Quarterbacks: Just What Separates Good from Great?

Ask any NFL fan what a great Quarterback is. You are certain to get a smattering of results.

The list will probably consist of perennial favorites Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre. But it might carry another few names like Brees, Romo, and Rivers. Critics will tell us that there is a multi-tiered system to Quarterbacks in the NFL and that the first three are better than the second three will ever be. Why is that? What makes a Quarterback great?

Consider the process of determining what a great Quarterback is. Obviously the most important thing is winning, but there are three subheadings under this: Statistics, Playoffs, and Intangibles.

Statistics are probably the easiest way to determine a player's performance. How many Touchdowns does he throw? How many interceptions? What is his completion percentage? How many yards has he thrown? Take all of the answers you get to these questions throw them into a formula:







Multiply and subsequently divide by Pi and you'll come out with the Quarterback rating. (Last step not necessary)

This complicated formula really tells you nothing if you have no basis for reference, but the best way to put it is that the better you are at passing and not throwing Touchdowns, the better you are as a Passer. But do numbers really make you a better Quarterback? As pointed out to me by SaintsfainIraq prettier statistics do not make you win any better. In 2008 Drew Brees passed for 5,069 yard in the regular season with 635 attempts. The Saints went 8-8 that year. In 2009, Brees passed for 4,388 times with 514 attempts and the Saints went 13-3 and won a Super Bowl.

Every year, one, or two, other player always enters into the discussion for what makes a great Quarterback. These players have gained notoriety and are on a national scene so that no fan of any of the 32 teams can claim to have missed them. This usually occurs after the regular season, when a fan's favorite team probably isn't playing anymore. 32->12 leave the majority of teams out of the Playoffs. Like Clockwork some no-nothing team claws out of the depths of mediocrity and into a Super Bowl spot. (Before Accusations of Homerism, I'd consider the Cowboys to be doing the same thing right now. YMMV)

When they manage to, their quarterbacks are usually heralded as great by the common fan. For a great example look at NY Jets #6 Mark Sanchez. Mark Sanchez is not a great  NFL Quarterback, at least not yet. And we have no guarantees that he will ever be a great Quarterback. 20 Interceptions to 12 Touchdowns and a completion percentage of 53.8% put him at a solid Quarterback average of 63 and putting him in the enviable position of 5th Worst Quarterback in the NFL.

However when he made it to the Postseason he managed to really turn up his game. In 3 full games he had 68 attempts 4 Td passes and 2 Interceptions putting him at a 92.7 QB rating. For those of you wondering that puts him almost even with Romo's playoff performance of 70 attempts 2 TDS and 1 Interception, in 2 games, one of those being the Minnesota loss. Compare that to Brees' 102 attempts, 732 Yards and rating of 117 or Manning's 128 attempts 956 yards and 99 Rating and you'll see the stark contrast. The fact is that in the Postseason, some Quarterbacks are expected to throw and do so very well, and some Quarterbacks are expected to hand the ball off and move on. That was Sanchez' role.

And yet for some reason, everyone thinks that Mark Sanchez is the second coming of Joe Namath, which I suppose is fairly accurate and yet grossly misinterpreted.

Make it to the Super Bowl and your Quarterback is the most famous man alive. Second if he's facing Manning, Favre or Brady. This is the Super Bowl effect, and most of the time it's fairly stupid and inaccurate. Some Quarterbacks just have great years and fade out. Jake Delhomme and Matt Hasselbeck are two great examples of this.

If you win a Super Bowl you are automatically considered better than someone who didn't. This is the Postseason/Super Bowl effect, and why some Quarterbacks are rated so highly.

The third and final thing we use to determine Quarterback greatness is the "it" or winning factor. What did we hear about Tim Tebow all the way through the NFL Draft? "He's a winner; he'll do fine in the NFL." There is an idea that somehow there are people who are just built to be winners. They will win you games by their actions. Everyone always points to Joe Montana as one of the greatest Quarterbacks who ever lived, because he might not have had the Manning physicals, but he most certainly had the intangibles and the will to win.

One of the worst things that you can say about a Quarterback is that he doesn't lose you games, but he most certainly doesn't win you games. Talk about damning with faint praise.

These are the three things that we use to judge the abilities of a Quarterback. And in a perfect you want to see all three out of your starting Quarterback. Manning only has 1 ring and Marino and Kelly have no rings. Yet we consider all three great Quarterbacks. At the same time many accuse Brady of being only a cog in Belichick's scheme and yet no one accuses him of being mediocre or only good.

I'd say to be good, you need to have at least 2 of the categories fulfilled and three if you are underrated. So sorry to all you Saints Haters Brees is a Great Quarterback. Romo and Rivers float on the edge of it, but they need to complete their careers before we can say for certain.

All the same it's fun to talk and debate about. And I encourage that below.

Until next time this is NYHorn signing out,

Hook'Em and Ride'Em

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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