 16th in Yards per Attempt, 19th in Net Yards per Attempt, and 20th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt this season – and he did this against one of the easiest schedules in the league. RGIII and Russell Wilson deserved all the rookie accolades they got; Luck was incredibly clutch this year, but does that portend well for future performance? QUESTIONABLE. Meanwhile, I fear Alex Smith is going to wind up in Jacksonville and just revert to pre-Harbaugh, fetal-position-loving Alex Smith. And that makes me sad. Phil Rivers probably deserves a little leeway for the complete disintegration of his offensive line this season, but screw him. And Matt Stafford almost threw for 5000 yards again, which would be impressive if you didn’t remember it took him 1500 pass attempts to do it. Also, he has Megatron to throw to. Imagine Drew Brees had Megatron as one of his receivers? He’d throw for 6,000 yards every year.

The Ron Jaworski “Above-Average Starter in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE” Division

15. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (PRE: #23)
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (PRE: #8)
13. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (PRE: #5)
12. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (PRE: #7)
11. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (PRE: #15)

Spots 11-14 are a virtual dead heat, with the tie going to the guy who won Super Bowl MVP and didn’t throw an interception all postseason. Schaub gets the nod over Romo and Roethlisberger because he performs at a safe “B” level basically every week; Romo and Roethlisberger’s ceilings are much higher, but when they’re bad…OH NO. Plus, Roethlisberger misses three or four games every season because he feels the need to stand in the pocket for eight seconds and get hammered fifty more times than he has to. HE’S A TRUE WINNER.

The Colin Kaepernick circa 2013 “I have NO IDEA where to put this guy” Division

10. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (PRE: unranked)

On the one hand, it seems pretty insane to put a player who’s thrown a grand total of 303 passes in his NFL career on the list of top ten quarterbacks. On the other hand…

The Donovan McNabb “Elite, One Step Short of True Franchise Quarterback” Division

9. Eli Manning, New York Giants (PRE: #4)
8. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (PRE: unranked)
7. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (PRE: #10)
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (PRE: #13)

The two guys in this tier that have the best chance of jumping to the next level are Wilson and Newton and it could happen as soon as next season. Cam has run for over 700 yards in each of the past two seasons and improved his passing efficiency this year even if his completion percentage went down a little bit. And if Russell Wilson plays all of next season the way he played the second half of this year, he’ll run away with the MVP award. On the other side, doesn’t it just sorta feel like this is the ceiling for Eli and Matt Ryan? Really, really good, with a lack of consistency (Eli) and top-flight athleticism (Ryan) consistently holding them down from true greatness? The good news for Ryan in this comparison is that you can still have a pretty successful career without ever being the best of the best.

The Robert Griffin III circa 2013 “True Franchise Quarterback (if he’s healthy)” Division

5. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (PRE: #17)

Look, he’s everything we thought he was going to be and then some. When he’s on the field, he’s every bit as good as the four guys ahead of him. Whether he’ll ever stay healthy enough to make it a true debate is unfortunately another question entirely.

The Dan Marino “True Franchise Quarterback” Division

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (PRE: #3)
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (PRE: #9)
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (PRE: #2)
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (PRE: #1)

Truthfully, Brees’s year was more along the lines of a Pro Bowl level than the All-Pro level this tier requires, but I’ll cut him a little slack for being coached by janitors for half the season. As for the other three: Manning and Brady were both probably a touch better than Rodgers this year, but neither one had anything approaching the season Rodgers had in 2011. And to wrest the Greatest Quarterback Alive belt away from someone, you can’t just walk up to that person and ask politely to use it. NO, YOU GOTTA GRAB THAT BELT  WITH BOTH HANDS AND YOU CAN’T LET GO UNTIL THAT BELT IS FIRMLY IN YOUR CONTROL AND THE OTHER PERSON IS BLEEDING PROFUSELY FROM THEIR MIDSECTION. At least I think that’s how these things are supposed to go. Thus, Aaron Rodgers: you are still our Greatest Quarterback Alive. Just try not to get sacked as often next year, okay? (Actually, what am I saying? Get sacked 100 times! Let the Bears split the season series for once!)

Position Rankings: Other People Throughout History Andy Reid Thinks Should Have Been Fired

Yesterday, Eagles head coach Andy Reid fired embattled defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, putting an end to the year-and-a-half-long experiment of having a former offensive line coach call the Philadelphia defense. This decision couldn’t have come at a more perfect time…well, except for any other time in the past year, really. The Eagles’ defense has actually been good this year: Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings has Philadelphia ranked ninth on defense and SSLYAR’s Defensive Predictive Yards per Play metric placed the Eagles fifth. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ offense – coincidentally, the side of the ball Reid is most involved with – is currently second-to-last in the league in Points per Game and 26th in both DVOA and Predictive Yards per Play. But Andy would like to let you know that this isn’t about making a scapegoat for the team’s troubles or covering his considerable behind in a last-ditch effort to keep his job. In fact, he asked that we pass along this list he created of some historical figures he would have also fired if he had been given the opportunity…as well as a few other people from history he thought did an A-OK job.

1. Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo! (2012-present): “Why can’t these guys ever get past Google in search engine rankings? What, we’re supposed to be impressed that 700 million people visit their websites every month? Nonsense. If Yahoo! really strived to be the best, they would be asking themselves, ‘What can we do to get 700 billion people to visit our websites? Or 700 trillion? Or 700…whatever illion comes after trillion?’ This is an underperforming company and they need a new CEO to get themselves back on track. Preferably one who isn’t such an unorthodox choice (young and a woman? What crazy talk is this?).”
2. Bill Belichick circa 2000, Head Coach, New England Patriots: “Look, I know Bill and I respect him. He’s a great defensive mind and he’s been kind enough to make me some great Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches in the past. But when are we going to face facts here and admit this guy just isn’t cut out to be a head coach? His career record is 41-55. He’s made the playoffs once in six seasons and, let’s be honest, they’re not going to do anything in ’01, either. If I were Bob Kraft, I’d get Rod Rust on the phone and see if he’s still interested in taking his old job back.”
3. Erwin Rommel, German Field Marshal, 1944: “Look, I know this guy’s reputation and that his guys fight hard for him and even his opponents like Churchill are giving him some pretty big laudatory statements. But the bottom line is this: Germany’s losing this war. And at the end of the day, it’s the fault of the soldiers and generals on the ground for falling behind in this thing, not the leaders back at headquarters drawing up the plans. Plus, what’s this I hear about him getting in on an assassination plot on the leader of his country? Boy, you want to talk about insubordination! Sean McDermott tried that with me back in 2010 and look where that got him.”
4. Second Continental Congress, 1775: “Alright, we’ve had our fun and games here, guys. It’s been nice pretending that we’re big boys in charge of running our own affairs over here in America. But this whole revolution talk is getting a little hairy for my taste; I, for one, don’t really mind their taxes that much. Let’s send a piece of parchment back across the Atlantic and see if we can’t still get ourselves a favorable reconciliatory package from Parliament.”

5. Augustus, Roman Emperor, 27 B.C. – 14 A.D.: “Man, I miss Julius. This nephew of his is trying a lot of new-fangled things that I just can’t wrap my head around. Take the new bureaucractic task force of firefighters he’s created. What was wrong with our old way of putting out fires: running the heck out of the building and calling on Jupiter to quench the fire’s mighty thirst? And call me old-fashioned, but I’m always going to call August Sextilis…”

1694. Herbert Hoover, 29th President of the United States, 1929-1933: “Don’t get me wrong, standing in bread lines at 6 o’clock in the morning isn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but I don’t think we should blame the guy for what’s happened. It’s not like he was the Secretary of Commerce under the previous administration or anything. I say he’s earned another four years.”
1695. George Custer, U.S. Cavalry Commander, 1876: “Well, now here’s an up-and-coming general we should be keeping an eye on! I’ve always loved the imaginative ways he’s thrown his troops into the line and his incredible displays of aggression when completely unnecessary. I’m really looking forward to watching the tape of this upcoming skirmish he’s got at the Little Bighorn River soon; I hear it’s incredibly exciting…”

1696. Norv Turner, Head Coach, San Diego Chargers (2007-present): “One word: GENIUS.”

Position Rankings: A Very Particular Set of Skills

I watched Taken for the second time in a week last night and it was an illuminating experience on par with viewing Citizen Kane or Casablanca or another such classic film for a second or third time. There are so many hidden intricacies and nuances hidden in Liam Neeson’s different killings and strange pronunciations that can only be discerned through multiple viewings. Highly recommended for fans of real cinema/seeing a bunch of people get beat up by a middled-aged Irishman/seeing the phrase “Now’s not the time for dick-MEASURING, Stuart” delivered with a straight face. Obviously, no single person in real life could replicate the complete perfection that Bryan Mills encompasses in Taken – he can disable you with two expertly-placed karate chops AND wrap birthday presents for his beloved daughter! But are there any players in the NFL who could come close? After seconds of careful thought, I have decided that there are. Here, then, are the players currently in the NFL who could conceivably take over the starring role in Taken without missing a beat…followed by a few players who probably couldn’t.

