So, let me start this list off by being clear about one thing: I can't be partial where Matt Ryan is concerned. I am an absolute homer and huge Ryan fan and I don't think I can be objective about his ranking amongst other QBs. He would likely be my #1 or #2 choice and that's not the point of this exercise. So, please don't mistake this as not feeling Ryan is not a top 5 QB - I'm just not sure I can place him accurately based on my sheer fandom.
With that out of the way, I do want to list out the QBs I consider to have had the best seasons in 2012 (post-season included). So, without further ado...
Had he started for the entire season, I'd be more inclined to include him in the top 5. However, he took over a team that was already winning and had one of the best defenses in the league. He undoubtedly had a terrific post-season, so he definitely warrants this mention. He's surprisingly good in the pocket and a home-run threat outside of it. I'm still not sold on the long-term merits of the read-option in the NFL, but he's shown he's a very good pocket passer as well.
This 3rd round rookie really had a very good season. Though he started slowly, he came on strong towards the end of the season and won his first playoff game to boot. He nearly destroyed the hopes and dreams of Falcons fans as well and he did it with great pocket presence and accuracy. He's going to be a great QB for a long time.
Robert Griffin III
I absolutely love this kid. He's the kind of leader that any team can get behind and he showed tremendous leadership as a rookie. The only reason he doesn't get into the top 5 is because he benefited from the emergence of fellow rookie Alfred Morris, who helped shoulder a large load of that offense. Also, the team had to play a few games without the rook, and it showed it could win without him, though they are obviously much better with him at the helm.
#5 - Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Key Stats: 4374 yards, 23TD, 18 INT, 54% Comp Pct, 76.5 Passer Rating
Though he didn't win rookie of the year, I doubt any other rookie meant as much to his team as this one did. Inheriting a terrible 2-14 squad and playing on a team with an aging defense and few offensive stars, all Luck did was completely turn-around this franchise in one year and lead them to the playoffs. He had quite a few fourth quarter comebacks and showed tremendous poise and leadership. Don't let his numbers fool you - he had an amazing season for a rookie, destroying the rookie yardage record in the process. If you're wondering if this ranking is too high, just ask yourself this: are the Colts a playoff team without him as their QB?
#4 - Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Key Stats: 4827 yards, 34TD, 8INT, 63% Comp Pct, 98.7 Passer Rating
It almost seems unfair to include Brady in the top 5, but he is undoubtedly a first-ballot hall of fame QB for a reason. Every year, he puts up amazing numbers and leads his team into the playoffs. One could certainly argue that he benefits from the system around him and also from playing in a weaker division - and those statements hold elements of truth in them. However, Brady consistently puts up these numbers and is a consistent winner in the post-season. Say what you will about his offensive line, the surrounding players or the division - this guy just wins.
#3 - Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Key Stats: 4295 yards, 39TD, 8 INT, 67% Comp Pct, 108 Passer Rating
To understand just how good Aaron Rodgers is, look at the stat line above and consider this: many people consider this to have been an off year for him. Coming off an MVP season, Rodgers was asked yet again to carry a team that has no running game, a porous offensive line and an inconsistent defense. His response? Win the NFC North and take his team back to the playoffs for the third straight year. He is undoubtedly one of the most accurate and strong armed passers in the league and the Pack will consistently be in the post-season conversation every year he is in the pocket.
#2 - Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Key Stats: 4659 yards, 37TD, 11INT, 68.6% Comp Pct, 105 Passer Rating
This is one of the truly great stories of the 2012 season. No one knew what to expect out of a QB that was returning from a missed season, major neck surgeries and going to a completely new team. All he did was put up one of his best seasons ever. Within a few games, it was clear that the Broncos were now running Peyton's offense. He quickly installed his no-huddle and took the Broncos storming into the playoffs. Undoubtedly, the Broncos finished the season crushing teams that were some of the worst in the league, but Manning did it and did it easily. The playoff loss was painful, though I think it's clear that good safety play gives the Broncos that victory. It was good to see this all time great come back in such fashion, and the Broncos have to be considered a favorite in the AFC West next year because of him.
#1 - Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Key Stats: 3817 yards, 22TD, 10INT, 59.7% Comp Pct, 87.7 Passer Rating
At first glance, the numbers above are underwhelming, especially compared to the four guys behind him. And let's be clear - Flacco was an average QB during the regular season. But these rankings are based on the post-season as well, and that is clearly where Flacco gets the boost. Bottom line - this guy played lights out in the 2012 playoffs. His 11TDs and no INTs tied Joe Montana's record and on the biggest stage, he came through big time. He may not be the most accurate QB, but he has a deep trust for his receivers - which paid off big. Before you levy criticisms at this style of play, it should also be noted that guys like Troy Aikman made a career of tossing it in the general direction of their play-maker receivers and letting them go get it. While it pains me to say Flacco has a ring now, there's no doubt the guy earned that ring this post-season.
So, how does this list compare to your top QBs of the 2012 season?