Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. That’s it. That’s the list of elite quarterbacks.
What separates the elite from the very good group isn’t much, but at the same time it’s everything.
Those guys not only have won, not only compile great stats, but they are elite because they possess the ability to carry an entire franchise on their back.
Eli Manning and Joe Flacco took heat and caused a stir when they claimed they were elite. They ended up winning Super Bowls after they said it. That doesn’t make them elite. It makes them champions. They are excellent players. But as you saw this year, if they don’t have enough things working in their favor around them, they can’t carry a team.
Manning and Brady are as good as it gets historically. Not only are they elite, they are all-time great. Rodgers and Brees are elite for their era. Both are probable Hall of Fame players.
After those four players, the elite quarterbacks, it is a big group of very good quarterbacks.
What makes up the next group? Champions do. Winners do. Guys who have great ability do. We can call them great, very good, excellent, or other superlatives, but we do not call them elite.
In no particular order we have:
Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, Andy Dalton, and Jay Cutler.
Obviously, that is a group where there is a separation too. It just depends what in your mind separates. Talent? Leadership? Wins? Playoff wins? Championships? Accomplishments?
All of these guys can put a team on their back for games. None of them can do it yet or currently for a season. That is where the dividing line is to me. And I am thinking of this as a current, present vote. There was a time I believe Ben Roethlisberger would have been considered elite. I don’t think he is now. There are guys in this group that I think can take the next step to elite. But they haven’t yet. Some likely never will. That doesn’t mean they can’t win a Super Bowl if they haven’t yet. Being elite isn’t required to do that.
I think of ELITE as an ELITE group. That can’t be a crowded room. There can be debate in that room, but likely there isn’t much debate over one player in that room being replaced by someone outside of it.
My elite group of quarterbacks in 2014 are Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees.