Where coaches, execs disagree on QBs 

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
8:50
AM ET
LuckAP Photo/Matt SlocumAmong NFL experts, opinions differ on whether is Andrew Luck a top-tier quarterback.
A clash between a coach and a general manager can tear apart a franchise: It happened in San Diego with Marty Schottenheimer and A.J. Smith; in Dallas with Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones; and in St. Louis with Mike Martz and Rams executives.

Still, even when the marriage between coach and GM endures, tension tends to develop. Coaches work in the moment, while front offices make decisions with the future in mind. Disputes, naturally, ensue.

The differences in outlook between coaches and personnel evaluators being well-established, I was eager to see how the two groups split on the subject of signal-calling. For my QB tier rankings project, I asked 15 personnel people (eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators and a top executive) and 11 coaches (seven coordinators, two head coaches and two position groups) to grade all 32 projected starting quarterbacks on a 1-5 scale.

As it turns out, opinions on each side of the divide were mostly similar. However, six big-name quarterbacks created a split in consensus.

The evaluations of Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford shed light not only on the quarterbacks themselves, but also on those who graded them.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Coaches and personnel people almost unanimously placed Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in the top tier. A much higher percentage of personnel people, though, thought Luck also belonged in that exclusive club, albeit a few lengths behind those more established stars.

Ten of the 15 personnel people placed Luck in Tier 1, a designation that only four coaches agreed with. Still, all 11 coaches thought Luck would eventually be good enough for inclusion in the top group. They just didn't think he was there yet.

Coaches and personnel people did not exactly clash over Luck. Rather -– and not surprisingly -- the GM types seemed to have a greater appreciation for how weak Luck’s teammates have been and how much weight he has carried. Most couldn't resist placing him in the top tier, ahead of Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, who led the second tier in voting.

"With so many of these quarterbacks, everything around them has to be right," one GM said. "You knew Luck was a slam dunk. There are very few of those. Even with a Drew Brees, had Miami not flunked him on a physical way back, he probably goes to the Dolphins with Nick [Saban] and they don't play the same way the Saints have played. It's not the same. Luck, he could go anywhere, no doubt. I think he is phenomenal."

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers


Eleven of 15 personnel evaluators placed Newton in Tier 2, while nine of the 11 coaches gave Newton a Tier 3 grade. A quarterbacks coach even placed him down in the Tier 4, noting that the Panthers have been relying on their ground game and defense to win games.

"He has all the tools and he is a big dude, too,” one defensive coordinator remarked. “Can you give him a 2½? I think if he has the same year he had last year, he elevates to a [Tier] 2. I give him a 3 right now."

Luck, like Newton, is an athletic marvel. Their rare physical attributes make them especially appealing to personnel types. Coaches appreciate those things as well, but are more likely to value a finished product. Luck accumulated a vast amount of experience in a pro-style offense at Stanford, while Newton was relatively raw coming out of Auburn.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers