I'm in the midst of a fact-finding mission. Usually I handle such matters myself. But every time I turn around, there seems to be a different answer to one of sport's favorite questions.
Who is currently the best quarterback in the National Football League?
In this day and age of ever-changing Super Bowl champions it's the leader of the newest Lombardi Trophy winner that is immediately thrust into the conversation.
Obviously, everyone is Raven over Joe Flacco these days. Baltimore's signal-caller just wrapped four straight games in the playoffs in which he threw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions and his team held off the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in Super Bowl XLVII. He's also not missed a game since coming to the league in 2008 and is five-for-five in reaching the playoffs. He's also liable to be a very rich man any day now.
What about a few of the quarterbacks that wound up in the Ravens' path to a title?
Peyton Manning? All the ex-Colts' star did was throw a franchise-record 37 touchdown passes in not only his first season in Denver but his first showing after a one-year hiatus from football. Manning has now actually played 14 seasons and has never thrown for fewer than 26 scores.
Tom Brady? Since 2007, the numbers are absolutely astounding. The Patriots' signal-caller has served up more than four times as many touchdown passes (187) as interceptions (45) and has made two Super Bowl appearances over that span to boot (to go along with his three rings).
Aaron Rodgers? He's been pretty brilliant since he became the Packers' starter in 2008. And the last two seasons he's been off the charts, throwing 84 touchdown passes and just 14 interceptions in 31 regular-season games. Like the Patriots, Green Bay has been to the playoffs four straight years.
Drew Brees? There have now been six 5,000-yard passing performances in NFL history and he owns three of them, all coming within the past five seasons. Like each of the aforementioned quartet, the Saints' field general not only has a world championship ring but has been named Super Bowl MVP at least once.
How about two-time league champions Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) and Eli Manning (Giants), the former taking Pittsburgh to three Super Bowls in a six-year span while the latter is one of a handful of players named Super Bowl MVP at least twice?
Could it soon be one of the young guns such as Colin Kaepernick (49ers), Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Andrew Luck (Colts) or perhaps Cam Newton (Panthers)?
Or maybe we're leaving someone out?
In any case, it's always a healthy debate. And I'm looking for a definitive answer to the most simplistic of questions.
And the answer is?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. A former NFL research coordinator for ESPN, he is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.