Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ranking the Super Bowl Champion Quarterbacks

With Super Bowl 50 just around the corner and the constant debate on all-time great quarterbacks of all-time, I thought it would be interesting to rank the quarterbacks that have won a Super Bowl.  This eliminates Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton who are all considered amongst the Top 20 QBs of all-time (and Top 10 by some) and definitely above many of the slappies that have won the Super Bowl *cough Trent Dilfer cough* but this isn't about them, it's about those that have won it.  There have only been 31 Super Bowl Winning QBs with 11 QBs winning multiple titles.  So without further ado from worst to first:

31. Trent Dilfer (Baltimore)-Thank you Baltimore Defense and insane Jamaal Lewis running game for making this guy have a long career with ESPN even though he is awful.

30. Doug Williams (Washington)-No one would know who Doug Williams was if the Broncos didn't suck so bad during their 80s Super Bowl runs.

29. Brad Johnson (Tampa Bay)-The Buccaneers won it much like Baltimore did but at least Johnson was a decent QB throughout his career.

28. Mark Rypien (Washington)-Journeyman QB but was solid in the playoffs.

27. Jeff Hostetler (New York Giants)-He had a great defense and team that was doing well before he played mop up duties once Simms got injured.  Solid but

26. Jim McMahon (Chicago)-Maybe one of the most overrated Super Bowl Champs that lives off a one year great in the Chicago Bears of '85.  Had a swagger that people loved.  Did you know he got a ring as Brett Favre's back-up?!

25. Jim Plunkett (Oakland)-Really pulling straws around this area.  Not much better or worse than McMahon.

24. Phil Simms (New York Giants)-Awful color commentator and won with the greatest defensive player of all-time, but he has to be above his back-up.

23. Joe Flacco (Baltimore)-His 2012 Super Bowl run was fueled by an over the hill defense, but his rocket arm and  playoff experience helped get him there.  First average QB to get ridiculously overpaid and cause the NFL to overpay every starting QB.

22. Russell Wilson (Seattle)-Too early but two Super Bowl appearances already?  He had a great defense when the Seahawks destroyed the Broncos but he doesn't get discouraged and fights to the bitter end.

21. Joe Theismann (Washington)-A career ended by Lawrence Taylor folding him.   His playoff record is very solid and he may have had more numbers if he had not started off in the Canadian Football League.

20. Joe Namath (New York Jets)-Broadway Joe was another McMahon but he knocked off the mighty NFL as an AFL member.  Helped give the AFL respect.  Helped earn him a Hall of Fame
honor which probably makes me put  him higher than I want.

19. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)-His first Super Bowl can be attributed to just not being stupid and leading the Steelers.  He is a smart passer.  He reminds me of

18.Eli Manning (New York)-Little brother owns big brother in Super Bowl wins but Eli should be 1-1 at best in the Super Bowl.  The Giants got hot at the right time in both of his marches.  He is a 10 Win QB that has never been great, but is very good.

17. Bob Griese (Miami)-I have him too highly rated on here, but Hall of Fame, 2 Super Bowls and an undefeated season is tough to argue against.  I believe he is the middle of the pack of Super Bowl winning QBs for a reason, I'd take every guy below him on the Dolphins and probably a few above him.

16. Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh)-Two Hall of Fame WRs, A HOF RB, the Steel Curtain.  He kind of is in Griese territory.  A great career but would he even be considered a Top 30 QB if he had played for the Broncos of the 70s instead?  4-0 in Super Bowl makes it tough not to move him higher, but really no one considers him a Top 20 QB of all-time unless they wave a Terrible Towel.

15. Kurt Warner (St. Louis)-Greatest show on turf almost got it done with Arizona which would have been the only QB to win a Super Bowl with 2 different teams.  Close but not enough.  Hall of Famer that really got hosed in not getting a chance earlier in his career. 

14. Drew Brees (New Orleans)-Barely made this list because he edged Peyton Manning out and robbed  him of his 2nd Super Bowl.  He has thrown for 4000 yards over and over again and has been a breath of fresh air in New Orleans.  Did San Diego make the right decision? No!

13. Kenny Stabler (Oakland)-Underappreciated because he put up average numbers but he should  be in the Hall of Fame.  His 3x finalist will probably end up being voted in about 10 years.

12. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)-Rodgers is a threat with his feet and stepping up in the pocket.  He was thought to be a better QB than Tom Brady or Peyton Manning for most of the past 3-4 years.  Tough to argue but aided by a great

11. Len Dawson (Kansas City)-A great player and Hall of Famer.  Knocked off NFL in last year of AFL-NFL Super Bowl.  Won two titles in the AFL before his AFL/Super Bowl title of 1969.

10. Brett Favre (Green Bay)-He was the central figure on back to back super bowl teams but he also was known for costly interceptions to end his playoff runs for 3 teams.  Held on a year too long.  Hopefully Manning doesn't play at age 40 like Favre did.  Favre was a gunslinger.

9. Troy Aikman (Dallas)-Probably rated too high because he had some of the greatest two way teams ever, but tough to argue his 3-0 Super Bowl record.

8. Roger Staubach (Dallas)-Would he not be higher up in the chain if the didn't serve in Vietnam and be the last truly great service academy Quarterback.  Won the Heisman.  Hall of Fame.  Maybe under appreciated also because the Cowboys were so good.

7. Peyton Manning (Indy)-Was only second QB to be a Super Bowl starter for two teams.  He is the best regular season quarterback of all-time.  Smart, just amazing to watch pick apart defenses.  The thing keeping him from being amongst the top of all-times lies solely in his playoff record.  Nine 1 and done playoffs and 11-13 overall.  For a QB that has been as good as he has in the regular season every year, he should have more than 3 Super Bowl appearances.

6. Steve Young (SF 49ers)-A true all around beast of a QB.  Could kill you scrambling or launching the ball downfield.  He was so good a Hall of Fame and best QB of all time was told to please exit stage right.

5. Johnny Unitas (Indy)-Two AFL titles early in his career.  He won one at the end of his career in Indy.  He did suit up elsewhere but no one wants to remember that image.  He was the Peyton Manning of football early on.  When the NFL was a heavy running league he was slinging the ball around in the AFL.  Helped change football.

4. Bart Starr (Green Bay)-A leader.  A true man that was the perfect leader for a great coached NFL team. 

3. John Elway (Denver)-Carried 3 average offenses to Super Bowl appearances before a free agent heavy and great running game carried him off to the sunset with 2 Super Bowl Rings.  Fearless and right at the top of Mt. Rushmore of football.  Second most Super Bowl apperances ever.

T-1. Joe Montana & Tom Brady (San Fran and New England)-4-0 Super Bowl record and 4-2 Super Bowl record respectively.  Montana had better all around teams.  Both benefited from amazing coaches.  Leadership and respect from teammates helped earn them both 4 rings.  Brady has a chance to add to his legacy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Complicated Decision to go with Brock or Peyton: Making A Case for Each

The Broncos 2015 season could not have been manufactured into a movie.  You can't make up what has happened with the Broncos season and you can't make up the drama and different dialogues and soap opera like suspense each week brought and especially headed into the playoffs.  The ultimate question has came down to Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning?  The decision to pull Brock for Peyton early in the 2nd half gave what I believe is the answer, it's Peyton.  Is it the right decision or not?  Who really knows but the question isn't as cut and dry as going with who has done it before.  We must present the case for each quarterback to lead the Denver Broncos into the playoffs by seeing what each has done to this point.

We can all look at the stats of Brock vs. Peyton:
  QBrec Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A Y/G Rate Sk Sk% 4QC GWD
P. Manning 7-2 59.8 2249 9 2.7 17 5.1 6.8 224.9 67.9 16 4.6 3 3
B. Osweiler 5-2 61.8 1967 10 3.6 6 2.2 7.2 245.9 86.4 23 7.7 2 2

The stats are all skewed in Brock's favor other than Sacks and record.  He has been more efficient with the ball.  Yes, his sack percentage is much higher and taking sack percentage with interception percentage, they are about equal, but we know that a sack doesn't equal a change of possession that interceptions do and give the other team the same momentum.  Brock's advantage over Peyton has been being smart with the ball.

The main cases against Brock seems to center around this:  He has never been there before and he goes cold for an entire half.  The first statement can not be argued but you can't see how a player will respond to the playoffs until he is in that situation.

Peyton Manning is 186-79 in the regular season and you have to consider him among the all-time greats to ever play the position, but measuring the greatest QBs of all-time has another factor and that is playoff performance.  Whether it is fair or not, the simple fact is Manning is 11-13 in playoffs with nine 1 and out performances and has made 3 Super Bowls with one win.  Of the 30 quarterbacks with at least 10 playoff appearances, only Warren Moon, Matt Hasselback and Dan Marino have had a lower winning percentage than Peyton Manning.  Everyone else has won at least 50 percent of their games.  No this isn't making the case for all-time great Quarterbacks and I would take Manning over many, but it shows that Manning has not been as great in the playoffs in taking that next step in leading his team to a tough victory.  Teams have caught up to him in prep work come playoff time more often than he has outsmarted them like he does in the regular season.  We just can't compare what Brock will do with what Manning has, but while you can say all the positives of Manning being there before, you can't ignore he hasn't been as successful as other all-time greats or as he has been in the regular season.

We can compare what 39 year old Peyton has done to 25 year old Peyton with this years roller coaster of emotions Broncos team and the going cold factor or not putting up points.  Manning and Brock's points per game generated by offense were nearly identical and hovering in the 19 PPG area.  Manning got a huge boost to end the SD game with 2 rushing TDs and 2 FGs and is closer to 22 PPG, but the simple fact is both have struggled generating points and gone cold in similar fashion.  You must compare what each did and their struggles before anointing one over the other.  Here are some high/lowlights of each game (please feel free to scroll past these, in italics, if you remember the success/failure of each QB):

Baltimore-5 Punts, Interception for Touchdown and 1 FG in 7 consecutive drives.  Overriding factor in game was Denver defense matched the Interception for Touchdown later in the game and sealed a late potential game winning drive for the Ravens with an interception.
Kansas City-Started game with 3 Punts, turnover on downs and another Manning Interception for Touchdown.  Late fumble recover for touchdown by defense seals game.
Detroit-Solid game but late defensive INT gives Broncos ability to seal it.
Minnesota-A comfortable 13-3 lead is hurt by an interception that leads to an easy Minnesota TD.  Broncos up 23-20 with Minnesota at midfield, defense forces a fumble to seal victory.
Oakland-Broncos can't generate much on offense and are held to 3 FGs and throw.  Broncos punt on 6 of 11 drives, throw 2 INTs and settle for 3 FGs.  Sounds eerily familiar to a later game the Broncos have and lose to Oakland.  A late Interception for touchdown where Oakland could have instead led by settling for a FG makes the score 16-7.
Cleveland-Broncos through the first 10 drives on offense generate 9 points, have a missed FG and 2 interceptions.  Manning throws his third interception for touchdown of the season and the Broncos are down 20-16.  The Broncos had been up 10-0 early thanks to the defense having their own interception for TD.  Broncos offense wakes up to have a quick strike TD to go ahead 23-20.  A late regulation INT by Denver D allows Denver to be tied 23-23 going into OT when Denver has 10 plays of offense and 3 punts to close out regulation.  Manning intercepted in Denver territory but defense causes Cleveland to lose 18 yards and Denver closes out with FG to win.
Going into the Bye Week, Manning has thrown 10 Interceptions with 3 returned for touchdowns.  His defense has generated 17 turnovers to the offenses 11 Turnovers and scored 27 points off of turnovers.  Denver has 5 of their 6 victories by a score or less.  Defense  has only given up 13.5 PPG (taking 20 points off Manning Interceptions) while offense has only generated 18.5 PPG (taking 28 points off board for defensive points)
Green Bay-Everything seems to click and Broncos seem to be on track.  Manning even throws a late INT that really was just to make GB feel good about themselves since 29-10 score holds.
Indianapolis-Denver's first half is the worse of the season for both sides of the ball.  The offense produces 5 punts and an interception in their 6 possessions of the half.  Only 8:27 of possession and are in a 17 point hole at half.  A punt return for a TD and two great drives allows Denver to tie up t he game at 17.  The teams trade scores but Denver is down 27-24 a little over halfway through 4th.  An awful pass coupled with the defense not  being able to get Indy off the field causes Denver it's first loss.  It's the first game where blame could go towards the defense but a slow start put the Broncos in a huge hole.
Kansas City-The game no Broncos fan wants to remember.  Manning sets the NFL all-time passing record on a short 4-yard completion to Ronnie Hillman.  In his 9 drives, Manning's offense musters only 39 total yards, punts the ball 5 times and he throws four interceptions and is pulled for Brock Osweiler.  Osweiler leads 4 drives but generates 228 total yards of offense and 2 TDs.

It is announced Manning was dealing with a plantar fascia tear and he was pretty much out on a day to day basis until more information was gathered.  Ultimately, he would be in a cast and not suit up for a game for the next 6 weeks.  The keys are given to Brock after Manning exited with only 9 passing TDs, a league leading 17 Interceptions, averaging 18.5 PPG and with the lowest quarterback rating in the NFL.  Defense is giving up 16.4 PPG.  The Broncos have given the ball away 8 times in last 3 games with no takeaways.  The +6 margin of 3 weeks before has turned into -2 through 9 games.

Better With Brock?
Chicago-Brock "manages" the game.  Scores on his first drive, punts 3 times, FG, punts/down 3 times, TD and team  hangs on.  Defense generates an interception and fumble in second half.  Broncos generate nothing of either.
New England-The offense has 7 punts, an INT, missed FG and TD in their first 10 drives and the defense can not hold any longer and the Broncos start the 4th down 21-7.  Brock shows the gumption fans wanted to see and answers with 17 points in the next 4 drives.  A late Pats FG forces OT and the defense again steps up forcing a 3 and out.  Broncos score on a 3rd and 1 48 yard TD run by CJ Anderson.  Euphoria in Denver since the #1 seed was most likely on the line.
San Diego-Brock again leads Denver on scoring drive on first series.  Brock is aided by a defensive TD on an interception and the game ends with a 17-3 victory but people complaining about the boring offense.  It is the largest margin of victory apart from the Green  Bay game.
Oakland-Denver scores 4 FGs on the first 5 drives with all within 23 yards of the end zone.  A game that appeared to be set for a blowout.  A 2nd half opening TD and late 3rd quarter Safety allows the Raiders to go into the 4th with the ball.  The Broncos down 15-12 miss a FG and Oakland is happy to trade punts/downs with the Broncos.  People question Brock after a 70% completion and 300 yard passing day.
Pittsburgh-Despite an early deficit due to another fumble, the Broncos lead 27-13 going into half with 3 passing TDs and a rushing TD by Brock.  It is the best the offense has looked in a half ALL season.  Brock and the offense go cold.  They can not eat clock and are forced to punt 6 consecutive drives and the 27-13 lead ends up 27-27 before Brock throws a heart piercing INT that allows Pittsburgh to go up 34-27.  Denver can generate nothing.  Brock's head is called for and people believe Manning should be starting against the Bengals on MNF!
Cincinatti-The defense can not get off the field and the offense can not generate anything.  The defense is on the field for 21:14 of the first half and the Broncos go into half with a positive late FG to be down 14-3.  An early 2nd half TD breathes life into the team and fans and the teams trade punts the next 7 drives before a short field allows Denver to take the lead early in the 4th on another long CJ Anderson TD.  The Broncos appear to win the game in regulation but McManus hooks the attempt.  Denver's offense grinds out a long drive and settles for a FG before the magic of another defensive late turnover seals the game.

Brock has averaged 17.7 PPG if you take away the defensive TD in the SD game.  He has thrown only 4 INTs versus 9 TDs.  His defense has produced 9 turnovers while the offense has given up only 7.  Brandon McManus had a costly PAT miss and missed 4 FGs.  The defense is giving up the same amount of points the offense generates, 17.7 PPG. 

A Tale of Two QBs
San Diego-The Broncos scores on the first drive on a great play by Demaryius Thomas.  A sure fire 14-3 lead on a great pass to Emmanuel Sanders is wiped away on a fumble.  The Broncos generate 228 yards in their first 4 drives but only have 7 points, 2 fumbles and an interception to show for it.  They go into half with 269 yards of offense and only a 7-6 lead.  The fan base has let out their typical booing with a lead or in a close game and Kubiak makes a "gut" decision.  He allows Brock to go out on the first series of the 2nd half.  CJ Anderson fumbles, the Chargers recover and are up 13-7 and Brock is done not by his own doing but by a gut call. 

A cheer erupts and Manning enters handing his way off to what will be another comeback.  Manning goes 5/9 for 69 yards and hands the ball off 20 times for 131 yards.  The Broncos get an INT off Rivers with the game tied and a quick rushing TD to seal the victory.  It is a win that is reminiscent of many earlier in the year.

All Things Considered
So, what does what each did in the season really mean?  Positives are Brock showed the ability to run the offense and produce points when the team truly needed them.  Both went long droughts for extended periods as mentioned above.  Both had issues sustaining success.  Each had two losses with 1 win being against a non playoff team and 1 against a playoff team.  The tale of the tape shows Brock is 2-1 vs playoff teams, Peyton 3-1 vs playoff teams.  The Broncos road to the playoffs was due to a defense and special teams that generated turnovers or key stops to make up for the lack of production from their offense.  The defense generated 17 turnovers in the first 6 games compared to 10 in the 8 Brock was the starter.  The Broncos have to be confident Manning will not resort to the quarterback that has thrown 25 Interceptions in his last 16 starts.  A quarterback that will never be 100% and has shown if he isn't feeling at least 80% can spell a recipe for disaster.  If they truly believe Brock Osweiler is their long-term solution at quarterback, they have to be confident that letting Manning finish out his career in either a storybook ending or continue the disappointment is the right choice and all factors have been taken into account.

There is no overlooking these key factors when it comes to making the decision, who gives you the better chance to beat the opposition between Brock and what do the elements have to do with affecting that.  The Broncos opponent will not be decided but weather is the main element into sitting Peyton or not.  If it is under 20 degrees, Manning's performance in those games has shown the numbing in his fingertips is accentuated with colder temperatures.  Brock played New England and Cincinnati in temperatures Manning would normally struggle/look miserable in.  Brock looked like he was back home in Montana and that it had no effect on his performance.

The defense/team the Broncos face is a huge factor.  The Broncos will face either Houston, Kansas City or Pittsburgh in the Divisional round.  Houston and Kansas City have defenses that have the speed and playmaking ability that should worry fans for a slow moving 39 year old quarterback.  Compound that with Manning struggling against Kansas City most of the last two years and it may not be a bad choice to roll with Brock.  Brock picked apart Pittsburgh but went cold when they adjusted.  Either could destroy their secondary, but turnovers are something Pittsburgh thrives on. 

Who can adjust is the last factor.  Brock showed the ability at key moments against the 2nd and 3rd seeds in these playoffs in key victories that helped earn the Broncos the #1 seed.  Manning knows how to do that throughout a game typically but until Sunday he hasn't shown a regularity to making this a common thing in his arsenal with this Kubiak scheme.

It is a damned if you do, damned if you don't decision.  The truth is, there will be more critique and ridicule leading up to the game if Manning is not the choice due to the NFL/fan sentimentality of Peyton Manning and the respect everyone believes he has earned even not healthy or as sharp as he was.  Brock is more suited to run the play action and boots than Manning.  Truly, neither Brock nor Manning has taken the offense and showed they are more capable.  Both leave fans frustrated.  The overriding factor will be Manning being there before and the least amount of backlash coming down on Gary Kubiak and the front office if Manning doesn't succeed.  There will be no looking behind the back if the Bronocos are down a score if Manning starts.  If Brock starts, the boo birds would be out immediately and the calling for Manning would be there shortly after.  Let's hope that whatever he decides, Gary's "gut" doesn't wait until it is too late to win a game if it comes time to make a decision.  Either way, the Broncos have a Super Bowl caliber defense but can their offense do enough with whomever is at QB to make that happen?