The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… I Want to Live in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, or Mark Sanchez?

In the TV hit game show Million Dollar Money Drop, if those are my four options, I’m putting the whole $1M on Aaron Rodgers.

It’s that simple. If I am running a professional football team with just one game left to win, and those are my four options, Aaron Rodgers is the guy I want under center, and for good reason. In the three seasons since taking over Green Bay’s drivers’ seat after what’s-his-name left, Rodgers has become one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.

In just a quick comparison between Rodgers and the guy he took over for (I think his name was Brett something… Favre, that’s it!) through their first three seasons as starters for the Packers:

  • Rodgers started 47 games, Favre started 47 games
  • Rodgers passed for 12,394 yards, Favre passed for 10,412 yards
  • Rodgers passed for 86 TDs, Favre passed for 70 TDs
  • Rodgers passed for 31 interceptions, Favre passed for 51 interceptions
  • Rodgers led the Pack to a combined record of 27-20, Favre’s record was 26-19

That’s right. Rodgers has already started off his career better than the greatest quarterback statistically to ever play the game. But the fact that he is already off to a better career than Favre at this point is only part of the reason why I would choose Rodgers as the field general leading my team into battle.

The REAL reason why Rodgers is the ONLY man I would want taking snaps for my team is not how he performs in the regular season, but how he performs in the post-season.

In three playoff appearances so far Rodgers has passed for 969 yards (323 yards per game average) with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Oh yeah, he also has two rushing scores to add to that total.

It doesn’t matter who is on the field with him, Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball into the end zone.

This season Rodgers has had to find ways to win without his Pro Bowl running back, Ryan Grant, and his favorite target, Tight End Jermichael Finley. Still, he managed to win games. Now he is leading the Packers into the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback still playing.

Aaron Rodgers has already outgunned Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, two of the so-called top quarterbacks in the NFC. With those two out of the picture, and Tom Brady having fallen to the New York Jets, there is no quarterback left standing that can match Rodgers’ performance on the field.

Rodgers may not have the resume of Ben Roethlisberger, or the supporting cast of superstars like Mark Sanchez has in LaDanian Tomlinson and S’Antonio Holmes, but if I need one guy to win one game for me, Aaron Rodgers is that guy!

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… Ben Plays Big When It Counts

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

I was all set to write a post about how I would pick Tom Brady to lead my team into a conference championship game and beyond – to build a franchise around. However, most inconveniently, the New England Patriots managed to lose to the New York Jets, thereby ruining my article thesis. I’m sure that Tom Brady is heartbroken to have ruined my article, and I have no doubt that I will receive an apology letter from him as soon as he’s done crying on the shoulder of his supermodel wife.

So, after the Patriots game I still had to figure out which one of the four remaining starting quarterbacks I would want leading my team. Which quarterback did I settle on? None other than Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Some people may read this and wonder how I can write in support of Roethlisberger, but it’s important to note that this topic has nothing to do with off-field behavior at all. It is all about who I think will produce when championship moments are at hand, and I believe Roethlisberger will.

Honestly, I believe the most compelling argument I have in Big Ben’s favor is the fact that he has already produced in big postseason moments – he has two Super Bowl rings to prove that. The three other quarterbacks remaining in the playoffs (Mark Sanchez, Aaron Rodgers, and Jay Cutler) do not have the level of playoff seasoning that Roethlisberger does.

The stats speak for themselves. He was the first quarterback in league history to start two conference championship games in his first two seasons in the league. He has 19 fourth-quarter comeback victories. This will be his fourth conference championship game. The most important statistic here, though, is the one that I’ve already mentioned – two Super Bowl rings.

Beyond the statistics, I think Roethlisberger’s style on the field fits post-season football very well. He is a master at keeping the play alive and a master at improvisation in the pocket as well. Have you ever noticed what happens when teams blitz Roethlisberger? If it’s a defensive back who gets to him first the ensuing sack attempt often looks like a little kid trying to tackle their dad in backyard football. Big Ben certainly earned the first part of his nickname, but he isn’t just big – he uses that size to his advantage.

Circling back to the statistics that bear out his “cornerstone QB” credentials, I have already pointed out that he has two rings. However, look back at the way he won his second Super Bowl ring. He led a clutch, late-game drive to win the Super Bowl. The list of quarterbacks who have led late drives to win the Super Bowl is a short list, and the fact that Roethlisberger’s name appears on that list seems to qualify him for cornerstone quarterback status.

View Roethlisberger’s resume alongside the resumes of the other three remaining quarterbacks, Big Ben’s is much stronger than theirs for this type of debate. He may not have the gaudiest statistics or the most highlight reel plays, but he’ll make the play when it counts – and that’s what you want out of a quarterback.

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… Sanchez Makes NFL Mark

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Bleacher Fan.

When considering a quarterback to build an NFL franchise around a lot of names come to mind. Names like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, for example. But today I propose a more subtle and often underrated candidate – Mark Sanchez.

While Sanchez may not seem like the obvious choice, he is no doubt one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He has quietly turned around a less than stellar New York Jets franchise and has shown flashes of brilliance along the way. He has handled the pressures of playing in the New York market under constant media scrutiny with relative ease. Sanchez rises to the occasion in big game situations, and in all likelihood still hasn’t peaked in terms of his maximum ability. What more could a franchise ask for?

People often forget that Mark Sanchez is young. He is currently wrapping up his sophomore season as a professional but has already accomplished some incredible things. In 2007 – two years before Sanchez’s arrival – the Jets were a 4-12 team. They had virtually nowhere to go but up. The next season the team thought it had lucked into an answer for its quarterback issues in landing Brett Favre, but Favre’s brief tenure in the Big Apple was a band-aid for the Jets problems at best. Under Favre the Jets improved to a 9-7 record, but any progress the team experienced was offset by the transition to a new head coach, and then rookie quarterback in Sanchez in 2009.

Sanchez certainly had big shoes to fill in coming in after #4, but he did so in incredible fashion. In his first year as a pro Mark Sanchez led the Jets to another regular season 9-7 record, and then a deep playoff run that took them within one game of the Super Bowl – and that was as a rookie.

This season Sanchez is right back at it again, and he has dispatched both the Colts and the Patriots in the process. It speaks volumes of his composure and talent that Sanchez can not only hang with, but beat the biggest names in the NFL today – a feat he is not supposed to be able to pull off. He has again taken the Jets to within one win of the Super Bowl, and all that stands in his way is the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has only thrown one interception in the playoffs this season and is getting hot at the right time, as evidenced by his three touchdown performance against the Patriots. That is quite an impressive season for a second year guy, especially considering most players struggle in the midst of the dreaded “sophomore slump.”

Sanchez is still making huge stride, too. He was perfect through the first five games of this season throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. While he began to struggle with turnovers during the second half of the season, critics ignored the fact that he continued to win games. From his rookie to his second season he created statistical gains across the board. During the regular season this year Sanchez passed for his first 3,000 yard season and saw his total passing touchdowns outnumber his interceptions. Those are all the hallmarks of progress, and that is something you want to see in a franchise quarterback.

Another great thing about Sanchez is that he is eager to be molded into a better player. Last season when he was criticized for a reckless and awkward sliding ability that was bound to get him hurt, he responded immediately. Instead of getting defensive and making excuses he addressed the issue head on… or rather feet first, the next time. Sanchez worked with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to learn how to slide in a safer, more effective manner. You don’t see that type of humbleness and eagerness in many franchise quarterbacks.

The guy is a great quarterback, and as long as he continues to improve he should see a ring very soon. He’s got the skills and growth a coach wants to see, but most importantly he has the intangibles that make a winner on the biggest stage possible. In a real life fantasy draft, any coach would be lucky to take him first and build a winning program around him.

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