NFL: What makes a QB elite?

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws to a receiver in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Baltimore. (Gail Burton/AP)

Welcome to my weekly NFL column, which will try to tackle some of the heated debates, controversies, questions and issues concerning the National Football League. The first questions that will be discussed in the inaugural article will be what makes an elite quarterback and, furthermore, if that term is overused.

The idea for this article was a result of Tony Romo, the Derrick Rose of the NFL, getting hurt yet again. Tony Romo will be on the sidelines for possibly the first half of the season as he is on the DL (defensive line) more often than Pete Rose was betting on his own team or former politician Anthony Weiner was sharing pictures of his “last name”. The question being asked now is: Will Romo be back to play this season or ever again? Also, will he be the same Romo, who can operate a game-winning drive, or the Romo, who will fumble an extra point to lose in a playoff game? With 34,000 passing yards, four Pro Bowls, one second All-Pro, 247 passing touchdowns and a 97.1 percent career passing rating, is Tony Romo an “elite” or just an average quarterback, who was plagued by the injury bug?

On every Sunday football show, one can hear statements such as, “Matt Ryan is an elite level quarterback, who transcends the game.” One can also hear absurd statements such as, “Matt Stafford and Joe Flacco are elite quarterbacks, who can win an MVP for the team at any moment if they are surrounded by the right players.” This statement is absurd because, as the quarterback or field general of the team, you make the players on your team better. I am very confident saying that Cam Newton did not have the best offensive unit last season, as his number one receiver was Ted Ginn Jr., yet he won the MVP because he made the most of the system he was put in. On the other side of the ball, the Texans are certainly not the best defensive unit, yet J.J. Watt consistently puts together massive seasons and wins MVP awards despite facing double and triple teams. The word elite is used too often to describe decent quarterbacks in the NFL as it is the equivalent of the term “all-star” player in the NBA.

Should the term elite be used to describe quarterbacks in the NFL at all? Yes, but it has to be a select few, five at the most, otherwise the term loses its meaning and significance. In order to be considered an elite quarterback there has to be a litmus test. This test should be made up of career durability, records, a “clutch-ness gene” and maybe most importantly success in the playoffs, in the form of rings. To me, Kirk Cousins is not an elite quarterback just because he had one division-winning season; he is the equivalent of a Tim Tebow with a much better arm. Andy Dalton cannot be an elite quarterback because the Bengals never make it out of the first round of the playoffs, like how Tracy McGrady never makes the second round.

To be in the exclusive club of top-notch quarterbacks in the NFL, one needs to be a seasoned veteran. This is not saying that Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are the sixth and seventh best quarterbacks in the league, but they are not elite because they have only a few years under their belt and have not created Ivy League-accepting resumes yet. Right now, the five quarterbacks in this “elite” club are: man-model and face of UGG boots, Tom Brady; Mr. Discount Double Check Aaron Rodgers; the famous clock tower in London Big Ben Roethlisberger; Mr. Mardi Gras Drew Brees and Mr. New York, Eli Manning. Each of these quarterbacks has at least one ring, with three having multiple.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) passes against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Gary Wiepert/AP)

After reading the last paragraph, one is probably thinking how Manning can be on this list as he throws too many interceptions and has not been in the playoffs since 2011. Manning, who will always be at a disadvantage being related to his big brother, Cooper Manning, has an 8-3 playoff record and has two super bowl MVPs. Every Sunday, Eli Manning is on the field for 179 straight games, and when the moment is the biggest, such as in the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowls, has come up in the clutch to take the team down the field. Even though some might think he looks funny or he is a mediocre quarterback who got lucky twice, he checks off all the boxes and has been a consistent staple for one of the best teams in football. Regardless of one’s views of the New York Giants and Manning, he is one of the most clutch and durable quarterbacks in the league and has to be in this elite club also because one cannot spell elite without “Eli”.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn volleyball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.