Which 2017 NFL Playoff Quarterback is Most Elite?

A thorough examination of football’s most auspicious players.

Image: Ryan McDonough

As an adjective, the word “elite” still conveys something positive, even aspirational: elite athlete, elite model, elite travel services. But as a noun, embodied by actual living people, it has become one of the nastiest epithets in American politics.” — The New York Times Magazine

Joe Flacco is Not Elite. — The Washington Post


Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys):

Dak Prescott is built like the heavy machinery working-class white people operate for a living, which is the opposite of elite. But maybe he’s so adept at what he does, he is one of those machines that requires skilled labor—labor that’s not readily available in counties that voted for Barack Obama twice but then flipped to Trump because let’s just blow up the system instead of change jobs.

Moreover, Dak’s name, Dak Prescott, makes him sound like old money, like someone who will eventually have access to, and conflicts because of, emoluments. If Dak hadn’t become an elite quarterback, he could’ve done whatever the hell he pleased. Maybe his grandfather, who probably worked for the first Bush or was the first Bush, could get him a job trading securities or at the Today show or maybe Dak would just bartend and fuck around while living comfortably off his blind trust.

Many people argue that Dak is successful because the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is so awesome. Slot any quarterback, minus Tony Romo, behind that line, and the Cowboys are still 14–2. That’s fine. That doesn’t mean Dak isn’t elite. Elites are always protected. They always have more time to make decisions, more time to recover from mistakes and more time to feed the ball to Ezekiel Elliot. Dak is elite.

Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks):

Russell Wilson thanks God too much to be a true elite. Elites only thank their agents or their lawyers or other people who they hire to make them more money.

Russell Wilson used to play baseball, and kind of implies he would go play again if anything ever happened to his absurdly successful football career. At one time baseball was elite but now it’s just for immigrants and professors at small liberal arts colleges and kids who are comfortable with distant dads. Russell Wilson is none of these things. And so he must play baseball because he actually loves it. Loving what you do is elite. (That’s counterintuitive because elites also love to complain about what they do.)

Russell Wilson never complains about anything. He and his coach Pete Carroll are so upbeat. All they do is talk about how they visualize success and then express gratitude after the success occurs. Once in a while they’ll discuss vaccines and how they probably cause autism? But then Richard Sherman will shout from across the field house, “Russell, if I hear you denying the scientific truth of immune theory one more time, I will consider you less smart.” Richard Sherman does not consider Russell Wilson smart, but as an elite himself, he knows that sometimes it’s better to let people think you think they’re smart. It’s called “the bubble.”

Russell Wilson is also average height and hangs out with the creator of Entourage. Neither is elite.

Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons):

Matt Ryan attended Boston College, a Catholic school. Catholics are obviously not elite. Catholics are civil servants. The one time a Catholic became president, that president was assassinated by a non-Catholic.

The reason Catholics are not elite is they always figure someone is watching them, and so they act accordingly. Because the world is theirs, elites do whatever they want, at all times, unless what they want to do is eat at a franchise restaurant.

It’s easy to imagine Matt Ryan tapping on the hand dryer before he enters a bathroom stall, because he is too ashamed to be heard. Can you imagine Morning Joe, who is an elite, ever doing that? No. He is using the bathroom, and possibly watching porn on his phone, with the sound on, and definitely unrolling toilet paper so raucously that anyone even passing by in the hallway can hear what he is doing. Elites do not care if anyone is listening or watching or hacking. It’s why Hillary hid a server that could be hacked in her Chappaqua basement. Just kidding! Bill advised her to do that and he is trash (but disguised as elite).

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers):

Sometimes, during his Sunday Night Football introduction, Aaron Rodgers says that he graduated from Butte Community College. While this is true, it’s not the full story. Rodgers also attended Cal, an elite school, and you’d presume he’d be thrilled to always announce that, because elites love bragging about where they went to school. But don’t forget: the only thing elites love more than where they went to school is irony. Aaron Rodgers is extremely elite because he is willing to say he went to Butte instead of Cal, all for the sake of an ironic smirk.

Earlier this season the Green Bay Packers, and Aaron Rodgers specifically, were slumping. Some people, myself included, speculated that Rodgers was playing poorly because he was not speaking to his parents. Elites speak to their parents, basically, daily. Even distant dads who love baseball still speak to their elite children, even if it’s through the child’s mother or other primary caregiver.

