The NFC West isn't exactly known for it's dominance and prestige in the NFL of today. Obviously, the league is very cyclical and the West shall rise again, but right now there's a dearth of elite talent on each team and the quarterback position might be the best indicator of how good a division will be in any given year.
With that in mind, NFC West SB Nation writers at the Turf Show Times, Niners' Nation, Revenge of the Birds and I have collaborated recently to vote on the best players at each position in the division and naturally we started out with QB.
Here's how I ranked them:
I have to say that I believe Sam Bradford's 2010 season was overhyped considering he had middling numbers (18TD to 15 INT) despite a penchant for check-down high-percentage throws. According to Football Outsiders statistical analysis, he ranked 34th in DYAR and 32nd in DVOA among NFL quarterbacks. That doesn't scream 'best QB in the division' to me, but the fact is Bradford is still ranked higher in both of those categories than his main competitor there, Matt Hasselbeck (35th in both DYAR and DVOA).
Of course, you can't rely on just these statistics for an answer. Bradford threw for 3,512 yards to Hasselbeck's 3,001. Bradford threw for 18 TDs to Hasselbeck's 12. Bradford's got a better arm and is more mobile. He does a better job than a 13-year veteran of taking care of the football despite being a rookie. That, to me, is the bottom line.
So, despite my belief that his rookie season was overrated, I still have to rate Sam Bradford the number one quarterback in the NFC West. He has all the physical attributes you look for in a quarterback, he's young, smart, hungry, appears to be a good leader, and will likely only get better.
Hasselbeck has been and still is a great leader for the Seahawks, demonstrated his mettle with a solid performance in the playoffs last season, and is a savvy veteran. His playoff performance and experience makes him still a very dangerous player and he's got enough in the tank to nip at Sam Bradford's heels for the unofficial title of best QB in the NFC West (if he is indeed a part of the NFC West in 2011).
But to do this he simply has to take better care of the football. He's had 34 TDs to 44 Interceptions in the last 3 seasons and his untimely turnovers have often spelled disaster for the Hawks. He's effective when he's calm and lets the game come to him but when he tries to force the ball or carry the team on his back he gets into trouble. If he can limit his turnovers and stay healthy, Matt Hasselbeck can still be very good.
Alex Smith has the potential to be a good NFL QB, but has yet to prove it. He showed some leadership abilities in certain situations last season, but was unable to provide any consistency for the 49ers and he had to share some playing time with backup Troy Smith. He has probably the best offensive talent around him compared to other teams in NFC West, but failed to capitalize on that and thus comes in as the 3rd best QB in the division.
Charlie Whitehurst has been a backup QB his whole career and has two starts now under his belt. In those starts, he's 1-1, has passed for 507 yards with a 57.6% completion rate, 2 TDs, 3 Interceptions and no fumbles lost. His first start was a loss that came against a Giants team that blew the Seahawks away in every facet of the game. Thus, the loss can't really be attributed to Whitehurst. His second start was a win that came in a loser-go-home, winner-go-to-the-playoffs game on national television where he played soundly and effectively enough to get the job done. He has good arm strength, good mobility, and if he can manage to stop staring down his receivers he could be effective. With so little track record, it is difficult to rank him higher than the aforementioned three though.
The combination of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, and Max Hall is obviously the cellar-dweller when it comes to QB's in the NFC West. No one player demonstrated an ability to win the starting job and each player had their struggles in 2010. Skelton has the most upside but is still very young and raw. Max Hall, though a gritty battler, does not appear to have NFL level talent. Anderson has a good arm but seems to struggle with dealing with adversity. Until the Cardinals get this situation figured out, they'll likely remain non-contenders in the division.
Here are the results from each writer in the division:
David Fucillo of the San Francisco 49ers site, Niners' Nation:
1. Sam Bradford
2. Matt Hasselbeck
3. Alex Smith
4. Charlie Whitehurst
5. Derek Anderson/John Skelton
Sam Bradford is a clear notch ahead of the rest of the division even after only one season in the league. He is officially the most talented QB in the league and was an integral reason the Rams bounced back to almost win the 2010 NFC West. While Matt Hasselbeck might have the greater experience and the playoff victories, the torch has passed among QBs in the NFC West. (SEE THE REST OF HIS EXPLANATION HERE):
Jess Root of the Arizona Cardinals' site, Revenge of the Birds:
1. Sam Bradford
2. Matt Hasselbeck
3. Alex Smith
4. Derek Anderson/John Skelton
The top two quarterbacks were not as cut and dried as it may seem. Yes, Sam Bradford has the huge upside and Hasselbeck is in the twilight of his career, but Hasselbeck is still the only guy in the division to lead their team to the playoffs -- and he did it just a season ago and beat the defending champions in the playoffs. Bradford finished the year with 18 TDs and 15 INTs, over 3500 yards passing and a QB rating of 76.5. Hasselbeck threw for over 3000 yards on the season, 12 TDs, 17 INTs and a QB rating of 73.2. (SEE THE REST OF HIS EXPLANATION HERE):
VanRam of the Turf Show Times, the Rams SBNation site:
1. Sam Bradford
2. Charlie Whitehurst
3. Matt Hasselbeck
4. Alex Smith
5. Arizona's mess
It's hard to limit myself on words about Sam Bradford. No, compared to other QBs in the league his season was mediocre. He was restrained by a lack of offensive weapons and a head coach unwilling to take the training wheels off the offense. And, of course, he had some very rookie moments. Still, over the course of the season he showed the talent that made him a slam dunk first overall pick in the draft. Bradford was at his best when he was unleashed, running the no-huddle and the two-minute offense that allowed him to make his own reads and call his own plays. With even a marginal upgrade at receiver, another year of experience between two young tackles and Josh McDaniels' offense he will thrive. (SEE THE REST OF HIS EXPLANATION HERE):