Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #38 - Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers has been the starting quarterback of the Chargers for over a decade, and has not missed a game since taking over the starting job when Drew Brees left prior to the 2006 season, giving him the longest current streak of games started, and the third-longest of all time.

Rivers did not start a game in his first two seasons with San Diego, throwing a total of 30 passes while backing up Drew Brees. When Brees left as a free agent in 2006, Rivers was promoted and immediately became a strong player, leading the Chargers to a 14-2 record in his first season at the helm. They lost to New England in their first playoff game, however, wasting their best chance at a title.

He was pretty solid again the next season, leading the Chargers to another division title, and this time they won a couple playoff games, ultimately falling to the Patriots once again in the AFC title game, coming up just a game short of making the Super Bowl. It was revealed after the game that Rivers had played most of the game on a torn ACL, but he refused to abandon his team.

The following season was his best as a pro, as he threw for a league-leading 34 touchdowns and led the Chargers to their third straight division title, as well as an upset of Peyton Manning and the Colts in the wild card game. It was also the first time he eclipsed 4000 yards, something he has done 9 more times since.

Over the course of his career he has also slowly taken over most of the Chargers franchise passing records, many of them from Dan Fouts. He set the team record for TD passes in a season in 2008, topping Fouts by one, then took the single-game passing yardage record from him in 2010 when he recorded 455. In 2015 he took the career TD record, and in 2016 the career yardage record.

He has also led the league in passing yards once, with 4710 in 2010, and completion percentage, at 69.5% in 2013. He has reached 4000 yards 10 times, and 30 touchdowns 6 times, while winning 4 division titles and starting every game for 13 straight seasons. While he has only made it to the conference title game once in his career, he has still been so good for so long that he has earned the right to sit ahead of the man whose records he keeps surpassing.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #39 - Dan Fouts

Dan Fouts

Dan Fouts was a 3rd-round draft pick of the Chargers in 1973, and though he was their primary starter almost immediately, it took him several years to break through to elite status. In his 6th season, Don Coryell was hired as the coach, and Fouts started to show some promise, throwing for 2999 yards and 24 touchdowns, but San Diego failed to make the playoffs.

He became a superstar in 1979, when he set a new NFL record with 4082 passing yards while guiding the Chargers to the best record in the league at 12-4. He also led the league in completion percentage, but dropped a real dud in their first playoff game, tossing 5 picks in a 17-14 loss.

In 1980 he obliterated his own record from the previous season, putting up 4715 yards while leading his team back to the playoffs, where he improved on his previous performance, getting past 300 yards with 2 touchdowns in consecutive games, but it wasn't enough to reach the Super Bowl, as Jim Plunkett and the Raiders knocked them out in the AFC title game.

In 1981 he again beat his own passing record, for the third straight year, this time reaching 4802 yards and 33 touchdowns, also the best in the league. While he couldn't be matched in the regular season, he was once again disappointed in the playoffs, losing to Cincinnati in the AFC title game, once again ending up one step short of the ultimate goal.

He may have broken his own record yet again in 1982, but the season was cut down to 9 games by a strike. He finished the season with 2883 yards, which put him on pace for 5125, and he also ended up with 17 touchdowns, the second year in a row that he led the league in both categories. Also for the third year in a row, San Diego lost in its 2nd playoff game.

That was his final chance at winning a title, sadly. The Chargers were not able to make the playoffs again during his final 5 seasons, and although he remained a good quarterback, he was not near the level of his record-breaking years. The length of his solid years was enough to push him into the top 40, but the biggest reason he is here is for his amazing 4-year run, which has only been matched by a few quarterbacks in the history of the league.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #40 - Tony Romo

Tony Romo

Tony Romo was one of those guys that everybody loved to hate, and most are convinced that he ass not a great NFL quarterback, but that is not true. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for 8 years, and though his playoff success was nearly nonexistent, he still did enough to be ranked.

Romo's story is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he was not even drafted by an NFL team, and spent his first three seasons as as third string quarterback for the Cowboys, never throwing a single pass. His hard work finally paid off in 2006, when he was inserted in place of an ineffective Drew Bledsoe, and he did not give up the starting gig for a decade.

It is hard to pinpoint which season was his best, but a strong contender would be 2007, his first full season as a starter, in which he threw for 4211 yards and 36 touchdowns, which is his career high. The Cowboys also finished 13-3 that season, their best record under his leadership.