Rodgers predicted to some reporter that his team would “run the table” on the rest of the season. How are you going to do that when you’re not speaking to your parents? Here’s the thing though. The Packers did frigging run the table. Making good on an insane prediction is very elite. Have you ever read or watched The Big Short? Elites worship counterintuitive prognosticators even at the expense of global financial systems.

Aaron Rodgers is also dating Olivia Munn, and they probably cried together when Hillary lost. Why couldn’t we run the table for Hillary, Olivia Munn asked Aaron Rodgers, as he texted his parents, I’m sorry I’ve been a dick.


Brock Osweiler (Houston Texans):

Brock Osweiler, a terrible quarterback, convinced a professional football team to pay him a truckload of money to be good at quarterbacking, something they didn’t really have a ton of proof he could be good at. Convincing people to act against their self-interest is elite.

Brock Osweiler was born in Idaho and grew up in Montana, scenic but not elite. And he played college football for Arizona State. Also not elite but he probably had a fun time, more fun than he would’ve had at Stanford where he could’ve gone, on scholarship. Sasha Obama will eventually make the same decision Brock Osweiler did and only then will we recognize ASU over Stanford as elite decision making. Good for you, Brock Osweiler. Sasha Obama is going to have a blast.

Ben Rothliesberger (Pittsburgh Steelers):

Big Ben is trash like Bill Clinton. His teammate Antonio Brown, however, is a god. So much so that Russell Wilson should thank AB, and not his own God, every time the Seahawks score.

Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs):

Alex Smith was first in his draft class, picked ahead of even Aaron Rodgers, and being valedictorian, even when Aaron Rodgers is the salutatorian, is elite. The San Francisco 49ers, now trash, used to be an elite team, with multiple championship titles, but when they picked Alex Smith, they were rebuilding, which is what elites say they are doing when they are failing.

Alex Smith is a game manager, a professional. Insert him into your offensive scheme and he will perform competently. He led the 49ers as far as he could, until Jim Harbaugh benched him in favor of Colin Kaepernick. This was before Colin Kaepernick knelt during the playing of the National Anthem and alienated himself from some elites and most non-elites.

But Alex Smith joined the Kansas City Chiefs, and with Coach Andy Reid, they’ve regularly appeared in the early rounds of the playoffs. Resilience can be an elite quality assuming Alex Smith has learned to be resilient not through prayer but via Tim Ferris podcasts.

Tom Brady (New England Patriots):

Of course Tom Brady is elite. He attended Michigan, which is like if the 92nd Street Y also had a football stadium where Jim Harbaugh worked. Kids at Michigan walk around with t-shirts that say “Harvard: the Michigan of the East.” Can you imagine being so self-aware and so self-deprecating and simultaneously so arrogant? That’s the trifecta of elitism, and Tom Brady embodies it.

Trolls, especially in Buffalo where I live, like to mock Tom Brady for endorsing and wearing Uggs. But I’ve only ever seen him wear the Uggs slippers, and wearing slippers—particularly outside in the wintertime, like running to Latin class from your boarding school dorm in New England—is very elite. The boys from the Dead Poets Society, for instance, would absolutely wear slippers if the movie were set today. Instead of sucking the marrow out of life, and seizing the day, they’d ironically wear indoor shoes outside, in the middle of January, and stare at their phones, Venmoing each other money for the anxiety medicine they bum from each other. That’s because, as elites, they love irony as much as they hate anxiety. Besides, Tom Brady wears Uggs because Uggs pays him to do so, and making money is always elite.

It is possible Tom Brady voted for Donald Trump. He never really said, one way or the other, as far as I can tell. Gisele seemed to get pissed he wouldn’t deny voting for Donald Trump, and if you’re not vehemently denying you voted for Donald Trump, you’re basically a troll from Buffalo, or worse, an Iowa farmer who refuses to learn to operate a Dak Prescott. Neither is very elite. But he’s won four Super Bowls and unfortunately is about to win a fifth, now that Eli has been eliminated, and even if he couldn’t have done any of it without Bill Belichick, when have elites ever refused help from people smarter or more evil than they are?