For all the criticism Tony Romo gets around the country, and even among Cowboys fans, there was a pretty sizable firestorm when he was left of the NFL's top 100 players list this past summer.
Preseason and offseason rankings mean absolutely nothing, and they pretty much exist to generate conversation and web traffic – or TV viewers, as is the case with the NFL's list, aired on NFL Network.
But they sure are fun, aren't they? I have to assume you'd agree, based on the amount of email we received when Romo was snubbed earlier this summer.
With all of that in mind, ESPN.com released its rankings of the NFL's starting quarterbacks on Thursday, authored by league guru John Clayton. The end result is a much more palatable ranking for Romo, and, in my opinion a pretty reasonable assessment of the entire division.
Romo falls at No. 9 – a fitting number for him, obviously. The pros and the cons are predictable and well-deserved. At this point in his career, Romo is posting similarly fantastic numbers to guys like Aaron Rodgers (No. 1 overall), Peyton Manning (No. 2), Tom Brady (No. 3) and Drew Brees (No. 4). Of course, Romo has far fewer playoff victories and no championships, but he is still making a similar paycheck.
Stop me if you've heard all of that before. Oh, you have.
It's a pretty justifiable ranking for a guy who has reached the upper echelon of the game statistically, but not hardware-wise. And it's good enough to land Romo second in the division behind Eli Manning, who factors in at No. 6.
If you really wanted to, you could probably start an argument comparing the stats between the Cowboys' and Giants' triggermen. Manning hasn't thrown fewer than 15 interceptions in four years, and the best completion percentage of his career is 62.9 percent. Romo has 53 fewer career picks, and his completion percentage hasn't dipped that low in five years.
You know where the rest of this is going. It's hard to argue with two Lombardi Trophies and two Super Bowl MVP awards, which the younger Manning boasts.
In fact, only one other ringless quarterback is ranked higher than Romo – Matt Ryan at No. 7. I wrote about this earlier in the summer, and it's hard to make a concrete case for Ryan over Romo. The stats are basically identical, the contracts are similar and the lack of playoff success is telling. The only logic I can find is that Ryan is five years younger.
The best thing about this new list is the more guarded, reasonable approach it takes in the ranking of Robert Griffin III. The NFL list, which is voted on by players, jumped the second-year Redskins quarterback to No. 15 in the league after an outstanding rookie season.
There's no denying Griffin set the league on fire in guiding the Redskins to the playoffs, but fifteenth in the entire league is more than a little premature – especially for a guy who just finished rehabbing an injured knee.
Griffin slots in at a much more reasonable 16th out of 32 quarterbacks on this list. There's no denying his potential, especially if he rebounds successfully from his injury. But let's see what 2013 holds in store for Griffin – and all the up-and-coming quarterbacks, for that matter. [embedded_ad]
Maybe the most curious aspect of the entire list is the ranking of Michael Vick, who brings up the rear as the game's No. 25 starting quarterback. There's no doubt Vick is in good company, but that just seems like an awfully low number – he's sandwiched just below Tampa's Josh Freeman and Arizona's Carson Palmer, and just above Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Clevland's Brandon Weeden.
That seems like an awfully low ranking for a guy with a decade of experience as a winning quarterback – who has taken two different franchises to the playoffs and posted respectable numbers most of the way through his star-crossed career.
My guess is that it's a combination of durability – he's missed 13 games in the past three seasons – and future potential. Vick's game isn't that well-suited to being 33 years old, which he is as of this summer. But it'll be worth watching to see how Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense fits him. If he looks as sharp in live action as he has in the preseason, Vick may be due for a renaissance of sorts – another one.