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Peyton Manning

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Souhan: For the best show, leave it to these QBs

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • September 16, 2012 - 3:19 AM

NFL quarterbacks play the most scrutinized position in America's most scrutinized sport. ESPN fills a few dozen hours of programming every day with debates of which ones are "elite."

Sunday, in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck and Christian Ponder will represent hope for their franchises, and account for two of the nine rookie or second-year quarterbacks starting in the NFL.

I can't tell you which NFL quarterback is going to have the best season, although I suddenly suspect it may not be Jay Cutler. I can't tell you which young NFL quarterback is going to become the next Manning or Brady, although I suddenly suspect it might be Robert Griffin III.

What I can tell you with certainty is which NFL quarterbacks I'd pay to see in person, based on nothing more than entertainment value. Here is my top 10:

1. Peyton Manning: His might be the most famous neck since Anne Boleyn's, only Anne couldn't audible her way out of the ultimate blitz.

Quarterback is a mystical position because we presume the good ones can control almost everything that occurs when they're on the field. Manning comes as close as anyone ever has to fulfilling that silly notion. He's a nerd playing a glamour position, a guy whose line-of-scrimmage adjustments let us all think along with him.

Manning thinks of everything. After the Colts beat the Bears in the Super Bowl, his longtime center, Jeff Saturday, talked about Manning making him practice snapping wet footballs. Manning would pull Saturday to the side during practice and dunk a football in a bucket of water.

I asked Archie Manning, Peyton's father, whether he had taught his son to do that. "I have never even heard of that," Archie said.

2. Griffin: Tom Brady and Manning have brainwashed a generation of football fans, and perhaps scouts, into believing that your feet have to be dipped in cement for you to be an elite NFL quarterback.

Wrong. You can't win with a running quarterback, but you can with an accurate passer who is capable of running. John Elway, Roger Staubauch, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton knew how and when to use their legs.

Griffin is accurate, composed and smart. He throws a beautiful deep pass and can scramble or run at will. Luck may be the safer pick, but Griffin could be unique.

3. Drew Brees: A great NFL quarterback who, according to reports, is not tall enough to get on the rides at Disney World.

4. Aaron Rodgers: Accuracy, athletic ability, a championship and a sense of humor. What more do you want?

5. Brett Favre: If he returned tomorrow, we'd all watch. He's a Greek tragedy in a crusty ball cap.

6. Brady: The homecoming king with the hot girlfriend and rich parents you can't bring yourself to hate, because he's so dang cool.

7. Cam Newton: Build a quarterback from an à la carte menu, you'd end up with Newton.

8. Tim Tebow: Not a joke. He's a lousy quarterback, tremendous entertainer.

9. Tony Romo: How can a Cowboys quarterback be the most underrated player in the NFL?

10. Michael Vick: Anyone who was in the Metrodome when Vick, as a Falcon, ran 46 yards for a touchdown in overtime to beat the Vikings saw something almost indescribable. It was like watching Usain Bolt roar around the turn in the 200 meters.

Also receiving consideration:

Luck: There is nothing more rewarding as a sports observer than watching a good young quarterback develop. When I watched Troy Aikman as a rookie, I could see the open receivers he missed, and the sacks he took because of indecisiveness. Three years later, the NFL was a Rubik's Cube he had solved.

Ben Roethlisberger: Looks like he's playing flag football in the back yard with the big kids.

Philip Rivers: When he misses a pass you can almost hear him saying, "Dadgummit!"

Cutler: All the pouting and whining makes him more interesting. Matt Ryan is a better quarterback, but who wants to talk about Matt Ryan?

Joe Webb: Minnesotans think the most intriguing quarterback in the NFL is always the Vikings' backup.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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