ESPN recently polled 50 league executives – including coaches, scouts and general managers – to rank the top 10 players in the league across multiple positions.
And of course, the ranking that generated the most controversy was the quarterback position.
We’re just gonna leave this here.
Have at it. pic.twitter.com/Spt3NO4Cdb
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 8, 2020
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes coming in at No. 1 was no surprise. He’s not the highest paid athlete in American sports history for no reason.
But No. 3 is where things get a bit dicey.
The Super Bowl XLV MVP is the NFL’s all-time regular season career passer rating leader and is one of two quarterbacks (Wilson) to have a regular season career passer rating over 100.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to @packers QB @AaronRodgers12
🧀 360 passing TDs to only 82 INTs
🧀 Highest career passer rating (103.1) in NFL history (min: 1,500 attempts)
🧀 One of four QBs to pass for 40 TDs in multiple seasons
🧀 2x NFL Most Valuable Player pic.twitter.com/bZopxRv1sR
— NFL (@NFL) December 2, 2019
Last season, Rodgers threw for 4,002 yards, 26 TDs, and only 4 INTs, while leading the Packers to a 13-3 regular season record and an NFC Championship berth.
However, in the NFC title game, the Packers were dominated by the San Francisco 49ers, and Aaron Rodgers didn’t look like Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers finished with 104 pass yards vs the 49ers, his fewest in a game with at least 30 pass attempts and the 2nd-fewest by any QB to attempt at least 30 passes in a game this season.
The only QB with fewer was Sam Darnold against the Patriots in the “seeing ghosts” game. pic.twitter.com/JlKGLYoxtt
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 25, 2019
Meanwhile, the guy sitting at No. 6 on the list might have been the guy that most thought they would see at No. 3.
Lamar Jackson wreaked havoc on the NFL last season, and led the Baltimore Ravens to an impressive regular season win against the very team that bludgeoned Rodgers and the Packers in the playoffs.
Against the 49ers in Week 13, Jackson finished with 105 passing yards, 101 rushing yards, and 2 total TDs, as the Ravens won, 20–17. That day, Jackson became the first QB in league history with four 100-yard rushing games in a season.
In 2019, he was voted the second unanimous MVP in NFL history, joining 6-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) July 1, 2020
In 15 games, Jackson went 13-2. In the process, he threw for a league-leading 36 TDs, posted a 113.3 passer rating, and rushed for 1,206 yards, an NFL record among quarterbacks.
Lamar Jackson’s 10 BEST PLAYS from his MVP season! @lj_era8
— NFL (@NFL) February 1, 2020
Due to Jackson’s record-breaking production, ESPN’s Marcus Spears believes that the reigning MVP should have ranked above Rodgers on the list, regardless of Rodgers’ place in NFL quarterback history.
“[The first thing that jumps out to me is] Lamar Jackson not being at No. 3. You’re looking at what Lamar Jackson did last year, and I know what everyone is going to say – ‘Well he can’t throw and look at the playoffs.’ Well, he actually played well, and he also ran for 1,200 yards last year … So if we’re basing this off of what I just watched, Lamar Jackson, to me, is behind Patrick Mahomes, he’s behind Russell Wilson, and he’s third … And he dominated Aaron Rodgers honestly in every category of football this year.”
While Lamar Jackson has a regular season record of 19-3 as a starter, he is 0-2 in the playoffs.
In his two playoff appearances, he’s posted completion percentages of 48 percent and 52 percent.
The Ravens’ 69 total yards of offense are their fewest in the 1st half of a playoff game in team history. pic.twitter.com/60BwIWpNcD
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 6, 2019
Meanwhile, Rodgers is 10-8 in 18 playoffs appearances as a starter. He won Super Bowl XLV and was named Super Bowl MVP.
With his 40th TD, Aaron Rodgers has passed Brett Favre for the most postseason TD passes in Packers history. pic.twitter.com/zTVwr3ZEnq
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 20, 2020
Leaning on Rodgers’ postseason success, former Alabama quarterback turned NFL analyst Greg McElroy said he would still take Rodgers over Jackson at this point in their careers.
“Lamar Jackson, in two playoff starts, has been remarkably unimpressive … I know he’s bound for stardom, and he’s just getting started. I actually believe he’s a much better passer than some people realize … but at this point, if you have to win the Super Bowl, right now, are you taking Lamar Jackson to start for your team or Aaron Rodgers? Because for me, it’s Aaron Rodgers, and it’s really not even close.”
Stephen A. Smith agreed with McIlroy, choosing Rodgers’ arm over Jackson’s feet.
“You look at Lamar Jackson – mad respect and love to him. He’s a future superstar. He’s definitely box office because of his ability to run the football. But we all know he can’t come close to flinging that football the way that Aaron Rodgers can fling that football. I’m not saying that he won’t be able to eventually, obviously he’s got strong upside. But when you talk about playing the QB position, to me, the No. 1 ability is not to run the football, it’s to throw the football.”
The 2020 NFL season is on the horizon, and Jackson has earned his stripes in two short years.
And if he can also earn a Super Bowl trophy in Baltimore, what is a debate between him and Rodgers this offseason might prove to be a formality this time next year.