GZL All-Decade Team – 2010s (Quarterbacks)
This is the first article in what hopefully will be a longer series of articles. In an effort to explore our league’s history, I’m developing an All-Decade team for our first 10 years. To do so I have had to sift through a lot of our archives, so it’s likely there are some errors. At the same time, we have a very rich history with many talented players. So it’s very likely that a few were excluded that some think should be included, especially since each of us may value some elements of the game over others. Either way, this series is meant to be fun and enlightening. I hope you enjoy.
Here are the Quarterbacks of the Decade
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers, 2010-2018). From a production standpoint, Big Ben isn’t the most obvious QB of the Decade. Ben comes in at “only” 10th all-time in passing yards (though retired after the 2018 season). Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez have more yards passing than Roethlisberger. But Ben finished 5th all-time in touchdowns with 217 and only 86 picks. This impressive spread is one of the reasons Big Ben is tops in passer rating (94.4) amongst those who qualify. He’s also only one of three QBs (Stafford and Henderson) in the Top 25 passers in terms of yardage to exceed over 8 yards per attempt. At one point Roethlisberger managed 6 straight seasons of a rating of 91 or higher. His 2014 campaign was epic, where he notched 31 TDs to only 5 picks all season. With all these accomplishments, however, Roethlisberger’s legacy is his playoff success. Under Big Ben’s helm, the Steelers won 3 titles in a 5 year span. More impressive, Roethlisberger’s playoff record as a starter is an astounding 11-4. During what amounts to an extra season, against the best teams in the league, Roethlisberger threw for over 3500 yards and 23 TDs and 10 interceptions and an 89.7 passer rating. For the Super Bowl playoff runs, Roethlisberger had an amazing 17-2 TD/Int ratio. Roethlisberger never lead the league in passing yards or TDs, but was the picture of success with 5 Pro Bowls and 3 rings.
Yards Passing: 28,306 (10th for the Decade)
Pro Bowls: 5 (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)
Awards: 2014 AFC MVP, 2014 MVP, 2017 AFC Comeback, 2017 Comeback
League Leader in Passing: None
League Leader in TDs: None
League Leader in Rating: 2014
Playoff Record: 11-4
Super Bowl Record: 3-0
Matthew Stafford, Lions (2010-2019). Just from a sheer productivity level, no one comes close to Stafford. During the league’s first decade Stafford neared 45,000 yards passing, about 8,000 more than his nearest competitors. Think about that. Sam Bradford, number 2 in all-time passing, who has played the same number of seasons, is about 2 full years behind Stafford. Stafford has an unwordly 300 TD passes, best in league history. He also managed 7 consecutive seasons of 4,000 yards passing, which is unreal. In that stretch he topped 5,000 three times, including his 2016 season which featured 5,786 yards – more than 600 more yards than the most all time. Of the top 5 passing yardage seasons in history, Stafford has 3. He also has the second most TDs in a season (38 TDs in 2016). Stafford’s 6 Pro Bowls in more than any other QB. And Stafford lead the league in passing yards 5 times. Think about that for a second. All of the other passing yardage leaders combined equals Stafford’s accomplishments. Stafford was never the most efficient QB, and leads the league in interceptions with almost 50 more than the next most. However, Stafford’s lifetime QB rating of 86.1 is in the same ballpark as Josh Freeman (87.2) and Sam Bradford (87.1).
Yards Passing: 44,580 (1st for the Decade)
Pro Bowls: 6 (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Awards: 2012 NFC OPTY, 2016 NFC OPTY, 2016 OPTY
League Leader in Passing: 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
League Leader in TDs: 2013, 2016
League Leader in Rating: None
Playoff Record: 4-5
Super Bowl Record: None
Josh Freeman, Bucs, Bengals (2010-2019). Truth be told, picking the third QB of the decade was tough as there were several excellent candidates (see below). Each candidate has merits and demerits, but Freeman rises above others based on his productivity, his accolades and leading his team into the playoffs. Freeman was the picture of consistency throughout the decade, throwing for over 3,000 yards each year, including his monster season of 2014 (5,089 yards, 42 TDs) which still rank as the third best in terms of yardage and the best in league history for TDs. As QB for the Bucs, Freeman led his team to 8 consecutive 10-win seasons, and 9 out 10 for the Decade. He certainly has the hardware, at various times winning the Breakout POTY, the MVP, and Offensive Player of the Year Award, for both the league and his conference. Perhaps the biggest knock against Freeman’s candidacy is his lack of playoff success. On one hand, Freeman took his team to the playoffs 10 out of 10 seasons. On the other hand, Freeman never won a ring, despite 2 Super Bowl appearances, and was 1 and done in 6 of those playoff appearances. A closer examination shows that Freeman is no choke artist. Despite a 7-10 playoff record, Freeman amassed over 4,300 yards passing and 31 TDs against 14 picks in his 17 games. His passer rating of 94.1 in the playoffs was actually higher than in the regular season. And in both of his Super Bowl losses he threw 3 TDs and zero interceptions and finished the games with passer ratings of 107.5 and 120.4, respectively. It appears Freeman did his part.
Yards Passing: 37,119 (2nd for the Decade)
Pro Bowls: 3 (2014, 2015, 2017)
Awards: 2014 NFC Breakout, 2014 GZL Breakout, 2014, NFC MVP, 2014 OPTY, 2015 NFC OPTY, 2017 NFC MVP, 2017 MVP, 2017 NFC OPTY, 2017 OPTY
League Leader in Passing: 2014
League Leader in TDs: 2014, 2017
League Leader in Rating: 2017
Playoff Record: 7-10
Super Bowl Record: 0-2
Sam Bradford won four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl at the end of the Decade and makes a strong case for inclusion in this group. Bradford is third overall in yardage and won a Super Bowl in 2018. That season Bradford threw for over 4,100 yards and had 33 TDs and only 5 picks. Bradford won the MVP and Offensive POTY that season…Christopher Henderson was not the flashiest of QBs but still finished 9th for the decade in yards. But Henderson also was voted to 4 Pro Bowls, bested only by Stafford and Roethlisberger. Henderson won Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 and helped turn the 1-15 Titans into a team that won 10 games or more 7 of 8 years. Henderson went 7-8 in the playoffs, and though he never made a Super Bowl, led the Titans to 4 conference championship games...Drew Brees only played half of the decade and he isn’t a legitimate candidate for QB of the Decade, but he made his presence known while in the league. Brees made 3 Pro Bowls, the same as Freeman in half the time. He also was the league MVP in 2010 and won Comeback Player of the Year in 2014. He twice led the league in passer rating, led the league in TDs and had 3 straight seasons of 100+ passer rating.