There has been a lot of debate on Buffalo Rumblings lately as to whether Fitz is a "Franchise" quarterback for the Bills, and about who ranks among the league's elite at the position. There has not, however, been a post that poses an opinion about the distinction between an "elite" quarterback and a "franchise" quarterback, and in my opinion, there is a gulf between the two.
An elite quarterback, in my opinion, is one who you expect to lead you to the playoffs year in and year out, regardless of supporting cast, and who the front office of any team would laugh off a trade offer for. To me, the only elite quarterbacks in the game today are Peyton Manning
, Tom Brady
, Drew Brees
, Aaron Rodgers
, Ben Roethlisberger
and Eli Manning
(I'll give the last two the benefit of the doubt after two Super Bowl wins). A franchise QB, on the other hand, is simply someone who the front office feels gives the team a good enough chance to win week in and week out that finding a replacement is not a priority, and who they may consider replacing given the right circumstances and a good enough trade offer. This obviously is a fairly vague definition, but that's important because it allows for malleability in the list midseason if someone like Tony Romo
bursts suddenly on to the scene. I also believe you can separate franchise QB's into three basic categories: the stars who just aren't elite, the very good starters, and the solid starters. Here's my list, in no particular order:
Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, and Michael Vick (the last two are borderline due to injury concerns)
Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, and Cam Newton
Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Andy Dalton, Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, and Matt Cassel.
I didn't include any of the rookies because i don't want to project them to any particular height until after their first season, but I would guess Luck's ceiling is elite and RGIII's is as a star. Also, if it helps, think of the above three categories in terms of trade offers: teams might consider a star for a star, very good starter for very good starter, and solid starter for solid starter, but likely would not be willing to trade their quarterback for one in a lower category on the list.
In the end, by my count, six teams have elite quarterbacks, while 17 more teams have "franchise" quarterbacks in some capacity, and nine are still scrambling or waiting for a rookie to step up. Feel free to disagree in the comments, or sort people into different categories based on your tastes.
Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.