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What Makes an Elite Quarterback?

By Tim Holland

What is an elite quarterback? Each year, we get asked this question as an Eli Manning of the New York Giants or Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens anoints each other as such.

There are some who say an elite quarterback is one who puts up huge numbers in passing yards and touchdowns. There are others who say that it is one who comes up big in games that matter in January and February. Others say that Super Bowls are what separate the elite quarterbacks from the good.

Quarterback is the most important position on the field. There is no question about that. Teams can win championships with good ones, but only great ones take you to the top more than once. Every dynasty has had a hall of fame quarterback at the helm. They may not have set records, but accomplished what the team asked them to do which is win it all.

So what is an elite quarterback?

An elite quarterback is a winner. An elite quarterback can carry a team when it needs to be carried and make the big play when needed. An elite quarterback is a champion. With few exceptions, no one can claim elite status without at least one Super Bowl ring.

There are four current quarterbacks who everyone considers elite. They are Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

Now, let's take a look at those who are considered borderline elite.

He may not have led the greatest teams of all-time to Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011, but Eli Manning is an elite quarterback. When it mattered most he made the big plays which have prevented Tom Brady from claiming greatest of all-time stature. If not for Manning and the Giants Brady would be the leader in the clubhouse with five Super Bowl rings.

What Makes an Elite Quarterback

Sep 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Dallas Cowboys defeat the New York Giants by a score of 24-17. Photo Courtesy By Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE.

Joe Flacco is on the verge, but not quite there. He has improved every season since taking over as a rookie in 2008. In four seasons he has taken Baltimore to two AFC championship games and advanced to the post season every year. But he has yet to win a Super Bowl.

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is an elite quarterback. He has taken the Steelers to three Super Bowls and won two. His performance in Super Bowl XLIII with the game on the line proves it.

Phillip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers is not. His 2004 draft mates Eli Manning and Roethlisberger have won multiple Super Bowls. Rivers has yet to get to the big game. Until he does, Rivers is not an elite quarterback.

This goes for Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons as well. However there is still time for all of them and Flacco to earn elite status.

All they have to do is prove themselves in January and February.

That's what makes an elite quarterback.

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