New York Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning incited an NFL analyst debate prior to the start of last season. When the 2011 Top 100 list from the NFL Network (as voted on by the players) was released, Eli did not receive any votes from his peers.
Asked whether or not he considers himself in the class of Tom Brady during training camp last summer, Eli stated the following: “I consider myself in that class and Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he’s a great player and what you’ve seen with him is he’s gotten better every year and he started off winning championships and I think he’s a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships … I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best.”
ProFootBallTalk.com released a poll for their visitors which asked “Is Eli Manning an elite quarterback?” A total of 25,258 votes were tallied with a whopping 81% (almost 21,000 voters) answering “No“. Eli would go on to prove his doubters wrong, posting one of the best statical seasons of his career while ending the year with his second Super Bowl trophy.
What factors should be measured when evaluating quarterback? When it comes to this topic, analysts can pick from any number of games from a quarterback’s career to make the case that they have set out to make. The ultimate question one must ask of themselves is this: Will I win a Super Bowl with him leading my team? Lots of factors play a role in the success of a quarterback. He must have the full respect and confidence of his coaches. He must be in a scheme that fits his strengths while negating his weaknesses. A quarterback must be surrounded with enough weaponry to pose a threat on a down-by-down basis. If all of these aspects are met, you’ll most likely have yourself an “elite”/franchise quarterback. Just ask Eli.
Former Chicago Bears scout Greg Gabriel shared his views on quarterback evaluation recently. When it comes to projecting the future of a prospect, scouts have plenty of details to keep an eye out for:
Evaluating quarterbacks looks like it can be fairly easy but in reality it can be a frustrating experience. There is so much more to it than just looking at stats …
Scouts are almost never going to evaluate the exact same way, but when I am looking at a quarterback the first thing I want to see is if he is capable of playing in my team’s scheme from a physical standpoint. Does he have the size, movement skills and arm strength to play in our system? Most NFL offensive coordinators want size. The ideal player would be in the 6-3 to 6-5 range with good athleticism. Athleticism is more than speed; it’s the player’s quick feet, agility and body control. Brett Favre was far from being a fast guy, but his quick feet in the pocket and “feel” for pass rushers enabled him to keep plays alive. Quarterbacks who can make plays or extend plays with their feet are highly valued.
More abstract characteristics play a role in quarterback assessments as well:
More so than size and athleticism are the intangibles and what many call the “it” factor. Some have “it” and some don’t. “It” is a combination of things starting with instincts. To be a successful NFL quarterback you have to have outstanding instincts. He has to anticipate and understand things extremely well. Intelligence is important but in my opinion instincts are even more important. There have been many great quarterbacks through the years who didn’t have high “test” scores or great natural intelligence but their instincts for the game were off the charts.
Prospect evaluations for quarterbacks, or any other position, is an inexact science. Even the best methods can have holes poked through them. But that’s part of the beauty of engaging in the debates – there are really no wrong answers. Without access to the knowledge of what the final product will be, everyone is pretty much just shooting into the wind.