The Top-15 Quarterbacks in The National Football League: Accurate List Revealed

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIMarch 5, 2009

Who are the top 15 quarterbacks in the NFL? While some choices are obvious, others are not.

Many might agree that these 15 individuals belong on the list, but we would all beg to differ with each other's various order. For ranking's sake, I've selected the 15 quarterbacks who I feel are the very best in the National Football League and placed them into correct order.

It became far more difficult to decide the ranking order than it was to select the 15 best quarterbacks overall. Even so, I feel confident in my decisions as this list truly is one of the better ones you will find.

Let's get started, shall we?


15. Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs)

Cassel had one of the best seasons anyone could ever expect for a quarterback who was playing in his first full season, not to mention he hadn't started a game since high school. 

In a little less than 16 games, Cassel completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. His quarterback rating was an impressive 89.4.

During that 16-game stretch, he became only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in back-to-back games. To put that accomplishment into perspective, Tom Brady has thrown for over 400 yards only once in the 128 games he's started. Still, Cassel will have to be productive in the future if he hopes to advance on this list.


14. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)

Ryan had one of the most impressive rookie seasons you could imagine. His 3,440 yards as a rookie was one of the most impressive totals in NFL history for a first-year player.

He helped the Atlanta Falcons reach the post-season, and made made everyone forget about Michael Vick.

Ryan, in one year, has become a finer quarterback than Vick ever was. I easily expect him to move up higher on this list in the years to come.


13. Chad Pennington (Miami Dolphins)

Pennington is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He completed over 67 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. His quarterback rating was an amazing 97.4, and he helped turn the Miami Dolphins from a 1-15 club to a 11-5 team.

Pennington is one of the finest game-managers in football, and I mean that as a compliment. Still, you can only rank a quarterback who only threw 19 touchdown passes so high. He still deserves credit for his consistency to remain extremely accurate.


12. Eli Manning (New York Giants)

The youngest of the Manning family has developed a great deal since his early days. Once thought of as being a possible draft-bust, little Manning has since managed to help lead the Giants to a Super Bowl victory over the undefeated New England Patriots.

He continued his development by playing much better in 2008 then he did in 2007. This steady improvement earned him a trip to his first Pro Bowl, although I'd argue he took the spot that Donovan McNabb deserved.

Even so, Manning has some of the better quarterback mechanics you'll find and is finally becoming the leader NFL scouts once expected him to be. 


11. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Big Ben has become a perennial winner in the NFL. In 2008, he helped contribute to the Steelers second Super Bowl win in four years.

Roethlisberger has a gift in the two-minute drill, and has the ability to turn up the juice when needed. Although many people might feel he deserves to be ranked much higher, I can not place him above better quarterbacks who don't have the benefit of playing with the league's number one defense.

Despite winning the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger saw a drastic fall in his production from 2007. He threw 15 less touchdowns, and four more interceptions to post a below league average quarterback rating of 80.1.

Obviously his post season heroics, combined with prior seasons of quality football are more than enough to keep him close to the top 10.


10. Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)

McNabb played his first full season in six years last year. Despite lacking a number one receiver, he managed to post a career-high 3,916 passing yards. He led his Eagles as far as the NFC Championship game, where he played quite well.

As good as the Eagles were, the Cardinals were just that much better. Still, McNabb has remained one of the more consistent quarterbacks when he is healthy. Playing a full season is a great way to help ensure people that you can be durable enough to play in this league.

Despite falling short of his goals in 2008, the Eagles did get further than I expected them to and McNabb was a big reason for his team's success down the stretch.


9. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)

Could the Packers ever manage to replace Brett Favre? They certainly did, as the student managed to learn quite well. Rodgers did a fantastic job in 2008 of showing the public why his team had so much faith in him after Favre left.

This man threw for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first active season. His quarterback rating was a very impressive 93.8. Although the Packers' winning record wouldn't seem to indicate Rodgers' brilliance, his individual performance sure did.


8. Jay Cutler (Denver Broncos)

Despite all of the controversy in Denver these days, I have no question as to who their starting quarterback should be. Cutler emerged well in 2008 by throwing for 4,526 yards in a single season. He still has a slight tendency to throw a bit too many interceptions (18), but it is an issue I expect to improve with time.

Cutler has one of the best pure-throwing arms in football and with Josh McDaniels bringing his offensive knowledge to Denver in 2009, I expect Cutler to continue to improve and develop himself into the true face of the franchise.


7. Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)

Even though the Cowboys failed to reach expectations in 2008, Romo was still one of the better quarterbacks in football. He posted a quarterback rating above 90.0 for the third consecutive season (every year he has started).

I feel that if Dallas can rid themselves of some of the drama, Romo might actually have the opportunity to win something more in this league. He has all of the potential and all of the productive history.

His struggles in big games prevent him from cracking the top five, but his overall contributions to the Dallas Cowboys speak for themselves.


6. Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals)

A serious elbow injury sidelined Palmer for the remainder of the 2008 season. Although he struggled a bit in 2007, and the beginning of 2008, he played quite well in his final two games last year against the Giants and Cowboys.

Technically speaking, he has played better in his two last games than Brady had.

I feel that Palmer is set to return to old form in 2009, even without T.J. Houshmandzadeh. We're talking about a man who became the fifth fastest player in league history to throw over 100 touchdown passes.

Palmer has remained quite productive throughout his career, despite playing with a defense far worse than any other quarterback on the list has had to deal with. He helped make Houshmandzadeh a better player and he will continue to aid young Bengals receivers in 2009.

I expect big things from one of the most productive and talented quarterbacks in the league in the years to come.


5. Kurt Warner (Arizona Cardinals)

Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008.

Yes, the Cardinals.

He did so while completing over 67 percent of his passes for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdown passes!

True, he's has the benefit of playing with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin (both of whom have been productive prior to playing with him) but Warner's also helped Steve Breaston become a 1,000 yard receiver.

He's become the face of the Cardinals franchise, and they are much better off after re-signing him. I don't expect a repeat performance in 2009, but Warner has remained consistent enough when healthy to prove that he is one of the better quarterbacks in this league.


4. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)

Rivers had the best season of his career in 2008 and he did so despite LaDainian Tomlinson's numbers dropping a bit. He led the entire league with 34 touchdown passes, and was the highest rated quarterback in 2008 (105.5).

Rivers has consistently remained one of the higher rated quarterbacks in professional football, and I expect that trend to continue. He can be very productive and plays for a team good enough to make a real impact in the years to come.


3. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)

5,069 yards. Need I say more?

Drew Brees became only the second player in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season, and he did so while playing with a horrible defense (ranked 26th in the league in terms of points per game allowed), and an invisible running game where the leading rusher was Pierre Thomas with a grand total of 625 yards.

The Saints did not have one receiver eclipse the 1,000 yard mark, even though their quarterback posted the second highest passing total in NFL history.

What does that mean? It means Drew Brees spreads the ball around a whole heck of a lot.

Lance Moore was their leading receiver with only 928 yards. True, the bad defense and poor running game forced Brees to pass a lot, but it is quite impressive that he threw for over 5,000 yards even when every defensive player knew he was going to pass. He also was tied for the most touchdown passes (34) with Rivers.

The Saints might have only had an 8-8 record in 2008, but sit back and imagine how many wins they'd have without Drew Brees.


2. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

Tom Brady suffered a devastating knee injury in the first game of the 2008 season. Although Cassel proved to be a capable backup, nobody could replace Brady.

His historic 2007 season where he threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns is more than enough to keep him right at the top of the best quarterbacks in the league. So long as he can make a full recovery, I expect Brady to continue to win games and put up big numbers.

Prior to his injury, Brady had remained one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL.

How consistent?

How about six straight seasons of 3,500 yards or more. Brady has always been able to manage to Patriots offense well enough to win most of the games he plays in.

I expect New England's trading of Cassel to be an optimistic sign regarding Brady's health. Expect to see him return to solid form in 2009.


1. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)

When you talk about the poster-boy of productivity, you need not look any further than Peyton Manning.

Manning led the Colts to a 12+ win season for the sixth straight season, which is an NFL record. He eclipsed the 4,000 yard passing mark for the ninth time in his career, which adds to his own NFL record. Dan Marino is in second place with only six such seasons.

He came back from knee surgery that caused him to miss all of training camp and preseason to win his third league MVP award.

His 2008 season included victories over every playoff team the Colts faced. He led the Colts to victories over the Vikings, Patriots, Titans, Chargers, Ravens, and Steelers. His 81.8 completion percentage in the month of January set an NFL record for highest completion percentage by any quarterback in any month in the 89-year history of the NFL.

He earned a trip to his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl (ninth time in his 11-year career) and continued to set the standard for consistent productivity. It goes without saying that I expect more of the same out of Manning in the years to come.


So there you have it. Those are the top 15 quarterbacks in the NFL. I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks because I know that we all have our own personal lists. Let the debates begin!


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