Thursday, October 23, 2008

Can It Be? Kurt Warner's the Best QB in the NFL?

Something occurred to me as I was reading about Tom Brady's infected knee. Well, two things actually. The first was that I remember thinking the exact same thing when doctors told me the bone in my left ankle had become infected, "ah, the antibiotics'll clear that right up."

It took almost three months.

I spent most of it couch-ridden because standing was insanely painful; forget about walking. The first antibiotic didn't work. Neither did the next one. Or the next one. The super-staph resisted everything until a steady IV of steroid-enhanced-super-antibiotic cocktail did the trick.

Of course, mine was an obviously exceptional case. No reason to think Brady's is similar (I haven't read anything saying it's staph). Nor was I the same physical nor financial specimen as Tom Brady.

Regardless, that thought took much longer to type than it did to pass through my head.

The second thing that occurred to me was much more interesting and stuck: Brady's down, Peyton Manning's leaking oil and stories of additional surgeries, Tony Romo's gone 'til November, and Carson Palmer is MIA.

We clearly jumped the gun anointing Eli Manning with the oil of greatness; he still needs to clear that last hurdle of consistency before joining the Big Boys.

Brett Favre could have ended this before I asked the question a couple years ago, but the OLD Gunslinger's lost his aim in 2008 (probably earlier if we're brutally honest). To make matters worse, he still makes it a habit to shoot from the hip.

So I have to ask the obvious, who is the best quarterback heading into Week Eight of the National Football League's regular season?

I'm well out of my depth when analyzing the NFL or football in general. But hey, Socrates would say I'm the perfect man for the job. He said, "I am better off than he is - for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know." With his words as my endorsement, I'll take a stab at it.

There are 32 teams so we've got 32 options.

Right off the bat, we can eliminate the guys who take the field with an unacceptable likelihood of imploding and taking the team with them (if the game plan allowed it). That would include Matt Cassell, Chad Pennington, Favre, Matt Schaub, Kerry Collins, Derek Anderson, Joe Flacco, the Guy in Cincinnati, JeMarcus Russell, the Guy in Kansas City, Brad Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, John Kitna, Gus Frerotte (what year is it?), Marc Bulger, J.T. O'Sullivan, and Matt Hasselbeck.

There goes half the League, and that's being generous.

If you look at the key statistics (QB rating, total yardage, and completion percentage), three of the best QBs are Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, and Jay Cutler. But football, more than any of our most popular sports, is about winning. And no position's individual success is more predicated on team success than quarterback.

Consequently, it's tough to give Brees, Rivers, or Cutler too much praise while their teams are severely underachieving.

Everyone expected great things from the Chargers and Saints; both under .500 seven games in. The Broncos are 4-3, but just got annihilated on national television and Cutler stunk up the joint after comparing himself to John Elway. Not a day on which to stake your claim to elite status.

We're down to 12.

Next, look at guys with a history of winning under pressure. That list includes Jake Delhomme, Peyton and Eli, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Jeff Garcia, and David Garrard. None of these guys is having a very good year, yet.

Big Ben, Eli, Delhomme, and Garcia are all piloting winning teams. However, they're in systems that don't require them to lead the charge and they aren't.

McNabb, Garrard, and Peyton are all off to slow starts. Their teams reflect it.

Only five little Indians remain.

Several young and/or inexperienced guns are putting up good numbers while leading their teams into uncharted territory - Trent Edwards, Jason Campbell, Matt Ryan, and Kyle Orton. But would it really be a surprise if one or all of these guys dropped off the face of the planet in the next couple weeks?

And that leaves Kurt Warner as the last man standing.

Warner's got a 100+ QB rating, 1700+ yards passing, 70% rate of completion, 12 touchdowns against five interceptions (his biggest vulnerability), and averages over eight yards per attempt. More importantly, he has his Arizona Cardinals perched atop the NFC West at 4-2. Finally, he can back all of it up with a regular season Most Valuable Player trophy, a Super Bowl MVP, and a Super Bowl ring.

I don't like it and I bet I'm not alone.

But credit where credit is due.

For the moment, Kurt Warner's stepped into the void and is the best QB in the NFL.

Just nobody tell his wife.

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