This week on It’s Always Sunny in Chiefs Kingdom, Austin and I discussed, among several interesting topics that you can listen to here, the number of likely first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL.
It’s a non-scientific discussion because there are no written rules for Hall of Fame induction. You just know it when you see it. Players at the ends of their careers are easy enough to judge. Aaron Rodgers, with his MVP and Super Bowl championship to go along with his superlative physical gifts, is a slam dunk first-ballot selection. Alex Smith hasn’t accomplished enough to be worthy of the Hall, despite a career resurgence in Kansas City after a lackluster beginning in San Francisco. Matt Ryan needs to win a big playoff game or else he’s probably on the outside looking in, despite having a top-10 statistical career. No conversation needs to be had about all-timers Tom Brady and Drew Brees. We’ll go with a “no” on vets such as Derek Carr, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford.
The trio of 2004 draftees Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are all nearing the ends of their careers (or in the case of Eli, just concluded), and all three pose interesting Hall questions. Manning currently ranks eighth all-time in passing yardage with 59,838 yards, ninth in passing touchdowns with 384, and has two Super Bowl victories over Bill Belichick and the Patriots. But he’s 67th in passer rating with 84.3 and owns a 126-122 career win/loss record, which is nothing to write home to Archie about. Outside of his two obviously-great Super Bowl runs, he has zero playoff victories. Is he a Hall-of-Famer? I think that question is an obvious “yes,” but will he be inducted on the first-ballot? Harder to say.
Ben Roethlisberger, who also owns two Super Bowl victories, is right next to Manning in yards (seventh with 61,801) and touchdown passes (eighth with 393) but has a stellar 93.4 career QB rating (17th all-time), which beats Eli’s by almost 10 points thanks mostly to a four-percent higher completion percentage and 40 fewer interceptions. Roethlisberger also appeared in a third Super Bowl, losing to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Whatever Eli’s fate is with the Hall, Roethlisberger would have to expect at least as much success. Is being a squeaky-clean Manning brother with two Super Bowl wins over New England while Roethlisberger had those nasty sexual misconduct allegations hanging over his career enough to hand Eli accolades that Big Ben never receives? Only time will tell.
And then there’s Philip Rivers. Subject to much of this week’s podcast trash talking thanks to us recapping the Chiefs’ 24-17 victory over the Chargers in Mexico City during a Monday Night Football clash last season, Rivers lacks the thing that his two fellow ‘04 draftees possess: the elusive Super Bowl ring. While Ben and Eli picked up two each, Rivers has made it to only one conference championship game in his career, a 21-12 loss in Foxboro in 2007. With a 5-6 career mark in the playoffs, he would need to win a Super Bowl with his new Indianapolis Colts to be considered in the same conversation as his other two classmates. As it stands, he will have to settle for sixth in passing yards (61,927), sixth in touchdown passes (411) and 15th in QB rating (94.6), but first in number of children sired while quarterbacking in the NFL (innumerable).
Someone who is not quite old enough to be ready to retire, but old enough that they have been around the block a bit is Russell Wilson. He has two Super Bowl appearances with one ring, and he ranks 41st in yards (33,346), 28th in touchdown passes (250), and third in QB rating (100.7). He has been an exemplary quarterback for his career and is someone that, while he wouldn’t be a pick if he retired today, seems to be well on his way to a first-ballot HOF type of career.
But of course, the question wasn’t just “which older QBs are potential first-ballot Hall-of-Famers?,” so we must also consider the young guns. Anyone reading this piece or listening to this podcast knows already that Mahomes is the lock of the century, and nothing short of armageddon itself will prevent him from being a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. As for other young guns such as Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Daniel Jones, Gardner Minshew, and others? Watson probably has the best shot so far, but they all have long careers ahead of them. Our final answer to the question was six: Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Wilson, and of course, Sir Patrick Lavon Mahomes II. The Hall of Fame may have to relocate from Canton, Ohio to Whitehouse, Texas by the time he retires.