Let's quickly run through the criteria we will employ to arrive at our final rankings of the NFL's top quarterbacks. In order to arrive at a conclusion, we first must establish a starting point. So that being said, let's break it down a division at a time starting with the NFC East. Once we have evaluated each division, we will rank each respective conference's quarterbacks and finish with my take on the league's top overall quarterbacks.
The Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb is clearly the top QB in a division that includes the Giants' overrated and over-drafted Eli Manning, the Redskins' slow-developing and also over-drafted Jason Campbell and the Dallas Cowboys' inexperienced -- yet surprising -- small college free agent Tony Romo.
McNabb, who is clearly the class of this field, enters his ninth pro season hoping to rebound after two injury-shortened seasons.
I have always been impressed with what Donovan brings to the table in terms of athletic skills. Early on, while attending Syracuse, not only was McNabb a star quarterback, but also an integral part of the Orangemen's nationally-ranked basketball squad.
McNabb possesses a strong, although not exceptional, throwing arm. He's intelligent, experienced, tough-minded, creative, and can throw accurately on the move. I really believe he has improved his throwing touch over the years, and his game management skills are first-rate. I don't believe his run and escape skills are near what they once were, but as recently as this past season, he showed me he still had the ability to make time in the pocket (tough to trap) and is still a legitimate threat to advance the ball downfield when given the opportunity.
On the other side of the ledger, his inability to stay healthy over the last
two seasons has to be a concern for the Eagles. I also felt at times that he
exhibited a little tunnel vision, locking on and forcing some balls into tight
windows. He should be more adept at this stage of his development at looking off
That said, McNabb is still a shoe-in to be among the league's top ten quarterbacks.
|Jason Campbell |
An exceptional prep athlete, Campbell struggled during the first three seasons at Auburn before flourishing as a senior on an outstanding Auburn Tigers squad.
Jason brought to the professional game outstanding size, a strong throwing arm and better than adequate mobility. When one combined those attributes with good work ethic and the ability to learn and process information, one would have anticipated more success then he has shown to date.
First and foremost, I don't think he has shown to be a consistently accurate thrower. He also never appeared to be totally comfortable or confident in the pocket, showing a tendency to hold on to the ball. With just seven starts (all during the second half of the 2006 season), Jason is still relatively inexperienced, but with the team's success lying squarely on his shoulders, his time is now!!!
In support of Campbell, the Redskins, two seasons ago, hired the veteran Al Saunders to oversee his on-field development. Saunders is a very astute, patient, class individual with a wealth of practical teaching (coaching) experience. My gut feeling on the matter is with just 207 professional throws under his belt, I don't see this player as having either the playing background or overall skills to take the 'Skins to the next level.
|Tony Romo |
Now entering his fifth professional season (he saw no action in his first three NFL seasons), it's the Cowboys' hope that Tony can build on his 2006 playing success, continue to make steady progress and hopefully establish himself as one of league's top guns.
I really liked his athletic ability (quickness and overall body movement) and his throwing arm (ball has a lot of life) as well as his ability to make a play at a critical stage in a game, particularly given his limited playing background.
Romo, who won the prestigious Walter Payton Award as a college senior, also possesses an often-overlooked intangible that all the great quarterbacks have -- athletic arrogance. Without ever haven spoken to this player, I have a feeling he believes he's pretty good and you know, he just might be right. He was also coached by a very tough-minded head coach and never cowered under the week-to-week grind of the NFL.
He has a funky throwing delivery, needs to show better touch on his flair-action and late in the season he had what I would consider a few less then stellar playing efforts, but I liked what I saw in his NFL coming-out party.
Let's not lose our perspective on this player; he has skills, but he also has a great many things to prove before I would consider him among the top players at the quarterback position.
A major plus for Romo and the Cowboys is the return of Wade Wilson, a very capable quarterback coach who returns to the Dallas after three seasons tutoring QBs with the Chicago Bears.
|Eli Manning |
One respected NFL offensive guru stated to me at the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine that the Eli he saw in 2006 lacked body quickness, mobility, and has just an adequate throwing arm (his ball lacks life) with spotty throwing accuracy. Based on what I saw on the field, I was hard-pressed to disagree with his overall assessments.
Eli does have good throwing mechanics, is intelligent, gets the ball out quickly and has on a number of occasions brought his team back from the brink of defeat.
Listen, playing quarterback in the largest market in the country is in the best of times a daunting task, but when one factors into the equation a marginal supporting cast and a thin, aging, receiving corps with no true vertical threats -- and injuries to key personnel -- we see that ultimate quarterback success can not always be measured by individual skills. Make any sense? Well, let me put it this way; the Giants are not a good football team and have given Eli little in the way of help to advance his game.
Things don't get any easier for Manning in 2007. The Giants were not active participants during free agency and more importantly new offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has the impossible task of trying to find a way to offset the loss of the team's top offensive threat, running back Tiki Barber.
The jury may still be out on Eli, but there is mounting evidence that suggests the son and brother of two of the greatest QBs in NFL history will need to make significant progress if the Giants are to make a long-term commitment beyond this season.
Eli's future in the city that doesn't sleep is in many ways tied to the lyrics of a 70s song, American City Suite, written by Terry Cashman and Tommy West:
You could be king
If she believed your story
When it was over
If she laughed at you.
Final Division Rankings
1) Donovan McNabb
2) Eli Manning
3) Tony Romo
4) Jason Campbell