Grading the Candidates- Joe Biden

No candidate has bothered the activist class of the Democratic Party more than Joe Biden. For me though, Biden remains among my top four candidates. The former Vice-President is far from perfect, as he showed with his Iraq War vote, his credit card/bankruptcy legislation, and parts of the 1994 Crime Bill that he wrote. Looking at the preponderance of his record though, Biden has been an excellent public servant and would be a good President.

Biden’s strengths as a candidate are well documented. Biden leads primary polling, usually comfortably, and has done so all year. He also continuously polls the best against Trump. He does this with near 100% name recognition. His “Scranton Joe” persona polls very well with “Rust Belt” white voters and African-Americans (as evidenced in South Carolina). He’s probably the only candidate who can boast those strengths at this point. There’s also no question that he has the qualifications for the job.

Biden’s weaknesses are also known. His legislative record offers a treasure trove of votes to examine, like those I mentioned above. His career stretches all the way back to the days of debates over busing desegregation, meaning Biden has some real challenges reaching a more progressive Democratic Party than the one he entered as a young man. An older white man is not exactly what the activist class probably has in mind for 2020. His early debate performances didn’t inspire confidence. In short, Biden has very real challenges.

Of course, some of Biden’s critics have gone off the deep end in their criticisms of the former Vice-President. It started with a ridiculous hatchet job trying to hit Joe Biden on #MeToo allegations for smelling the hair of women, orchestrated by allies of Bernie Sanders. It never stopped there. There have been multiple attempts to portray Barack Obama’s Vice-President as a racist, with the latest being the absurd attack by Jamil Smith of Rolling Stone. There was last week’s pathetic attempt by Julian Castro to make Joe Biden look old and forgetful in the debate, in which Castro ultimately got his facts wrong. This week we saw “CornPop” gate blow up on Twitter, as this week’s crop of millennial progressive writers accused Biden of making up a story about an altercation with an African-American man nicknamed “CornPop.” It turns out that despite their mockery, “CornPop” was real. Imagine that. A lot of the young, progressive class of the Democratic Party are exposing themselves as shameless and morally bankrupt in their pursuit of power- and incompetent. Their attacks aren’t working because they failed to connect with or change the mind of the base of Biden’s voters. They’re not knocking down his “Scranton Joe” image because their attacks lack credibility and don’t relate to the things Biden’s voters care about.

Biden’s credibility as a candidate will rise and fall with his ability to maintain his “Scranton Joe” working class appeal to older white and black voters. If that falls apart, he can’t win. If he can maintain it, he will pick up steam later in the process. People on both sides of the Biden debate would be smart to realize that.

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And Now That It’s Over…

Saturday night was the last Phillies game on our 17 game plan for this season, and within 24 hours after that, it all finally seemed over. After the Red Sox had completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon, it finally seemed safe to stop saying “maybe” this team would make the playoffs. Last night as I laid on my couch and watched the Cubs win again, it dawned on me that this season is almost definitely over. I’d still like to see them beat out the Mets for third and win 82 games, I guess, but I don’t really care. The season that seemed so promising when I was down in Clearwater in March will end as their eighth straight season out of the playoffs.

I won’t play the game of “who to blame,” because I don’t want to leave anyone deserving out. For the second straight season, Gabe Kapler and his analytics driven approach failed in a pennant race. He over manages the game playing every match-up, and frankly his chosen coaching staff (particularly his original hitting coach and his pitching coach) taught their “new” approach to the game, and failed miserably. I’d stop the blame there, but that would be irresponsible and unfair. Matt Klentak handed him a flawed roster, one that could hit pretty well, but couldn’t pitch to save their lives. Not a single Phillies starting pitcher has a better ERA than the Braves fourth starter, Julio Teheran, and only one has thrown more innings. Klentak gave Kapler, his chosen manager, a bullpen full of pitchers over 35 years old, knowing full well that Klentak regularly likes to use his bullpen early and often. Add on a pitching coach trying to force all of the pitchers to throw four-seam fastballs up in the zone, and you see how the disaster happens. The GM did a bad job building his rotation, bullpen, and bench. The manager doesn’t use them right. The pitching coach was a noticeable downgrade from the one we let go to Atlanta. And yeah, well, the pitchers and hitters mostly didn’t do their jobs either.

You can only blame the players to the extent that they underperform their abilities. There is no doubt that this team on the field now was somewhat unlucky. Your center fielder beat up his girlfriend in a casino, your original left fielder tore his ACL in the midst of a really good bounce back season, then the new left fielder you traded for had typical nagging injuries for an older player. So sure, you’re going through the growing pains with a rookie in center field. Your third baseman did what he’s done throughout his young career so far, and when the team got impatient, they sat him down and played a lot of inferior bench players. Your old bullpen guys all got injured together, and you got stuck with waiver wire and AAA guys to finish the season. About the only part of the team that legitimately underperformed on the field was your starting pitchers, and that was fatal. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto put up 3.8 and 5.7 WAR seasons to date, or roughly All-Star and All-Star plus level seasons in their first years here, with particularly strong second halves. Jean Segura wasn’t quite what he was last season in Seattle, but he’s an “every other year” type of player traditionally, and still posted a well above average 2.6 WAR. Cesar Hernandez is pretty much who he was last year too. Scott Kingery was a pleasant surprise to even his biggest critics, like me, posting a respectable 2.4 WAR season. The only true disappointment has been Rhys Hoskins, and he’s posting a solid 2.7. A poor second half and low batting average makes us not appreciate a 28 homer, 81 RBI performance. On the field, for the most part, you got what you paid for, so while I am not a fan of Kapler’s methods, this team’s failures need to mostly be laid at the feet of bad luck and bad front office work.

Let’s not beat around the bush- a year ago right now, our owner was talking about “stupid money.” That did not happen. Instead our general manager used his “player valuations” to talk himself out of giving Patrick Corbin the sixth year, or out-bidding the Rays for Charlie Morton, or making an offer to current Brave Dallas Keuchel, or even trading minimal value for Cole Hamels last Summer. For your information, all of those guys are currently headed for the playoffs. All of them are at least better than four of the Phillies pitchers. Did I mention above that our pitching coach from last year is in Atlanta too? Meanwhile our team President Andy McPhail’s attitude was “if we get in, we get in, if we don’t, we don’t.” The Phillies, and owner John Middleton who promised stupid money, meanwhile stayed below the luxury tax with an inadequate team. Player valuations are a great excuse for this in small markets, like Oakland and Milwaukee, both of who still have stronger playoff aspirations than us. That shouldn’t work in the largest single-team market in the league though. And if you’re going that route, you better do it as well as Oakland and Milwaukee. The ownership and front office failed this team though. They didn’t do enough to win in 2019. That’s idiotic when you consider the money they did spend.

My only conclusion is that you can’t keep the blame to just one person or part of this team. If I were John Middleton, I would remove everyone from McPhail to Klentak, and Kapler and his coaching staff. For one, they failed to reach your goals with your money. Second though, they really lost this fan base as the summer was dragging on. The stands were not full like the heyday of 2009. They weren’t that entertaining. You have a team tied for third place, in the division, and a minor league system rated near the bottom of the league. Their draft choices aren’t reaching the league, and player development is questionable at best. There’s not much whining success to point to. The best moves of last off-season, bringing in the Harpers, Realmutos, Seguras, and McCutchens are not particularly genius- any idiot with the budget would do that. On the hard moves, everyone basically failed.

A new regime, one with a bigger market perspective, could do a lot with the parts the Phillies would hand them. I think they should consider doing that.

The Cold Democratic Truth

Since LBJ left Washington, three Democrats have been elected President, winning five total elections. That’s out of thirteen Presidential races. In the victories of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, three traits have been present every time:

  1. They have been exciting, dynamic candidates.
  2. Their candidacies have been responses to a crisis- Watergate, recession, and war.
  3. Each of them was viewed as a moderate, mainstream candidate that promised positive change for the better.

Now, the good and bad news about 2020- there is crisis in the political air. I’m not sure if that crisis is the very presence of Donald Trump to the majority of voters, like our activists tend to believe, but he may be. Even if not though, I think the looming recession from a trade war, not to mention climate change, will qualify as a crisis to most. Whether it’s threats to our democracy, climate, economy, or society, there’s a crisis in the eyes of most of our citizens.

But what about the other two characteristics of Democratic victories? Is there an exciting, dynamic character who won’t be viewed as a radical? Here we run into a problem. There are lots of Democrats running for President, but are there any winners? Joe Biden is certainly a steady, calming figure, but is he exciting some group of voters (moderates?)? Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything, but policy and professor types generally land with a thud in general elections. Bernie Sanders is easily labeled a nut. Kamala? Mayor Pete? We just don’t know enough yet.

Would the Democratic Party know if they found a broadly appealing, mainstream candidate though? Hillary Clinton began last cycle as that person, but was hammered by her left. Joe Biden consistently polls ahead in the primaries and in general election battlegrounds, but if you listen to MSNBC and Twitter, he’s a bumbling old moron. Is the dysfunction of the Democratic Party as crippling as conditions on the ground, or more? I guess we’ll find out, again. With so many candidates in the field, but only several looking like solid general election candidates, Democrats are being offered the opportunity to choose wisely. Conditions are lined up for them to win, if they don’t beat themselves first.

Football 🏈 Predictions

Football season is here. Today, college football opens up and my high school alma mater plays their debut. It’s time to do the seasonal predictions for my teams’ seasons, from the pros down.

Philadelphia Eagles

13-3, NFC East 1st, NFC Home Field.

Are the Eagles the best team in football? I’m not prepared to go there. They’re really good though, and they have a really good schedule for them. They play just one road game against a 2018 playoff team (Dallas). If you want to say Atlanta and Minnesota could be hard road games, or that Lambeau is a tough place, fine, but are the Eagles really losing all four of those games? Doubtful they’d even lose three. They get to play Chicago, New England, Seattle, and of course, Dallas all in Philly. When you look at their schedule, they get to start as heavy favorites right now in eight games. They got a good schedule, on paper. Can they deliver?

Carson Wentz had a full off-season as the QB1 for the second time in his career. The other time was 2017, when he was second team All-Pro, and they won the Super Bowl. The additions in the backfield, the decision to add depth to the offensive line through the draft, and the decision to bring back DJax should make this offense scary. The defense has to stay healthier than last year, but that’s the biggest road block I see ahead. Big things are coming.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

9-3, New Year’s Day Bowl

Ian Book could be even better than he was last year. Second year starters tend to do that. There’s an argument that teams who make the CFP tend to improve from the experience. Notre Dame is really talented, and a playoff game better for last year’s undefeated regular season experience.

The problem is that everything went right last season. Stanford, Virginia Tech, and USC were all down. Georgia wasn’t on the schedule, let alone a road game. Michigan is there, this season. Even games like Louisville, Virginia, and Boston College aren’t gimmes. Only New Mexico, Bowling Green, Duke, and Navy are games they’re clear favorites.

Even so, I do think Notre Dame is a top ten team, so I’m splitting the difference between believing they go 11-1, or that it’s a disaster season. 9-3 it is.

Penn State Nittany Lions

10-2, New Year’s Day Bowl.

I almost went 11-1, Big Ten Champions. Why not? A first year starter, red shirt sophomore quarterback. With brutally difficult road games at Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State, and difficult home games with Michigan and would-be-rivals Pittsburgh and Rutgers, it’s a lot to predict Penn State to make the playoffs- but the talent and returning starters are there. If James Franklin is going to break out and win a second Big Ten Title, these next two seasons are good opportunities.

Temple Owls

6-6, Bowl Eligible.

My gut puts this team at 8-4. The coaching carousel worries me though. I feel good about them having some experience at quarterback, and being home against Maryland, Georgia Tech, and UCF. I just don’t like the feeling that they lack stability. So I went under my gut instinct.

Moravian Greyhounds

7-3, post-season eligible.

Hound ’em! An experienced quarterback helps. So does getting some local kids in. I like the Hounds to post a winning 2019.

Easton Red Rovers

12-2, EPC Champions.

When the strength of a high school football team, or really any football team, is described as their offensive line, I am happy. This team is going to be pretty good.

The Reactive American Government

When a child is diagnosed with a developmental disability, the education system is expected to draw up a detailed plan for how it is we expect them to learn (no comment here on how I think they do at that task). By contrast, the American health care system essentially waits to treat illness until there is a diagnosed illness, rather than proactively drawing up a plan to usher the patient to success. In a way, you could invert these two examples to say that special education is reactive to a negative diagnosis and American medicine is proactive to avoid death. Either way, if comparing American governance to these systems, our government is much less proactive to reactive. We do not really try to create the reality that we seek, we just react to the problems we come across.

What is the outcome we are seeking on health care, or maximum employment, or a functional criminal justice system? Like hell if I know. We pass crime bills after a decade of violent drug trade in America, and we pass criminal justice reform when we realize we have over crowded prisons and millions of convicted felons that we destroyed in the prison system. We’re going to react to climate change, while failing to set the energy and environmental policies that get us to where we want to be. Infrastructure? We’re arguing over whether we should fix crumbling highways and bridges, decades after having the foresight to build the interstate highway system. We’re not forward thinking. We react to sickness in our public sphere. It limits the range of our reactions, and frankly our ability to have a unified, shared system of goals.

When we think about American success stories, those that were true American exceptionalism, we find they were only partially reactive, if they were reactive at all. The creation of the interstate highway system was more visionary than reactive. So was going to the Moon. Sure, both were reactive to some extent towards the Cold War, but they were more aspirational in that we set out with a national goal for what we wanted to be. The same can be said for Social Security and Medicaid, programs inspired perhaps by the Great Depression, but frankly forward thinking beyond the current crisis. LBJ’s “Great Society” was visionary of what we wanted to be, and it delivered us Medicare. In all these instances, we set goals based on values, and we pursued them based on aspiration, not illness.

Trumpism is simply a public reaction to what they perceive that we’ve become. Even though Barack Obama was a great President, the perception was that he spent a lot of time fixing the societal ailments, but less time “progressing.” Was perception right? No, but it’s reality. Sure, Obamacare was aspirational in what we want to be, but it also felt like only solving the problem of people without health care, treating a failure instead of building a future.

There is certainly an importance in fixing failure. It’s an important government function. When that’s all that we can do though, the public looses a measure of faith in the ability of government to improve their lives. That leads to the rise of frauds, strong men, and populist screwballs. We’re seeing that in America. We’re seeing that across the western world.

Cops, the Legal System, and America

Read the above tweet. If your reaction is anything short of shock and anger, you’re messed up. Anyone getting shot is terrible. I don’t care if they’re white or black. Legal or illegally here. Cop or criminal. You or someone else. Violent harm to other people isn’t a joke.

Before you go looking up the tweet and attacking the young woman-of-color who sent it though, step back and face reality. If a white cop shot an alleged criminal of color, one side of our politics would defend it, and the other would protest in the streets. If a black criminal shoots (presumably, but based on nothing) white cops, the roles reverse. Make the cop black and the criminal white and you just get mass confusion. The truth? It’s really messed up that we react to gun violence against another human being through political and racial lenses.

I tend to view this all through the politically confused lense of a politically left person that viewed Ferguson in horror, but whose father worked in law enforcement. I can support the statement “black lives matter,” and yet still find offense in anti-cop sentiment that angers the “blue lives matter” crowd. I’m admittedly conflicted here.

There’s something completely screwed up about a country where everyone isn’t able to be mad at both police shootings and excessive force shootings by police against minorities. Let’s be honest though, white and non-white people have different relationships to law enforcement. “To serve and protect” means different things to different people, largely based on demographics. Who is being “served and protected?” White suburbanites like myself think it’s us. African-Americans largely agree. How you feel about that, and whether you feel you benefit at all, tends to shade your views about what that all means.

We really don’t even live in the same country, and that becomes very clear in our views of law enforcement, and police shootings- both of cops and by them. It’s also clear in our views on race, gun violence, and government. White people want race to “go away” as an issue, while non-white people view it as defining. White people view gun violence as a problem of bad people that requires enforcement, while non-white people view it as a pandemic caused by access to illegal fire arms. White people view government as an enemy, coming to take resources from them, while non-white people increasingly view government as insensitive and uncaring to their problems, inadequate in it’s actions.

Six cops were shot in Philadelphia yesterday, something that deeply disturbs me. What disturbs me more is the gap in our reactions. I guess that’s to be expected in a country that doesn’t even share a common vantage point though. Don’t hate on someone who lays that bare for you. Try to learn from it though.

All’s Well That Ends Well?

John Mallee is gone. Charlie Manuel is back! If you wanted to brighten the day of like 80% of the Phillies fanbase, you’d do what the Phillies did Tuesday. By ridding themselves of an unpopular scapegoat, and bringing back a “conquering hero” to their fanbase, the Phillies temporarily pleased their market audience, Philadelphia baseball fans, and in the process maybe did something to correct the course of their season.

I am neither a fan of the McPhail-Klentak-Kapler regime, or of the ideas they have implemented up to this point. I’m also not terribly stupid. Almost all of baseball at this point operates on analytics, and guys are hitting the baseball pretty well. On the flip side, a hitting coach doesn’t go up in the box and hit for the players on the team. I probably would not teach little leaguers to go to the plate and try to pull every pitch and always try to hit home runs. Honestly, it’s just ugly baseball. On the other hand, baseball is breaking records for offense- and seemingly not gaining fans like it expected. The modern version of the game is what it is, and so is the reaction of the public. Launch angle is producing home runs. Seats still lack rear-ends in them. The two things are not directly linked. They’re not unrelated entirely, either. John Mallee can’t shoulder the entirety of the blame for the whole Phillies line-up under-performing, a bad farm system, and an atrocious pitching staff. On the other hand, he’s a hitting coach for a team that can’t hit- he really shouldn’t keep his job. That’s made even worse by the expectation that this team would hit the ball.

I really shouldn’t be that excited that Charlie Manuel is now the Phillies hitting coach- it’s not like he’s going to go to the plate and hit for the players. But I’m excited anyway. Maybe it’s because Charlie was the hitting coach in Cleveland developing Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Albert Belle. Maybe it’s because he was manager of the best offensive teams in Phillies history, and managed the 2008 World Champions. Maybe it’s just because it’s a change to a boring, terrible product that I hated to watch. Most of all it’s because of the picture above- a sad ending to a happy time for Phillies fans, being rectified by our hero coming home to fix a mess. Does it really matter why? I’m just happy about my baseball team again.

But really though, does this move matter? I mean, we act like hitting a baseball has been reinvented in the past five years, as though great teachers of hitting a baseball twenty years ago were clearly backward hicks, incapable of teaching the game. Charlie’s teams in Cleveland hit lots of home runs, and so did his teams in Philadelphia. Because he didn’t call it “launch angle,” do we think he wasn’t teaching Jim Thome and Ryan Howard to hit for power? I have no doubt that he’ll tell hitters to hit to all fields, instead of just pulling the ball, and that he’ll tone down the emphasis on upper-cutting the ball, and that he’ll try to get hitters back to their comfort zones, instead of teaching a rigid theory, but is Charlie really a massive change? I suppose if the Phillies make the playoffs, we’ll all believe yes. I guess what I’m saying is that the answer may be more “gray area” than we all want to believe.

In the end though, who cares? Baseball is entertainment, and entertainment should make you happy. Charlie Manuel returning makes me happy. I’m just happy the sad picture of him walking away with a Wawa bag after the Phillies fired him isn’t the last chapter. If he happens to be the savior of an eventual championship season, great, but at least the fans are chanting his name again at Citizens Bank Park. Do I think he’ll save these Phillies? You can probably guess my answer. You can also probably guess that I don’t give a shit, because my team made me happy, and being happy is what matters in life.

What 2020 Might Look Like

Everybody has an opinion, and it usually matches their politics. Will Donald Trump be re-elected? No way, say the resisters. Of course, say the “red hats.” Not if Bernie is nominated, say the Socialists. And the moderate Democrats and #NeverTrump Republicans keep cautioning Democrats to stop moving left. But what do the numbers say?

Above is what I call the consensus concession map. The states in blue and red are the states that almost no one is arguing will change. The Democratic nominee starts at 175. Trump starts at 103. Under virtually any scenario where either side loses states they have above, the election was simply a national consensus landslide against both the losing party and nominee.

How likely is that to happen? It’s not going to happen. The Democrats almost can’t get beaten any worse than this, as Donald Trump is an unpopular incumbent President. I see no scenario where Trump falls below this either- his approval is higher today than it was on Election Day of 2016, when it was just 38%. He got 46% of the vote that day. With over 90% approval among Republicans, Trump basically can’t lose these dark red states. His current approval on Real Clear Politics is 43.2%.

So where do we begin? Let’s start here, a fair approximation of what is truly possible as a battleground. All of the Obama-Trump states in play, all of the states Trump was close in are in play, and the Democrats hopes in some Southern and Southwestern states remain in play. From here, we begin at 188-125.

Here’s some cold water on everyone though- not all of those states are in play. If either party ended up winning all of these states, it’s a historic blowout. Just for fun, here’s what those maps would look like.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, understand that those scenarios are really unlikely unless one side or the other dramatically changes it’s mind about itself. Since that won’t happen, here’s my realist battleground map:

Behold a map where the Democratic nominee starts out with every Hillary state but Nevada, while Trump is defending the “Obama” states he picked up, plus Arizona and North Carolina. In other words, it’s 2016 and 2012’s battlegrounds, plus Arizona. What do we know about this? The Democrats only need to be a little better than they were in 2016, but these things usually run in one-sided trends at the end. Trump had to win all the swing voters in 2016 to squeak out a win, but he did. Barack Obama won nearly every swing state in 2008 and 2012 as well.

What might a Democratic victory look like? Here’s a few possibilities:

This is the “momentum” Democratic map, where the swing voters all break Democrats way at the end, and Democratic turnout is high.

This is the scenario where Democrats squeak out a win by flipping the PA/MI/WI states from last time, plus North Carolina, where they had a good midterm, but states like Iowa and Ohio just don’t budge, Trump hangs on in Arizona, and Florida continues trending badly. This map is essentially one where both messages work at reaching their sides, but Democrats win.

Here’s a possible narrow victory through the Rust Belt.

Here’s a scenario through North Carolina.

Ok, so enough with the fun stuff- how does Donald Trump win? You said it couldn’t happen last time, but it did. So let’s start with scenario A, 2016. He gets back to 46% and wins.

Not much imagination in that. So let’s go with a scenario B- where Trump builds off of 2016. He surges in some of the predominantly white states he lost last time, and gets this:

Minnesota, Maine, and New Hampshire flip, and Trump wins on the back of over 60% of the white vote.

One more scenario here, which is just a straight Trump sweep of what he won last time, the three states above, and the more diverse, but highly competitive Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia.

Could there be chaos? Yes. Ties are possible. Very possible. I came up with two plausible pathways there.

Who knows who controls Congress under this scenario, but things get chaotic. I doubt either side accepts the results. Things are bad.

How do Democrats most insure defeat in 2020- embrace a “base only” strategy and completely eschew persuading anyone that’s not neatly in their demographic camp. While the “emerging” electoral coalition that includes minorities and millennials largely is out there, the reality is that it is not ready to insure electoral college victories. This is where a “screw the Rust Belt strategy” begins 2020:

It’s not as dreamy as some people make it sound on the internet or on TV. Not at all.

So where do I have 2020 right now? Here’s my current prediction map:

I do not take into account the nominee or VP- yet. I might give Joe Biden more Rust Belt states, or Kamala Harris a shot at Georgia, or a ticket with Castro on it Arizona or Texas, but for now I can’t. I just give these states based on generic opinions. I might give Trump more states against a Bernie Sanders or other more lefty candidates too. But, without the benefit of particulars, I’m here right now.

Ranking the top QB’s in the NFL

One of the big fights in recent weeks on Philadelphia talk radio has been where Carson Wentz ranks among the elite of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks. Some hosts have pointed to some rankings putting him in the #10-15 range to work fans up over him not being considered “elite.” Some callers point to his 2017 second-team All-Pro and MVP runner-up performance and say he’s absolutely elite.

I’m not so much interested in a fight about Wentz as I am about figuring out the super elite. There are some guys who really aren’t arguable in their elite status. Nobody is questioning Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, or Ben Roethlisberger, based on their career resumes and recent seasons. To a lesser degree, guys like Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, and Andrew Luck fit this bill as well. Cam Newton and Eli Manning have elite resumes, but could use a bounce back season that re-solidifies them here. And then there’s the young studs- Pat Mahomes, Jared Goff, Wentz, Dak Prescott, DeShaun Watson, and Baker Mayfield to name a few- that are just another MVP, or a Super Bowl, from being elite. And what does one make of an enigma like Nick Foles?

I did my best to come up with a ranking not just based on last year’s accountings, but not putting too much stock in five years ago either. Giving proper weight to the past and present, and not trying too hard to predict the future either, here’s what I would start the year with:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Pat Mahomes
  4. Russell Wilson
  5. Aaron Rodgers
  6. Andrew Luck
  7. Phillip Rivers
  8. Ben Roethlisberger
  9. Carson Wentz
  10. Jared Goff
  11. Dak Prescott
  12. Matt Ryan
  13. DeShaun Watson
  14. Nick Foles
  15. Cam Newton

Now the obvious disclaimer- this order will be subject to change about four weeks into the season. Nine to thirteen is a crapshoot. Baker Mayfield and other newcomers could very well crash the party. Some of these guys are an injury from a steep fall (like my guy Wentz). Some of these guys near the top may begin to see decline. And most importantly, this order is a lot different than it would have been 365 days ago. This is a more subjective, gut reaction list, rather than all analytics. Its opinion, so as to give some wiggle room when the facts and the numbers disagree.

The crazy piece of this is the degree to which any team with one of these guys can go into this season with higher aspirations. The guy at number twelve on my list won the MVP and lost the Super Bowl three seasons ago. Things are very interchangeable here. Carson Wentz could be a healthy season from being number one, or an injury from being off the list altogether. It’s hard to rule either out.

That’s why they’ll play 16 games this year.