He missed most of the 2010 season due to a broken clavicle, and though he rebounded statistically rather quickly, the Cowboys missed the playoffs 4 straight seasons, but in 2014 he finally got Dallas back over the hump, leading the league with a 69.9% completion rate while throwing 34 touchdowns and only 9 picks, and bringing the Cowboys a division title. He also had his first ever good playoff performance, throwing for 484 yards and 4 touchdowns over 2 games, without turning the ball over once.

He broke his clavicle again early in the 2015 season, which caused him to miss 8 games, then he injured his left shoulder shortly after his return, and ended up playing in only 4 games. He hurt his back during the preseason in 2016, and by the time he returned, Dak Prescott had taken over the starting role.

Perhaps surprisingly, Romo is the all-time Cowboys leader in passing yards and touchdowns, not Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach. Though quarterback rating is a flawed statistic, it's still notable that he has the 4th-highest career rating of any quarterback who never reached the Super Bowl. Maybe it would have turned out different if his body didn't fall apart, but he definitely deserves to be remembered as one of the top quarterbacks of all time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #41 - Michael Vick

Michael Vick

Michael Vick may be the greatest running quarterback of all time, but he also had a pretty good arm, and if he hadn't lost 2 full seasons in his prime due to legal troubles, there's no saying how great he could have been.

Vick was drafted #1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, and after playing sparingly as a rookie, he burst onto the scene in a big way in 2002. He was the best quarterback in the league that year, his first as a starter, compiling 2936 passing yards, 16 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions, along with 777 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground. He also led the Falcons to a wild card playoff win before falling to the Eagles in the divisional round.

He broke his fibula during the following preseason, which caused him to miss 11 games, but he started returning to form in 2004, when he became the first quarterback ever to get 250 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game. They made it back to the playoffs, where they again won their first game before falling to Philadelphia.

In 2006, he became the first, and so far only, quarterback to rush for 1000 yards in a season, but off-the-field issues were looming, and Vick was arrested and sent to prison for running a dogfighting ring before the 2007 season began. He spent nearly 2 years in prison, and the Falcons decided to release him rather than reinstate him upon his return.

That huge black mark made it difficult for Vick to find a team in 2009, but Philadelphia decided to offer him a non-guaranteed contract for the season during training camp, and he played out the season as the backup to Donovan McNabb, and was even able to record both a passing and rushing touchdown in a game against his former team, the Falcons.

Vick began the 2010 season as a backup, but numerous injuries to Kevin Kolb forced Vick into the lineup, and he responded with his best career season. He threw for 3018 yards, with 21 touchdowns and only 6 picks, while rushing for 676 yards and a career-high 9 touchdowns.

He remained the starter in Philly for a few more seasons, but age was beginning to catch up to him, and he was eventually replaced by the younger Nick Foles. He played a couple final seasons as a backup for the Jets and Steelers before retiring for good before the 2017 season.

Vick is most well-known for his rushing ability, and he still holds the records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season and in a career, but when he was at his best, he was a very good passer as well, making very few mistakes and leading winning teams. He lost a couple of his prime seasons, but when viewed as a whole, his career is worthy of inclusion on this list of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #42 - Roman Gabriel

Roman Gabriel

Roman Gabriel was the first Filipino-American quarterback in the NFL, and he was one of the top quarterbacks of the period around the NFL-AFL merger, though he never won a championship.

Gabriel was drafted in 1962, as the #1 pick in the AFL Draft by Oakland and the #2 overall NFL pick by the Rams, and he chose to go south to LA. He started only half of his team's games in his first 4 seasons, but they won 11 of those games, and only 4 games combined when someone else started.

When the team switched coaches before the 1966 season, he was named the starter, and led the team to its first winning record in nearly a decade. The next year he led the Rams to the division title with an 11-1-2 record, with a personal best 25 touchdown passes and only 13 interceptions during the season, but they fell in the playoffs to the eventual champion Green Bay Packers.

After falling just short of the playoffs in 1968, he had an MVP season in 1969, leading the league with 24 touchdowns and only 7 picks, and the Rams started the season with 11 straight wins, which is still a franchise record. They lost their first playoff game to Minnesota, which meant that they ended their season with 4 straight losses.

After a couple more seasons with the Rams, in which they slid further from contention each year, Gabriel was traded to the Eagles. He left the Rams as the all-time franchise leader in many categories, and he still holds the marks for wins and touchdown passes.

