Tony Romo and 10 NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat in 2012
Tony Romo leads the class of 2012 quarterbacks who enter the season on the hot seat.
The longtime face of the Dallas Cowboys is coming off of a season in which he was once again able to put up great numbers as the team's signal-caller, but those numbers did not translate as one would hope in the win column.
The talent-laden Cowboys went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs—giving Romo exactly one playoff win since taking over as the team's starting quarterback in 2006.
When teams fail to meet expectations, the first two people to receive the blame are the head coach or the quarterback. Whether or not this is fair is up for debate, but the fact remains that results outweigh production for quarterbacks.
Every year, we see a handful of NFL quarterbacks begin the season on the hot seat.
Some are established starters who have been unable to take the team to the next level. Some are young starters that have been granted one more year as a starter for the team to make an evaluation of the player's long-term future.
One thing is for sure: With the constant pressure to win as soon as possible, both quarterbacks and head coaches are on shorter leashes than ever. Even one bad year can have the most established veterans feeling the pressure to fight for their job.
While the quarterbacks that comprise this year's class come from a variety of situations and prior success (or lack thereof) these are 10 quarterbacks who will need to perform well to avoid the hot seat.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
When the Chiefs acquired Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots in 2009, he was expected to be the team's franchise quarterback from day one.
Cassel's tenure with the Chiefs got off to a rough start in 2009 when he threw just as many interceptions (16) as he did touchdowns in leading an abysmal Chiefs offense to a 4-12 record.
However, 2010 proved to be a better year for the Chiefs and Cassel as he posted a career year in throwing for over 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. The Chiefs benefited in the win column as well, improving their record to 10-6 and earning a wild-card berth.
In 2011 Cassel was unable to duplicate his success and reverted to 2009 form as he threw 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions before an injury cut Cassel's season short after nine starts.
2011 was a rough year for the Chiefs as a whole. The team struggled to a 7-9 record while trying to replace the production of both Cassel and star running back Jamaal Charles.
In 2012, Cassel leads a promising young core on offense and will have no excuses for mediocre production. The return of Jamaal Charles and promising tight end Tony Moeaki—who missed all of 2011 with an injury—the signing of running back Peyton Hillis and the consistent production of Dwayne Bowe should give Cassel the weapons he needs to excel.
If Cassel is unable to succeed this year, it is likely that the Chiefs will begin to look for his replacement.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Given that the Oakland Raiders basically mortgaged their future to acquire Carson Palmer in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals last season, it would appear that the Raiders are pretty high on Palmer.
Also telling is that the Raiders feel they can win right away with Palmer, which will undoubtedly create some lofty expectations in 2012.
The Raiders went 4-6 in the 10 games that Palmer started last year, although it should be noted that the team also lost star running back Darren McFadden for those 10 games. Palmer also gets some leeway for being in the rare position of being thrust into a starting role with a new team in the middle of the season.
This year, Palmer will not be getting the benefit of the doubt and the Raiders will be looking for immediate returns on their investment. Anything less than winning the division will be a disappointment for the Raiders and Palmer will have to perform well for the team to reach that level of success.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
With the NFL draft quickly approaching, we will soon find out what exactly the Cleveland Browns front office thinks about Colt McCoy.
The Browns lost out on the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes and are now only left with Texas A&M product Ryan Tannehill in the first round if the team is convinced that McCoy is not the quarterback of the future.
The more likely scenario is that the Browns draft a quarterback in the later rounds who could be developed. Otherwise, they'll pass on a quarterback altogether and see what McCoy can do in his second full year as starter. In McCoy's work as the team's starter in his two years in the NFL, he has looked mediocre.
The issue in evaluating his potential is the fact that the Browns have a serious deficiency when it comes to playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
With Peyton Hillis in and out of the lineup and not all that productive, the Browns running game suffered and McCoy's No. 1 target at wide receiver was Greg Little, a rookie wide receiver who hadn't played football in over a year.
The Browns should give the young McCoy one more shot to prove that he can be the Browns quarterback with another year under his belt in coach Pat Shurmur's offense and with a few playmakers that the team could acquire through the draft.
If the Browns elect to go with McCoy as their starter in 2012, he will need to produce to stay away from the hot seat in Cleveland.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Blaine Gabbert may have been the worst quarterback in the entire NFL in 2011.
In his defense, he was a rookie playing for a team who lacked anything close to a legitimate number one receiver, but Gabbert's numbers as a passer were largely underwhelming in his rookie season. At times, he seemed completely lost.
In a season that saw fellow rookie quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton put up great numbers, Gabbert's rookie season left a lot to be desired by Jacksonville brass.
Clearly Gabbert's job security isn't too high after his rookie season last year—the team made a splash in free agency by signing former Miami Dolphin quarterback Chad Henne to a deal and were reportedly in the Tim Tebow sweepstakes.
The Jaguars still possess one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL and while the receiving corps has been weak, the offseason signings of Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans should help with that.
If Gabbert's numbers don't see improvement in all areas of his game and the team's offense is anemic once again, the Blaine Gabbert era will be over before it ever got started in Jacksonville.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
When you're the quarterback for the New York Jets, you better be prepared to live on the hot seat.
The New York Jets should very easily lead the NFL in headlines this year. The team's current quarterback situation should take center stage as Mark Sanchez now has the constant pressure of being backed up by Tim Tebow.
Despite the Jets reaching the AFC Championship Game in Sanchez's first two seasons in the NFL, his ability to lead has come under scrutiny by fans as last year's team struggled to an underachieving 8-8 record.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, a few anonymous players felt the Jets collapse occurred because of Sanchez's lack of leadership and went as far as to call him lazy, stating, "We have to bring in another quarterback that will make him (Sanchez) work in practice."
If those statements are true, then the Jets brought in the perfect guy for the job. Tebow may not be the polished passer that Sanchez is, but he certainly brings a work ethic to the table that will push Sanchez if he is in fact a bit complacent.
Even with the three-year, $40 million contract extension Sanchez signed with the Jets this offseason, the presence of Tebow on the team alone puts Sanchez on the hot seat.
With Tebow's enormous popularity, the pressure on Sanchez will only build as talking heads in the media and fans alike will only want to see what Tebow can do as the Jets quarterback at the first sign of Sanchez struggling.
Matt Flynn/Tarvaris Jackson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
If it weren't for some guy named Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn would have been the most sought-after free-agent quarterback in 2012.
Despite a very small sample size, Flynn has shown tremendous potential in his time backing up Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers. The former seventh-round draft pick from LSU stunned fans by throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns in his final game with the Packers while the team was resting Rodgers for the playoffs.
Flynn would eventually sign with the Seattle Seahawks and will battle Tarvaris Jackson for the starting role.
Head Coach Pete Carroll hasn't named a favorite and is looking to have an open quarterback competition in camp to determine who will get the nod as the team's starter.
Whoever wins the job will need to show results right away. This could be a close quarterback race and if the winner struggles, the Seahawks will know that one is always a viable option to replace the other. The constant feeling of being pushed can have mixed effects on a quarterback, so it will be interesting to see how both of these quarterbacks handle that pressure.
If neither quarterback shines, next year's draft class will be headed up by current USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
Barkley is familiar with Carroll from their days together at the university and speculatively, you would think the Seahawks would have interest in acquiring the Trojan star if they can justify it with Flynn and/or Jackson's poor play.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Similar to this year's buzz surrounding free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn, Kevin Kolb was hyped as starting material in the NFL after a successful stint as an NFL backup.
Considered to be the quarterback of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Vick's phenomenal 2010 season made Kolb a trade chip for the franchise and the quarterback-starved Cardinals made a move for the University of Houston product.
Kolb's first season in Arizona didn't go quite as planned. Kolb only started nine games due to bouts with turf toe and a concussion. When Kolb did play, it wasn't exactly spectacular—the Cardinals were 2-6 in games with Kolb primarily under center.
Given backup quarterback John Skelton's 6-2 record as a starter ,the team could opt to see if Skelton can develop into anything should Kolb struggle to win games again early on.
With an elite talent like Larry Fitzgerald and an emerging threat at running back in Beanie Wells, the Cardinals will be looking to have an explosive offense in 2012 and Kolb will be under pressure to make that happen.
If not, he could be on the hot seat.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Entering 2011, Josh Freeman was one of the fastest-rising young quarterbacks in the league. After an incredible sophomore campaign in 2010 that saw Freeman throw for 25 touchdowns to only six interceptions for an incredible 95.9 passer rating, many thought Freeman was ready to make the leap to elite status.
In 2011, the wheels came off. Freeman threw the second-most interceptions in the NFL with 22 and saw his touchdowns drop by nine to 16 on the season. Freeman's drop in play correlated with the Buccaneers drop in wins; the team went from a pleasantly surprising 10-6 season to a shockingly awful 4-12 season.
The Buccaneers struggles weren't entirely Freeman's fault. The Bucs don't have a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver for Freeman to throw to and the team lacks a veteran presence, so coaching was also an issue in last year's collapse.
With Greg Schiano now at the helm, the blame for another awful season could certainly shift onto Freeman. The Buccaneers hold a top-five selection in the 2012 NFL draft—whoever they pick, we can be certain they aren't in the market for a quarterback, as Freeman has a ton of potential.
If the Buccaneers find themselves in the top five picks again, though, they might just be in the hunt for a new quarterback.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
As mentioned previously, when teams fail to meet expectations, the brunt of the blame falls directly on the head coach and/or the quarterback.
No team failed expectations more in 2011 than the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2010, the Eagles enjoyed a 10-6 season in which Michael Vick had the best year of his career, setting career highs in touchdown passes (21), completion percentage (62.6), passing yards (3,018), passer rating (100.2) and rushing touchdowns (nine).
Expectations for Vick and the Eagles went sky-high after Vick signed a six-year $100 million extension with the team and the team added several big-name players including free agent Nnamdi Asomugha.
Free-agent signee Vince Young piled on the expectations by claiming that they Eagles were building a "dream team."
Vick's dream team stumbled out of the gate, however, as the Eagles were 1-4 in their first five games. The Eagles dug a hole that they could not dig themselves out of and finished the season with an 8-8 record and without a trip to the playoffs.
While frustration with the crushed expectations is evident, neither head coach Andy Reid nor Michael Vick lost their jobs over the sub-par season. If the team posts similar results in 2012, it can be expected that both men will be on the hot seat.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tony Romo is coming off the best statistical season of his career. The high-flying Dallas Cowboys offense was fun to watch last year, as Romo utilized the plethora of targets on the roster en route to posting a career year.
However quarterbacks, especially on a high-profile team such as the Cowboys, are measured by one statistic: wins.
Romo's impressive 31 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and 102.5 passer rating were overshadowed by the Cowboys' disappointing 8-8 record. If this were the first season that the Cowboys have underachieved with Romo at the helm, then there would certainly be no reason for the quarterback to be on the hot seat.
After all, a quarterback can only do so much.
Unfortunately, Romo putting up great numbers and the Cowboys underachieving has become a trend that will need to stop if Romo wants to continue as the quarterback for the Cowboys.
For all of Romo's impressive numbers that he's put up in his career, his most daunting number is one. That's how many playoff wins Romo has in his career.
Entering his seventh year as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, Romo must find a way to lead this team to the playoffs and win once he gets there.
Whether it is fair or not, the time is now for Romo to determine what his legacy with the Cowboys will be.