Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah is getting into the Olympic mindset early this summer, handing out NFL Podium Awards for the top three players at each position group. Remember, this list is based on where these players are ranked heading into the 2012 season. Today, he takes on quarterbacks.
The NFL has never been more popular, and the quality of play at the quarterback position is one of the main reasons. The three players that made it to the podium have all been Super Bowl MVPs and set NFL passing records. The list of worthy candidates that missed the cut is both deep and heavily credentialed. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have each led the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, respectively, to two Super Bowl victories. If not for a neck injury, Peyton Manning would've been right in the mix at the top of this list. Then there are young talents to consider, like the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford and the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton. All in all, this is the best crop of talent at the quarterback position that the league has ever seen.
Four years ago, Aaron Rodgers took over Green Bay's starting quarterback position from the NFL's all-time leading passer, Brett Favre. While the members of the Packers' front office clearly felt confident that Rodgers was ready to succeed as a starter, there's no way they could've anticipated just how great the signal-caller would perform. Rodgers has led the Packers to a Super Bowl title, three playoff appearances and a league-best 15-1 record in 2011. He's tossed 131 touchdowns, run for 16 more scores and only accumulated 37 interceptions since getting the job. In 2011, he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player after posting one of the best statistical seasons in league history. His line: 4,643 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and an NFL-record 122.5 passer rating. Rodgers has the perfect skill set for the position. He's incredibly accurate, makes great decisions, has a huge arm and is a fine athlete, to boot. He is the premier talent at the position heading into the 2012 season.
During his 12-year career, Brady has built quite a résumé. He's led the Patriots to five Super Bowl appearances, netting three rings and two MVP awards. At the age of 34, he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, last season was one of the finest of his career. He threw for an astounding 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns. Over his career, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is almost 3-to-1 (300 touchdowns, 115 interceptions). Much like the great point guards in basketball, the big-time quarterbacks have a way of making the players around them better. Nobody exemplifies this better than Brady. He has helped make superstars out of players with ordinary athletic tools.
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Based on statistics, it would be very easy to justify Brees as the top player on this list. He's thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the six seasons he's played since joining the Saints. In 2011, he broke the single-season passing yardage record by tossing for 5,476 yards. He also completed 71.2 percent of his passes while tossing 46 touchdown passes to only 14 interceptions. The Saints were a mess when Brees arrived in 2006. They had made one whopping appearance in the playoffs from 1993 to 2006. Brees has taken them to the postseason in four of his six seasons and also led them to a Super Bowl title. He is one of the most enjoyable players to watch in the entire league. His ability to anticipate, throw with touch and place the ball accurately is unmatched. In other words, he's worth a lot of money, and the Saints would be wise to give it to him as soon as possible.
Others considered:Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos; Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers; Eli Manning, New York Giants; Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions; Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers; Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys; Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles; Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers; Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons; Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears.