Partially because it interests me and partially because I could easily see any of 3 teams (sorry, Washington) winning the NFC East, I’m ranking the NFC East teams, position-by-position, in an effort to help me figure out who I’ll be predicting as the division’s winner when the season opens up on September 5th. I’ll be assigning 1 point for the top spot, 2 for the second spot, 3 for the third spot, and 4 for the 4th spot. The lowest total at the conclusion of the exercise (which will include coaches, coordinators, and schedules) will be my pick for the NFC East champion. Let’s get started with the quarterbacks:
1) Eli Manning, New York Giants.
He’s got two Super Bowl wins, which is two more than the rest of the division’s starters combined. He took an incredible leap forward and backed up his talk of calling himself elite. He’s incredibly durable, and he’s squarely in the discussion for the top 5 QBs in the NFL.
2) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys.
Romo also had an excellent season last year, and while he’s occasionally prone to a late game meltdown and he’s not had the level of postseason success one would hope to see out of a quarterback that talented, his durability gives him the edge over the third quarterback on this list.
3) Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles.
Oh, Michael Vick. When he’s healthy and in the right situation (the Redskins game in 2010 springs to mind), he’s the best quarterback in the division, and maybe the best in the league. No other player in NFL history besides Randall Cunningham has put together the package of a strong throwing arm and incredible rushing ability quite like Michael Vick. Yet, Vick has major flaws. He’s had struggles reading defenses. He tries to extend plays too long. And he’s injury-prone. Those negatives (which all came to light in the 2011 season) push him down to the #3 spot on this list. However, if he has a season like he did for much of 2010, he’ll be right back up fighting for a spot at the top of this list.
4) Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
RGIII may very well turn out to be at the top of this list in a few years, but right now as a rookie he gets pushed to the bottom. And that’s no slight to him. This is one of the best QB divisions in the entire NFL.
The Giants would appear to have the worst backups by far at first glance (David Carr, Ryan Perrilloux), but you have to factor into the equation that Eli Manning is never hurt and therefore they see no action. The Cowboys have the best backups in the NFC East at QB: Kyle Orton is a proven starter in the league and Stephen McGee hasn’t completely crapped himself when he’s played in relief of Tony Romo the past couple years. The Eagles and Redskins have similar backup QB situations: both took a rookie in the middle rounds of the draft this year (Nick Foles in the 3rd for the Eagles, Kirk Cousins in the 4th for the ‘Skins) who is proving to be more talented than the incumbent backup at the position (Mike Kafka for the Eagles, Rex Grossman for the ‘Skins). I’d say that Foles is better than Cousins, but Grossman is better than Kafka. Let’s call it a tie.
When everything is factored into the equation, the backups don’t shift the order of the division’s QB rankings because quarterback isn’t a position where depth is as important as, say, defensive line or cornerback. You only play your backup QB if your starter is injured or ineffective. The former would be a much more likely scenario than the latter for the NFC East’s talented quarterbacks, and while injuries are tough to predict they need to be taken into account. With that in mind, here’s my opinion on the final order of the QB situation in the NFC East:
3) Philadelphia Eagles
Overall standings by points:
1) New York Giants-1 point
2) Dallas Cowboys-2 points
3) Philadelphia Eagles-3 points
4) Washington Redskins-4 points