The Top 15 Quarterbacks of 2014 (10-6)

LWOS’ John Kinsley looks back at the NFL season, and ranks his Top 15 Quarterbacks of 2014.  It was a season filled with offense, and plenty of good performances, and now we continue with numbers 10-6 in this list.

For #s 15-11 click here.

 

The Top 15 Quarterbacks of 2014 (10-6)

  1. Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens

Stats: 344/555 (62.0 completion %), 6.65 ANY/A, 3,986 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 90.9 Passer Rating, 67.27 Total QBR

By far the best season of his career, Joe Flacco bounced back from a miserable 2013 season and did just enough to bring the Baltimore Ravens back to the playoffs.

As per usual, Flacco benefitted from better field position from pass interference calls, getting 14 DPI calls for 283 yards (most in the NFL in 2014). However, with the addition of Steve Smith Sr, as well as the help of Torrey Smith and an improved offensive line, Flacco’s deep ball game was revived, giving the Smiths loads of ability to make plays where only they could catch it.

Gary Kubiak’s play action offense was a perfect fit for Flacco as well, and the addition of running back Justin Forsett opened up a bunch of space for Flacco to make plays. This allowed the decision making of Flacco to skyrocket in improvement from 2013.

While anything but elite, Joe Flacco was very good in 2014, one to rely on with his new targets and run game.

Best Game: Week 6 Against The Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Throwing five touchdowns in the first half, Flacco’s connectivity with his receivers was absolutely spot on, and his deep ball game helped lift Baltimore to an easy 48-17 victory. He finished 21/29 for 306 yards, five touchdowns, no picks, a 146.0 rating, and a 99.8 Total QBR.

 

  1. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)

Stats: 456/659 (69.2 completion%), 6.77 ANY/A, 4,952 yards, 33 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 97.0 passer rating, 71.56 Total QBR

While I disagree completely with the idea that Drew Brees is no longer an elite quarterback, his 2014 season was sloppier than previous seasons. Even in this case, a sloppy Drew Brees season is still a career year for most quarterbacks.

What we saw from Brees was the standard in his game. He was still one of the top passers in accuracy. The main problem came from the turnovers, which tended to happen in critical moments. Of course, it didn’t help that Jimmy Graham wasn’t as dominant in the tight end position as he’s shown in recent years past, and the yards after catch were severely limited for Brees’ receivers.

Nonetheless, the 35-year-old quarterback advanced the ball with high volume passing in ways few other quarterbacks could have ever done. Brees played very well for most of the season, and kept the Saints in playoff contention until week 16 in a terrible NFC South.

We’ll see how many years Brees has left in him, but if this season was any indication, he is the least of New Orleans problems (re: defense). New Orleans was a huge disappointment in 2014, but the future hall of famer still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Best Game: Week 13 Against The Pittsburgh Steelers: Brees was masterful on the deep ball, finding Kenny Stills five times for 162 yards, a touchdown, and 32.4 yards per reception. This helped Brees distribute the ball for touchdowns to five different receivers, none of them being Jimmy Graham. He finished 19/27 for 257 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, a 140.0 passer rating, and a 95.3 Total QBR.

 

  1. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)

Stats: 285/452 (63.1 completion %), 6.72 ANY/A, 3,475 yards, 20 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 95.0 Passer Rating, 62.45 Total QBR

Without a true deep ball threat to help advance the ball, Russell Wilson wasn’t as top notch of a young quarterback as he was in 2012 and 2013, but I’d be lying if I said what he did in 2014 was under par.

Wilson’s athleticism was at its best in 2014, as he lessoned the passing to open up a passion of scrambling, running for 849 yards and six touchdowns, while leading the NFL in yards per attempt (7.2). The stat sheets don’t say it, but Wilson’s mobility and scrambling were of top notch, and even his screen passes had me saying “how on earth was he able to complete that pass?!?!”

Russ has always been a perfect fit in the read option play action system of the Seahawks, and while he had a number of games with overthrown/underthrown passes getting sacked 42 times won’t help change things (the scrambling is a contributor to that though). One might suggest Wilson benefits from the top defense in the league. While this is sort of true, his reliability has increased as his age continues to go up, and more often times than not he used his legs to help carry Seattle’s offense.

A deep ball threat combined with an improved offense would make a huge difference in Russell Wilson’s play. Talent-wise, he might be the best QB, but there’s still some progress to be made before he can become an elite quarterback. That said, plenty of love for Russ. (Fun fact: Wilson has the most game winning drives in a quarterback’s first 3 seasons in NFL history)

Best Game: Week 16 Against The Arizona Cardinals: This was the golden standard of what Russell Wilson should be: a deadly accurate deep ball passer combined with a dangerous threat in the run game with his legs. Wilson finished 20/31 for 339 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, one rushing touchdown and 88 yards, a 122.9 passer rating, and a 96.0 Total QBR.

 

  1. Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)

Stats: 379/570 (66.5 completion %), 6.45 ANY/A, 4,286 yards, 31 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 93.8 Passer Rating, 66.83 Total QBR

Note: The main reason Philip Rivers isn’t lower than seventh on this list is because of his terrific first half of the season, where he was the front runner for MVP.

Rivers mostly resembles Dan Marino, able to deliver huge throws, quick passes and side step to avoid pressure. Heck, he just might have the quickest release in today’s NFL. During Rivers’ remarkable first half, he set an NFL record for most consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 120.0 (four). Many of his “trust the receiver and lead them” throws were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Dimes, if you would.

Unfortunately, it was clear Rivers was playing the second half of the season unhealthy, and combined with possibly the worst offensive line in the NFL and a terrible run game, Rivers’ play in the last eight games mostly struggled. Even so, he did enough to keep the Chargers in playoff contention until the last week of the regular season, even if it wasn’t pretty.

2013 was easily Rivers’ best season, but considering what he went through in 2014, it wasn’t a bad follow-up at all (much better than what 2011 and 2012 offered). A healthy Rivers could be a potential MVP winner in 2015.

Best Game: Week 16 Against The San Francisco 49ers: It was an extremely ugly game for Rivers, as he had a 52.3 QBR and 3 interceptions, but his 4th quarter comeback was gut wrenching and down to the wire. Twice on the Chargers’ final drive of regulation he converted on 4th down, and the standard beautiful Rivers TD throws helped give San Diego a miraculous 38-35-overtime victory. Rivers finished 33/54 for 356 yards, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and an 82.0 passer rating on the road.

 

  1. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)

Stats: 380/616 (61.7 CMP%), 7.28 ANY/A, 4,761 yards, 40 TD, 16 INT, 96.5 Passer Rating, 63.79 Total QBR

Along with Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck has been an absolute joy to watch as he progresses in his 3rd season. The improvement he’s shown has been incredible, and few 3rd year seasons have been this good.

You can say all you want about the turnovers, and they’re the reason Luck doesn’t rank any higher on this list. He still has the gunslinger mistakes, with 2-3 “WTF WAS HE THINKING” throws every game. This progressed during the final few games of the season in addition. And yes, playing in the AFC South won’t turn any heads.

But when Andrew Luck was on target, he was on fire. Combined with a rising superstar receiver in T.Y. Hilton, Luck torched defenses downfield and was able to avoid pressure with his legs, and went on a 8 game streak of 300-yards passing, a Colts franchise record. He even delivered in his ugliest games, such as the comeback victory in Cleveland.

Luck did this despite playing behind a terrible offensive line and Trent Richardson. And while a number of his passes were dropped interceptions, his receivers dropped 40 of his passes (most in 2014). That’s awful. There’s obvious room to improve (the turnovers), but it’s refreshing to see a newer quarterback throw for 30+ touchdowns in a season. One day when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both retire, the AFC is his to control.

Best Game: Week 4 Against The Tennessee Titans: Luck was terrific with his feet, arm strength, and passing under pressure, as he was the spark in a 41-17 victory. He finished 29/41 for 393 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, a 123.3 passer rating, and a 96.7 Total QBR.

You can view the top five of 2014 by clicking here.

 

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