We have reached the halfway point in the 2014 NFL season, and what better time to recap the best field generals so far than this time? To be clear, this is NOT my final say in who the best will be at the end of the season. This is just me giving my researched opinions on who I think the best QBs are at the halfway point. So don’t complain to me if your favorite QB isn’t on the list. There’s still time for your favorite QB to overtake another one and make the cut at the end of the year. With that being said, I present the top ten quarterbacks from the first half of the 2014 season. 10. Ryan Tannehill First Half Stats: 178/281 (63.3 CMP%), 1,907 yards, 14 TD TD, 6 INT, 90.9 Rate, 60.47 QBR Deciding on the 10th spot on my list was not an easy choice. Ultimately, it came down to Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Carson Palmer. All 5 are having good seasons. But Wilson doesn’t make the list because he’s pulled together a string of bad/mediocre games in between some great ones (with a few dropped passes to boot). He’s always had a poor OL, but in addition to that, he’s occasionally underthrowing/overthrowing his receivers more than he needs to, and has had a few game manager performances. Joe Flacco has looked really good in some of his best games, but is still inefficient on the deep ball, and has made plenty of head scratching decisions. Jay Cutler is doing fine, but has made as many equally bone headed moves as Wilson and Flacco. Palmer has played consistently above average, but only has 5 starts due to injury. Which brings us to Ryan Tannehill. He’s on here because he has a better hot streak than Flacco, Wilson, and Cutler in recent games. After a horrible start to the season (which included dropped passes everywhere), Tannehill and the offense finally clicked against the Raiders. In his last 5 games, Tannehill has completed 68.8% of his passes for 1,283 yards, 10 TD, 4 INT, and a 104.1 Rate. This comes despite an awful offseason locker room, a bad OL (which has improved in the past few weeks), an injured running game (Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller both experienced injuries this season), and a poor receiving core (Tannehill has witnessed his receivers drop 18 of his passes this season). Combine this with his underrated mobility in the pocket, and Tannehill’s consistent improvement suggest he’s on some kind of roll for the 2014 season, maybe not one with an MVP written all over it, but definitely an above average one, and one to remember. We’ll see if this holds up.
- Drew Brees
First Half Stats: 229/329 (69.6 CMP%, leads the NFL), 2,524 yards, 15 TD, 8 INT, 97.1 Rate, 74.44 QBR It’s been a rough year for Drew Brees and the Saints, but Brees has proven he’s still at the top of his game. The main problem for Brees isn’t his accuracy (leads the NFL in completion percentage) or advancing the ball (continues to do it as well as the greats). The main problem is the red zone connections. Brees is under pressure more than ever, and with Jimmy Graham not dominating as much as he has in the past and a declining Marques Colston, it’s easy to see why Brees isn’t putting up the gaudy touchdown numbers we’re used to seeing from him. What he is putting up is on par to previous seasons from the future Hall of Famer. Sure, he’s sucked against teams like the Browns and the Bucs, but he’s made it a commitment to bounce back from mistakes he’s made (the Thursday Night Game, in which he fumbled twice and threw 1 pick yet still managed an 88.4 QBR, is an example) and has avoided the awful start from the 2012 season, managing a 4-4 record in an awful NFC South division. The team around Brees is declining, but make no mistake, I see none of that from Drew himself. While the improved Mark Ingram in the backfield helps, Brees is still putting up consistency and high volume efficiency few quarterbacks can only dream of having.
- Tony Romo
First Half Stats: 165/242 (68.2 CMP%), 1,998 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT, 103.6 Rate, 77.78 QBR After a rough start to the season against the 49ers, in which he threw 3 INT to 1 TD, Tony Romo bounced back and surprised everyone by leading the Cowboys to a NFC East front running campaign (excluding the last 2 games). Romo has fired high velocity bullets while staying ever so mobile in the pocket, leading his team against all odds. And at long last, Romo has a premiere running game threat in DeMarco Murray, to ease things a little bit. But that doesn’t make him any less dependable, as he’s led 3 game winning drives this season (currently the most in 2014). He’s made several memorable plays along the way, including a spin juke of JJ Watt and getting away from a sack to throw a critical first down pass at Seattle. Romo’s always been underrated, but it would seem as if he’s finally getting the respect he deserves. His injuries put him down on this list compared to others, but if Brandon Weeden is an indication, it doesn’t matter if you have the best runningback of 2014. You need an accurate passer to help win games.
