Who Is A “Franchise QB”?

I guess you could say that the baseball playoff season has begun.  The Boston Red Sox have a footnote after their name in the standings this morning indicating that they have made the playoffs; we may not know all the seedings; but as of today, we know that the Red Sox will be in the bracket somewhere.

For several weeks now, we have known about teams that will not be participating in the playoffs.  On the day that the Red Sox guaranteed themselves a shot at the World Series, there are 6 teams in the American League and 3 teams in the National League that are mathematically eliminated from post season action.

One of the long-term readers of these rants moved away from this area about 3 years ago; it had been a long time since we had had lunch together.  He was back here taking care of some real estate issues and we had lunch earlier this week.  I think we spent a little over 3 hours at lunch – about half an hour catching up and the rest of the time chatting about sports issues.  It’s a guy thing…

In my friend’s lexicon, an NFL franchise QB is a player who has demonstrated on the field that he is in the top quartile of starting QBs AND he is someone who can be counted on to be with that team for the next 5 years barring injury.  Using his definition, both Tom Brady and Drew Brees are not “franchise QBs” because they fail the second criterion there; Aaron Rodgers is right on the cusp of his definition.  [He acknowledges that both Brady and Brees might play 5 more years, but he says – correctly – that the teams cannot count on them to play well for that period of time.]

My perception of “NFL franchise QB” is less quantitative; it does not involve quartiles or projections of performance for 5 years hence.  Here are the elements that I consider when I think of the label “NFL franchise QB”:

  1. In terms of performance, the QB-in-question is one who would be signed in a heartbeat by various other teams in the NFL if he were an unrestricted free agent.
  2. However, that rush to signing him cannot be weighted too heavily in terms of potential identified by scouts; there must be a body of NFL work leading to that signing rush.
  3. The QB-in-question is an off-field asset for the team too; the fanbase for his team must have adopted him and he must be “the face of the franchise” – or at least one of the two or three “faces of the franchise”.  [I add that last caveat because – for example – Jerry Jones will always be one of the “faces of the franchise” in Dallas no matter who the QB is or who any of the other players are.]

So, using my definition, I went through the starting QBs in the NFL and sorted them into categories related to their “franchise-ness”.  I will indicate my friend’s short list of franchise QBs by highlighting those names in bold:

Here are my Franchise QBs.  I think there is no doubt about these folks:

  1. Tom Brady (Pats)
  2. Drew Brees (Saints)
  3. Andrew Luck (Colts)
  4. Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
  5. Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers)
  6. Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

Here are QBs who are close to being “Franchise QBs”; and if you were to argue that they belonged in the top category, I would not be violently opposed:

  1. David Carr (Raiders)
  2. Philip Rivers (Chargers)
  3. Matt Ryan (Falcons)

Here are QBs that belong in a category somewhere – – but I am not sure where it is.  I do know that they are not in the top category today:

  1. Kirk Cousins (Vikings)
  2. Eli Manning (Giants)
  3. Cam Newton (Panthers)
  4. Alex Smith (Skins)
  5. Matthew Stafford (Lions)

Here are QBs that are beloved by their fanbases who have shown flashes of brilliance – but all the precincts have not reported in yet:

  1. Jimmy Garoppolo (Niners)
  2. Jared Goff (Rams)
  3. Dak Prescott (Cowboys)
  4. Mitchell Trubisky (Bears)
  5. Deshaun Watson (Texans)
  6. Carson Wentz (Eagles)

Here are QBs who – as of today – are not in the running to be considered franchise QBs:

  1. Josh Allen (Bills) – not nearly enough data yet [N.B. I will not even consider discussion of Nathan Peterman here.]
  2. Blake Bortles (Jags) – the team wins in spite of him too often
  3. Sam Bradford (Cardinals) – nope
  4. Andy Dalton (Bengals) – must win a playoff game first
  5. Sam Darnold (Jets) – notwithstanding his great first outing; need more data
  6. Joe Flacco (Ravens) – notwithstanding that one great year leading to a Super Bowl win.
  7. Case Keenum (Broncos) – generally underrated but not an elite QB
  8. Pat Mahomes (Chiefs) – not enough data yet
  9. Marcus Mariotta (Titans) – lacks consistency
  10. Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) – nope
  11. Tyrod Taylor (Browns) – nope
  12. Jameis Winston (Bucs) – nope

Finally, since I have spent most of today talking about NFL QBs, here is an observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about one of those QBs:

“Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers — who just agreed to a 4-year, $134 million contract extension — is coming out with his own line of cheese, we hear.

“It’s called Packers Gold.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………