The word “elite” gets tossed around too easily when it comes to slapping the tag on quarterbacks, and there are only four quarterbacks in the NFL who have dominated consistently enough to be called “elite”. They are, in order, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. That’s it. No Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, or even Joe Flacco stuck in there. While there are plenty of very good QBs in this league and several ones that qualify as “great”, the word “elite” is not easily attainable and should only be reserved for those four quarterbacks.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez received plenty of unfair criticism for his perceived slight of Matt Ryan, whom he stated isn’t an elite quarterback. He did, however, state that Ryan is close to that level, and his assessment of Ryan was completely fair and totally blown out of proportion by over-zealous writers and pundits. Ryan is definitely a top ten quarterback, but he hasn’t asserted himself as an elite QB and will probably remain on the precipice.
Gonzalez appeared on ESPN’s “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd to talk about his comments, and he wisely stood by his fair, benign remarks and defended himself against the unfair criticism. He also spoke about what it means to be an elite QB, and the future Hall of Fame TE did some great preaching to plenty of people who need to properly grasp this.
He said, via ESPN NFL Nation’s Vaughn McClure, “If you look at it right now in the NFL — and here’s what I want people to look at — the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks in this league right now, there’s four of them. There’s Tom Brady, there’s Peyton Manning, there’s Aaron Rodgers, and there’s Drew Brees. And those guys are probably first ballot — I don’t think I’m going out on a limb — they are first-ballot Hall of Famers, all four of them. … As far as I’m concerned, those are the elite quarterbacks. And everybody else is in line after that.”
Follow the link above to read some more great quotes from Gonzalez, who clearly didn’t say anything against Ryan at all. Like Gonzalez, I also have nothing but respect for Ryan and have been signing his praises for a while. The whole “he can’t win” argument is pointless and not even worth wasting time to debunk, and he did a really nice job of playing well under immense pressure this season due to injuries at WR and awful pass protection from the offensive line.