Friday, November 25, 2011

Week 11 Coin Toss: The Quarterback Situation

Is it fair to start discussing Rodgers
as one of the best QBs ever? (Getty)
Austen: Like no other year in the NFL, 2011 has been dominated by the quarterback position. Quarterbacks have always been the most important position in the NFL, but I do not think there has ever been a season in which there were this many quarterbacks playing at such a high level. There are four or five quarterbacks who have a solid shot at breaking Dan Marino's passing record and overall quarterback ratings are on the up and up.

Young quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford are making great strides this season. Andy Dalton has been one of the more impressive rookie quarterbacks in recent memory, and three other rookie quarterbacks are starting for their teams. Tim Tebow and rookie Cam Newton are playing the quarterback position like no one has ever seen in the NFL and their play could have a big impact on the league as a whole.

It is for these reasons I have to ask Stally about the best quarterback in the league right now: Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is on pace to come just shy of Marino's passing record, but he has an astounding passer rating of 128.8 and has scored 33 touchdowns to only four interceptions.

Rodgers might be having the best season ever for a quarterback and the Packers are undefeated with him at the helm. What are the similarities you see between Rodgers this season and Tom Brady's 2007 season in which he hucked 50 touchdown passes and the Pats went 18-0 before losing in the last seconds of the Super Bowl to the Giants (sorry to bring up bad memories)? Is Rodgers playing better than Brady was that season? Are the 2011 Packers better than the 2007 Patriots? This may be premature, but do you think Rodgers could end up being a better quarterback than Brady when both of their careers are over?

Rodgers or Brady, who would you want leading your team?

Stally: Tom Brady.  He's led my team for the last decade and I've never once thought I'd rather have someone else taking the snaps.

Let me ask this question: who are the two greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time?  At this point, I think the consensus response is Tom Brady and Joe Montana.

However, Brett Favre ranks first in touchdowns and passing yards, Dan Marino ranks second (in each) and Peyton Manning third (in each).  So, why are Brady and Montana regarded more highly?  Because stats don't measure greatness, and they played their biggest games on the biggest stages.  Montana won four Super Bowls and Brady three (I still expect Tom to get one more before it's all said and done, but the clock is ticking).

I do believe that if Rodgers keeps on this pace, he could approach the realm of Brady and Montana.  The fact we've started asking those questions is a tribute to him.  However, I don't buy into all the statistical rigmarole.  At the end of a career, a player will be judged on how great of a player he was and there's no stat for that.

As far as the here and now, do I think that the Packers will go 19-0?  No, I don't.  After watching New England in 2007, I know just how hard that feat will be.  I think that the Packers defense is better than that of the 2007 Patriots, but I haven't bought into the offense the same way.  That 2007 Patriots offense was a machine.  This Packers team is first in points, but fourth in total yards, so it's not the hands-down best in the league.

And, as far as Rodgers' season, I'll go back to the same point I just made.  Tom Brady's won three Super Bowls, but I think that he and all Patriots fans will tell you that the biggest failure of his career was when he let number four slip away.  None of us, especially Brady himself, care about the regular season touchdown record he set or the fact the team won 18 games.  The only thing left from that season is the sour taste of a Super Bowl defeat.

Rodgers will be remembered the same way.  His stats won't matter.  All that matters is if he wins his second straight Super Bowl or if he doesn't, so let's not get caught up in how good this team plays during the regular season.

Austen: I understand how stats can be misleading, but Rodgers is dominating every statistical category, most importantly he is now 11-0. He is outperforming 2007 Brady in every statistical category besides touchdowns and Rodgers is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, which is something Brady has never offered his team.

I would take what I have seen out of Rodgers this season over Brady at any point in his career, but there is no way anyone can claim that Rodgers is better overall than Brady. At least not yet. Like Stally said, Brady has won three Super Bowls and would have won a fourth to go along with a perfect season had it not been for a few miracle catches by the Giants' receivers.

I have constantly said that Brady is the best quarterback of all time, but Rodgers is playing better than any quarterback has ever played the position right now and he is only 27. The scary thing is that Rodgers could still get better. However, it is more important that he shows consistency and that he plays his best games in the playoffs.

Considering Rodgers has only lost one playoff game in his entire career, and he threw for over 400 yards and scored five touchdowns in that loss, it is hard for me to think that he is going to miraculously start playing poorly in big games this far into his career.

Barring a significant injury or some sort of a mental breakdown, I really think Rodgers is going to win numerous championships and at the end of his career, he will be in the discussion for the best quarterback ever.

Stally: Ok, so I know our readers are probably sick of Austen discussing Tim Tebow.  I mean, he's written his goal line stand about the guy basically every week since he became a starter.  We've beaten the horse (a bronco, no doubt) about as much as Sports Center did on Brett Favre's retirement status that none of us cared about.

However, my Canadian girlfriend, Emily, who doesn't care much about the NFL, asked me the other day about him:  "What's up with Tim Tebow?  People say he's not good, but he wins games."  I answered that eloquently: "Well, he's not good, but he does win games."

Austen, you've given a lot of credit, rightfully so, to the Denver defense.  With Kyle Orton getting released and claimed by the Chiefs, Tim Tebow is now Denver's quarterback of the future.  What are your thoughts on that?  You saw him beat your Jets (if you're going to bring up the Super Bowl loss to the Giants, I feel obligated to point this out).  What do you think of the Broncos tebowing their team?  They better get good at saying their prayers, right!?

Austen: Yes, they better pray that Tebow gets a better arm. This guy is down right awful at throwing the football. I do not care how many games this guy wins during the regular season, unless he makes massive improvements, he will not win a playoff game in his career and has no hope of taking his team to the Super Bowl, which is all that really matters in the NFL. If you can't win a Super Bowl, you are worthless.

Tebow and Cam Newton are both play very similar types of football and the NFL is trying to figure out how to stop them. Tebow turns the ball over less than Newton, but he is not even close to as polished of a passer as Newton. Both provide their matchup problems, but sooner rather than later, the NFL will figure out how to stop them.

Remember when the Dolphins brought the Wildcat offense back to the NFL after it had been in hibernation for years and no one in the NFL could figure out how to stop it? The Dolphins won the AFC East that year and then got absolutely creamed by the Ravens in the playoffs. The Dolphins have not sniffed the playoffs since, mostly due to the fact that people figured out how to stop the Wildcat, or at least limit its explosiveness.

The same will happen with these oversized quarterbacks. This will hurt Tebow much more than Newton because while Newton can consistently hurt you with a deep pass downfield, Tebow can barely hit a running back in the flats. This allows teams to stack the box against Tebow and force him to complete a pass downfield. Hitting a player more than 10 yards down field twice a game will simply not be enough to win games anymore.

As for the Jets' game, this team had to travel 2,000 miles to Denver to play in high altitude on a very short week after losing to their heated rival Patriots. They were also down their top two running backs, and considering Joe McKnight is their third stringer, they had no hope of having much of a run game. While this isn't an excuse for how poorly they played overall, it definitely did not help in a close loss.

The Jets' offense failed to do much of anything against an ever improving Broncos defense (which still is not that good), and they allowed Tebow to stay in the game, which is exactly what you want to avoid at all costs. Sanchez gave the Broncos almost as many points as Tebow did in that game, which is why I cannot give Tebow much credit for winning this game.

The Jets' failures on offense further exhausted their defense, which fell apart on the Broncos' final drive. Safety Eric Smith, who I have consistently said should not be a starting safety in the NFL, completely botched his assignment on Tebow's 20-yard touchdown scamper. He was the outside blitzer and was responsible for outside containment. He over pursued Tebow, allowing Tebow to run right past him and there was no one left to even attempt to tackle Tebow. This was an inexcusable mistake and it cost the Jets at least a shot in overtime.

Like Stally and Emily said, Tebow is not good. I just do not think that second part of the statement will last much longer.

Stally: I already said it in the Brady/Montana over Favre/Marino argument, and you said it at the start of this: quarterbacks are measured by their ability to win games and, most importantly, championships.  If I ranked the 32 quarterbacks in the league and which most help a team win games, Tim Tebow ranks right near the bottom.

In the original goal line stand on Tebow, right when he was taking over, I said he wasn't someone I'd want to put out there for 60 full minutes.  He's done nothing to negate that argument, as he's shown nothing until the last few minutes of the Broncos' recent wins.  I'm not a huge Kyle Orton fan.  I think we're all still trying to figure out, especially those in Denver, how Josh McDaniels ran Jay Cutler out of town and managed to downgrade the position to Orton and then to Tebow.  It's obviously one of the biggest reasons his stay in the Broncos' saddle was short-lived.

However, I maintain that despite their records in Denver this season (Orton was 1-4, Tebow's 4-1), in the long run, Orton gave the Broncos a better chance to win than Tebow.  Time will show that and sooner than later, Denver will be looking for a new quarterback to head their team.

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