Peter King's QB POLL

SI.com's Monday Morning Quarterback columnist called on five NFL experts to evaluate the league's passers in critical categories
September 06, 2009

America can't getenough of quarterbacks. Highest-profile players in the biggest game in thenation. Coolest guys on the field. So who among them is the best today? Mostpeople would agree it's Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but I wanted to go deeperinto the argument, so I broke down the position into nine categories, added onemore to factor in the best quarterback teacher and assembled a panel of fiveexperts to weigh in: former NFL coaches Brian Billick and Mike Shanahan, formerMVP quarterback Rich Gannon, longtime scout and former Browns general managerPhil Savage and NFL Network personnel maven Mike Mayock, who might watch moregame tape than even Bill Belichick. Each panelist voted for his top five ineach category, then points were assigned on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis and tallied.Where there were ties, I broke them.

One thing is clearin this survey, and in my mind too: No matter how you cut it, Brady and Manningstill reign supreme, even though Brady is 32 (and played less than one quarterof football last year) and Manning is 33. Each was among the top five in six ofthe nine player categories. Finally, there was this slap in the face to EliManning—or to the Giants' brass, who last month made him the highest-paidquarterback in football: Peyton's brother was not named on any ballot in anycategory.

Best Overall

1 Tom Brady
New England Patriots

2 PeytonManning
Indianapolis Colts

3 Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints

4 BenRoethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers

5 Philip Rivers
San Diego Chargers

KING SAYS: Thesurprise is at No. 3, where Brees edged Roethlisberger. I respect the panel'svote because the easy move would be to put last year's Super Bowl hero up withBrady and Peyton Manning. But Brees's last two seasons—averaging 4,746 yardsand 66.3% completions—were phenomenal. Big Ben had seven more regular-seasonwins in that span, but I'd like to see Brees with a Steelers-style defense onhis side.

Best Deep Arm

1 Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears

2 Carson Palmer
Cincinnati Bengals

3 JaMarcusRussell
Oakland Raiders

4 Tom Brady
New England Patriots

5 PeytonManning
Indianapolis Colts

KING SAYS: Where'sLions rookie Matthew Stafford? By midseason the voters on my panel will besaying, "Stafford's in the top three." Cutler has a chance this year tobe the quarterback who finally cuts through the winds in the Windy City andbecomes the Dan Fouts the franchise hasn't had. "His arm hasn't let anyonedown," Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo told me in training camp. "It'sspectacular."

Best GameManager

1 PeytonManning
Indianapolis Colts

2 Tom Brady
New England Patriots

3 ChadPennington
Miami Dolphins

4 Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints

5 Kurt Warner
Arizona Cardinals

KING SAYS: PeytonManning was first on all but one ballot, and you can't argue with hisencyclopedic knowledge of the game. (Pennington got the other first-placevote.) I would have ranked Warner higher, but I understand why he wasn't.Though the 12th-year veteran is capable of running the game himself, lastyear's coordinator in Arizona, Todd Haley, kept a tight hold on theplay-calling.

Toughest

1 Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints

2 Philip Rivers
San Diego Chargers

3 PeytonManning
Indianapolis Colts

4 Tom Brady
New England Patriots

5 David Garrard
Jacksonville Jaguars

KING SAYS: In thelast three years Brees has come back from career-threatening shoulder surgeryto lead the Saints to the NFC title game, overcome a dislocated elbow to throwfor 4,400 yards and this summer is dealing with the recent death of his mother."The toughest player, mentally and physically, you could ask for at themost important position in football," says his coach, Sean Payton.

Most Athletic

1 Michael Vick
Philadelphia Eagles

2 Pat White
Miami Dolphins

3 Tony Romo
Dallas Cowboys

4 DonovanMcNabb
Philadelphia Eagles

5 Vince Young
Tennessee Titans

KING SAYS: White?Ahead of Young? I didn't give the voters instructions on factoring playing timeinto this process, but they seem to be thinking: Miami's multithreat rookiewill get six or eight snaps a game, minimum; we have no idea if Young will playsix or eight snaps this year. And rating Vick No. 1 affirms the belief thatAndy Reid will use his new weapon early and often.

Best at the Lineof Scrimmage

1 PeytonManning
Indianapolis Colts

2 Tom Brady
New England Patriots

3 Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints

4 ChadPennington
Miami Dolphins

5 Carson Palmer
Cincinnati Bengals

KING SAYS: One bitof information that surprised me during the quarterback roundtable in LakeTahoe this summer was that all five participants said they called a big chunkof plays at the line or chose from among two or three alternatives.Roethlisberger said it was as many as 40% of his plays. More than I thought.Peyton Manning, well-known for his frenetic gesticulating at the line, is stillthe master.

Best UnderPressure

1 Tom Brady
New England Patriots

2 BenRoethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers

3 PeytonManning
Indianapolis Colts

4 Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints

5 Kurt Warner
Arizona Cardinals

KING SAYS: This isone of the categories in which I had to break a tie at the top, and it wasdifficult. Roethlisberger is fresh off one of the best clutch drives infootball history. From his own 12-yard line, with 2:24 left, he drove theSteelers to victory in Super Bowl XLIII on 5-of-7 passing for 84 yards and thewinning touchdown. But I had to go with the voters who favored Brady's largerbody of work.

Best Chance forBreakout Season

1 Matt Schaub
Houston Texans

2 Mark Sanchez
New York Jets

3 Trent Edwards
Buffalo Bills

4 JasonCampbell
Washington Redskins

5 Chad Henne
Miami Dolphins

KING SAYS: I likethis pick. Over the last two years Schaub has missed 10 games because ofinjuries sustained when he was hit illegally or late; in the 22 games in whichhe has played, he has averaged 7.9 yards per attempt (to Peyton Manning's 7.5over the last two seasons). Schaub might get hurt again this year, but if heplays a full slate in Gary Kubiak's offense, I see him being a 4,000-yardpasser.

Best Quarterbackin 2015

1 Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons

2 Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers

3 Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears

4 PhillipRivers
San Diego Chargers

5 Joe Falcco
Baltimore Ravens

KING SAYS: Here'sa slam dunk. Ryan was a more precocious rookie than even Peyton Manning was,and he'll be 30 at the start of the 2015 season. You might argue that Cutler(who'll be 32) will be better six years from now. But I'll take the BostonCollege kid because he has a home field dome (always a plus for a passer), anunflappable nature and the determination to improve his game.

Best QuarterbackTeacher

1 Sean Payton
New Orlenas Saints

2 Tom Moore
Indianapolis Colts

3 JoshMcDaniels
Denver Broncos

4 Mike Mularkey
Atlanta Falcons

5 Mike McCarthy
Green Bay Packers

KING SAYS: Paytongets credit for Romo's development in Dallas and Brees's ascension in NewOrleans. "If you're a quarterback, you couldn't have a guy who teaches itany better," says Brees. Moore has been good for Peyton Manning. And allMcDaniels did last year as Pats offensive coordinator was turn Matt Cassel, whohadn't started since high school, into an instant NFL sensation who won 11games.

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"The toughest player, mentally and physically, youcould ask for," says Payton.

PHOTOPhotograph by MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHYDREW BREES PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (BRADY) PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (CUTLER) PHOTOBILL FRAKES (MANNING) PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (RIVERS) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (MCNABB) PHOTOVLADIMIR CHERRY/US PRESSWIRE (PENNINGTON) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (ROETHLISBERGER) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (RYAN) PHOTOWD/ICON SMI (SCHAUB) PHOTOKIM KLEMENT/US PRESSWIRE (PAYTON)
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)