On the Monday Morning NFL Podcast, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling discuss the state of quarterbacks across the NFL, and unveil their ranking of the top 10 QBs in the NFL heading into the 2019 season. Listen and subscribe to The MMQB Monday Morning NFL Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.
GARY: We’re going to start this show by going back in time a little bit. Let’s say it’s 2015. And Andy, there is a crisis in the NFL. There are not enough quarterbacks to go around to the 32 teams. Everyone is complaining about the poor state of quarterback play in the league.
But now, we fast-forward to 2019—and we’re going to talk about this when we get to your rankings—there is a full complement of quality starting quarterbacks, or if not quality starters at least young guys who have the potential to become quality starters. So my question is: What happened to this quarterback shortage? Why are we in such a good spot with quarterbacks now?
ANDY: Well, I think the first thing to remember is that we’re dealing with a small sample size. So in 2015 when quarterback play was down—I don’t remember every starter off the top of my head that year, but let's say there were 12 really good starters. Super Bowl-quality quarterbacks—you could win a Super Bowl running your offense on their strengths alone. And now there might be 20 of those guys. I guess that’s a pretty big jump, but we’re still talking about eight people. I don’t want to read too much into this whole thing, because I thought we did that back in 2015, when we were trying to establish the narrative that there is a shortage of quarterbacks. Now the narrative is there’s an abundance of quarterbacks, and I don’t know how true that is either. We have to remember, because quarterbacks don’t play against other quarterbacks on the field, how good your quarterback is is relative to how good all the other teams’ quarterbacks are.
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GARY: Are we at a point where coaching has raised the level of quarterback play?
ANDY: Yeah, I would agree with that; systems and coaching—“coaching” to me implies “systems.” That’s a really good point, because these young coaches—think about Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Adam Gase has not had the quarterback to work with yet but he does now in Sam Darnold—more than the previous generation tailor their scheme to what their quarterback is comfortable with. Let’s actually say it this way: Their scheme is inherently quarterback-friendly, they build their scheme with the idea of, How can we make the game as easy as possible for our quarterback? Then, the better the quarterback, the more complex those coaches can get with what they do. But it starts out with making the game as quarterback-friendly as possible. That was not the case with the previous generation of coaches, not all of them anyway.
GARY: You also have guys lasting longer—a combination of the rules and probably just improved training. I mean, Tom Brady is going to be 42 in August. A generation ago a 42-year-old quarterback would have been deceased for five years.
ANDY: That’s true. I remember watching Troy Aikman as a kid and he was in his early/mid-30s when he retired. It’s not just that these guys are still playing, Tom Brady is obviously still playing at the highest level. Rivers, Brees, and Roethlisberger are still elite quarterbacks of the NFL. They are probably better now than they were in their late 20s.
GARY: And by the way, you’re right. Troy Aikman turned 34 in November of his final season.
ANDY: He’s a good illustration of how the game’s changed. Aikman wasn’t a game manager, but in Dallas’s offense he wasn’t The Guy; the offense ran through the running game. His numbers were always good but not great. He was a quarterback relative to the context of the entire team. He was in an era before you were building everything around making the game easier for your quarterback. That’s kind of what I meant about that previous generation of coaches, from the 90s and the early 2000s. To some extent, those coaches had a system and an entire offense and it was, Let me find the quarterback to run it. Now it’s, Here's my offense and it starts with the quarterback.
GARY: I mean, Aikman was not in a very quarterback-friendly offense—though he had a great supporting cast and it was a well-designed offense.
ANDY: It wasn’t designed for the quarterback to carry it the way that today’s offenses are. I was young so I can’t fully speak to this, but I don’t know if any system back then was this “quarterback-friendly.” I mean, maybe the Dolphins with Dan Marino.
GARY: I’d have to go back and study the run-and-shoot stuff. Warren Moon in Houston comes to mind, though I wasn’t breaking that down in 1989.
THE MMQB PODCAST TOP 10 QUARTERBACKS FOR 2019
“Others receiving votes” is included if you listen to the show, along with more quarterback discussions including whether Jared Goff will be worth the second contract for the Rams, the near-term futures for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the long-term futures of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, and what to make of the Mitchell Trubisky roller coaster ride. Position ranking voting is AP Poll-style among three panelists, with Andy’s votes counting double:
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City, 78 points (2 first-place votes)
2. Tom Brady, New England, 77 (1)
3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis, 73
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 65
5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 61
6. Philip Rivers, L.A. Chargers, 60
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, 52
(tie)8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta, 50
(tie)8. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, 50
10. Russell Wilson, Seattle, 43
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