In Philadelphia, he was named the Comeback Player of the Year after leading the league in touchdowns, completions, and passing yards. He started for the Eagles for 3 years, then played backup for two more, but never saw the playoffs again and retired without a championship.

Though not many remember him today, Gabriel was one of the best in the league for a good number of seasons right after the merger. He led the league in yardage once and touchdowns twice, and was a decent runner as well, but the fact that he never even played in a championship game has made him fade somewhat into obscurity, but I still believe that he deserves this spot on the list of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #43 - Boomer Esiason

Boomer Esiason

Boomer Esiason did not make many playoff appearances as a starter, making it out of the regular season just twice in his career, but he was a great QB during the regular season.

Boomer was drafted in 1984 by the Bengals to eventually replace Ken Anderson, and his time to take over came in his second season. While Cincinnati did not see a ton of success during his run as starter, he did finish in the top 10 in both passing yards and touchdowns 7 times in his first 9 seasons.

The biggest reason he is on this list is the 1988 season, in which he finished with 3572 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just 14 interceptions while leading the Bengals to a 12-4 record and the #1 seed in the AFC. For his efforts during that season, Esiason was awarded the league MVP award, becoming only the second Bengal ever to receive it.

That postseason was also the best in Bengal history, as they won each of their first two playoff games easily on their way to face San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIII. Cincinnati took the lead on a field goal with 1:22 remaining in the game, but Joe Montana led a 92-yard touchdown drive to seal the win and keep Cincinnati from their first title. Esiason threw for only 144 yards and one pick in the game, which happened to be his best game of a subpar postseason in which the team rode running back Ickey Woods as far as he could take them.

The Bengals made it back to the playoffs 2 years later, and Esiason played better than the previous time, with 254 yards and 3 touchdowns over two playoff games, but they were knocked out in the divisional round by the Raiders. Boomer Esiason would never see the playoffs again.

A few years later he was traded to the New York Jets, and he had a bit of a renaissance that year, throwing for 3421 yards and 16 touchdowns during the season, but by that point he was 32 years old and on the downside of his career. He joined the Arizona Cardinals in 1996, and set a team passing record with 522 yards in one game, making him the only player in history to hold the single-game passing records for two different franchises.

Boomer never suffered a major injury during the prime of his career, which allowed him to rack up some big numbers. He is currently among the top 25 all-time in passing yards and touchdown passes, and is #1 all-time in both categories among left-handed quarterbacks, but the lack of success in the postseason prevented him from climbing any higher on the all-time list of greatest quarterbacks.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #44 - Y. A. Tittle

Y. A. Tittle

Yelberton Abraham Tittle is the full name of the quarterback who is often named as one of the early greats, but he was always known as Y.A. for obvious reasons. He retired over 50 years ago, so it's actually somewhat impressive that his career still stands up to many of today's offensive-minded quarterbacks.

He began his career with the Baltimore Colts of the AAFC, a short-lived league that was absorbed into the NFL after Tittle's second year. One year later, the team folded, and Tittle and his teammates were thrown back into the draft to be dispersed among the remaining teams, and Tittle ended up being picked up by San Francisco.

He spend the entire decade of the 1950's in San Francisco, starting most of the games for a team that was almost always in the middle of the pack in the Western Division, back in the days before playoffs existed and you had to win your division to play in the championship game. During his 10 years leading the 49ers, they tied for the division lead once, which put them in a one-game playoff with Detroit, who beat them to advance to the title game.

The 49ers felt that he was washed up, so he was traded to the New York Giants prior to the 1961 season, and he most likely wouldn't be on this list if that hadn't happened. Despite playing only four seasons in New York before retiring, Tittle amassed some amazing numbers that made him one of the greats. He was named MVP in 1961, 1962, and 1963, leading the Giants to the Eastern Division title each time, but losing in the championship game all three times, twice to Green Bay and once to Chicago.

Even though he did not win a championship during his career, or even a playoff game, his passing prowess was amazing. In 1962 he threw for 3224 yards and 33 touchdowns, 4 more than any other quarterback that season and a new record. The following season was even better, with 3145 yards and another NFL-record 36 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions.

He is one of the quarterbacks who holds the record for most touchdowns in a game with 7, and was the league leader in touchdowns three times, and his great play in those two seasons at the end of his career were enough to push him over the edge and get him included on this list of the greatest of all time.