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Defining The Term: Elite

What does "elite" even mean in football? Does it have a meaning? Why do I put 8 socks in the dryer and only 7 come out? Why am I asking people questions in a summary?

Sorry Joe, you'll need a lot more than this trophy to be elite.
Sorry Joe, you'll need a lot more than this trophy to be elite.

Yesterday, 3k asked everyone what their biggest pet peeve in football was.

I have many, in fact a likely limitless supply of them. ESPN's Twitter, taking running backs in the first round, the quarterback wins statistic, the word "beast," racist scouting, Billy Devaney, kicking field goals in the red zone, punting on 4th and 1 from beyond the 40, Bill Belichick's cutoff hoodie, Richie Incognito, etc., etc., etc.

But there is one thing which annoys me far greater than anything else: the use of the term elite.

Now there's nothing wrong with the word itself. It simply means the best of a group.

The issue is the term is used so liberally, it has lost its meaning. It's a word that now, in the context of football, has no definition, but yet the debate over which QBs are elite is one of the main topics discussed around the league.

Here's all the current QBs I have heard multiple times described as elite by fans and media members; Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, and Matthew Stafford.

That's 17 players. Over half the NFL's quarterbacks have been described as elite at sometime. The very best of a group, what the term elite means, cannot be over half of what that group entails. The word elite has no real meaning in the context of football.

Quarterbacks are the main position infected with this virus, but other positions also suffer the same fate. How many debates must we hear over "elite" or "true number one" wide receivers? How many pass rushers are now in this group of the "very best"? All around football, the misuse of the term is rampant.

It drives me mad.

The solution to this problem is simple. The term must be defined. Everyone must come to a general agreement on how many players can belong in the elite category, or else the category is illegitimate.

Of course there are players who are obviously elite. No one would argue that Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson are not in the group of the very best at their position. But where's the cutoff? How many belong in the same group of these two?

In society, we crown the top 1% of money earners the Upper Class or the elite of society. At my college, one must be in the top 3% to graduate with honors.

Both these numbers would be fair to use for football, but they would leave positions like QB with only one elite player. One could argue this is the case, but elite means a group of the best, not just the single best.

To account for this, I propose using 10% as the number. The top 10% of starters at their positions should be considered elite.

For example, there are 32 starting QBs. Ten percent of that is 3.2, so there would be 3 elite QBs. For WRs, the number would be 6 elite players (each team has 2 starters, 64 starters, 6.4 is ten percent of 64).

Using this system, and defining the term for the use of football in this way would lead to more meaningful discussions over which players are truly the best. Rather than an arbitrary system which allows throwing the term out for every player who flashes occasional greatness, there could be some meaningful thought put into these rankings.

To end, here are the players that I consider to be the elite players at their positions using my 10% method.

QB (3) T. Brady, P. Manning, A. Rodgers
RB (3) A. Peterson, CJ Spiller, R. Rice
WR (6) C. Johnson, R. White, AJ Green, L. Fitzgerald, A. Johnson, P. Harvin
TE (3) R. Gronkowski, J. Witten, V. Davis
OT (6) D. Brown, J. Staley, J. Thomas, R. Okung, R. Clady, A. Davis
OG (6) C. Nicks, L. Mankins, A. Levitre, M. Iupati, J. Sitton, M. Yanda
C (3) C. Meyers, N. Mangold, A. Mack
Pass Rushers (4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB) (6) C. Wake, C. Mathews, J. Pierre-Paul, A. Smith, D. Ware, J. Allen
Interior Defensive Linemen (6) G. Atkins, JJ Watt, G. McCoy, H. Ngata, J. Smith, K. WIlliams
Linebackers (4-3 OLBs, and all MLBs) (4) V. Miller, P. Willis, N. Bowman, J. Mayo
CB (6) D. Revis, C. Tillman, R. Sherman, C. Hayward, A. Winfield, J. Haden
Safeties (6) E. Thomas, J. Byrd, E. Weddle, TJ Ward, Ed Reed, G. Wilson
Fullbacks (3) V. Leach, M. Reece, H. Hynoski