I don't remember the term "elite quarterback" used alot growing up, so I wanted to track down when exactly it started. Of course that is kind of hard to do, but Harper of 12 hours ago didn't know that.
Here's a college reference in 2001. Notice the word doesn't even make it into the column. It's only in the title. In 2003, in the NFL, the same thing. Here's another from 2004. Can you imagine in 2013 a column about Brady getting to be seen as one of the best QBs in the NFL and the word "elite" not being used? The copy editor would send it back for that glaring omission.
Near as I can tell it probably came up thorugh the college ranks thanks in no small part to Nike's Elite 11 camp. But wherever it came from, it's certainly got a grasp on our group mindthink.
That first spike in "elite QB"* searches corresponds to that NYT article about the Elite 11. That's probably not a coincidence. The next year you get 2 months of big searches around the same time - then 3, then 4, and then it's all over. It's done. Elite QB gives the sports pundits something to blabber about so it is here to stay.
*this search got me better results than "elite quarterback" or "elite NFL QB" etc etc.