Ripping NFL quarterbacking has become a favorite pastime this year. We all know there are teams in bad situations—Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota—and we all see the struggles of purported franchise QBs such as Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. But the simple fact is, there will never be 32 premier passers at one time. And in truth, the overall quality at the position has improved steadily since 1970. Check the numbers ('07 stats through Sunday).


2007 143 81.1 .618 214.6
2000 248 78.1 .582 222.0
1990 224 77.3 .560 211.4
1980 224 73.7 .562 214.1
1970 182 65.6 .511 181.1

By any measure it would be hard to argue that quarterbacking was better, say, in 1980 than today. The eight most productive passers, by yards, that year included one Hall of Famer, Dan Fouts, along with Brian Sipe, Archie Manning, Tommy Kramer, Steve Bartkowski, Lynn Dickey, Ron Jaworski and Doug Williams. The eight most productive passers through Week 10 this year—Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck and Donovan McNabb (above)—include at least three who are Canton-bound.

Let's compare two fairly successful QBs: Seattle's Hasselbeck and Jim Hart of the '70s Cardinals. Hart made four Pro Bowls in 13 starting seasons; Hasselbeck has made two in seven years as the No. 1. But Hart never completed 60% of his throws in any one season and averaged 200 yards per game in only three seasons. Hasselbeck has four 60% seasons and six exceeding 200 yards per game. He also has a higher yards-per-attempt average.

Final thought: There were just as many bad QB situations 35 years ago. Falcons fans mourn Joey Harrington, but Atlantans weren't celebrating Bob Berry in 1972. Were the Bears better off with Bobby Douglass and Kent Nix than they are with Rex Grossman and Brian Griese? Finding a QB is "an art, not a science," Colts president Bill Polian says, but is talent at the position worse than ever? The numbers say no.