1. Charles Woodson. The Swiss Army Knife of the Packers defense, Woodson has obviously amassed a wide array of skills that few, if any, other players can match. The only possible issue is that every black guy who appears in Taken gets killed by Liam Neeson. Is Taken a closeted white supremacist propaganda film? OPEN FOR DEBATE.
2. Calvin Johnson. Obviously better suited for Transformers, but this is the most likely NFL player to become a successful action star later on in life, right? Possible sticking point, however: can he develop a thick Irish brogue?
3. Ed Reed. No one wants to f— with Liam Neeson. No one – and I mean, NO ONE – wants to f— with Ed Reed. I’d put Ray Lewis on here, but he’s fifteen years older than Neeson at this point.
4. Peyton Manning. Would have ranked higher pre-neck injury; every time he’d try to roundhouse-kick some human trafficker in the nuts, I’d be afraid his neck would snap off. Only player in the NFL, though, who would have the presence of mind to store IVs and medical supplies in his rectum in case he needed to nurse a drugged-up prostitute back to health.

5. Drew Brees. Is there a better family man in the NFL right now? You watch that Chase commercial where his kid is kicking footballs through all his neighbors’ windows and tell me he wouldn’t turn over Heaven and Earth trying to save his kid from the Middle Eastern Jabba the Hut! Only issue: any knives he throws may be intercepted by Charles Godfrey.

1694. Eli Manning. I’m sorry, Eli just doesn’t inspire any terror or fear in me. If I was one of the bad guys and he was telling me, “I’ll have thirty agents here quicker than you can scratch your worthless balls,” I’d just laugh at him and walk away.
1695. Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has many talents, but I’m not sure I would trust him with a grocery list, let alone figuring out where to find an abducted daughter. “If bad guys in Paris and time running out to find lady, why Gronk boarding flight to Hong Kong? GRONK HEAD HURT.”

1696. Wayne Hunter. He not only would fail to find the daughter, he’d also somehow let the ex-wife and stepfather get kidnapped, too.  

SSLYAR’s Preseason 2012 Quarterback Power Rankings

With the start of the regular season a little less than a week away, now seems like an ideal time to take a look at football’s most important position via banging out a preliminary power ranking that, in all likelihood, will look hilariously outdated by the end of September. Really, I’m just posting a preseason version of this so we can look back at it in January and laugh at how much things changed during the season. It’ll be fun! Now I made these rankings after closely consulting passing statistics from the past three years (with considerable weight placed on 2011), but ultimately they’re still subjective, as I tried to take into account things such as relative talent of each quarterback’s supporting cast, age, and general aura of suckiness (or lack thereof). For the ease of the reader, we’ll break this sucker down into general tiers and go in reverse order because it’ll heighten the drama of when I’m going to announce Aaron Rodgers as the best quarterback alive. First, though, let’s take a look at the quarterbacks who aren’t listed in the top 32 below and yet appear to be their team’s starting quarterback opening day…

Ryan Tannehill was a league-average quarterback last year – in the Big 12. I can only assume he’ll be much better this year on a team where his best receiver is Davone Bess…Brandon Weeden applied for Social Security last month…Jake Locker grew up on a farm in Washington State, which means he literally couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn…Blaine Gabbert turtles whenever he sees Justin Tuck in those Subway commercials…Christian Ponder bears a remarkable resemblance to Doug Flutie while bringing little of the excitement…Russell Wilson looks like he’ll be a good one in the future; whether that’s the near or distant future is anyone’s guess, though…John Skelton may or may not start opening day for the Cardinals; I think Ken Whisenhunt’s best option is probably snapping the ball twenty yards behind the line of scrimmage to Patrick Peterson and having him pretend that it’s a punt return every play…And Sam Bradford proved that it’s pretty tough to win when you’re battling a high ankle sprain and throwing to fans pulled out of the stands before the game…

Onto to the rankings…

The Kordell Stewart “Only as a Last Resort” Division

32. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins.
31. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs.

