1. Drew Brees
Its hard to argue with that shiny Super Bowl ring. Its hard to argue with the current record holder for passing yards in a season. Brees has passed for over 4,000 yards every season since becoming a Saint. One could argue that part of that has to do with the talent surrounding him now, but this offense is all Drew Brees. He is the centerpiece, the Peyton Manning to your Indianapolis Colts of the past. He might even be the most valuable player at his position in all of the NFL. This offense is built around him, the Saints have all their chips in one basket here.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Saints definitely have the best quarterback situation right now. With decent protection and a semi-competent defense, Brees makes this team a solid playoff contender. The Saints' potent offense can win a shootout against anyone, and the trigger is definitely Drew Brees.
2. Matt Ryan
Since Ryan has entered the league, all he's done is win (in the regular season). This season, Ryan brought the Falcons all the way to the NFC Championship game, only to fall to the 49ers.
Ryan does have one of the best receiving corps in Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzales. People talk about his sub .500 playoff record, but its hard to argue with his overall success. The Falcons have built around Ryan's talent because the they feel that they have a franchise quarterback, if not an elite one. He is a very technically sound quarterback who has come back and won many games in the fourth quarter. And in the NFL today, wins are the most important statistic for a quarterback. Ryan's turnover to touchdown ratio compares favorably to Cam Newton, but the bottom line is Matt Ryan's teams have been much more successful throughout his career.
3. Cam Newton
Let me reiterate; if this list were based on potential and overall talent alone, Cam easily blows all of these quarterbacks out of the water. However, the list is based on success as well. Cam Newton has been quite a story since entering the league in 2011. Coming off a lockout-hampered offseason, Cam set the record (at that time) for most passing yards in a season for a rookie quarterback. Cam also set the all-time mark for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Cam is the current leader in passing yards by a quarterback in their first two seasons, and looks to continue his pace toward making more history.
Cam's struggle to develop as a complete quarterback has adversely affected the team, because it's clear that as Cam goes, the Carolina Panthers go. Unfortunately, Cam had to play almost perfectly in order to win, where other quarterbacks in our division have been able to win with the presence of unfortunate mistakes (a la Matt Ryan vs Arizona, where he threw five picks but still won).
Currently, Cam is in a great position. He has a young team that is developing and rallying around him. But at the same time, his performance has been and probably will continue to be the determining factor in whether or not the team gets a W on Sundays. Cam has a few deficiencies in his game, such as occasional footwork issues, spotty accuracy, and he tends to try and force the big play which has resulted in costly turnovers. All of these deficiencies can be attributed to one thing: Cam has simply tried to do too much...
He knows that the team is on his shoulders, and this is a good thing. However, he must stick to his fundamentals to avoid costly mistakes. Cam will grow into this, and if he can soon, this list will look very different next year.
4. Josh Freeman
Freeman's career has been very streaky. Freeman's rookie year looked just like most rookie years prior to the Cam Newton era (and the explosion of successful rookies after that), which consisted of some decent plays but lots of room for improvement. Freeman followed it up with a great year in 2010, throwing 25 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. Freeman's 2011 was absolutely abysmal (as was the entire team), but in 2012 the team appeared poised to be a serious contender, before jumping on the 7-9 bandwagon like the rest of the NFC South.
Freeman is ranked last on this list because his performance with the team around him last year is very disappointing. Freeman has a receiving group that's up there with the best in the league in Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Dallas Clark. His rookie running back Doug Martin absolutely tore it up thanks to a very underrated offensive line group.
One could argue that the issue was defense (mainly due to the secondary), but the Bucs were a much improved team compared to 2011. Cam Newton's never played with that kind of offense in the NFL, yet has out produced Freeman. Freeman is definitely on the hot seat this year with rookie Mike Glennon on his heels. I for one think Freeman has the potential to be a very good quarterback, but the Buccaneers are in a win now mode in a very competitive division.
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