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QB rankings: Readers debate merits of Tom Brady, Alex Smith

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After unveiling their personal rankings of the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2015 season, Elliot Harrison, Dave Dameshek and Bucky Brooks all heard back from the masses. Predictably, feathers were ruffled and sanity was questioned. Well, we don't turn a deaf ear to your gripes here at NFL.com. Below, our writers respond to reader beef delivered via Twitter and the comment section. NOTE: Click on tabs below to see each analyst's list.

ELLIOT HARRISON

I received so many tweets regarding my choice of Alex Smith at No. 10. I can't speak for @Dameshek or @BuckyBrooks, but I built my list operating on the "heading into 2015" premise, NOT on career résumés. If I were thinking more in terms of the latter, yes, I'd have taken Eli Manning, Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan. I like Smith's situation entering this fall more than at any other time in his career. Jeremy Maclin is the best wideout he's EVER had. Smith has gone 38-16-1 as a starter over the last four years -- and he's one of the best running QBs in football (the most underrated aspect of his game).

The Chiefs didn't just add Maclin -- they also acquired Ben Grubbs and rookie Mitch Morse for the offensive line. The team might be built to run the football, but that doesn't mean Smith won't have a great year. It just means he won't throw for 4,000 yards. Who cares? Neither will Russell Wilson.

See your point on this. I think we all wonder about the degree of rule-breaking, but I for one don't think this will tarnish his legacy. Every quarterback likes his football a certain way, and this isn't the first time a team has gotten in trouble for doctoring footballs. Still, there was enough with Deflategate and Brady's low yards-per-attempt figure (7.06) for me to finally move Aaron Rodgers above him.

Thanks for the tweet, Hamadou. Interesting that you bring up "team," because when it comes to Flacco, the man has certainly benefitted from organizational support? Received a ton of responses after shooting the top 10 quarterbacks video, with a huge number pertaining to the absence of Flacco. People reference his playoff success -- of which he has plenty -- but fail to mention that in his first few years in the league, the Ravens boasted a damn-good defensive outfit. No doubt, Flacco was amazing during the 2012 playoff run. While the postseason is extremely important, so is the regular season. Flacco hasn't been consistent, and in some cases, the defense had to carry the team. So let's go recent, as every quarterback being evaluated now should not have 2008 included. Makes no sense. Let's look at it like politics: a four-year term. Smith vs. Flacco ...

Winning percentage: Flacco .625, Smith .691
Completion percentage: Flacco 59.6, Smith 63.4
Yards per attempt: Flacco 6.84, Smith 7.01
TD-to-INT ratio: Flacco 88:56, Smith 71:23 (this is a massive difference)
Passer rating: Flacco 82.9, Smith 92.8

We didn't include rushing stats, because it doesn't matter that much (at least compared to passing yards), and it would be so one-sided, why bother? Postseason success is legitimately the only thing Flacco has on Smith, and that's pretty team- and coaching-centric. Just ask Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Dan Marino. For the record, I don't think Smith is necessarily better than Flacco. However, I believe Smith is trending upward and has Maclin, Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles to lean on. Meanwhile, Flacco will be trying to integrate rookies at wideout (Breshad Perriman) and tight end (Maxx Williams) -- and we'll have to find out if Justin Forsett can do it again.

Eli Manning is the wild card in these rankings. He put together a nice season in 2014, even after losing Victor Cruz. Yet, it is hard to get past him leading the league in interceptions three separate times in his career. He's won two Super Bowls, but it's not like he did that by himself. He deserves great acclaim for his clutch performance during Super Bowl XLVI. Yet, his team hasn't made the playoffs since. So if you provide props for a team award (like a Lombardi Trophy), shouldn't you downgrade for a team failure (like repeatedly missing the playoffs altogether)? Personally, I think QBs get too much credit for wins and too much grief for losses. With Cruz healthy, he could outplay Smith and/or Matt Ryan -- the toughest omission on the list, at least in my view.

 

DAVE DAMESHEK

ZERO percent? Dang. That's 27 percentage points more humiliating than him starting in only three of the Super Bowls played during his 11 seasons.

Mostly USFL. I've got a big collection of VHS tapes. (Go Pittsburgh Maulers!)

It's subjective, I guess, but I'll take the trio of Cam, Luck & NEWTON any day.

See, that's the kind of mean-spiritedness that got you uninvited to watch the title game at my place. But by all means, please send Kleenex -- if Lance Arscott has his way, I'm about to be out of a job. :(

It's "you're".

 

BUCKY BROOKS

I've received a lot of reaction about my decision to place an asterisk by Tom Brady's name on the list. The reigning Super Bowl MVP is currently appealing his suspension for his involvement in Deflategate, but there is no disputing the fact that the Patriots' titles have been tainted by the multiple scandals surrounding the franchise during his tenure as the starting quarterback. Although he wasn't directly involved or implicated in Spygate, Brady certainly is a central figure in this latest misdeed, and the potential tampering with game equipment might've impacted his performance on the field. Granted, players are always searching for a "competitive advantage," but the notion of Brady tinkering with footballs to enhance his performance changes the narrative regarding his greatness -- in my book, at least.

While it is easy to view the AFC Championship Game mischief as an isolated incident, the fact that the Colts were aware of deflated balls coming into the game suggests that Brady routinely played with illegal footballs. This leads to questions about his willingness to cross the line when it comes to gamesmanship.

I know some will argue that other quarterbacks take similar liberties with the football, but the fact that Brady has been the only one singled out by the NFL makes him worthy of receiving an asterisk until the issue is completely settled. Otherwise, he would rank as the third quarterback on my list -- ahead of Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson -- based solely on the strength of his on-field performance.

Ben Roethlisberger has played exceptionally well over the past two seasons under the tutelage of Todd Haley. He is a more efficient passer from the pocket and shows better judgment distributing the ball on the perimeter. Last year, Big Ben ranked third in the NFL in passer rating (103.3) and completed over 67 percent of his passes with a 32:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With those numbers coming on the heels of a solid 2013 campaign (4,261 pass yards, 64.2 completion percentage and a 28:14 TD-to-INT ratio), it is easy to rate Roethlisberger as an ascending player at the position. Considering the explosive potential of a young, dynamic receiving corps, Big Ben could direct the NFL's most electric passing game in 2015, which would make him a viable candidate as the top selection.

I was really surprised at the uproar over Eli Manning's placement over his big brother, but I've come to realize that some view this list as a career achievement award. While Peyton has continued to put up big numbers in a Broncos offense that is specifically tailored to his talents, he is no longer the premier player at the position. He lacks the arm strength to fully utilize the field; his limitations force Denver to rely on "dink and dunk" tactics (WR screens and short crossers) despite having a stable of thoroughbreds on the perimeter. With his physical tools deteriorating in front of our eyes, it is hard to justify his standing as one of the elite players at the position, regardless of the numbers.

In Eli's case, he is worthy of being in the discussion based on his solid play under a new offensive coordinator (Ben McAdoo). He connected on over 63 percent of his passes (a career high) and compiled a 30:14 touchdown-to-interception ratio despite losing his WR1 (Victor Cruz) early in the season. While Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle held down the fort in Cruz's absence, the fact that the veteran quarterback was able to get exceptional production from a young WR crew is a testament to his leadership skills and performance. With Cruz rejoining Beckham and Randle this fall, the football world will gain a better appreciation of Manning's game as he racks up big numbers as the Giants' triggerman.

Tony Romo probably is underrated on this list, considering his production in 2014. He posted NFL bests in passer rating (113.2) and completion percentage (69.9) while also recording a 34:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Those numbers are clearly fantastic, but I had to ding Romo a bit because the Cowboys' offense truly ran through DeMarco Murray last season. The NFL's leading rusher was the driving force of Dallas' run-first attack, allowing Romo to thrive as a selective playmaker. While championship teams certainly are balanced and diverse, it is hard to give Romo extra credit for the Cowboys' success when Murray was the primary offensive weapon.

I'm shocked that Rivers' placement on my list garnered such a negative response. He has bounced back well from back-to-back clunker seasons in 2011 and '12; his play in the pocket over the last two years has helped the Chargers compete in the AFC West despite a few glaring holes in the lineup. Rivers has not only been a more efficient player under Mike McCoy, but he has shown the ability to tweak his game to fit the ball-control passing attack implemented by the Chargers' third-year head coach. Given the importance of adaptability, I believe Rivers' rock-solid play over the past couple campaigns warrants his inclusion on the list.

Granted, Rivers' turnovers are an issue. But the fact that he has posted strong passer ratings in each of the past two seasons (105.5 in 2013, 93.8 in '14) and tallied 63 touchdown passes over that span suggests his game is still top-tier entering Year 12. Thus, he deserves to rank as a top-10 quarterback, ahead of the likes of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton and Ryan Tannehill.

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