By Drew Markol, Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At crunch time, which in the NFL is now, nobody is more important than your quarterback.
The teams with good ones have visions and maybe sneaking into the playoffs as a wild card.
The teams with great ones have visions of a Super Bowl parade route.
And the teams with lousy ones, well, they're probably hoping for more losses now so that come April's draft maybe a savior can be found.
(There are also a bunch of quarterbacks who fall in between good and lousy. If your team has one of them, I'm sorry. It means your team isn't good enough to make the playoffs, but is good enough to win enough games to screw up your draft position. It's called being in limbo, which is not a good thing).
What we're going to do today is look at the great ones, we'll rank them, and look at the lousy one, we'll rank them, too.
As for the guys in the middle, well, they'll be what they're used to being, pretty much unrecognized among the rank and file.
We'll start at the top with the elite guys ranked in order (in at least one man's opinion):
Tom Brady, New England Patriots: You see lists of this sort without Brady on top and you just have to shake your head. He's not only the best quarterback going today, he might be the best ever. And I saw Montana play; and Bradshaw; and Unitas; and Marino. The Brady guy is just phenomenal. And look at the guys he's being throwing passes to all these years. It's not exactly a who's who of future Hall of Famers.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: You look at him and his team in the regular season and you see ordinary. You do the same in the playoffs and you see him and his team smiling when the game is over. Manning knows how to win when it counts and is well aware of the need just to get to the postseason and then take care of things.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Except for Brady, is there any other quarterback going who you'd rather have with the ball and your team down six with two minutes to play?
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Remember, this is a list of right now and Peyton is still near the top of the class. Nobody is going to want to face the Broncos in the playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben is a little dinged up, but he's right there with any of these guys. If he gets healthy, and the Steelers get in the playoffs, they'll be trouble again.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: If he wins another Super Bowl he'll jump up to second place only behind Brady on my list. Deadly accuracy and superb running ability make him so tough.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Now we've hit the guys who've never won a Super Bowl. Ryan hasn't done much of anything in the playoffs, but seems primed for a run this year. Of the "young" elite, I'll take him.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: It's a race between him and Ryan to see which one gets a ring first.
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers: The fact his own coach isn't sure if he's even the best quarterback on his team doesn't worry me. Smith is a proven commodity (Colin Kaepernick isn't) and I'll take proven every time.
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans: A stud who just needs to stay healthy. He has the team around him this year so watch out.
Knocking on the door: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts and Robert Griffin III. They're both actually pounding on the door to get into the top 10. (And no, I didn't forget about Jay Cutler).
Forgot the address where the door is: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers. The basement five (in order from least bad to worst):
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers. He looks the part, and knows how to celebrate a first-down run when his team is down four touchdowns better than anybody, but 9-18 as a starter is 9-18 as a starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills: I love that a guy from Harvard is starting in the NFL, but he's just not very good.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars: His season is over due to injury and his two years in Jacksonville may be up, too. The team realized the error it made drafting him.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns: I usually give rookies a big benefit of the doubt, but Weeden is already 51 years old.
Whoever is playing quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs this week.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia- area newspapers for over 25 years.
11/29 10:06:34 ET