- Eli Manning
First Half Stats: 173/277 (62.5 CMP%), 1,932 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT, 94.9 Rate, 72.84 QBR In 2013, Eli Manning had his worst season, throwing 27 interceptions to 18 touchdowns, as the team and coaching around him completely collapsed despite a respectable 7-9 record (with an 0-6 start). Numerous questions came as to if Eli was still good enough to be a starting quarterback, and the Giants hired a new offensive coordinator (Ben McAdoo) to create a new West Coast Offense system for Eli to play in. And for the most part, it’s worked. Eli’s not making the longest throws or the razzle dazzle plays, but what he is making is right on the money. Since the loss against the Lions, Manning has played very well (mostly), with better decision-making and quicker throws than ever before. While his completion percentage (62.5%) suggests he’s inaccurate this season, much of the incompletions are on dropped passes from his receivers, most of which are on the money. In the Monday Night football game alone, I counted 5 dropped passes in the first quarter. Don’t believe the raw stats, Eli’s making perfect throws everywhere (including a first down conversion against the Redskins on Thursday night, good enough to get a field goal kick off before the half). Combine the poor receiving hands with a soft offensive line, and a 3-5 record, and Eli’s having a great season on a terrible team.
- Ben Roethlisberger
First Half Stats: 231/338 (68.3 CMP%), 2,720 yards, 22 TD, 3 INT, 110.6 Rate, 74.31 QBR Remember when the rumors about cutting Big Ben from the Steelers came about? I certainly don’t. Big Ben’s riding his best statistical start to a season yet, and it’s easy to say he’s had a MUCH better start than that disaster of a start in 2013. Big Ben’s still the scrambler in the pocket and can continue to extend plays, but it’s debatable if he’s played this well ever. After getting destroyed on the road by the rival Browns, Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers to a 3 game winning streak, completing 74.0% of his passes for 1,127 yards, 14 TD, 0 INT, and a 142.4 Rate. Along the way he’s become the first quarterback EVER with multiple 500-yard games and back-to-back games of 6 touchdowns passing. With a talented core in Antonio Brown, Le’veon Bell, and rookie Martavis Bryant, Big Ben is getting things done on all cylinders, and his ability to extend plays looks bigger and better than ever. And I’ll be damned if he isn’t the toughest son of a bitch when he gets hit hard.
- Tom Brady
First Half Stats: 214/334 (64.1 CMP%), 2,392 yards, 22 TD, 3 INT, 103.5 Rate, 75.76 QBR There’s a reason Tom Brady isn’t any higher than 5th on this list, and it starts in September. In his first 4 games, Brady only threw 4 touchdowns (1 in every game). He was terrible in terms of accuracy, many of his throws were way off, and it seemed as if he didn’t have trust in his offensive line. This led to many writers (including myself) questioning if Tom Brady had finally declined. Well I’m glad I looked like a jackass and was proven wrong, because Brady rose to the challenge and returned to his elite form quickly. In his last 5 games, Brady has completed 67.4% of his passes for 1,601 yards, 18 TD, 1 INT (tipped pass from a receiver), and a 120.5 Rate. His throws are on target and he’s finally connecting with his receivers once again (the biggest being Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman). With the chemistry between Brady and his offensive line restored, it’s easy to see why he’s making big plays in his last 5 games. And while Brady has never been known to scramble, he’s playing better under pressure (see the game against the Broncos), and has reemerged as a serious MVP candidate. Brady famously said he’d retire when he sucks. If his last 5 games are of any indication, that thought will have to wait.
- Andrew Luck
First Half Stats: 250/393 (leads NFL in attempts and completions) (63.6 CMP%), 3,085 yards (leads NFL), 26 TD (leads NFL), 9 INT, 100.3 Rate, 72.89 QBR I’ll speak for many when I say Andrew Luck has been on fire in 2014 (it helps to have TY Hilton too). When Luck is off, he’s off, and he’s shown that many times this season. But when he’s on, he’s perhaps the best QB in the NFL. Luck’s ability to generate big time throws and plays under pressure is amazing for a 3rd year quarterback. Luck’s legs represent the new school style of quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton, while his arm strength closely parallels quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. Several tipped interceptions aside and being the most hit quarterback of the year (hit 97 times before the Monday Night game), what impresses me most about Luck is his leadership. When he makes a mistake, he seems to own up to it and come with a play that makes everyone forget about it completely. His decision making, statistics, mobility, and arm strength look improved this season, and while he’s not exactly a top 5 quarterback overall, his incredible 2014 season (4th quarterback to throw 3,000 yards in his first 9 games, currently riding 7 consecutive 300+ passing games) suggests that he will be soon enough.
- Philip Rivers
First Half Stats: 197/294 (67.0 CMP%), 2,351 yards, 20 TD, 8 INT, 102.6 Rate, 83.06 QBR A loser of 3 straight he might be, but Philip Rivers is still playing in his prime. One could argue he’s been the 2nd best quarterback since 2013. Rivers’ style of play is different from his peers because of how quickly he gets rid of the ball. It’s the quickest release I’ve seen in today’s game, and while the mechanics don’t look pretty (did he just FLICK it????), the accuracy cannot be denied. Is it any wonder he’s been featured on Dilfer’s Dimes as a regular? With the help of head coach Mike McCoy, Rivers has thrown quick and deadly accurate passes that involve trusting his receivers to make the big plays, which, for the most part, has worked. Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal, and Keenan Allen have hauled in his playmaking passes, and many of those throws from Rivers have been “BEST THROW OF THE SEASON” worthy. Rivers is also the only quarterback to post 4 consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 120.0, and he’s doing it with a terrible offensive line and (for the most part) a lack of an efficient running game. Hopefully San Diego can get back on the winning path after the bye week and get Rivers the respect he deserves.
- Aaron Rodgers
First Half Stats: 169/250 (67.6 CMP%), 2,092 yards, 19 TD, 3 INT, 113.6 Rate (leads NFL), 81.59 QBR After an underwhelming (but still impressive) 2013 season somewhat cut short due to a broken collarbone injury, Rodgers has return to his dominant form, orchestrating the strings of the Packers offense with relative ease. His two stinkers against the Seahawks and Lions prevent him from taking the #1 spot, but make no mistake; Rodgers can relax the crowd and stun them at the same time. His deep ball is the best I’ve seen in the NFL, and it continues to impress and hold up. All 3 of his interceptions were tipped passes by his receivers, so you can make the argument that he should have 0 of them. Rodgers’ ability to read defenses while moving outside the pocket is unparalled, and he’s one of the smartest passers in NFL history (no joke), able to move his feet and still deliver the deep ball goodies, barely having to do anything against the Vikings because of his efficiency on passes. Put him in the Hall of Fame right now.
- Peyton Manning
First Half Stats: 208/309 (67.3 CMP%), 2,572 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT, 112.0 Rate, 86.93 QBR (Leads NFL) It may be boring to some to say Peyton Manning is still the #1 quarterback in the NFL, but personally, I never get tired of it. This guy is the undisputed greatest field general to ever play the game in my mind, and has continued to age like wine. While Peyton’s receivers have gotten better, hardcore NFL fans know that it’s the accuracy that matters, and Peyton has delivered on the big-time throws, transforming his receivers into superstars. Peyton has also had more quality games this season than any other quarterback. Even in his loss to the Seahawks, Manning still led an impressive 4th quarter comeback inside the 2 minute drill, completing a 2 point conversion in a way only he could. Who could forget his 4 TD performance against the 49ers that featured him breaking Brett Favre’s touchdown record? Consider Peyton’s faced superb teams such as the Cardinals, Chargers, Patriots, and Seahawks while firing these passes. Chalk up the few mistakes he’s made to tipped passes or superb design by the defenses. Peyton’s been doing this while under heavy pressure as well. At age 38, we’re continuing to witness the greatest quarterback in the league, and we might as well appreciate him while he’s still here.