We all know Peyton Manning is going to headline this list- and others- of the best five QBs of the 2013 season thus far, but there are a few quarterbacks I had to leave off of the list, knowing full well that they were tough cuts. Quarterback is the most important position on the football field, and teams like the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts have certainly seen the difference greatness from one QB can make. This list is in no particular order (yeah, I know I’m a cop out), by the way, as I had a tough enough time coming up with five QBs. At this point, you could honestly get way too worked up making arguments about how Andrew Luck needs to be ranked over Drew Brees and vice versa.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Let me start off with the obvious inclusion to the list, and that’s Peyton Manning. The man has put up unreal numbers, and it would be unfair to say, “Oh, it’s just because he has receivers that are so much better than everyone else’s.” While it is true that Manning has the best weapons at his disposal, he’s been doing plenty to help ensure maximum success for Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, and even the RBs catching passes. As always, it’s a joy to watch Manning make audibles, adjustments, and other checks at the line of scrimmage, because you can see just how much of an effect it has on the game. Other quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers do an excellent job of making adjustments at the LOS, but it’s easier to see the impact Manning has on the game due to mental adjustments.
Remember that screen pass that Demaryius Thomas turned into a big touchdown in Week 1? That came off of an excellent audible from Manning, who saw that Thomas had a favorable matchup in the slot on the left side and would be able to turn a small screen into a big play. Manning is clearly the best in the league at taking what the defense gives him, then attacking the defense in a way that gets maximum yardage with as little physical effort as possible. He can still make that “wow” throw downfield when he needs to, but players who are truly using their intelligence to win games know how to turn easy throws into big gains; that’s efficiency.
Speaking of efficiency, Manning is averaging 8.8 yards per attempt with an interception on just 1.8% of his dropbacks.
2. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Another AFC West quarterback is playing at an elite level, and Philip Rivers is showing us how quarterbacks can be rejuvenated by a head coach. New Chargers head coach Mike McCoy is one of the finest offensive minds in the NFL, and he was the guy who made the whole Tim Tebow thing work as the uber-creative mastermind of the Denver Broncos offense. Hired away by the Chargers, the former Broncos OC has seemingly added some much needed juice to Rivers, who has also benefited from an offensive line that is no longer completely abysmal. It remains to be seen if injuries will cause some huge issues in pass pro again, but I don’t think we’ll see the kind of abhorrent blocking that has marked the Chargers of the last couple of years. Listen, a quarterback can only do so much, and he certainly can’t do anything if he is worried about being decked to the turf every time he drops back.
Rivers is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game, and his marksmanship is back to its best this season. He is completing 73.9% of his passes, and there is little doubt in my mind that Rivers is by far the biggest reason why the Chargers find themselves above .500. They have some major issues on defense, but Rivers has done an amazing job carrying this team. Manning is my pick for Offensive Player of the Year, but Rivers earns my MVP.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees just makes it look easy out there at times, and he is the most electrifying QB to watch. Maybe it’s just the Superdome atmosphere, the Bayou flavor, or the staggering numbers of options he can throw it to, but I always know that there’s something more. Brees is just such a precise quarterback, and the only QB who is deadlier on deep passes- as far as precision goes- is Aaron Rodgers. This season, Brees has averaged 12.5 yards per completion, and he has also notched a 109.2 QB Rating. The man knows how to put on a show and put up numbers, and it’s easy to take him for granted sometimes. You can disqualify his candidacy by pointing to the fact that he has a ton of targets to throw it, plays behind a solid OL, and his receivers rarely drop a pass, but I would instead point to his overall efficiency. Averaging 9.0 adjusted yards per attempt is no easy task, and throws like his laser to Lance Moore yesterday show just how dangerous he is.