Rating the AFC Quarterbacks
I've previously covered the NFC QBs.
Buffalo Bills: Kelly Holcomb is the official starter, with JP Losman in the backup role. Holcomb's a good player, with lots to like in his career statistics--65% completions and an even touchdown/interception ratio despite playing for some notably crappy teams. If you toss out his second year, where he had a TD pass and 8 interceptions, he's above average. On the other hand, he's 33 and has now started 21 NFL games. Losman did not play as badly last year as his 49.9% completion ratio would suggest; he was being asked by his coaches to throw for about 12 yards per attempt, which is pretty agressive for a 24-year-old QB.
Miami Dolphins: Daunte Culpepper goes back to Florida. He's a fine ballplayer, if a little inconsistent. In 2000 and 2004 he was among the best quarterbacks on the planet; in 2002 and 2005 he was mediocre. Backup is Joey Harrington; probably not bad in that role, but he's never going to live up to his promise.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady is the best player in the league and has put a substantial downpayment on The Greatest Ever mansion, currently inhabited by Joe Montana. Will the quest to become acknowledged as TGE take a toll? That's about the only question left for Tom Terrific to answer.
New York Jets: Chad Pennington's a fine player, obvious question mark is durability. The backup's Patrick Ramsey, which means Pennington has to stay healthy.
Baltimore Ravens: Steve McNair is the starter; he's been a quality player but certainly appears to be on the decline. Kyle Boller is the backup. He's made some steps forward, some steps back over the last couple years. The Ravens have not stretched his arm yet, which is unfortunate, because they've gotta find out sooner or later whether he can really play in the NFL. Throwing for 10 yards per completion is a coaching decision, and it's a bad one.
Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer is apparently healthy, which means that the Bengals have a very promising young man playing quarterback. Last season he had 20 more TDs than interceptions, which is solid work indeed. Backup is Anthony Wright, former starter for Baltimore, who's marginal.
Cleveland Browns: Official starter is Charlie Frye; he actually looks like me might be able to play, but that's on the basis of a few games' performance. And he's probably the seasoned quarterback on this team, unless you count Ken Dorsey.
Pittsburgh Steelers. Will Roethlisberger keep from scrambling his brains on the pavement long enough to put up a challenge to Brady? That's the only question he's got left to answer.
Indianapolis: Peyton Manning. This generation's Dan Marino? Unquestionably an excellent player, but still no championships. Has not missed a game in 8 full seasons.
Tennessee Titans: I've liked Billy Volek for awhile now, but this conference has a lot of established quarterbacks. Vince Young has to prove he even belongs in the league before we can begin to rate him.
Houston Texans: Carr looked like a player on the rise after a fine 2004 season, but last year the coaching staff did not stretch his arm. Whereas he had thrown for 12 yards per completion in 2004, he threw for only 10 yards per catch in 2005. I've said it before and I'll say it again; you cannot be successful throwing for 10 yards a catch. Sage Rosenfels on the other hand, throws for 14 yards per completion, but completes only 50% of his passes.
Jacksonville Jaguars. There's nothing not to like about Byron Leftwich's progress as a quarterback. He may get ignored in the AFC because of the opposition, but this is one player to watch. The backup, David Garard, looks like he can play as well, but this is Leftwich's job.
Denver Broncos: Plummer's an interesting QB. I've often said that he's as the greatest passer I've ever seen on the run, and one of the worst passers I've ever seen in the pocket.
Oakland Raiders: Aaron Brooks has been a solid player. He's got 120 TD passes in the NFL, which is a lot more than Chad Pennington or Carson Palmer or Ben Roethlisberger. It's almost as much as Tom Brady. Subjectively I'd rank all those guys above him, but he's no slouch.
Kansas City Chiefs: Trent Green's better than Aaron Brooks. But he's also 36 and hasn't won an NFL postseason game. Damon Huard's got some nice stats in limited playing time.
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers has thrown 30 NFL passes. Feeley seems a stopgap at best. If Rivers doesn't develop, this looks like a long year in San Diego, perhaps shorter for Marty Schottenheimer than the fans.
Okay, so let's rate them:
1. Tom Brady
2. Ben Roethlisberger
What's not to like:
3. Peyton Manning
4. Carson Palmer
5. Chad Pennington
6. Byron Leftwich
7. Jake Plummer
8. Daunte Culpepper
9. Trent Green
10. Aaron Brooks
11. Steve McNair
12. Kelly Holcomb
13. David Carr
14. Billy Volek
15. Charlie Frye
16. Phillip Rivers