The Franchise Quarterback


Pictured left to right: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Tom Brady

Cruising around the web today, I noticed a reader commented with the term “franchise quarterback”. This is a term that has often bothered me. When should it really be used? How does one actually define the franchise quarterback? Most use it as a description for a quarterback that is above-average and participates in multiple playoff games. Granted, that’s not what they’re thinking when they say that, but it is the end result and by these regards, I would label current Jaguars QB David Garrard a “franchise quarterback”. Is he deserving?

Let’s define it.

The Franchise Quarterback

Brees will go down in history as one of the quarterbacks that changed the face of the franchise, but he is still one-step down from an All-Time Great. This is what a franchise quarterback is: A quarterback that is so great that when he is on the field, fans know there is a chance to win at all times. A quarterback that is known as an elite leader. A guy who defensive coordinators see as more than a challenge. They see this QB as an obstacle.

The All-Time Great Quarterback

A quarterback that not only resides at the top of their generation, but resides at the top of every generation. A quarterback like Drew Brees (Saints) is one step down. This title is reserved for the quarterbacks that surpass “franchise” status. Guys like the ones in the picture up top: Unitas, Montana, Brady. Someone like Peyton Manning, who gives his team such hope, that they never feel that they are out of a game. Guys that have a career built off of this. This title is not for newcomers.

Last Place:

These guys are so unknown, I can’t even list the sure-fire starter.

Redskins QB

Vikings QB

Cardinals QB

Panthers QB

These are mostly due to unknowns, but it is easily agreeable at this point that none of these teams have a player that can be argued as a franchise QB.

Next to Last:

These are the guys that you wouldn’t be embarrassed about playing. The young guys learning and the old guys fading, plus VY.

Vince Young, FA Titans (the enigma that wins)

Kerry Collins, FA Titans (more faded than most realize but not at all embarassing)

Tim Tebow, Broncos (on the upswing)

Tier 5:

Guys that you might win with.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (he is really gaining ground, good for the Bills)

Matt Hasselbeck, FA Seahawks (an almost franchise QB at one point, seems to be fading. That great playoff game gives hope. I like this guy.)

Tier 4:

These guys tease you with franchise potential, but they never really put the whole show together. You might say it is them, or you might say it is the team around them, perhaps it is both.

Jay Cutler, Bears (I like the guy, but WOW on the interceptions. It’s like he isn’t looking. I would have him higher but I fear the O-line troubles have permanently scarred him, a la David Carr)

Chad Henne, Dolphins (I really think that with one more year and a solid line in front of him, he’l rise up a tier.)

(Pictured) David Garrard, Jaguars (you know him. I like him.)

Mark Sanchez, Jets (most of his success generated from the team effort)

Alex Smith, FA 49ers (Smith should be a tier above this. He can be great at times, but WOW let him have an offensive co-ordinator for two years PLEASE!)

Carson Palmer, Bengals (I’m debating on bumping him down one. Not an impressive player at this point. Make an argument either way. I’d rather Garrard)

Jason Campbell, Raiders (I have full confidence that by the end of next season he will be up a tier)

Tony Romo (Win in the playoffs and we will talk about going up a tier)

Kyle Orton (He s the best of this group, by far. I just don’t know that he goes to a team that keeps it that way)

Tier 3:

Guys that you are proud to have. They are on the cusp of “franchise” status.

Josh Freeman (in my opinion, the best young QB)

Matt Ryan (2nd)

Sam Bradford (3rd but needs help from an awful team. He may be at the very top of this list in 8 years)

Matthew Stafford (My dark horse candidate for All-Time Great. Health permitting, a la Phil Simms)

The Franchise Quarterbacks:

Eli Manning (While he did win a Super Bowl MVP, he has a lot of downs)

Matt Schaub (A major player on the rise)

(pictured) Michael Vick (too soon?)

One Step Above Franchise:

Ben Roethlisberger (Multiple Super Bowls place him one up)

Aaron Rodgers (One ring is just foreshadowing)

Drew Brees (changed the whole city. Elite QB)

Phillip Rivers (Everything but a Super Bowl)

The All-Time Greats: (no explanation necessary)

Peyton Manning

Tom Brady

As this is a hotly debated topic, feel free to express in the comments below. I left out rookies and Kevin Kolb. Marc Bulger may or may not start so he is off as well.