The New England Patriots star received six of the first-place votes in balloting completed before Thursday night’s opener between the Eagles and Falcons in a 10-points-to-one point system. Brady placed second with the other four voters, all of whom had Brady a notch below Green Bay’s star quarterback, for 96 points.
“The Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretzky of pro football, Brady makes everyone around him better,” said AP’s Barry Wilner, based in New York, who had Brady No. 1. “That includes receivers, runners, blockers, defenders and special teams. Oh yeah, and coaches. At 41, he’s still the guy.”
Rodgers, who is coming off a shoulder injury that spoiled both his and the Packers’ 2017 season, received 93 points as he finished second on all other ballots except one, in which he placed third behind Drew Brees of the Saints.
“When Rodgers is healthy there’s no one more talented in the game,” said AP’s Josh Dubow, based in the Bay Area. “But he’s missed nearly half the season with injuries twice in the past five years.”
Still, Dubow ranked Rodgers, who just signed a four-year, $138 million extension , ahead of Brady, whom he said “is showing no signs of slowing down at age 41 after throwing for 505 yards in last season’s Super Bowl. If he thrives with this depleted group of receivers that will be another notch on his quest to be the best QB ever.”
Brees was a distant third, followed by Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger rounding out the top five.
They were followed by Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, injured Eagles starter Carson Wentz, who is still recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him in the Super Bowl, the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.
Wentz and Rivers were the only quarterbacks to crack the top 10 this season, supplanting the Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Raiders’ Derek Carr, who were seventh and eighth, respectively, a year ago.
Others receiving votes were the Texans’ DeShaun Watson, the Rams’ Jared Goff, Luck, the Giants’ Eli Manning, Carr, the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Vikings new QB Kirk Cousins, the gem of this year’s free agency class .
Receiving a single vote were Washington’s new quarterback, veteran Alex Smith, the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston and Colin Kaepernick , the former 49ers QB who hasn’t played since 2016 after he sparked the sport’s player protests of social injustices by kneeling for the national anthem.
Just like last year, Brady and Rodgers easily outdistanced the competition.
Only, this time, Rodgers closed the gap with Brady, who won his third NFL MVP award last season and made it to his record eighth Super Bowl.
The Packers’ season fell apart after Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone in Week 6 when he was slammed to the ground by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr.
Rodgers “proved his greatness by his absence to injury last year rather than by his presence,” suggested AP’s Dave Campbell (based in Minneapolis). Brady, Campbell said, is “still going strong at age 41, though Father Time will eventually beat Father Tom.”
AP’s Schuyler Dixon (based in Dallas) also put Rodgers over Brady, calling it “a nod to the not-so-distant future at the position, assuming Brady doesn’t play until he’s 60.”
Age was irrelevant to AP’s Dennis Waszak Jr., based in New York.
“So what that he’s 41?” Waszak asked. “The guy still performs like a youngster and remains the QB you want under center with a game on the line. The cast might change around Brady, but he still delivers.”
New York-based Simmi Buttar said Brady’s “the G.O.A.T.” – greatest of all time. As for Rodgers, Buttar said he “has only one title, but that has more to do with the lack of help around him. Though he needs a second Super Bowl for his legacy.”
AP’s Rob Maaddi, based in Philadelphia, gave Kaepernick the final vote in his top 10.
Kaepernick, he said, “has that talent to be a dynamic top-tier QB if a team gives him the opportunity he deserves.”
The former 49ers quarterback is locked in a grievance with the league that accuses owners of colluding to keep him off any roster and is the subject of Nike’s new ad campaign on the 30th anniversary of the iconic “Just Do It” venture.
The highly anticipated spot made its debut during the Eagles’ 18-12 season-opening win over Atlanta Thursday night.
EDITOR’S NOTE – The Associated Press is ranking the top 10 players at a different position every week of the NFL season, based on the votes and insights of AP football writers Simmi Buttar, Dave Campbell, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Howard Fendrich, Rob Maaddi, Arnie Stapleton, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Waszak Jr., and Barry Wilner. This feature will move on Fridays.