QB Index, Championship Sunday: Who needs SB LIV the most?

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  • By Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr NFL.com
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With the NFL's 100th regular season in the books, NFL.com editors Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr join forces to update the QB Index -- the hierarchy among starting quarterbacks -- heading into Championship Sunday.

How do we arrive at these rankings? Well, each of the four QB watchers submits a ballot, and through the power of mathematics, we average out the results to arrive at our list. The individual rankings of each writer are listed in every QB blurb.

As we've done throughout the playoffs, we're focusing our rankings exclusively on the surviving quarterbacks, limiting the field this week to the four quarterbacks set to start on Championship Sunday. In the penultimate iteration of the QB Index before Super Bowl LIV, we set out to answer the following question:

Which quarterback needs to win Super Bowl LIV the most?

Check out the FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

RANK

1

Aaron Rodgers

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 1 | Blair: 1 | Filice: 1 | Parr: 2

2019 stats: 16 games | 62.0 pct | 4,002 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 26 pass TD | 4 INT | 183 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles lost

Blair: I've always thought it was a bit silly to judge a quarterback by his ability to win multiple Super Bowls, because there are just so many factors beyond individual greatness that determine playoff success. How much was Steve Young's legacy really hurt by his failure to win more than one as a starter? How much was Peyton Manning's legacy really boosted by his second Super Bowl win, secured largely on the backs of the Broncos' defense while Manning was reduced to a duck-throwing shell of his former self? Rodgers should be known forever more as an all-timer at the sport's marquee position, even if he never expands his ring collection beyond one. But I still had to slot him first, because we can never totally be sure how history will remember us, and it wouldn't hurt his long-term status as a god-tier great if the QB Indexers of 2050 could look back and know Rodgers won more Super Bowls than, say, Trent Dilfer. Then there's the matter of surpassing one Brett Lorenzo Favre in the Packers' section of the ol' Super Bowl standings. Yes, national rep is one thing, but it would surely be satisfying on some level for Rodgers to grab a little ground on his immediate predecessor in Green Bay's pantheon of legendary QBs. Finally, as ludicrous as it might seem, there is the nagging sense that time is running out. Sixteen months ago, Rodgers was 34 years old and widely viewed as one of the absolute best quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, he's a 36-year-old grizzled veteran, overshadowed somewhat by buzzier, younger quarterbacks and closer to the end of the road than the beginning. The NFL only puts on one Super Bowl per year, and the list of people who want to win it isn't getting any shorter (or less talented). This isn't Rodgers' last, best chance, but it might be his third-to-last or second-to-last best chance, which helps push him to No. 1 here.

RANK

2

Ryan Tannehill

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 2 | Blair: 2 | Filice: 2 | Parr: 1

2019 stats: 12 games | 70.3 pct | 2,742 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 22 pass TD | 6 INT | 185 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost

Filice: The fact that we're prominently discussing this quarterback in this topic is one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season. If I had tried to make a case to you why Ryan Tannehill needs to win Super Bowl LIV three weeks ago -- before the Titans clinched a playoff berth with a Week 17 win at Houston, eliminated the defending champion Patriots in Foxborough and shocked the 14-2 Ravens in Baltimore -- you'd have questioned my sobriety. If I had done the same thing three months ago -- back when Tennessee sat at 2-4 and Marcus Mariota had just been benched in favor of the failed Dolphins savior -- you'd have checked me into an insane asylum. Oh, what a difference a magical stretch of play makes! And therein lies the basis for the Ryan Tannehill argument in this exercise. Which quarterback needs to win Super Bowl LIV the most? Well, let's look at the other three individuals on this list. Aaron Rodgers is already a Hall of Famer. While a second title would boost his standing on the all-time QB power rankings, his legacy will shine bright regardless. Jimmy Garoppolo would certainly benefit from reaching the mountaintop, but if he falls short, he's still sitting on a big ol' pile of cash, quarterbacking a top-notch operation as a 28-year-old cool guy. Patrick Mahomes? He's comfortably the youngest of the group -- and quite possibly the most talented. This will NOT be his last postseason rodeo. But then there's Tannehill, the 31-year-old former No. 8 overall pick who never established himself as a franchise QB in Miami ... the zero-time Pro Bowler with a perfectly mediocre career record of 49-49 ... the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. Can you imagine what a Super Bowl ring would do for this guy, not just financially but in terms of his standing among peers and job security in future years? Tannehill has SO much to gain, and thus, plenty to lose. So, his personal "need" here is great.

RANK

3

Jimmy Garoppolo

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 4 | Blair: 3 | Filice: 3 | Parr: 3

2019 stats: 16 games | 69.1 pct | 3,978 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 27 pass TD | 13 INT | 62 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles lost

Parr: We weren't unanimous on where Garoppolo fits on this list, but we all agreed he belongs in the bottom half of the foursome. He's the second-youngest QB1 playing on Championship Sunday, which probably had a lot to do with where he ended up in the rankings. At 28 years old, he most likely hasn't even entered his prime. Keep in mind, the 2019 campaign marked the first season in which he started more than five games. Plus, he's already been paid handsomely, signing a $137.5 million deal a little less than a year ago. The sense of urgency just isn't there with Jimmy G. like it is with a QB entering his late 30s, like Rodgers, or a pending free agent in his early 30s who's still looking for that long-term megadeal, like Tannehill. Garoppolo is still that new kid on the block who doesn't need to hang out with you, or the Lombardi Trophy, to preserve his aura of cool. Sure, winning a title would certainly vault Jimmy to a whole new level of fame and potentially answer the long-running question of whether he is in fact elite, but he doesn't have to get it now. He's on a team that is built to contend for years to come. He doesn't have as much talent or time left on the clock as Patrick Mahomes, but it still seems like Garoppolo's best days as an NFL QB are ahead of him.

RANK

4

Patrick Mahomes

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 3 | Blair: 4 | Filice: 4 | Parr: 4

2019 stats: 14 games | 65.9 pct | 4,031 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 26 pass TD | 5 INT | 218 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 2 fumbles lost

Bhanpuri: While Rodgers, Garoppolo and Tannehill are fighting to either secure their NFL legacies, change a fair but nagging narrative or earn a major payday, the 24-year-old Mahomes has already proven he's the current gold standard at the position -- and will almost certainly be compensated for it this offseason. So why do I have the guy who's destined for long-term greatness and financial prosperity third on my list, and not last? Because he has generations of Kansas Citians and a Hall of Fame hopeful head coach depending on him to stop multiple decades-long dry spells. With a win on Super Bowl Sunday, Mahomes could end the Chiefs' 50-year title drought AND guarantee that Andy Reid -- the winningest head coach in NFL history without a championship -- finishes his venerable career with a bronze bust in Canton. That's a lot to put on a second-year starter. Fortunately, I can't think of another quarterback I trust more to deliver on such shoulder-crushing expectations.

The Air Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL quarterback performances all season long. What's the possibility Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs to Super Bowl LIV?

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