This past Sunday, Mike Sando of the Athletic released his yearly quarterback rankings. Similar to the ESPN positional rankings, the list is aggregated from the opinions of those working within the NFL. The fifty individuals who were surveyed hold varying positions across the league. The group is comprised of 8 GMs, 10 head coaches, 15 coordinators, 10 execs, 4 QB coaches & 3 related to analytics.
30 quarterbacks were voted into tiers numbered 1 through 5. This year no quarterbacks were placed in tier 5.
The criteria for the first four tiers are listed as such:
Tier 1: “A Tier 1 quarterback can carry his team each week. The team wins because of him. He expertly handles pure passing situations. He has no real holes in his game.”
Tier 2: “A Tier 2 quarterback can carry his team sometimes but not as consistently. He can handle pure passing situations in doses and/or possesses other dimensions that are special enough to elevate him above Tier 3. He has a hole or two in his game.”
Tier 3: “A Tier 3 quarterback is a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best.”
Tier 4: “A Tier 4 quarterback could be an unproven player (not enough information for voters to classify) or a veteran who ideally would not start all 17 games.”
Patrick Mahomes was the unanimous top quarterback, he received 50 1st Tier votes. Aaron Rodgers on the other hand was still a Tier 1 QB but received only 30 votes in the first Tier.
Some players obviously fit the criteria better than others. A perfect illustration of a Tier 2 QB would be Dak Prescott. He at times can carry the Cowboys but not as consistently as one would hope.
Jimmy G exemplifies the quintessential Tier 3 quarterback. He’s plays well enough to keep his role as a starter but is heavily reliant on the production of a Shanahan style rushing attack.
Tier 4 is more specific - unproven players and stop-gap veteran starters. From Jordan Love to Sam Howell this group is pretty clear.
As for Tua? Where did the powers that be place him amongst his peers?
Seventeenth overall in Tier 3. Just below Russell Wilson and right above Jimmy Garoppolo. Of the 50 who had voted: 7 had him in Tier 2, 41 voters had placed him in Tier 3, and the remaining 2 in Tier 4.
As Dolphins fans before we start labelling this list as a travesty and a farce, let’s take a look at the finer points of this article. Sando points out that Tua actually has made sizable jumps over the last three years and is trending upwards in the rankings. This is also the first time that he’s scored Tier 2 votes.
Sando also likens his situation to that of Jared Goff: “Tagovailoa, like Jared Goff and some others, has experienced wild swings in offensive play design and supporting talent. That can sometimes cloud how much credit or blame the player actually deserves.”
This is the core issue as to why Tua has become such a polarizing figure. Detractors claim that “when you just have (average) guys at receiver, he can become very average.”.
Those on the more optimistic side say this sort of situation will always be a lose-lose for Tua.
“If they like him, they will say the player has no one around him. Then the team will get players around him, and people say the only reason he is succeeding it is because he has players around him.”
There is such a murky line as to who ultimately gets the lion share of credit or blame. One thing is certain, regardless of previous circumstance when you do have the players around you, you have to execute and make plays.
Early on in the season Tua was hitting those marks exceptionally well. However down the stretch, he was not as efficient and teams like the 49ers and Chargers were causing him trouble. By the time he could go back and correct certain mistakes, he would suffer another concussion and be gone for the rest of the season.
All quarterbacks will experience highs and lows throughout the regular season. How they course correct when hitting a snag is important in determining their true value. Tua in this case was not afforded the opportunity to show his resolve. He was not able to display the qualities necessary to push one further up in the rankings.
This is to suggest that perhaps, at this point, the evaluation is neither right or wrong but instead rather incomplete.