Team of the Decade: Quarterback
With the NFL Draft over and the 2019 season fading into the past it is time to take stock of the last decade of NFL action with The Touchdown’s Team of the Decade. This team will be based on a statistical analysis of the past 10 years, looking back at how each player performed overall and on a per game basis. In order to make this a true representative of the decade, only players who have played in 40 regular-season games (a quarter of the decade) will be included, with that being 40 games started for the quarterback position.
In this first article we will be looking at the quarterback position, where we have seen some great names in the world of the NFL reside. The stats in this article will be from the regular-season only, unless specifically stated. We will be looking to select two of the quarterbacks below for our Team of the Decade, so let’s get down to business.
Rivers has had a phenomenal career with the Chargers and he is the only player to have started every regular-season game this decade! Despite being voted to the Pro Bowl six times he has never been named an All Pro in the past decade.
In terms of the numbers from the decade; Rivers ranks third in passing yards (44,320), fourth in touchdowns (291), second in yards per attempt and sixth in completion percentage. However, there are some negatives; he ranks second in interceptions (153), first in pick-6’s (20) and first when it comes to losses (83).
Ryan is second only behind Rivers when it comes to the number of games started, having missed just one regular-season game in the decade. He was a first-team All-Pro once and ranks in the top-five in completion percentage, touchdowns, yards and fourth-quarter comebacks.
Much like Rivers he also has his share of interceptions (122), pick-6’s (16) and losses (70), which just keep him out of the main part of this article.
Players who do not qualify: Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson
What a group these three are. If they met the qualifying standard all three of them would be very much in contention for selection. Health withstanding, these three should be locks for this article in 10 years time.
Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks
Since being drafted in 2012 Russell Wilson has been a defining part of the quarterback position in this decade. Wilson has played in 128 games and much like Rivers he has been to six Pro Bowls without ever receiving a first-team All-Pro nomination.
Since entering the NFL, Wilson have a touchdown percentage of 6, which places him third. Meanwhile, he throws an interception on just 1.8% of his passes and has completed 64.5% of his passes. On top of those numbers he ranks first in yards per attempt, with 7.87 and eighth in game-winning drives (22). All of this has come despite having the fourth-highest sack rate of the decade (8.4%), which makes those numbers seem even more impressive.
Wilson also ranks fourth when it comes to Pro Football Reference’s approximate value metric on a per game basis. Wilson is just one of four quarterbacks to average an approximate value over 1 point per game started.
Peyton Manning - Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos
How do you leave out the sheriff? Despite only playing until 2015, and missing one of those years entirely, he still left an imprint on the decade that is hard to ignore.
A Super Bowl victory and ranking second when it comes to touchdown percentage are solid returns for a player who was 34 when the decade began. Despite neck surgery he was still able to throw interceptions less frequently than 18 other qualified quarterbacks, while also finishing eighth in yards per attempt (7.66) and second in yards per game (294.8). Ultimately, he will be on the outside looking in to this team, but he deserved more than an honourable mention.
Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints
Now is when things start to get tough because the next three names are top of the charts for many positive stats. We will start with Drew Brees, who is the only name on this list not to have a Super Bowl ring in this decade. The fact he is still on the list despite that demonstrates just how good he has been in this decade.
In terms of the numbers, Brees ranks a clear first in completion percentage (69.53%), touchdowns (345), yards (46,770) and yards per game (305.7). In the decade, no one has thrown the ball more often, completed more passes or been voted to more Pro Bowls than the New Orleans Saints quarterback. Brees also ranks second at the position when it comes to quarterback rate (102.9) and third in approximate value per game (1.02).
Ultimately, the only real negatives on Drew Brees are 17 pick-6’s (joint-second highest) and that he has never been able to take his team all the way to the Super Bowl. Both of these come despite playing with the best offensive minded head coach of the decade, and often playing behind one of the best lines in the entire league.
Tom Brady - New England Patriots
Brady is another iron man of the position, having only missed time in this decade due to a four-game suspension. Outside of that Brady has started every game of the past decade for the New England Patriots, bringing them three rings and five Super Bowl appearances and eight conference championship appearances. In the past 10 years he has been voted the Pro Bowl nine times and named a first-team All-Pro twice.
Around those performances Brady’s numbers are up there with the best in the decade. He ranks second at the position in approximate value per game played (1.03), sixth in touchdown percentage (5.5%), second-lowest in interception percentage (1.39%) and fourth in quarterback rate (99.6). With 122 wins in the decade he has a whopping 26 more than the next nearest and his win-loss percentage of 78% is 10% higher than anyone not named Peyton Manning.
His raw quarterback numbers may not be the most stand out of this group, but his accolades outside of those numbers mean he is a more than worthy candidate in this discussion.
Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers
Rodgers is the only player who can rival Brady for first-team All-Pro selections in the past decade with two and comes close to matching Brady and Brees with seven Pro Bowl nominations. In the past decade Rodgers has taken the Packers to the postseason eight times, winning one Super Bowl and losing in the conference championship game three times.
Rodgers leads the position when it comes to touchdown percentage (6.2%), quarterback rate (103.6), average value per game (1.06) and interception rate (1.28%). On top of those numbers, Rodgers has succeeded despite being sacked more than anyone else in the decade (355) with the fourth-highest sack% of any quarterback to have started more than 100 games.
A potential knock on Rodgers is the failure to convert his playoff appearances into more Super Bowl wins and appearances, but then again some of his playoff losses have been despite his excellent performances, not because of poor performance. Similarly, he has struggled when it comes to fourth-quarter comebacks in this decade, with just 13, which places him 18th among qualified quarterbacks.
Quaterback selections for The Touchdown’s Team of the Decade:
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup: Tom Brady
Despite the knocks in clutch situations, Rodgers numbers are superb from the last decade and deservedly warrant the starting place in our Team of the Decade. Brady is the perfect backup for this team, successful and dependable, meaning we have the two quarterbacks who were safest with the ball in the last decade on the roster!
Image credit: USA Today
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference