Some of the best you may have already forgotten…
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Sure, it is important to have a good defense, strong offensive line play, and a capable stable of running backs, but without good quarterback play a franchise is going nowhere.
There is a reason that quarterbacks are paid the big bucks. If your team’s quarterback is the best in the NFL in a given season, then there is every chance for a deep postseason run.
Here are the 12 best quarterbacks in each of the last 12 seasons.
Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams, 2006
The NFL MVP in 2006 was San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, marking this as the last year where quarterbacks didn’t dominate the voting (other than Adrian Peterson in 2012). Brees and Manning again had banner years, but 2006 was also a big year for Bulger, the man who inherited the greatest show on turf from Kurt Warner.
While he was working with a lesser group of players than the incomparable Warner, Bulger threw for an impressive 4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight picks during the best year of his career.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 2007
2007 was Brady’s first monster year and – in terms of touchdowns at least – he has never gotten close to matching the video game numbers he put up in this, his first MVP season. Brady passed for 4,806 yards, 50 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
The big reason for this was Brady’s connection with Randy Moss, a player who was uncoverable with the ability of Brady to put the ball on a dime. Moss caught a record 23 touchdowns from the NFL’s best quarterback in 2007. Tony Romo and Drew Brees were Brady’s closest challengers here, with Romo having arguably his best season as a pro.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 2008
Peyton Manning won the 2008 NFL MVP award, but it is hard to look past the season Brees put together when picking the best quarterback that year. The Saints passer has never been afraid to “air it out”, and in 2008 he passed for an insane 5,069 yards and 34 touchdowns. Brees has had bigger seasons since, but this was his breakout moment as one of the best – and most undervalued – quarterbacks in the entire NFL.
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans, 2009
2009 wasn’t the best year for quarterback play in the NFL. The MVP award went to Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, but it was Schaub who led the league in passing as he threw for 4,770 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
This was the best season in Schaub’s up and down career as he led the likes of Manning, Brady, and Jay Cutler at the top of the passing charts.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, 2010
Rivers is a longtime starting quarterback whose career has been overshadowed by the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. In 2010 he put together one of his best years for the Chargers, leading the NFL in passing yards with 4,710. He also tossed 30 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions, using tight end Antonio Gates as his primary target.
Other quarterbacks that shone in 2010 include MVP Brady and the Manning brothers.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 2011
Rodgers was named the 2011 NFL MVP after putting together a ruthlessly efficient season. Passing for a career-high (as of 2018) 4,643 yards, Rodgers also set career highs in touchdown passes (45) and fewest interceptions when starting double-digit games (6). Rodgers also posted a passer rating of over 100 in 13 of the Packers 16 games.
Rodgers led his team to a 15-1 record in a year where Drew Brees and Tom Brady also led stunningly high-powered offenses.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins, 2012
RG3’s flame may have burned out quickly even for an NFL quarterback, but his rookie year in 2012 leaves us with so many questions unanswered as to just how good he could have been.
The former Baylor quarterback exploded onto the scene, setting a host of franchise records as a rookie, before suffering an ACL tear in the playoffs that he was never able to recover from. He threw for 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for seven more scores. Brady, Manning, and Rodgers again had outstanding seasons in terms of yardage and touchdown production.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 2013
Manning wasn’t expected to prosper in Denver after the Indianapolis Colts cut the future Hall of Famer amid neck injury issues. In 2014, Manning threw for a pair of all-time records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns for the Broncos, taking full advantage of a loaded receiving corps and talented tight end Julius Thomas.
It is ironic that Manning’s best season ever came in Denver, as he threw for 16 more touchdowns than nearest rival Drew Brees over the course of 16 games. His best years might be to come as some predict he’ll become president one day.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2014
Roethlisberger has been a fixture with the Steelers since 2004, with 2014 being his best year in black and gold. With a solid offensive line and more explosive downfield options than he had previously enjoyed in the Steel City, Roethlisberger passed for just a shade under 5,000 yards with 32 touchdowns and nine picks.
Aaron Rodgers was a contender with an outstanding season for Green Bay, as, yet again, was Brady as he dominated for New England.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, 2015
The eccentric Cam Newton locks this spot down with a monster year that saw him named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year and the NFL MVP. A quarterback who had never thrown for more than 24 touchdowns in a season, Newton blew up in 2015 as he passed for 35 scores with just 10 interceptions. Newton also rushed for 10 more touchdowns as he became the best dual-threat version of himself we had seen since his days at Auburn.
Newton finished only one touchdown behind Tom Brady on the year and even with Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, and Carson Palmer.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 2016
Ryan led the Falcons to the NFC South title by becoming a quarterback who spread the wealth to his receivers at a historic new level. He became the first player to throw touchdowns to 13 different receivers in a season, being part of the MVP conversation for a good part of the year.
Ryan barely won out over an epic season from Brady where he threw just two interceptions after returning from his Deflategate suspension.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles, 2017
Wentz might not be the most obvious choice here in just his second year as a professional quarterback. After taking the usual NFL lumps as a rookie, Wentz showed amazing progress through 13 games before an ACL injury prematurely ended his season. At that point, Wentz was looking like a bonafide MVP candidate as he threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns in 13 games. Everyone is waiting to see how Wentz performs throughout the 2018 season.
It was another year where the veterans shone, with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger all standing out but just being pipped by the youngster.