The Best NFL Quarterback Playing [EdMcGon]
With apologies to all the Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson fans out there, there are only four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks worthy of consideration as the best still playing: Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Kurt Warner. However, I also have to exclude Warner for the simple reason he has only started 78 games in his career, and he is clearly nearing the end, whereas Brady and Manning have both started over 100 games and will undoubtedly play for many more years. (Of course, Favre is the all-time champ with 246 games started.)
While there are certainly young quarterbacks who may yet win a Super Bowl, they have not played long enough to be rated with these three quarterbacks.
I will use the same criteria as I used in my "all-time best" post to rate these three quarterbacks, with a look at percentages since the three have clearly played careers of different lengths. The stats are taken from their career statistics through last weekend:
The first quality all rookie quarterbacks must learn is game management. By this I mean the ability to avoid interceptions and fumbles.
To rate this ability, I will use the interception percentage:
1. Tom Brady: 2.4%
2. Peyton Manning: 2.9%
3. Brett Favre: 3.3%
In order to throw a lot of touchdowns, you have to be able to throw the ball in the red zone. You won't make a career out of only lobbing 70 yard bombs. You also have to be able to
toss the little two yard pass to the tackle eligible in the end zone.
A simple look at touchdowns per pass attempt for the three quarterbacks:
1. Peyton Manning: 291/5205= 0.056
2. Tom Brady: 180/3363= 0.054
3. Brett Favre: 430/8577= 0.050
A quick release is not necessary to be a great quarterback, but it seems the great ones tend to have quicker releases than most quarterbacks.
The quickest release of all-time belonged to Dan Marino. As a pure pocket passer, it is easy to see how fast he got rid of the ball: In 8,358 pass attempts, he fumbled the ball only 57 times, for a 0.68% rating.
While it is tougher to rate scrambling quarterbacks using this statistic, none of the three quarterbacks we are looking at would be considered a significant scrambler.
Here is how they rate:
1. Peyton Manning: 49/5205= 0.94%
2. Brett Favre: 144/8577= 1.68%
3. Tom Brady: 63/3363= 1.87%
ARM STRENGTH/AVERAGE GAIN
By itself, arm strength is nice, but it won't win games.
Early in his career, Doug Williams had the strongest arm I have ever seen. Unfortunately, when he threw little passes into the flat, the ball would bounce off the receiver because it was uncatchable.
For arm strength to be effective, it has to be combined with touch on shorter passes.
In this category, average gain per pass attempted tells us the quarterback is using his arm strength to its ultimate advantage:
1. Peyton Manning: 7.7
2. Tom Brady: 7.2
3. Brett Favre: 7.0
A strong arm needs accuracy to be effective. This is where completion percentage is important, and where Manning rates a slight edge:
1. Peyton Manning: 64.0%
2. Tom Brady: 62.9%
3. Brett Favre: 61.3%
In a team sport, the championship stands out as the ultimate test of how much a quarterback is helping his team. In Super Bowl victories, this is where Tom Brady stands out from the crowd:
1. Tom Brady: 3
2t. Peyton Manning: 1
2t. Brett Favre: 1
None of these three quarterbacks is a great scrambler, like a Mike Vick or a Randall Cunningham. With rushing averages ranging from 1.9 (Brady) to 3.3 (Favre), they won't be winning games by running for 70 yard touchdowns.
Where we can make a comparison is in rushing touchdowns/rushing attempts:
1. Peyton Manning: 16/279= 5.7%
2. Brett Favre: 13/543= 2.39%
3. Tom Brady: 5/256= 2.0%
For the record, Manning's percentage is even better than LaDainian Tomlinson's percentage (5.7% vs. 4.9%).
WHO IS THE BEST QUARTERBACK PLAYING?
If we throw out the touchdowns as a consideration (for the reason stated earlier), then total their rankings (with lowest total being better), here is how they rank:
1. Peyton Manning: 8
2. Tom Brady: 12
3. Brett Favre: 15
To make a fair comparison, let's start with Brady's career numbers prior to this season, against Favre's overall numbers (using the same criteria from above):
Tom Brady: 2.5% interception pct., 4.8% td pct., 1.93% fumble pct., 7.0 yds./attempt, 61.9% completed, 3 championships, 1.26% rush td's/attempts
Brett Favre: 3.3% interception pct., 5.0% td pct., 1.68% fumble pct., 7.0 yds./attempt, 61.3% completed, 1 championship, 2.39% rush td's/attempts
Assuming Brady and Favre are comparable, how do we draw a fair comparison to Manning? The best way might be to take Brady's stats from this year, prorate them to a full season, and then compare them to Manning's best season (2004):
Tom Brady: 1.3% interception pct., 11.0% td pct., 1.34% fumble pct., 9.0 yds./attempt, 73.2% completed, 11.8% rush td's/attempt
Peyton Manning: 2.0% interception pct., 9.9% td pct., 1.01% fumble pct., 9.2 yds./attempt, 67.6% completed, 0% rush td's/attempt
Since the statistics don't show us a truly objective "best quarterback" among these three quarterbacks, then it comes down to a subjective choice. Assuming Brady continues at his current pace, and I think he will, then it comes down to a choice between Favre and Brady. If you look at the quality of receivers that both of them have had over the years, in my opinion Favre has had better (even if they were not elite) receivers overall, yet has only managed comparable numbers to years when Brady's best receivers were Troy Brown or Deion Branch. Therefore, Tom Brady would be the best quarterback playing now, depending on how he finishes this year.