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.

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Why You Should Support Millionaire Athletes

The rookie minimum salary in Major League Baseball is a shade over $500,000. For the first three years of a baseball player’s major league career, they don’t really have any negotiating rights at all on their salary, and can’t shop their services to any other team in the league. After that, they are eligible for binding arbitration with the team for three or four more years, before they can reach free agency. While MLB contracts are fully guaranteed in most cases, that doesn’t mean most players will ever get to negotiate one. The average career span is 5.6 years, while it takes six to seven years to reach free agency. While we think of the huge contracts for ballplayers, when we think salary, the average salary is only about $4 million a year. One in five position players make it only one year. A large chunk of ballplayers neither play 5.6 years or make $4 million. MLB made $10.3 billion in 2018. Player salaries seem to be taking up about 50% of league’s profit. Of course, an increasing amount of that money is going towards signing young players abroad, and it also depends on if you count revenue from MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. If you do, players may be getting a 43% share of revenues. On the contrary, players are getting closer to 55% if you count minor league pay, benefits, and playoff bonuses.

Ok, I just threw a lot at you, so what does it mean? If players got 55% of that $10.3 billion, they got roughly $5.67 billion. Those poor owners got $4.63 billion then by comparison, before their MLB Advance Media money and their two-thirds cut of MLB Network. By my rough math, that’s another $2.9 billion, going by Scott Boras projections of the market. So owners are bringing home about $7.53 billion, in rough math. That’s about $1.9 billion more than the players. But who’s counting?

Of course, all of this misses a key point- there are roughly 1,200 players on 40 man rosters at any given time, and about 7,500 to 8,000 active, MLB affiliated players at a time, splitting up their $5.67 billion. Again, the average major leaguer is making $4 million a year- there are 30 owners/ownership groups splitting up $7.52 billion, making a cool $250 million (roughly), every year. Yes, they’re making the entirety of the “original” Texas A-Rod contract, annually, on the average for each club. Every four years, they’re pulling a billion in revenue. Most owners and majority partners are already billionaires or damn close. The average team is valued at $1.3 billion. That means an owner can get access to a lot more capital because owning a team. In other words, it’s nice to be a ballplayer, but it’s great town a team.

Most people don’t get that difference though- they view both players and owners as “rich.” $4 million a year average salary, over 5.6 years (absolutely no one hits both of these averages together) is $24.4 million, pre-tax, and that seems like a lot, to them. It might seem small next to $250 million a year for an average club share of the revenue, but what’s the difference in these two numbers, really? Well, I’ll leave that Twitter to explain.

A team’s average share of one year’s MLB revenue is over ten times as much as the average career’s worth of money at the current average salary. Just consider that. In two years, a team would make more on average revenue than the projected Bryce Harper contracts. The gap between the two sides is that dramatic. The capital is exponentially more valuable than the labor in baseball. In baseball, let alone the NFL. This is the sport that is supposedly better to it’s players than football. In fact, you would find similar results in the NBA, NHL, and NFL if you did the math I did above.

In other words, don’t defend the owners when MLB players complain about the slow free agency this year, or allege collusion among the teams to keep salaries down. “The product,” as the NFL refers to it’s players, is producing record profits in the billions, across all sports, but is splitting about half the money up among the whole league. I get it, it’s tempting to complain when you see a really average bench piece in the NBA get a three year, $40 million deal, but don’t- that’s what a relatively fair market says they deserve. They’re producing billions in economic activity for the league and cities they play in. Meanwhile the owners are getting their cities and states to finance their stadiums. While making huge profits.

Just a thought.

One Month of Christmas, Day 8

Happy Sunday, December 2nd, 2018. There are 23 days until Christmas. I’m on the way home from dropping my sister back at Philadelphia and just listened to the Sixers win their 17th game. #TrustTheProcess.

Here’s tonight’s random thoughts…

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Wild-Eyed Critics Need to Lay Off of Susan

My new Congresswoman, Susan Wild (D-PA-7) has already run afoul of my “friends” (to be read- lunatic Berners) on the Socialist-Left. Congresswoman Wild did join the Progressive Caucus in the House (which to be fair, isn’t as selective as it once was), but that’s not enough for them. They’re angry she joined the New Democratic Coalition Caucus, or as they call it “The Wall Street Dems” conference.

I voted for Susan in the Fall, but have some misgivings. This isn’t one of them. She didn’t run as an anti-capitalist screecher in the primary or general election. She’s not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and never claimed to be. Her joining an ideologically diverse Caucus is not a bad thing.

I’ve appeared on these types of freaks’ radar before, most notably their anti-Bernie hit list in 2017. Susan, keep doing you. You won doing so.

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LOLOhio State

To hear Ohio State fans tell it today, it’s not a big deal to lose to Purdue by 29, or deserve to lose to Maryland, or to win a crappy conference. To hear the Buckeyes fans tell it, they should be the #3 team in the land, over an undefeated Notre Dame. They look and sound ridiculous.

The Big Ten sucked this year. Wisconsin was trash. I love Penn State, but they weren’t that good. Michigan State was terrible. Michigan was a wildly overrated, poorly prepared team, when it mattered. Ohio State has no signature win, really. They won an overrated conference. They lost by 29 to Purdue. Not only are they not better than Notre Dame, they’re not better than Georgia and Oklahoma.

The committee got it right- but it doesn’t matter. Alabama is going to kill any #4 team that gets in.

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I Was a 41 Fan

I liked George H.W. Bush. I liked him as a young kid. I like him now. In 1992, I forced my Clinton supporting parents to get me a Bush-Quayle sign in 1992 (9 year old me believed in supporting the President). I wrote his White House after the 1992 Election, and got back a photo of him at the Grand Canyon.

I grew to appreciate his Presidency more as the years past. I find some of the far-lefty attack articles on him this week to be beneath the dignity of a response. President Bush 41 had plenty of faults. On the whole, I don’t think he’s on the negative side of the ledger though.

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You Like the NFL for the Reasons I Don’t

I watch the NFL for the same reason I watch cop shows- you can’t take your eyes off a wreck. The NFC stinks. With a win, the Eagles could pull within a half-game of the Wild Card. With another win next week, they could lead the division. The Eagles and Cowboys might both make the playoffs, with like nine wins.

I’m sorry, this slop is trash. I like excellence, not parody. I like the longer term rebuilds in MLB and the NBA. This over-night change crap in the NFL is garbage.

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DC Trip 1 Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow I hit the road to DC, my first of two December trips to the nation’s Capitol. I’ll be doing a Georgetown game, meeting with a couple of Chiefs-of-Staff on the Hill, having a Happy Hour, and having some Russia’s best (vodka). I’m also going to try to get to President Bush’s lying in state. Should be a good trip.

19

Nineteen days until the election. We’re in the teens now.

I write this post from Killington’s in Huntersville, NC. I just ordered a dozen wings and a beer. It was a long day, as I went to Raleigh last night and came back today on a supplies swap. It was a long day, but a rewarding one. You start to see the end of the tunnel out on the road when people are voting and packets are coming out. This cycle is almost over.

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You know what I never want to hear about again? Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. It was an affair. He should not have been asked about it under oath. He should not have been impeached. He should not resigned over it- and any Senator from New York who says otherwise won’t be getting my vote in 2020. This was Hillary’s business to handle, and her’s alone.

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You know what would be horrible? A Red Sox-Dodgers World Series? Also, this Thursday Night Football game. The Arizona Cardinals don’t even look like they’re trying.

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Is Mitch McConnell trying to lose the midterms? What Senate Majority Leader discusses cutting Social Security three weeks before the midterms? How about one poised to gain seats. The battlegrounds remain in red states, where being a Democrat still *seems* to be disqualifying. Right now I’d project the GOP to pick up one-three seats.

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is NJ-5’s Josh Gottheimer. The freshman moderate from North Jersey was a bright spot in the hellscape that was 2016. He took out do-nothing Congressman Garrett in one of New Jersey’s most conservative areas.

Gottheimer winning could be important to a Democratic Majority. Donate to him here. Volunteer here.

22

Good day, Happy Monday. It’s October 15th. We’re halfway through the tenth month of 2018. That’s amazing. We’re also 22 days from the mid-term election of the Donald Trump Presidency. Yes, we’re like halfway through his term. This is about the point where I tell you to stop wishing the Obamas would come back, and start considering who should be next.

And with that, on to today…

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Today’s candidate is a close friend of mine, and a great incumbent Democrat facing a serious challenge in Monroe County, PA, Maureen Madden. Rep. Madden has spent her first term fighting to lower property taxes, protect the rights of workers to organize, and make sure we all have access to affordable health care.

Maureen has an opponent who she defeated in 2016, and lost to in 2014. He’s well funded, and he’s almost certainly getting outside dark money from groups like the NRA that hate Maureen’s advocacy on the behalf of gun violence prevention. This race will be very difficult.

Maureen needs your help. Donate to her here!

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Fantasy football has changed the way I watch pro football. For instance, I couldn’t give a damn less about tonight’s MNF game, but I’m very interested in how the Packers defense plays for me, and how my opponent’s two player play in the game against me. But do I care who wins a Green Bay-San Francisco game?

Not really.

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So now the Saudi Arabian Kingdom is basically admitting they did lure in a dissident reporter, who was living in suburban DC, to their embassy in Turkey, where they killed him, because the “interrogation went wrong.” This seems like a totally sane, normal action for an ally of ours to take, right?

Mohammed Bin Salman, better known as MBS, is going to be the king of Saudi Arabia in short order. I don’t know what that means for the good of the world order, but he may very well be one of the most disruptive leaders in the world. A stupid, reckless stunt like this against his enemies shouldn’t make anyone feel good.

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After the 2016 election, I wrote a lot about the direction Democrats needed to go to get back to winning. Democrats seem to have embraced parts of that, but not others. I said Democrats needed to embrace the “Hillary coalition”- non-white voters and educated white voters in the suburbs- if they wanted to win future elections. I also said they needed to embrace more “meat and potato” style issues- things that effect quality of life. I warned at that time that embracing socialism or pure identity politics could backfire. So now the question is being asked- as early vote begins around the country, did Democrats succeed?

If you read direct mail and watch campaign ads, Democratic candidates on the ballot went to great lengths to keep on message- talking health care, wages, infrastructure, public education, and other things that broadly effect society. That’s what the campaigns said. The party’s activists and potential 2020 candidates were not as on message. But will it matter?

I think Democrats are going to win the House, and a nice load of state legislative seats, largely in suburban, highly educated districts. The question is, did the lack of discipline on message cost us Senate seats? Did some of the increasingly “pure” message hurt us in the Missouris and Tennessees of the world? We’re going to find out in three weeks…

On Kaepernick and Nike

I own a pair of Nike shoes, and I’m proud to say I’ll buy more. I also must confess that I am not a fan of Colin Kaepernick. I wasn’t much of a fan while he played, and even now I have some serious issues with him. As I take stock of Nike deciding to use Kaepernick in their “Just Do It” anniversary campaign though, I have to say I support it.

I’m not a Colin Kaepernick fan. The man wants to hold himself up as a social justice champion, but has admitted he didn’t vote in 2016. That he didn’t see the importance of voting in that election, and was critical of Hillary Clinton (who spent her life fighting for the causes he claims to champion), makes me very suspicious of him. While I agree with his kneeling during the national anthem, I found his depictions of police as pigs to be childish. I find Kaepernick to be a very flawed leader and spokesman of his cause.

Let’s also be clear here- kneeling during the anthem is an expression of free speech, our highest ideal as a nation, and the NFL blacklisting him for it is disgusting and UnAmerican. Kaepernick did lose his livelihood in support of a cause bigger than himself. I don’t have to like him to support him for that. That he made some bigots uncomfortable is no vice, but a badge of honor. Nike makes a lot of money selling shoes- and many of their customers are African-Americans who support Kaepernick in his cause. There is nothing wrong with Nike celebrating him for that.

I’m not a Kaepernick fan, but what I do love about him is how he exposes the bigotry in so many of my fellow white people. It would be easy to take Kaepernick as a flawed individual who is using his first amendment rights in our society and take it for what it is. Some of these folks can’t though. They lose their mind when he is honored by those who agree with him. They cut the swoosh off of their socks and burn shoes and jerseys. It’s as though the idea of a black athlete speaking out against racism is unacceptable to them (spoiler: I know that is what they actually think). They can’t contain their inner bigot and have to make a spectacle of themselves, instead of ignoring him like they do everyone else who tries to speak on the subject of race. I’m glad they do this though, it exposes who they are for everybody else to see.

Skol? **** ‘Em, Go Philly.

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Today would have been my grandfather’s 88th birthday. Like me, Richard Wilkins Sr. was a Philadelphia fan, four for four, and I often times look back on what that must have been like in his lifetime when judging what it’s like for me. I find it was probably frustrating. For whatever reason, we seem to keep passing our fandom down though.

Philadelphia sports were tough when my grandfather was young. It took 50 years for him to see the Phillies win a World Series, the only he’d see. The Eagles won three NFL titles, all by the time he was 30. The Sixers and Flyers added a few too. All told, Philadelphia won a title roughly every 8 years of his life.

Frankly, I’d take that ratio. I was a month old when the Sixers won in 1983, and I wouldn’t see another champion until the 2008 Phillies won. I’ve lived through four Phillies World Series, of which they won one. The Sixers have been in two NBA Finals, with the only win coming in my infancy. The Flyers have lost four Stanley Cup Finals in my life, winning none. The Eagles? This is NFC title game six. They have one win, and they lost the Super Bowl that year. Technically I’ve seen a title every 17 years. In reality? It’s been worse.

There is no tortured fanbase like the Eagles. It’s been 58 years since they won an NFL Championship. That was not a Super Bowl, as the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, and other local fanbases let us know. The die-hares spend every August calling into WIP, predicting it will be their year. They watch as it never is. Neighboring cities like Baltimore, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Boston get their day. Eagles fans are left with memories of Fog Bowl, Ronde Barber, Jake Delhomme, and even SpyGate.

Tonight as this game kicks off, I sort of know the drill- how can back-up Nick Foles beat the elite Vikings defense. How can this time be different for a blue-collar fanbase that gets picked on for their strong home field advantage. This should be the fifth time I watch the Eagles lose an NFC Championship game. Ask the media. Ask Vegas. Ask the Super Bowl ads with career scrub Case Keenum already in them.

But while we’re waiting for kick off, if you’re cheering for #Skol, and you’re not from Minnesota (or a long time fan), you can go **** yourself. It’s time for this Bird Gang to get it done.

As An Eagles Fan, I Keep Asking- Could This Happen?

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I’m not going to lie- I pegged the Eagles for somewhere between seven and ten wins before the season. The AFC West was supposed to be loaded. Carson Wentz was only in year two of his development from North Dakota State to NFL Franchise QB. Road games at Carolina, Seattle, and Kansas City were mortal locks for defeat. Two trips to Los Angeles? Impossible. The defense wasn’t going to be very good, Doug Peterson’s offense still worried me, and the team went 7-9 the last two years. I wasn’t a believer.

The thing here is, I’m not often a believer in the Eagles. I was a kid watching Buddy Ryan’s feared defenses get let down in the playoffs, and when Reggie White was allowed to leave Philadelphia over money. I was a young adult when they lost the NFC Title Games to St. Louis, Tampa, and Carolina. I was in college when they lost the Super Bowl to Tom Brady. I was 25 when they lost the NFC Title Game to an Arizona team they had beaten during the season. I can honestly say at least three times I expected (yes, expected) my Eagles to win the Super Bowl. They never did. They never have, period. When they got gimmicky and brought in Chip Kelly, I immediately called fraud on that clown. He proceeded to wreck the team. Over my 34 years, the Eagles have given me every reason to doubt them.

The thing is, if you’re actually objective, there’s no reason to trust a franchise who last won an NFL Championship when my father was three years old (1960). Like most Eagles fans, I’ve so badly wanted to believe they’d win, but they usually end up disappointing us- in fact, they always seem to. It’s part of being a Philadelphia fan- you learn to deal with heartbreak and disappointment with the best of them.

I didn’t feel that way about this year’s team though, at least not until December 10th. Carson Wentz made me, and many others, truly believe this could be it. He’s that good. He’s an MVP type of QB. He really has the talent. So, of course he got hurt. Of course. His ACL had to tear as the team was winning the NFC East, and their 11th game of the season. This is the essence of being an Eagles fan. You want to believe so bad, and when the deck finally seems stacked our way, the rug gets pulled out from underneath you. Wentz got hurt, then somehow it was the defense that went shaky. Then the defense looked great this week, and the offense went shaky. I’ve never seen a less confident fanbase for a 13-2 team.

So, here’s the thing. I actually am pretty happy with the season they’ve had. They’ve defied my expectations and beliefs about them. I’m bought in on the coach/front office regime, the quarterback, and the roster they’ve assembled. I think this team is actually, legitimately good. Would I predict them to win the NFC, or the Super Bowl, right now? No. Do they have a shot? Yes, they have a real shot to win it all. I think they absolutely would have won the Super Bowl if Carson Wentz hadn’t got hurt. I think they still have a chance now. Why?

  • They have home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs. If you’re home, you at least have a chance. Philadelphia is a tough place to play in January, and who among the other current NFC Playoff teams is a legitimate outdoor, cold weather team? Minnesota, New Orleans, and Atlanta play in domes. Los Angeles and Carolina play in nice weather cities. Even beyond the noise, there is a real advantage here.
  • The road is shorter. Thanks to the bye in the Wild Card round, the Eagles only have to win two games to win the NFC, not three. Beating two good teams is a lot easier than beating three, even if it’s still hard.
  • Nick Foles replacing Carson Wentz really isn’t their biggest issue. Okay, so Nick Foles didn’t look great Monday night, but he looked good in LA and New York the two previous weeks. He’s had some playing time this season, he’s not totally cold. He’s  been an NFL starter, and even started in the playoffs. I’m far more worried about mistakes in the secondary and the loss of Jason Peters doing the Eagles in than Nick Foles. Foles isn’t Wentz, and I never bought into him even in his “27 to 2” season a few years back, but he’s good enough to win an NFL football game. He’s done what he needed to for the first two weeks as starter.
  • They keep overcoming major injuries. Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis, and of course, Carson Wentz have all suffered season-ending injuries.. Ronald Darby and Zack Ertz missed time. The Eagles are 13-2. Again, that’s 13-2, not 10-5 or some other very good, but not dominant record. This is a very good football team, a team that seems to find ways to win, regardless of the issues.
  • If not them, who else? No, really, who else? I guess if I were a betting man on the hot hand in the NFC, I’d probably take Carolina, who will have to play in the Wild Card round regardless of what happens next week, and who the Eagles did beat at their place earlier this year (granted, with Wentz). Minnesota has a great defense, but do you really think Keenum gets them all the way? Drew Brees is a football God, but do the Saints scare you in the cold like they do in the Dome? Are you bought into the Rams yet? Is Atlanta what they were last year? Are the Patriots or the Steelers the best version of those franchises that you’ve seen in recent memory? Any of the teams I mentioned, and even a Jacksonville or Kansas City, could possibly beat the Eagles in the post-season. The Eagles may not even win a game. But really though, which team is out of their league?
  • If they get there… Look, if the Eagles can win two NFC Playoff home games and win the NFC, they’re in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is unique in American professional sports in that it’s a one-and-done game. It’s hard to get lucky and win four out of seven games in the World Series, or the NBA Finals, or the Stanley Cup Finals- you have to at least be competitive to get lucky in those championships. The Super Bowl is one football game. You have to outplay the opponent one time. That can happen- any given Sunday.

I don’t want to get your hopes too far up- the Eagles aren’t the favorites to win the Super Bowl anymore. They’re at best a “pick ’em” in the NFC, where no one is way out ahead right now. They could lose in the divisional round. If that happens, it’ll be sad, but something we’ve all seen before. I’ll still have faith in the future of the team, provided that they are smart and let Carson Wentz heal 100%- not rush him back to play Opening Day in 2018. With the way this team defied my expectations, my hopes are now sky high for a next decade of Carson being among the NFL’s elite. With a defense that showed amazing progress in a year’s time, a running back situation that was productive, and receivers that make plays, I have high hopes moving forward. I’m just not done hoping for big things to come- this year.