For me, an elite quarterback isn’t determined by wins, or by rings or by records. It’s determined by the ability to lead your team, to bring them back from the brink in an almost impossible situation and win the game. To walk into another team’s home field and come out with a victory in the biggest spot when even the weather seems to be against you.
Clutchness is the measure by which I choose my quarterbacks.
In the NFL, there are three undisputed heavy weights in this category who I can truly call elite and who are by far the top three quarterbacks in the league.
The first is Peyton Manning. In the history of the NFL there has never been a better regular season, clutch or smarter QB to play the game.
I won’t list all the categories he is ranked among the best in NFL history in; It will simply take too long. But over his career Peyton has orchestrated 48 game winning drives, 11 more than Tom Brady, the 2nd highest active and only three behind the all-time leader Dan Marino, who has 51 total game winning drives. He is 1st all time in comebacks defined as starting the 4th quarter down by at least one score and winning the game. He has 37 of those, 11 more than Tom Brady, and just recently took the record away from Dan Marino with his comeback over the chargers.
The Second QB is Tom Brady who has been clutch. Last week he tore apart the Jets with a minute to go to tie the game with one timeout. As I mentioned, he is second to only Peyton in clutch statistics over his career. And he has three rings. If I don’t have Peyton leading me down field, Tom Brady is almost just as good.
The final Quarterback that I would actually take in the clutch over Tom Brady, and unmentioned QBs Rodgers, Brees and Roethlisberger, is Eli Manning. Want to talk about clutch: two super bowls won in the last 2 minutes down a score against the Patriots. Eli, in both instances, leads his team down field to a championship with the greatest show of composure I have ever seen in a situation that intense.
He went into both San Fransisco and Green Bay to win playoff games against opponents considered superior. Last year alone he had eight game winning drives and seven come-from-behind wins in the regular season alone which led the league. He already ranks third in active players in comebacks, behind only big brother and Tom Brady.
Ask me right now and I will take Peyton Manning to lead my team to victory every time. Put Peyton aside for a moment and ask me the same question and I say there is no debate Eli Manning is the most clutch QB in the league and still only half way through his career. Besting Brady twice on the biggest stage and an ability to win games on the road in the cold or in the mud makes him above other “elite” QBs like Rodgers, Brees and Big Ben.
Quarterback is arguably the most important position on any football team. A game can pivot and change on a moments notice depending on the quarterback’s actions.
The trend this season within the NFL is possessions late in games. Almost all NFL games have been decided this season on the last or close to last possession of the contest. Picking a quarterback to lead my team on a last second drive is challenging.
When deciding on a QB to pick, the first name that pops up is Tom Brady. This guy is the quintessential comeback king. He’s won multiple SuperBowls, memorable playoff games, and has had his share of comebacks in the regular season. His first experience would be the Raiders game in 2002. Remembered as the “Tuck Tule Game,” Brady put on a stellar performance. It was even more impressive that he lead the team to a win in his first season as a starter, as 2002 was the year he took over for Drew Bledsoe after being hurt. Brady would then go on to lead his team to multiple 4th quarter comebacks, and establish himself as a great “Comeback Kid.”
The new guy on the block is Eli Manning. This guy looks like he has no idea what is going on in the first ¾ of a game. It looks like he just put his pads on for the first time. He then “Hulks Out,” and owns everyone in the fourth quarter. The way he lead his team to a win over the Redskins a few weeks back was unreal. He told RGIII that this is his division. I have been apprehensive to call Eli the “E-Word,” (elite) but at this point in his career he is slowly getting there. I know I will get yelled at for saying he isn’t elite because of his SuperBowls, but the inconsistency is just not what I want in my QB.
The QB I want on my team when the game is on the line is easy. I consider Peyton Manning the single greatest QB of all time, and he is my pick to lead my team late in a game. I may have picked Tom Brady a few weeks back, but a certain game changed my mind. The Broncos comeback over the Chargers completely changed my view of Peyton Manning. The guy is unreal. The fact he came back in a game to win by double digits, after being down double digits, solidified him as the greatest 4th quarter QB ever. The scary part is the guy did the same thing against the Bucs a few years ago. When the 4th quarter rolls around its “Peyton Time.”