Before you get up in arms about the title, obviously we here at Ramblin’ Fan do not believe that Sam Bradford is the 30th-best quarterback in the league. However, as the season progresses, and more and more quarterbacks receive attention for their accolades, pundits and analysts will inevitably start debating which teams will be “zeroing in” on a quarterback in April. Naturally, with Sam Bradford’s injury and a massive contract due next season, his place among the ranks will be “hot button.”
To highlight that, one such analyst made this assertion, when referencing quarterbacks “better” than Sam Bradford:
“grab a list of any starting quarterbacks in the NFL not named Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder, there’s 30,” later followed by, “[Bradford is a] mediocre injury prone QB. Ponder, Gabbert, Weeden, Palmer [are] worse, that’s about it.”
And thus, our benchmark was set.
So, instead of defending Sam Bradford, our goal will be to genuinely search for 29 quarterbacks that could unarguably be placed ahead of the St. Louis Rams signal caller. In the interest of time, we will by-pass a handful of quarterbacks who have obviously demonstrated superiority to this point in their careers: 1) Tom Brady, 2) Peyton Manning, 3) Aaron Rodgers, 4) Drew Brees, 5) Matt Ryan, 6) Ben Roethlisberger, and 7) Philip Rivers. So, let’s head through the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFL, and see what we can come up with…
*NOTE: These quarterbacks are not listed in an particular ranking or order, the numbers are merely to keep tally
8) Matthew Stafford – Yes, Stafford has had arguably the greatest offensive weapons since Jerry Rice at his disposal since his inception into the league as a rookie. However, numbers are numbers, and Stafford has put up two 4,000+ yard seasons, 95 passing touchdowns, and made one playoff appearance in, essentially, three full seasons as a starter.
9) Tony Romo – One playoff win in 11 NFL seasons does not sound overly impressive, namely because it isn’t. However, clutch performances and postseason victories are likely the only metric that would hold Tony Romo out of a higher ranking. With 27,747 total passing yards, 197 total touchdowns, and a career completion percentage of 65.0%, it is not hard to make a case for him in the Top 10.
10) Andrew Luck – Despite inferior numbers in nearly every statistical category and starting his career with an, arguable, second- or third-ballot Hall of Fame receiver, Reggie Wayne, most would already slot Luck ahead of Bradford because…well, we’re not exactly sure. Luck did boost the Colts meteorically into the playoffs in his rookie season, and has led his team to “impressive” wins over the Seahawks, Broncos, and 49ers this season. It will be interesting to see how he performs without Reggie Wayne, who is out for the rest of the season; but, for argument’s sake, we’ll just leave him here.
11) Jay Cutler – Jay Cutler, much like Bradford, has had the inconvenience of inconsistency in his skill position players, offensive lines, and coaching staffs. However, even in his “best season,” when Cutler managed 4,500+ yards and 25 touchdowns, he still tossed 18 interceptions and led the Broncos to an 8-8 overall record. But, if we are reaching for more quarterbacks to definitively throw ahead of Bradford, you could always use the caveat that Cutler has one playoff win, albeit one win that occurred in 2010, five years into the league.
12) Colin Kaepernick – As grotesque as that sounds, pundits will inevitably slot Colin Kaepernick ahead of Bradford, despite starting only 20 regular season games in this professional career. If you have the intestinal fortitude to 1) blatantly disregard the fact that he took over a 6-2 squad last season, that was one play away from making the Super Bowl only one season before, 2) ignore his nearly 50/50 tendency to perform like a Top 10/Bottom 10 quarterback on any given week, and 3) that Pro Football Focus currently has him ranked 35th out of 38 signal callers that have played, at least, 25% of the team’s offensive snaps this season… then you could make a case for him being ahead of Sam Bradford, merely based on the fact that he is considered “dynamic” and has played in a Super Bowl. Again, for the purposes of this exercise, we will!
13) Alex Smith – This one might hurt even worse, considering it took four head coaches, two “benchings,” and eight seasons for Alex Smith to shake off the “bust” title and take the crown as the top “game manager” in the league. Even with that, he has only one 3,000+ yard season, four 10+ interception seasons, has never thrown for 20+ touchdowns, and has a career completion percentage under 60%. The only “qualifier” for Smith may be that he does have a playoff win, albeit in his sixth season in the NFL, and that he is currently the signal caller for the only undefeated team in the NFL.
14) Cam Newton – Last week, we briefly compared the career numbers for Cam Newton and Sam Bradford, and concluded that it was “plausible” that Newton was the better quarterback, based solely on his ability to score as a passer and as a runner. So, yea, we’ll stick with that!
15) Russell Wilson – Russell Wilson easily has the most “solid” case among the sophomore starters to leapfrog Sam Bradford. Wilson matched the rookie record for passing touchdowns last year, has comparably horrendous skill players (aside from Marshawn Lynch) and offensive linemen, and has already won a playoff game. In our humble opinion, it’s is always a tad premature to cast “labels” on quarterbacks who have yet to play two full seasons in the league. However, if there were one that deserves the “benefit of the doubt,” it is likely Mr. Wilson.
16) Robert Griffin – After a phenomenal rookie campaign, capped by the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Griffin has obviously not lived up to the overwhelming hype in his second season. His numbers have dropping in every statistical category, aside from overall passing yards and attempts, and he is current on pace for a mediocre 21 total touchdowns and 16 interceptions on 634 passing attempts (over 60% more projected throws than last year) this season. The Redskins have won two games this year, although one was against the quarterback-less Raiders, and the other was against the Cutler-less Bears. Digging deep, one could make the argument that RGIII has, at least, led a team to the playoffs. However, you would have to also disregard the fact that he is coming off of his second major reconstructive surgery on the same knee, and that Washington lost that lone playoff appearance without scoring in the final three quarters of the game.
17) Eli Manning – He has two Super Bowl rings?
18) Joe Flacco – He has one Super Bowl ring?
19) Andy Dalton – He has led his team to the playoffs twice?
20) Michael Vick - His team played in the playoffs back in 2010, but, again, he has gotten “benched” twice in the last two seasons in favor of some guy named Nick Foles…
…O.K., enough reaching!
The other “starting” quarterbacks in the NFL are:
21) Ryan Tannehill (MIA)
22) Carson Palmer (AZ)
23) Jake Locker (TEN)
24) E.J. Manuel/Thad Lewis (BUF)*
25) Mike Glennon (TB)*
26) Geno Smith (NYJ)*
27) Matt Schaub/Case Keenum (HOU)**
28) Josh Freeman/Christian Ponder (MIN)**
29) Brandon Weeden/Jason Campbell/Brian Hoyer (CLE)**
30) Terrell Pryor (OAK)
31) Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert (JAX)**
To find 20 quarterbacks ahead of Bradford, you would have to significantly lower the bar and narrow your scope of thinking. In some cases, that means ignoring recent years’ performances, using overly simplistic metrics (i.e. playoff appearances), and, in several instances, completely disregarding supporting casts, coaches, injury histories, and the shear amount of time a player took to reach their “marks.”
To place any of those other “starting” quarterbacks ahead of Sam Bradford, you would need either a magic crystal ball or the biggest pair of “blinders” in the world to overlook some of their recent performances, or lack thereof. In fact, 27% of that other final list have played fewer than eight NFL games (*) and 36% of them have been “benched” without injury, or replaced after coming back at “full health” (**).
With all of that in mind, even the conductor of the “Bradford hate-train” could not claim, in good conscience, that there are 30 quarterbacks in the NFL, right now, better than Sam Bradford.
Realistically, even without any postseason appearances, you could comfortably place Sam Bradford anywhere between 12th to 18th on the overall list of quarterbacks in the NFL. Excuses or not, Sam Bradford has shown an ability to compete in the NFL, in spite of inept front office/coaching personnel and lack of an offensive supporting cast. In his lone season with “real weapons,” he was completing over 60% of passing attempts (despite 21 dropped passes; 5th-worst), with 14 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, and is currently graded as the 15th best “passer” in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bottom line: Are there 30, or even 25 quarterbacks, better than Sam Bradford in the NFL, right now? No. Would we stick with Sam Bradford for our quarterback of the future? Yes.