This isn't the offseason, and this isn't fantasy football. We are entering the playoffs and should be talking about all the amazing games we are about to watch. Yet here I am, minding my own business each day of this week when I keep hearing on the radio and tv about which quarterback they'd take to lead their franchise into the future. The premise is this, "If you could pick any quarterback to lead your team for the next 6 years, which quarterback would you choose?" This season counts as one of the six because, again, this isn't the offseason, it's the playoffs. There is a good chance that any quarterback you'd choose to lead your franchise will be playing in the next two weekends.
So my initial question is this: Why 6 years? Why not 4, or 10, or 15? The reason for the six year number is because that's typically what you would sign a franchise QB to, so lets go by the premise that you are really only guaranteed one maximum contract because after that, any player is able to go to any other team, so we'll stick with the hard and fast six year default.
Now, lets meet the contenders for the "franchise quarterback to lead your team for the next six years."
Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, and Cam Newton. With all due respect to the remaining playoff quarterbacks, I don't think any sane person would choose Alex Smith, Philip Rivers, or Andy Dalton. For prosperity's sake, lets throw in newly minted QB Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, and RG3. Let's please leave out incoming rookies in the next draft, as again, we are entering the playoffs, not the offseason, so we can only choose from the current crop of QBs playing in the NFL.
Immediately, I'm going to rule out a few quarterbacks that could be considered for the job. Bye bye Jay Cutler. You have never really done anything your entire career, and I simply don't trust you in any big game, nor do I believe you are tough and gritty enough to play through the sniffles, let alone with any football related bump and bruise that you might need to play through.
See ya later Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Matt Stafford. I know that all three of you just signed extensions, and I know that Flacco just won a super bowl, but lets face it, Flacco's ring was a complete fluke, and we saw the real Joe this season. Ryan and Stafford just aren't elite in my book. Something about them screams "Kyle Orton" to me.
So how about RG3? Man, I do love me some RG3, and I think that when he's physically 100% and mentally 100%, he can be a force to be reckoned with. To me, RG3 is everything Tim Tebow wishes he could be. He's mobile and yet he can throw with precision. While I love RG3, I think that sustainability and health are too big of a risk factor with him to choose him over the list of playoff quarterbacks we have remaining.
Ok, so now that we cut the fat, we are left with the original playoff quarterback group. I'm already going to cut out Nick Foles simply because I am not a fan of the knee jerk, crown them after only proving something for a handful of games type of mentality that is rampant in the NFL these days. I want to see Foles do what he's doing for a minimum of 1 more season before I put serious consideration towards crowning him. The same can be said about Cam Newton. It was just last year that people thought he might be done and mentally washed up. So while I love that he turned it around, I'm not ready to anoint him the next anything. I want to see him string two seasons together before I start trusting him.
So who are we left with? We're left with Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick.
Well, Colin Kaepernick sure seems to be worthy, and this offseason, I broke my rule and thought that he'd be the "next great thing"... see what happens when I don't follow my own rules? I would have fallen prey to the Kevin Kolb trap! While I still love Kaepernick, I'm not convinced he'll be consistent enough to be able to carry a team into the playoffs if they are having a down year, so Colin, sorry my man, but you got to go.
Speaking of leading your team to the playoffs if/when the team is having a down year, this pretty much means that I'm eliminating the playoff's biggest "thank your lucky stars that you made it" quarterback: Russell Wilson. Ok, let all the Wilson fans come to his defense, but guess what? Your quarterback is about as average as Alex Smith! Yes, I said it! Without that Seattle defense, he isn't even sniffing a .500 record. While I love his ability to run his way out of trouble and his willingness to throw first and run after his progression tells him to, I just don't think he's good enough to lead a team when they are having a bad game. If that defense was in the bottom half of the league, the Seahawks are picking in the top 10 of the upcoming draft. He just simply isn't proficient enough to take over the remaining QBs, but hey, I'd take Wilson over Flacco and Alex Smith because I'd hang my hopes on him raising his ceiling. In today's NFL, you have to be able to pass for more than 209 yards per game. Look at that number, 209. While some may say it's ok, that is only 10 yards away from being 199 yards per game. If you're only throwing for that pedestrian amount, you need to rely on other aspects of your team to bail you out, and if you're relying on someone else to bail you out, you just can't be taken seriously in this conversation. So sorry Seahawk fans, but Wilson, in my opinion, is on the outside and only able to look in using his binoculars.