30. Tim Tebow, New York Jets.

I’m including Tebow in the top 32 because of the effect he has on a team’s running game; I still think that were you to pair him with a great running back like Maurice Jones-Drew, you’d be able to run for something around 5.5 yards per carry and get 3000 yards on the ground over the course of the season. BALL-CONTROL OFFENSE right there. I’d much rather have that than Matt Cassel throwing 20 wide receiver screens a game.

The Mike Tomczak “Hey, I’m Not So Bad in Limited Amounts of Playing Time” Division

29. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans.

28. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins.

Two quarterbacks who were perfectly average last season, which is the exact wrong place you want to be if you’re a starting quarterback and over the age of 25. If you’re average and perceived to have hit your ceiling, NFL teams will go for the risky yet young gunslingers every time.

The Scott Mitchell “Intriguing Backup Who Hasn’t Shown Anything as a Starter Yet” Division

27. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals.

26. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks.

I’m still fairly high on Flynn, though his demotion at the hands of Russell Wilson coupled with Joe Philbin’s refusal to bring him to Miami are a couple of bad signs. Kolb will likely be knocked for the season by week 3 with wind-related injuries.

The Rodney Peete “Uh, Guys, I Really Don’t Think I Should Be Starting” Division

25. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills.

24. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets.

The two biggest reasons I’m skeptical of my playoff predictions for the Bills and Jets. But they’re going to have easy schedules, right? They can’t possibly screw things up that much, right? Right?

The Gus Frerotte “Roughly League-Average Starter (minus the headbutting)” Division

23. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
22. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers.
21. Jason Campbell, Chicago Bears.
20. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders.
19. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys.

18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals.

Orton and Campbell fell prey to the youth movement that’s afoot in NFL franchises everywhere these days; looking strictly at production, those two could easily find starting jobs on probably a dozen teams around the league. My guess is Freeman (and perhaps Dalton) will rise into the above-average division by season’s end. Carson Palmer could, too, if he avoids throwing 30 interceptions first.

The Peyton Manning circa 1998 “We’ve Stumbled Upon a GOLD MINE here!” Division

17. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins.

16. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts.

These two probably won’t perform as well as the division below them, but there’s no question you’d rather have them long-term. I’m only ranking Luck above RGIII because the Colts never seriously questioned whether they were going to take him first.

The Stan Humphries “Slightly Above-Average Starter” Division

15. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens.

I had a whale of a time trying to figure out where to put Mr. Flacco; he’s definitely better than the likes of Alex Smith and Jason Campbell, but it just felt wrong putting in the same group as Cam and Matt Stafford. Hence, this is my compromise.

The Ron Jaworski “Above-Average Starter in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE” Division

14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears.
13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons.
12. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles.
11. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions.

10. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers.

This is the line in the sand, I think, where you can easily envision winning a Super Bowl with any of these quarterbacks without needing the equivalent of the ’85 Bears or ’00 Ravens defense to help out. I would rank Vick higher, but he’s always hurt for three games a season, so that hurts in the final analysis. Stafford undeniably is helped by having the best wide receiver in the world at his disposal; I’m ranking Cam ahead of him because I’m pretty sure Newton would have been able to toss jump balls up to Calvin Johnson last year, too, in addition to being one of the best short-distance runners in the league.

The Peyton Manning circa 2012 “I have NO IDEA where to put this guy” Division

9. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos.

I mean…do you?

The Donovan McNabb “Elite, One Step Short of True Franchise Quarterback” Division

8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers.
7. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans.
6. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers.
5. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys.

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants.

You could arrange this order just by picking names out of a hat and it would be just as valid. I explained my Romo defense in the Cowboys preview I posted last month; with the exception of the three guys in the “Franchise” Division, I would happily take Romo’s excellence 90% of the time and put up with the choking in the other 10%. In researching the past three seasons statistically, I was shocked to see how high Matt Schaub ranked in efficiency. I know Roethlisberger has the better reputation and Schaub has Andre Johnson…but overall, hasn’t Roethlisberger’s group of receivers been better than Schaub’s the past few years (particularly with all the time Johnson has missed)? Eli gets the edge because of his play last postseason, but I don’t feel that any of these quarterbacks are particularly close to the three ranked above them.

The Dan Marino “True Franchise Quarterback” Division

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers.

I would be fine with any of these guys as my quarterback.