|David Butler II / US Presswire|
|Tom Brady is cool under pressure, but has proven time and time again how fierce a competitor he is.|
Players voted Aaron Rodgers 11th on "Top 100 Players of 2011" list, putting him behind Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Of the four quarterbacks, if you had to pick one of them to win one game, who would you want?
No better big-game performer than BradyI can't argue with Tom Brady. There is no better big-game performer. Heck, there is no better small-game performer. The stage doesn't matter. He dominates the regular season. He has the rings -- three to be precise -- or as many as this other trio combined.
Brady plays as if he has weaponsTough call between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but I'm rolling with Brady here. His ability to rally the Patriots late in games is well documented, and in a one-game situation, that's huge. I think he'd be able to step in with just about any team and get that team to the playoffs. Unlike Manning, Brady hasn't had a consistent No. 1 receiver (okay, Wes Welker, but he's different than Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne) for long stretches of time, yet Brady continues to carve up defenses as if he did. Brady showed last season, when he threw 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions, how precise he can be, even when his offense was more predictable because of a so-so running game and a lack of a deep receiving threat. All of the quarterbacks are unquestioned leaders, but Brady has the leadership, poise, productivity -- and championship rings -- that give him the edge.
If it's postseason, Brady barelyAaron Rodgers exploded onto the NFL scene last year and won a Super Bowl, and he might be the next great QB in the NFL. But if I had to pick a QB to win one game, there are other choices to consider. Let's say the one game is in the postseason, and there's a real good chance your team will be losing at some point. That's the kind of pressure point that proves the worth of a quarterback.
Of the top four quarterbacks on the "Top 100" list, Peyton Manning has the most experience in that situation, completing 182 of 321 passes for 2,232 yards but at a completion rate of 57 percent and just nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions, so I will move on. Drew Brees has been outstanding when losing in postseason games, completing 117 of 172 passes at a 68 percent completion rate with nine touchdowns and just 1 interception, which puts him ahead of Rodgers, who simply doesn't have enough experience, although his numbers are fantastic. Rodgers has completed 75 percent of his passes (39 for 52) when losing in postseason games with five touchdowns to zero interceptions, and a year from now he might be the obvious choice.
For 2011, though, I will go with Tom Brady with his three Super Bowl wins. Brady is 14-5 in the postseason and has only thrown 241 passes when losing, hitting on 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Rodgers is closing in and Brees is close, but one more time for Brady.
Even with recent postseason slide, still BradyFive years ago, this would be Tom Brady in a walk. In the time since, he's lost a Super Bowl and has dropped three straight playoff games after winning his first 10 career postseason contests and 14 of his first 16. And part of that is that now it's more on him to win games, with the team built around him, like it has been for Peyton Manning for a long, long time.
But I'm still taking Brady, over Manning, and over Brees and Rodgers, if all things are equal. Fact is, in the Patriots' three most recent playoff losses (Giants, Ravens and Jets), a defense that was built to play with big leads scuffled in the clutch of close games. Those defeats had more to do with New England losing games at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball, than anything else -- something that seldom happened in the championship years. And aside from the sound beatings at the hands of the Jets and Ravens, Brady actually did lead a go-ahead fourth quarter drive in Super Bowl XLII.
Conversely, Manning's postseason record is spotty, and while Brees and Rodgers have been good, neither has nearly the volume of experience on the big stages that Brady does.
Brady too special to pass upIf I had to take one quarterback to win a game tomorrow, I'm going with Tom Brady.
It's more a vote toward his teammates and Brady's ability to lead them. He's proven to be that rare superstar who motivates greatness in his teammates as well as himself. Putting aside his unbelievable MVP performance last season -- when he tossed 36 touchdown passes and you could count his interceptions on one hand -- he's the only guy this side of Troy Aikman who's won three Super Bowls in four seasons.
That's a perfect marriage of leadership and productivity. For one game, that's what I want: productivity and leadership.
Give me the 'hot ticket'Obviously, this question is one that has no definitive answer, as all four QBs have now won big games, playoff games and at least one Super Bowl. But I'm going with the most recent champion, the hot ticket, but one that I believe has staying power, Aaron Rodgers. From calling many of his games in college, I knew he had the confidence (borderline cockiness, just what you want in your QB), the arm, the accuracy, the mind, and the competitiveness.
His legs have been a revelation, and his mental toughness -- honed by the draft-day slide of 2005, the waiting for Brett Favre to move on, and then the inevitable comparisons to Favre -- is second to none. One game for it all? I'll take A-Rodg and sleep well the night before the game.
If we're talking meaningless regular season, Manning's your guyWhat kind of game are we talking about? Are we talking about a somewhat meaningless mid-October regular-season game against one of the worst defenses in the NFL? If that's the case, nobody rises to the occasion in those games like Peyton Manning -- who is like the guy who can crush the computer on rookie level in "Madden" but folds under pressure.
But if you want to win the Super Bowl -- like Super Bowl XLV -- the only answer is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback has become the best at his position, dating back to the second half of the 2009 NFC Wild Card Game against the Cardinals.
Rodgers can do it with his arm or his feet, and he can do it with a depleted supporting cast. Rodgers lost his top tight end early in 2010, his top receiver didn't even crack the Top 50 in our countdown, and the team was using a running back that spent more than a year on injured reserved. Even then, Rodgers passed the ball on nearly every down. Rodgers meant everything to the Packers, and he was the reason that Green Bay won the Super Bowl. There is no question Rodgers is the guy you would want to win a big game for you. He proved that this past season.
Rodgers is the right choiceIs this hypothetical game being played in October? Tom Brady's the choice. November? Gimme Peyton Manning. December? Phil Rivers is almost guaranteed to get it done. January or February? I'll take Aaron Rodgers now and for the next half-dozen years.
Sorry, Bucky Brooks, but you're just plain wrong for suggesting Rodgers is overrated. He's better than Manning (9-10 in the playoffs), Brees (6-6) and Brady, who hasn't won a title in seven years. Rivers hasn't even been to a Super Bowl, so he can't possibly be considered as a reasonable answer to this question.
Rodgers' only competition is Ben Roethlisberger, who in seven seasons has played in four AFC title games, three Super Bowls, and won two of them. In other words, he wins lots of big games. Had he led a touchdown drive in the final two minutes against Green Bay down in Cowboys Stadium last February, he'd be the clear-cut number one. You might even call him the best clutch QB ever. But he didn't.
As it is, Rodgers is the right choice. Unless you like being wrong.