As part of the lead-up to the opening of the 2013 NFL season, ESPN’s Ron Jaworski has been ranking the top 32 NFL quarterbacks, starting with No. 32 and counting down to the prestigious top five. For the most part, Jaworski’s rankings have been no surprise. For instance, five-year veteran and relative unknown Matt Flynn is ranked No. 32. Tony Romo, who I often refer to as Mr. Mediocrity, is right in the middle at No. 15 while Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger occupy the eighth and seventh spots respectively.
Overall, I think that Jaworski has done his homework and has made fairly accurate rankings thus far. Fairly accurate that is, except for one quarterback in particular — New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees.
Jaworski ranked Brees No. 6, just out of reach of the top five. Who was the first to make it into this year’s top five? It was none other than fellow NFC South quarterback and division rival Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.
Jaworski had nothing but positive things to say about Ryan and, to be fair, I think he’s right in that regard. Ryan has gotten better since he came into the league in 2008. Last year he threw for 4,719 yards, had 32 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and had a completion percentage of 68.6. Ryan also led the Falcons to seven game-winning drives. All in all, Ryan had a pretty good year, and at 28 years old, he should have a bright future ahead of him.
Jaworski had plenty of positive things to say about Brees as well: great vision and pre-snap reads, pocket mobility and a history of throwing touchdowns in the red zone. About the only knock on Brees that he mentioned was a dip in his completion percentage from the 2012 season — down to 63.0 from 71.2 in 2011.
The dip in Brees’ completion percentage can probably be attributed to the fallout from the bounty scandal and the Saint’s historically bad defense in 2012. It should be noted that Brees still threw for over 5,000 yards, making it the second consecutive season that he did so and the third time overall.
Despite that dip, Brees has still maintained a career completion percentage of 65.6 to Ryan’s 62.7. In 2011, he smashed the single-season passing record, previously held by Dan Marino, when he passed for 5,476 yards. Ryan has yet to surpass 4,800 passing yards in a single season.
Brees has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2004 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP, seven Pro-Bowl appearances and NFL Offensive Player of the Year — twice. He was also the fastest player to reach 40,000 passing yards. This is all very impressive for a guy who injured his throwing shoulder in 2005 and felt that his team at the time, the San Diego Chargers, had lost confidence in his ability to play.
None of this is meant to be a slight against Ryan or what he has accomplished with the Falcons to date. He has a bright football future ahead of him and probably many more playoff games to play. I do believe, however, that credit must be given where credit is due. Brees has been playing at an elite level for several years; he resurrected a football franchise and its city and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. Although he may be on the back end of his career, Brees is without a doubt a top-five quarterback. Jaworski dropped the ball on this one.