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Matt Ryan and 5 NFL QBs on the Verge of Being Elite

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Matt Ryan and 5 QBs On the Cusp of 'Elite'

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USA Today Sports

The word 'elite' gets thrown around with NFL QBs all the time. It's a category reserved for the best of the best. While there are many good QBs across the league, few are actually considered elite.

This topic has come up once again because of comments made by Tony Gonzalez. The recently retired greatest tight end of all time (or just GOAT) had this to say on his former QB Matt Ryan:

"Matt's an excellent quarterback. But he's not elite. He's this close."

While some will disagree with Gonzalez on this topic, I think he's right on the money. Ryan is a really good QB, but he proved over the 2013 season that he wasn't quite elite yet. An elite QB would have led the Falcons to a few more wins, even given the injury problems the team had. Ryan is great, just not 'throw a team on his back' great. Not yet anyway.

I think most of us would agree that even Joe Montana couldn't have led the Falcons to that many more wins last season. When you lose Julio Jones early in the season and Roddy White isn't himself all year, things aren't exactly going to go as planned.

But all of Atlanta's troubles aside, the elite QB debate is a good one. Who's elite and who's on the cusp? It's a great question. The term elite definitely gets overused and sometimes we rush to put a player in that category. Here are five other QBs, who like Ryan, are trying to earn the ultimate signal-caller moniker:

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Cam Newton

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

Newton is the most physically gifted QB in the NFL today. He's already elite in that sense. But until he starts winning playoff games, he won't be consider one of the best.

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Jay Cutler

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

People hate on Cutler more than any other QB in the NFL. He drives Bears fans crazy because one week he'll play like an elite QB, and the next he'll revert to 'Bad Jay'. But when he's on, there's no question he's elite. It's now just a matter of minimizing the appearances of Bad Jay.

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Matthew Stafford

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

Stafford needs some help in Detroit. Will the tutelage of Jim Caldwell and some new receivers be enough to propel him into the elite class in 2014? It's doubtful, but Stafford still has a chance to be one of the best in the game before it's all said and done.

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Joe Flacco

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

I was ready to call Flacco elite after his Super Bowl win. However, he didn't really take a step towards that level in 2013. Can he and the Ravens rebound in 2014 and get back in the playoffs? If they do, it will likely be because Flacco has elevated his game.

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Andrew Luck

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

I think most of us can agree that Andrew Luck is the next big thing at QB in the NFL. It's only a matter of time before he starts to own the AFC. He needs a few more weapons and a few more games under his belt, but he'll get there.