The title of this post may be a little misleading as I do think that Eli is better than guys like Brody Croyle or Chris Redman or Cleo Lemon. And while those guys are starters week-to-week, no one thought that would be the case at the beginning of the year. So I guess I should start by saying that the definition of "starting quarterback" means that the QB was slated to start this year or was in place to become a starter at some point in the future (that way my definition encompasses guys like Kellen Clemens, Trent Edwards and Tarvaris Jackson). So with that as the definition, is Eli the worst in the NFL? The argument could be made.
Michael Kay does not agree with me. One of Kay's favorite things to do after a bad game by Eli is to throw out all the numbers and ask all those people out in radio land who they would rather have than Eli. He then proceeds to go through the list of players he feels are better than Eli and usually ends up suggesting that Eli is one of the top 10 QBs in the league. Well, I'm gonna do it the opposite way. Who is worse than Eli? And out of the "starters in this league," there are not 5 guys who are worse than Eli. I guarantee it. Let's first eliminate the guys who are better than Eli:
First, the easy list:
Brady, Peyton, Favre, Palmer, Romo, Hasselbeck, Roethlisberger
Second, the not-so easy but pretty easy list:
Garrard, Derek Anderson, Jeff Garcia, Donnie McNabb, Jason Campbell, Kitna, Cutler, Brees, Warner, Bulger
So here's who's left:
Phil Rivers, Tarvaris Jackson, Vince Young, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith, Kellen Clemens & Trent Edwards
Of the guys left who play QB in the NFL, none would really qualify as "starters" (no one in Chicago is a starter nor is anyone in Atlanta or KC, though you could make the case that Jamarcus Russell, Kevin Kolb or John Beck might qualify).
So let's go through who's left by using a couple of factors. There are two ways you can judge QBs when comparing them: 1. If you had a big game to win today, who would you pick? 2. If you could choose a guy to build a team around, who would you pick? of the guys left, I think Eli is only better than three.
In examining the first basis for comparison, you need to take into account playoff performances. Eli's performance in big games is horrendous. In two playoff games he's 0-2 with 4 ints, 2 tds and a completion percentage around 55%. Only one other guy has even made the playoffs and that's Phil Rivers and he had a pretty awful game. Another factor to look at would be second half of the season performance. Eli has been horrendous. In 2005 he finished his last 8 games like this: 9-8 Td-Int, 5-3 W-L. In 2006 like this: 9-9 Td-Int, 2-6 W-L. In 2007 so far, this is what he's doing 6-8 Td-Int, 3-3 W-L. In those 22 games, he has had a QB rating over 100 only three times and only broken 80 in QB rating 6 times. I'm not one to buy into the value of QB rating as a pure measure of QB worth, but it does serve as a way to compare the efficiency over time and Eli is much worse when the games matter more. All that being said, there is only one player in the list of available QBs who I personally would 100% pick to win one game today over Eli and that's Vince Young. He just wins games, period. Eli does not. Of the other guys, I would say that a healthy Schaub and Rivers are on equal footing for one game and the other guys either haven't done enough or fall short of Eli. So because of this, I'm taking Vince Young out of the equation from here on out. The list that remains is Rivers, Schaub, Tarvaris, Edwards, Clemens and Alex Smith.
The next factor is would you build a team around Eli or X player. We'll look that in this respect: Can you say with 100% certainty that you would rather have Eli as your franchise back or X player. Two guys I think it's pretty easy. Today, I definitely would rather have Eli than Tarvaris Jackson (though he's not as bad as he looked early in the season) and Alex Smith. For whatever reason, Alex Smith has regressed miles. San Fran may be forced to go in an entirely different direction. So Eli is at least better than 2 other QBs in the NFL. The other guys, I don't know. Eli and Phil Rivers stats are virtually the same. Rivers has a better rating over the last couple years while Eli has more yards and throws the ball a ton more. Personally, I wouldn't want to build my team around either guy. Rivers is definitely worse or better. Schaub has shown flashes, but his stats are kind of incomplete. At this point you'd probably have to say you'd take Eli over Schaub (though I personally like Schaub a lot). Trent Edwards is a very tough one. First, he's a rookie and a couple years younger than Eli, but he's had flashes of very smart if not conservative play. He doesn't have near the physical tools, but he could be a fantastic QB. I don't know who I'd rather have out of these guys so I'd say they're tied. And then there's Kellen Clemens. Up until yesterday, I think the case could be made that Clemens is a better choice moving forward. But with Chad now seemingly back in the picture, I'm not sure how Kellen's growth will be affected. I think I'd probably start team with Eli before I did Kellen Clemens at this point.
So after that review, Eli is tied for 5th worst starting QB in the NFL under my personal rankings. Depending on how biased your opinion is, you may agree or disagree (and I myself and biased against Eli because I think he is horrible. I've actually forced myself to be nicer to him in this review and have held back how I truly feel). But in closing I'd like to finish with these facts: His career completion percentage is 54%. That is horrible. It's worse than Vince Young and Cleo Lemon and barely better than Mike Vick. His QB rating is abysmal. He's one of the least efficient QBs in the NFL over the last 3 years (if not the least efficient). And worst of all, he is much worse in December than he is in September. When the lights are shining brightest, he is at his worst. I know this review may be a little off-base and biased and not all that scientific, but if you're gonna defend Eli, ask yourself this: When the Giants step in that first playoff game, would you rather have him leading your team or the guy on the other team? If you say Eli, then you are a fucking lying sack of shit.
Here's a good rant from last year: