NFL QB Power Poll
Bill Simmons [ARCHIVE]
December 16, 2012
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Why spend 7,500 words writing a QB Power Poll that breaks down 2012's NFL quarterbacks by tiers named after sports-movie quarterbacks? Isn't the better question "Why not?" Let's get this party started.

THE PAUL CREWE TIER Movie: The Longest Yard Connection: "The very best of the best."

1a. Tom Brady 1b. Aaron Rodgers Do I need to make it clear that we're talking about the Burt Reynolds version of The Longest Yard (and not the inferior Adam Sandler version)? I don't need to make that clear, right? Any "Who was the G.O.A.T. of sports-movie QBs?" argument that doesn't end with everyone nodding and saying, "You're right, it was definitely Burt Reynolds" is invalid. Even if it's a wildly dated movie now (including the cringe-worthy domestic-violence scene that opens things up), Reynolds's charisma and football talents still hold up 38 years later. It's probably the single best performance of his career. I watched it recently and thought, This is like Russell Wilson on his greatest day. Why there wasn't a Longest Yard sequel remains one of the biggest Hollywood mysteries — Reynolds made two Smokey and the Bandit movies and two episodes of Cannonball Run, for God's sake. He couldn't have run back his finest movie? At the very least, Paul Thomas Anderson should have tweaked Boogie Nights so Jack Horner was actually Paul Crewe — ex-convict football star turned lucrative porn producer. For Amber, for Rollergirl … for Little Bill. Let's do it.

Back to Brady vs. Rodgers, a fun argument because Rodgers is on pace to duplicate everything Brady has already done statistically — if Rodgers's next five seasons play out exactly like these last five, that projects to 40,000-plus yards, 325-plus passing TDs, two rings and the highest QB rating ever (and he won't even be 35 yet). Right now, Brady has thrown for 43,812 yards (10th all time) and 329 TDs (fifth all time), and he currently has the second-highest QB rating ever. But if you're judging them simply by the "Who'd you take for this season?" and "Who'd you take for one game if your life depended on it?" questions, Brady gets the nod because of the following point: Just in 2012 alone (dating back to January), we watched the Giants (twice!), 49ers and Seahawks rough Rodgers up and (to borrow a Mike Lombardi phrase) change his eye level — instead of looking downfield, he was looking at the line of scrimmage because he was worried about where the next wallop was coming from. You might excuse two of those games, but four?

If you're comparing 2011 and 2012, Rodgers was better last season …

2011 Rodgers: 4,643 yards, 45 TDs, 6 INTs, 86.2 QBR, 122.5 rating, 48.4% DVOA 2011 Brady: 5,235 yards, 39 TDs, 12 INTs, 72.7 QBR, 105.6 rating, 34.4% DVOA

But Brady has been superior this season …

2012 Brady: 3,833 yards, 29 TDs, 4 INTs, 80.6 QBR, 104.2 rating, 42.9% DVOA 2012 Rodgers: 3,297 yards, 29 TDs, 8 INTs, 70.79 QBR, 103.7 rating, 17.2% DVOA

So you'd have to give Brady the slightest of edges, and that's before we even bring up the whole, "Hey, you realize the Patriots have a puncher's chance of scoring 600 points this season, right?" thing. Three quick Brady points before we keep going.

- Including playoffs, the New England Patriots are 150-44 in Tom Brady's starts and 297-340-9 in Anyone Else's starts.

- If the Patriots happen to win this Super Bowl (note: They're favored in Vegas right now, although that's almost always the kiss of death), Brady would tie Montana's record (four rings), break Elway's record (six Super Bowl appearances) and make history in the following sense: How many times can you remember an athlete 35 years old or older still being the most important player in a team sport? Michael Jordan … yes. Barry Bonds … yes (with a massive asterisk). I think that's the entire list? (Yes, same stakes for Peyton Manning here.)

- Even if Brady never wins another Super Bowl, he secured a place in the Boston sports pantheon with Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Ted Williams a long time ago. There was a great moment late in that Texans game when Brady scrambled for a first down, took a decent lick, popped up and unleashed one of those old-school, exaggerated fist-pump/screams that used to be a staple of his early days. The fans ate it up for the simple reason that Brady never does that stuff anymore. These days, he's older, cooler, more detached, more self-aware. He's been there before.

At the same time, that fist-pumping dude was the one who won us over in the first place — back when he wasn't putting up monster numbers, when he was flanked by mediocre running backs and glorified possession receivers, when you had to talk yourself into him being better than a machine like Peyton Manning because he managed the game and knew how to lead and came through when it mattered. Over the years, he morphed into one of those machines — now he puts up the same crazy numbers as everyone else. He's so technically efficient, so methodical, so good at what he does, that you almost forget he's the same kid from that 2001 season who made you think the Patriots could beat the Rams even though, on paper, it seemed to be freaking impossible. So there was real history behind that moment, one of those things that can't be understood unless you spent the past 12 years watching Tom Brady play football for a living. These next few years are going to be fascinating.

THE JOE PENDLETON TIER Movie: Heaven Can Wait Connection: "Wait, are you getting help from God or something?"

1c. Peyton Manning You could have talked me into throwing Manning into the previous tier, but that means (a) we would have lost the Heaven Can Wait reference (underrated '70s movie), (b) I wouldn't have been able to mention Warren Beatty (shockingly competent as a QB), and (c) we would have been living a lie. Why? Because post–neck surgery Peyton Manning hasn't beaten ANYBODY yet. Check it out.

Losses: Houston, Atlanta, New England. Wins: Oakland (twice), San Diego (twice), Kansas City, Cincy, Carolina, Tampa, New Orleans, Pittsburgh.

Look, it's been a brilliant comeback; it's been incredibly entertaining to have him back. I'd actually vote for Manning for "Most Valuable Player" (through 14 weeks) just because it took Manning less than three months to transform them into 2005 Colts West. But can we see Denver beat one good team before we officially nudge The Artist Formerly Known As Mr. Noodle into that Brady/Rodgers group? Win in Baltimore on Sunday and we can talk. Regardless, I thought this was Manning's finest season: He reinvented himself in a different city while playing the single most complicated position in any sport AND learning the strengths and weaknesses of an entirely new crew of teammates AND figuring out his own post-surgery limitations AND dealing with the mental...
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