And then there were five! These remaining quarterbacks both have pro's and cons, and you really can make a very strong argument for each of them. But guess what? There can only be one! I can't exactly rotate quarterbacks in and out of the game the way that Dan Reeves tried with Tommy Maddox and Shawn Moore. That was just a recipe for disaster. I still think Moore was better than Maddox, but that's a discussion for another day!
Back to the discussion. There can only be one quarterback out of these final five that can be crowned worthy of picking over all the other ones for the next six years. Buckle up ladies and gentlemen, this is gonna be a bumpy ride.
Instead of counting down from 5 to 1 in which I tell you who I'd pick, I'm going to tell you right now who I'd pick to lead my team (if I owned one) for the next 6 years, and then I'll attempt to justify my choice against the other four. Drumroll please!
My pick to lead my team for the next six years is:........... Peyton Manning!
As my man Sadaraine says, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?! Umm, have I not heard that Manning might only have a year or two left? Sure he technically is under contract for the next 3 years (meaning he'd play 4 of the hypothetical 6 years), but there is no guarantee that he comes back next year, let alone the year after that, or the next 3! So how in the F*** can I justify taking Peyton Manning when 100% of every media person on the planet would take someone else for that simple reason?
Easy, because 3-4 years with Peyton Manning is worth more than 6 years with any other quarterback on the planet! Let me send you down my rabbit hole for a second and talk to you why I think the way I think.
None of us has a crystal ball, so we don't know how this year or the next five will pan out. If I had a crystal ball, then I'd be able to speak to you guys in facts instead of assumptions and speculation.
A case for Manning over Tom Brady. This is easy. Tom Brady is replaceable by any 'ol backup QB. Case in point is Matt Cassell. The Patriots didn't miss a beat when Brady went down in game 1 of the 2008 season. Think about it, Brady got all the training camp reps, all the preseason reps, and all the practice reps with the starters. Cassell didn't, yet he came in and aside from a miracle season by Miami, should have had the Patriots in the playoffs. Some say that isn't a knock on Brady but rather a fantastic coaching job from Bilichick. And you know what? I do somewhat agree. He is an amazing coach, but if he can coach up backup QBs to play like hall of fame QBs, then I have to cast that shadow over Brady's career as well. Lets not forget that Brady hasn't won a super bowl since the Patriots gave him the keys and turned into a "Tom Brady and everyone else" type of team. Even though Brady will probably play for the next 5 years (thus completing the 6 year window), I just think he's more a product of the system than an irreplaceable QB, and fortunately, I actually have evidence of that. Patriots without Brady finished 11-5. Colts without Manning finished 2-14. One QB proved irreplaceable and the other did not.
Next would be Manning over Drew Brees, and no I'm not talking about how their names are currently written in the record book. ZING! What I'm talking about are two quarterbacks who are deadly in the passing game. On top of that, Brees will be playing for 6 years while Peyton probably won't be. They are both cerebral quarterbacks who can sling the rock with the best of them. Drew Brees has the capability of putting the team on his back and willing the Saints to victory. A point of contention is that Drew Brees has beaten Peyton Manning head to head in the Super Bowl, but if anyone has read my articles in the past, I think that super bowls are team victories even though having the QB to push the team over the hump is definitely important. The main reason why I have Manning over Brees is because I think that if Peyton were on the Saints team last year, he could have picked them all up and gotten them to the playoffs. I'm not saying they would have made noise in the playoffs, but I think he could have mitigated the loss of Sean Payton and picked the team up better than Drew did. How can you put a value on a player like that? You simply can't except to say that there might not be anyone like that in the NFL aside from Peyton Manning himself, and because of that, I choose Peyton over Drew. (side note, I'll be at Bayou Bobs downtown Denver watching the Saints game if anyone cares to tell me how stupid I am).
Who's up next? Ah yes, Andrew Luck. The consensus amongst pretty much every media person in the known universe is that including this year and going forward, you are a fool if you don't take Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers. The biggest reason for Luck is his youth (he'll definitely be in the NFL for 15+ more years), and his athleticism. A Peyton Manning vs Andrew Luck argument has been had already, so I'll just point out a few bullet points for my argument of Manning over Luck. First, Luck isn't even close to as cerebral as Manning; not even close! Peyton can beat you with his mind before he even receives the snap. No other quarterback aside from maybe Drew Brees has that ability. However, what Andrew Luck lacks in the cerebral part of the game, he makes up for with his athleticism. Manning doesn't have to wait for a play do develop or unfold so that he can exploit it because he knows pre-snap what he's going to do to torch the defense. Luck isn't there quite yet, but he has the ability to extend the play with his legs until he can exploit something in the defense. I guess that's all fine and good, but lets be honest, relying on your legs to extend plays isn't the absolute best way to go into each and every play over the course of a game. I think Andrew Luck is the best QB to enter the league in quite a while, but for the next 6 years, I'm still taking Peyton Manning.
This leaves us with the only other possible speed bump in my
flawed flawless logic to take a player who we know only has probably 3 years left to play over others who will play for 6-15 more years, and the lone remaining player is Aaron Rodgers. Aside from my inability to ever remember if it's spelled Rogers or Rodgers, I simply think that Aaron Rodgers has too much "gun slinger" in him. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is much less of a good thing in today's NFL because of how the game has evolved. Being a John Elway or Brett Favre gunslinger back in the day was an amazing trait to have, but in 2013 and beyond, the NFL has transitioned into more of an efficiency game rather than sling it out game. I know, I know, Rodgers (man, I really hope I'm spelling that correctly) has the highest passer rating single season ever, so he's efficient, and I know he has athletic ability to get out of harms way, but even with all of that, I'm still taking Peyton Manning. I hate to harp on this, but Peyton is not only going to be your quarterback, but also your offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and defacto head coach. Again, having a player like Manning truly is priceless.
Aaron Rodgers is without a doubt a stud. In my opinion, he's the best QB outside of Peyton, and in 3+ years or whenever Manning retires, if someone asks this question all over again, I'm probably taking Rodgers. However, this isn't 3+ years in the future, it is today! it is during these playoffs, so to me, I'm hitching my wagon to Peyton over Aaron.
To summarize this article up, this is the underlying current as to why I'm picking Peyton Manning over all others for the next 6 years: While I know and fully accept that Manning won't play for 5 years after this one, I think that Manning grabs 2 or more rings. Lets say the Broncos win the super bowl this year like I think they will. That puts Manning up 1-0 on all the other elite QBs. Now lets say that Manning wins back to back championships like I think he can do, that means that 2 of the 6 years have resulted in Peyton winning it all. That means that even with our final 5 or 6 QBs, unless they win 3 out of 4 championships, they would fall short of Peyton's 2 championships in the required 6 years. Lets face it folks, no QB outside of Peyton Manning will come even close to winning 3 out of 4 Super Bowls. Again, the Patriots haven't won jack since they handed their keys over to Brady, so STFU with that stuff.
So if you have Manning winning 2 championships in the next 6 years, that means that in order to pick anyone over him, you have to have a legitimate belief that player X will win 3 in the 4 years after Manning wins his. Who is going to do that? What if Rodgers wins one more championship. That puts it at Manning - 2, Rodgers -1. How about Brady getting one because they get new life on their team? That means that in 4 of the six years, you have Manning 2, Rodgers 1, Brady 1. Who else? Luck? Fine, add 1 for Luck. Add 1 for Brees. Add 1 for whoever you want. The point being that in the next 6 years (this one included), nobody will have more rings than Peyton Manning, and the last time I checked, winning championships is the goal. Simply making the playoffs or being relevant isn't.
So what happens in 3 or 4 years when Manning retires? I don't know, but I do know that I'm glad that the Broncos got rings in Elway's final 2 years than to be close but no cigar with Brett Favre's remaining 10. I'm taking Elway over Favre any day of the week even though he retired early and the resulting mess that happened with the Broncos. Nobody can ever take away those Lombardi Trophies. As time rolls on, nobody will remember or care about who had a better season than the other. In 50 years, people will look back and say "wow, the 1997 and 1998 season had Elway and the Broncos winning it all" and "wow, the 2013, 2014, and 2015 season had Peyton Manning winning 3 in a row". Nobody will remember an argument saying "yeah, but Rodgers will play for 10 more years, so his team is set at QB while the Broncos aren't". Who cares? We'll cross that bridge when we get there. For all we know we have a Steve Young waiting to replace Joe Montana. We might draft another Andrew Luck to replace Peyton Manning. But for me, I'm taking Manning for however long he has left over the guarantee of 6 seasons with anybody else. The upside of having Manning more than makes up for the lack of years he might have left because as I said, in 50 years, people will only have championships to gauge greatness, not silly things like "yeah, but he didn't have 6 more years in him."