Former Bengals great Carson Palmer claims Joe Burrow is the finest quarterback in the NFL: Far more reliable than Patrick Mahomes

Ask anyone who they think is the best quarterback in the NFL, and you’re likely to get a range of different opinions. Most people would probably say reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, but there are others who might choose Josh Allen or Justin Herbert or Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow, just to name a few. One of the Burrow Backers is former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

“I think Joe [Burrow] is the best quarterback in the league,” Palmer said during an appearance on The QB Room podcast, according to NFL.com. “I know Patrick [Mahomes] is phenomenal, but I just think Joe’s more consistent. He’s more consistent. He’s more accountable to run the system and the play that’s called and not feel like, ‘Well, he didn’t win last time and get open for me, so I’m gonna do it with my feet,’ and then before you know it, you’re sacked for a four-yard loss because you tried to make two or three guys miss.

“Joe is just — talk about not having a weakness — mentally strong, physically tough, accurate, can throw it far enough, fast enough, gets the ball out quick, and then he can actually do a lot with his legs. He just rarely shows it. I think he’s as athletic outside the pocket and can do a lot of the same things Patrick Mahomes has done. He hasn’t done it and showed it yet. He’s played more within his system and style. But I think he’s the best quarterback in the league.”

There are certainly arguments one can make in Burrow’s favor, but the ones Palmer made are actually things that would likely tip the scales in Mahomes’ direction.

Mahomes is the most consistent quarterback in the league, and possibly ever. In five seasons as a starter, he’s completed between 65.9 and 67.1% of his passes every year. He’s thrown an interception on between 1.0 and 2.1% of his passes in every season, and averaged between 8.1 and 8.8 yards per attempt in every year but one. He’s won MVP twice, Offensive Player of the Year once, and two Super Bowls, and his team has hosted the AFC title game in every season he’s been a starter.

Mahomes is extraordinarily unlikely to take a sack, as evidenced by his microscopic 3.9% career sack rate. (Burrow’s is 7.5%, by comparison.) You could argue that Mahomes has had better protection, and you would be right, but that would be negated by the fact that Burrow has taken a sack on 23.8% of his pressured dropbacks during his career, third-highest among 42 qualified quarterbacks over the past five years, while Mahomes’ 11.1% sack-to-pressure rate is second-lowest among the same group of players. (It’s worth noting that Burrow dramatically improved in this area in 2022, but was still nowhere close to Mahomes’ level.) Mahomes has indeed taken off to scramble more often than Burrow (17.7% of pressured dropbacks vs. 12.1%) and has gained considerably more yards per scramble when doing so (7.8 vs. 6.1).

None of this means that Burrow isn’t excellent, or that he definitively isn’t the best quarterback in the league. (Even though he probably is not, given Mahomes’ excellence in every area.) It just means that Palmer chose the wrong foundation on which to base his argument, because the areas of quarterback play he chose to highlight Burrow over Mahomes are areas where Mahomes is definitively superior.

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