Elite Quarterback Dominance: A Chart That May Blow Your Mind

Just how good has the trio of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady been since the turn of the century?

Last night, I decided that nerding out and analyzing our Net Expected Points (NEP) data would be a fun thing to do while watching some playoff hockey (what's hockey?). A typical Wednesday night in the Zachariason household, I suppose.

I originally was going to do a quarterback study given the NFL Draft is about a week away. But as I perused the signal-calling numbers that we’ve collected, I began noticing – becoming more aware, I guess – just how good the top quarterbacks of this era have been.

We all know Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and, to a lesser extent, Aaron Rodgers, have dominated the last decade in football. I’m just not sure we know the degree of dominance. And that’s what I realized last night.

I looked at the top 50 quarterback seasons since the year 2000 in terms of Passing NEP, our Net Expected Points metric from a passing perspective. If you’re unsure of what NEP is all about, head on over to our glossary and find out. If you understand and love it, sit tight and wait for your mind to be blown.

Below is a chart – a large chart – of the top 50 quarterback seasons since the turn of the century.

RankYearPlayerPassing NEP
12013Peyton Manning278.52
22007Tom Brady259.40
32011Drew Brees235.48
42011Aaron Rodgers231.30
52004Peyton Manning231.10
62011Tom Brady213.43
72006Peyton Manning191.77
82004Daunte Culpepper191.15
92009Peyton Manning188.80
102005Peyton Manning187.33
112012Tom Brady186.79
122009Philip Rivers175.86
132013Drew Brees175.57
142008Drew Brees173.89
152009Drew Brees169.92
162012Peyton Manning164.88
172013Philip Rivers162.80
182007Peyton Manning160.11
192012Matt Ryan159.84
202009Brett Favre157.80
212010Tom Brady152.66
222010Philip Rivers149.59
232008Peyton Manning148.93
242001Kurt Warner145.17
252012Drew Brees144.37
262003Peyton Manning139.85
272004Trent Green138.93
282010Peyton Manning138.36
292009Matt Schaub137.81
302009Tom Brady137.16
312006Drew Brees136.32
322000Peyton Manning134.80
332012Aaron Rodgers133.21
342002Rich Gannon133.12
352000Daunte Culpepper131.89
362007Tony Romo126.43
372008Philip Rivers126.25
382004Drew Brees125.26
392004Brett Favre124.33
402009Aaron Rodgers122.70
412008Jay Cutler122.38
422007Brett Favre120.03
432011Tony Romo119.22
442008Kurt Warner116.97
452010Drew Brees115.31
462000Jeff Garcia114.09
472009Tony Romo113.52
482010Matt Ryan113.30
492005Carson Palmer113.19
502010Aaron Rodgers113.04

The chart above spans 14 NFL seasons. It covers 446 Week 1 starting quarterback campaigns. And yet, only 16 different quarterbacks are listed.

That’s because, probably like any era, this one has been monopolized by a select few passers. Here are some quick facts about the list above:

- Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees own 48% of the top 50 quarterback seasons since 2000.
- Peyton Manning alone owns 22% of them (cue Patriots’ fans “rings” argument)
- This includes seasons where some of these quarterbacks didn’t even play. In seasons with more than 13 games played, Tom Brady’s rate at making a top 50 quarterback season is 41.67% (5/12), Drew Brees’ is 72.72% (8/11), and Peyton Manning’s, which excludes his first two years in the league, is at 84.62% (11/13).
- The three quarterbacks own 57.5% of the top 40 seasons, 66.7% of the top 30 seasons, 70% of the top 20 seasons and 80% of the top 10 seasons.
- The quarterbacks appearing most on this list not named Manning, Brees or Brady are Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. Both passers have put together four top 50 quarterback seasons.
- Their rates are 80% (Rodgers) and 50% (Rivers).
- Everyone hates Tony Romo, but he’s compiled three top 50 quarterback seasons, the same number (remember, this is since 2000) as Brett Favre.
- It’s still Tony Romo’s fault though.
- Of the quarterbacks drafted since 2006, Matt Ryan is the only one with multiple top 50 quarterback seasons (Rodgers drafted in 2005).
- Jay Cutler is the only other passer drafted since 2006 with at least one.
- Notable players not on this list: Donovan McNabb, Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning.