Rotoworld’s Pat Daugherty has released his annual “NFL’s Best Quarterback Situations” rankings for the third consecutive year and the New England Patriots come in the same range that they have on every list: outside the top five, but inside the top ten.
Daugherty’s list isn’t about which quarterback is the best right now. That’d be Tom Brady, easily. Instead, Daugherty looks at the entire picture, including “age, injury history, past success, future potential, retirement rumors, etc.”
“This means simply having the best quarterback doesn’t automatically make you No. 1,” Daugherty notes. “Tom Brady is about to turn 40. Drew Brees is 38. This can’t be ignored when comparing them to Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.”
And so Daugherty ranks the Patriots in 7th place, one ranking lower than in 2016. Here are the top six and a money quote for each, before we look at Daugherty’s explanation for the Patriots ranking.
- Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers, age 33): “Rodgers has been the Pack’s sun, moon and stars, almost single-handedly overcoming shaky defense, questionable coaching, an inconsistent backfield and slew of receiver injuries.”
- Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson, age 28): “Wilson is savvy enough to ensure that 2016 is an injury-complicated aberration, not the start of a trend. The Seahawks will be in gifted hands for years to come.”
- Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck, age 27): “Luck’s health cannot be taken for granted behind an offensive line that remains one of the league’s shakiest, but things are back on the up and up in Indy.”
- Atlanta Falcons (Matt Ryan, age 32): “Ryan...has always only been as good as the players around him. He lacks Aaron Rodgers’ creativity or Tom Brady’s ability to turn every random Wes or Julian into a 100-catch receiver. What Ryan provides is floor — he’s completed at least 66 percent of his passes while throwing for over 4,500 yards each of the past four seasons — relative youth (32) and durability (two missed games in nine years).”
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jameis Winston, age 23): “Winston has been far from perfect, tossing 33 interceptions across his first 32 starts, but he improved across the board last season, guiding the Bucs to a 6-2 finish after both he and the team got off to a rough start.”
- Oakland Raiders (Derek Carr, age 26): “Carr’s ceiling is probably pre-2016 Matt Ryan, but look around the league and see how hard that is to find. The Raiders spent more than a decade searching for Carr. His presence should mean it’s at least 6-8 years before they have to find another quarterback.”
And with those six in the book, let’s see why he had the Patriots behind the others.
“Tom Brady was the best player on the best team in football last season,” Daugherty writes. “He’s also older than the new president of France. The most accomplished player in NFL history turns 40 in August. That’s a perilous age if you’re playing rec softball, let alone football.
“By nearly every account, Brady is in remarkable shape. So was Peyton Manning when a 2014 Week 11 battering in St. Louis left him never quite the same. It’s true that, if any quarterback can beat the aging curve, it’s probably Brady. That’s still just a hope, not a plan.
“This being the Patriots, they have a plan. Against all odds, they’ve hung onto Jimmy Garoppolo, creating a scenario where he’s either franchise tagged or allowed to walk in 2018. That is, unless they part with Brady, amicably or otherwise. CSN New England recently guessed that the unthinkable was at least within the realm of possibility.
“Today, right now, Brady is the favorite to be under center in New England in 2018. That alone is enough to give the Patriots a top-10 quarterback situation. The kicker is, should Brady retire or the Pats decide to move on, they have a well-groomed replacement waiting in the wings.”
In a nutshell, the Patriots come behind the other teams because they can only really expect two more years out of Brady, while the other teams are looking at up to a decade or more from their quarterbacks. And while Jimmy Garoppolo is the back-up, he’s not under a long-term deal and cannot be counted as definite part of the Patriots plans five years down the road.
If the rankings were “which team has the best quarterback situation for 2017 and 2018?” the Patriots would probably come in the top two or three. But until Garoppolo signs a long-term deal, it’s understandable why other teams might be considered to have superior quarterback situations for the future.
And just for fun, this is what Daugherty said about the Patriots quarterbacks when he ranked them 9th heading in to 2015.
“Tom Brady has a legitimate claim to the title of “greatest football player ever.” That’s what 14 years of Super Bowl winning, record-breaking excellence will earn you. But those same 14 years are the reason New England no longer has one of the league’s best quarterback situations. Brady will be 38 when the Patriots host the Steelers on opening night. It’s an age where both Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have thrived, but a number that can’t be walked back. Brady is in the twilight of his career, as his deep-ball “accuracy” will attest. There’s little reason to believe Brady won’t be an elite player in 2015, but there’s even less reason to believe he’ll remain one in 2017, 2018 or whatever years lay down the road. It’s been an historic ride, but the end is near. We have no idea if Jimmy Garoppolo will be able to keep the car running.”
It’s funny that Brady’s deep ball was considered an example of his decline, and now he’s regarded as having the best deep ball in the entire league.
Here’s also what Daugherty said about the Patriots quarterbacks when he ranked them 6th in 2016.
“In the NFL, age does not let you down gently — it stalks like a predator on the open savanna. Peyton Manning was challenging for the MVP midway through the 2014 season. 16 months later, he was retiring because it was his only option. The cliff is waiting for Tom Brady, too, but damn if he isn’t doing an amazing job eluding it. Brady was the league’s best player last season before injuries robbed him of his weapons. Even with all the carnage, he still got his team to within a field goal of its seventh Super Bowl appearance on his watch. Going on 39, Brady could have as few as two years left, but two years of Brady is better than five from an average quarterback. Brady’s four-game suspension complicates matters for 2016, but 12 starts should be more than enough to put the Pats in the driver’s seat for their eighth consecutive AFC East title.”
The general theme of these rankings is that Brady is old and that he can’t be trusted for more than two years down the road- which is probably why the Patriots keep waiting until Brady has two years left on his contract before reaching an extension.
Hopefully we’ll see the Patriots ranking in the 6-10 range in next year’s ranking, with the explanation, “I can’t believe the Patriots just won three out of four Super Bowls and found a way to extend Garoppolo on a long-term deal, but Brady probably only has a couple years left and age hits you fast.”