NFL: Ranking the 32 Quarterbacks by How Much They Are on the Hot Seat

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IJune 27, 2012

NFL: Ranking the 32 Quarterbacks by How Much They Are on the Hot Seat

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    The National Football League is a win-now sport, and a few bad weeks can cost a player his starting job. Contracts in the NFL aren’t guaranteed, so a six-year deal in football doesn’t offer the same security as it does to a major league baseball player.

    Obviously, a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers—an established veteran with a Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy—can endure a rough season, and there’s no chance he will lose his job. But not so for some other quarterbacks, namely some of the league’s younger starters and those beginning new contracts.

    This list ranks the quarterbacks in terms of how secure their jobs are, rating them on a scale of 1 through 10. Players that have a 10 can feel extremely confident going into the 2012 season, knowing they will be their team’s starter for 2013. Players with a 1 or a 2 are probably engaged in a tough battle right now for the starting job, and really, anything could happen.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers

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    Comfort Rating: 10

    Aaron Rodgers has completely dethroned Brett Favre as the quarterback in Green Bay by winning a league MVP award, a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP. He’s the best quarterback in the game, a tremendous combination of passing and running, and he’s going to one day retire as a top-10 or even top-five quarterback to have ever lived.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady

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    Comfort Rating: 10

    The fact that Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet are probably the best backup and third-string quarterback in the game really shouldn’t scare Tom Brady. He’s 34.5 years old and he’s coming off a season in which he threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.

    He completed 65.6 percent of his passes, posted a 105.6 passer rating, threw a 99-yard touchdown pass, led the New England Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl appearance in 11 years and earned his seventh Pro Bowl selection. He’s one of the best of all-time and he probably has four or five years left still.

New York Giants: Eli Manning

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    Comfort Rating: 10

    Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion who has twice defeated Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on the NFL’s biggest stage.

    Considering he’s the face of the franchise and football runs in his blood, he’s an icon in New York…even if he may be the third-most talked about quarterback in the city.

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton

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    Comfort Rating: 10

    Cam Newton revolutionized the NFL like no rookie quarterback has ever done before. He threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, then added 700 ground yards and a quarterback-record 14 rushing touchdowns.

    I can’t imagine him topping those numbers in 2012—if he does, watch out—but I think he’s here to stay for the next decade.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees

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    Comfort Rating: 9.5

    Drew Brees is probably still underrated even at this point in his career. Over the last six seasons, he’s averaged 4,732 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and a 98.5 passer rating. His 67.8 percent completion rate is absolutely astounding, and he’s won a Super Bowl, set the single-season record for completion percentage (71.2) and passing yards (5,476) and made five Pro Bowls during his tenure with the New Orleans Saints.

    The only thing keeping him from getting a perfect 10 is the fact that the Saints haven’t given him a new contract yet. Personally, I think Brees deserves a blank check for the way he’s played, but I think something will get worked out before the season starts.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger

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    Comfort Rating: 9.5

    Ben Roethlisberger is a lot like Eli Manning—he’s a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback who was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft.

    Roethlisberger is as clutch as it gets—just look at his touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the 2008 Super Bowl or the walk-off touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to beat the Green Bay Packers in the ’09 regular season.

    He has had his off-the-field scandals—which is the only thing keeping him from a perfect 10—but I can’t see the Pittsburgh Steelers moving on from Roethlisberger.

San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers

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    Comfort Rating: 9.5

    Philip Rivers is a tremendous passer who has the ability to one day be seen as a top-15 quarterback of all-time, if he can win a Super Bowl. He still hasn’t even played in the NFL’s biggest game, but he’s averaged 4,000 passing yards and 27 touchdowns per season since taking over as the full-time starter in 2006.

    He had a rough year in 2011, throwing a career-high 20 interceptions, including 17 in his first 10 games, but I think he will bounce right back in 2012. After all, he did throw 41 more passes than ever before last year, and his interception percentage (3.4) was only 0.8 higher than his career average.

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford

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    Comfort Rating: 9.5

    Matthew Stafford set the bar really high with his first full season, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. He did suffer a handful of serious injuries in his first two years, though, dislocating his shoulder twice and playing in just 13 of a possible 32 games.

    Say he gets hurt early in 2012 and misses the whole season. That’s unlikely, but if that happens, he suddenly becomes a serious injury concern. That’s the only thing keeping him from being a 10.

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan

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    Comfort Rating: 9

    Matt Ryan isn’t quite as good as I thought he would be when he was drafted four years ago. He’s averaged 3,560 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions since taking over in 2008 with a 88.4 passer rating. That’s a good passer rating, but I think he has the physical tools and playmakers with him—Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez—to post a passer rating of closer to 95 or even 100.

    He also really needs to improve on that 0-3 playoff record, but his defense is also letting up an average of 34 points per postseason contest. Ryan could lose another playoff game this year like he did last year (by a 24-2 score), and he’s definitely coming back for 2013, absolutely no questions asked.

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton

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    Comfort Rating: 9

    Andy Dalton had a truly terrific rookie season that really came out of nowhere. He threw for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns, posting a 80.4 passer rating and leading the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs. He also made the Pro Bowl in his first year as a football player.

    Dalton has all the tools to be a great quarterback for many more years.

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck

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    Comfort Rating: 8.5

    Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect to come out of college football since Peyton Manning, and he has everything you would want from a future franchise player.

    He’s athletic, strong-armed, intelligent and he knows what it takes to be the face of the team. Luck has a lot to prove as a rookie, and given the way teams wanted him last year, he has a lot of pressure to be an elite quarterback within a few years. And he doesn’t exactly inherit the best team, with Reggie Wayne at 33 years old, Dallas Clark now in Tampa Bay, Joseph Addai now in New England and Jeff Saturday now in Green Bay.

Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler

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    Comfort Rating: 8.5

    Jay Cutler’s true value can be expressed in the ineptitude of his backups—first Todd Collins in the 2010 AFC Championship Game and then Caleb Hanie in the 2011 season.

    Cutler has had his fair share of struggles: He’s thrown 26 interceptions in a season, he gets sacked a ton because he holds onto the ball a long time and he’s won just one playoff game.

    But he’s signed through 2013, and the Bears have no one waiting to take over. I think they’ll extend him for a few more years soon.

Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning

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    Comfort Rating: 8.5

    I wonder what will happen if Peyton Manning can’t regain the form that made him a four-time MVP with the Indianapolis Colts. He doesn’t have Tim Tebow there anymore to be a controversy, but if Manning struggles, I wonder how long the Denver Broncos will keep him.

    He signed a five-year deal, and considering how much they wanted him, I think he will get several years at least.

Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III

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    Comfort Rating: 8

    There’s a lot of pressure on Robert Griffin III. A lot. The Washington Redskins haven’t had a franchise quarterback in decades. They traded away three first-round picks to move up to the St. Louis Rams’ spot at No. 2 overall in the draft to select RGIII. And considering how much Cam Newton dominated as a rookie, there’s the pressure on Griffin to be just as good.

    I don’t think he will be as good in 2012 as Newton was in 2011, simply because that’s almost impossible. Newton had a record-breaking rookie campaign, and I’m sure Griffin will experience some growing pains with the Redskins, but he will be the real deal soon.

Houston Texans: Matt Schaub

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    Comfort Rating: 7.5

    Matt Schaub is a terrific quarterback, although most people wouldn’t put him in the top 10 in the game. He’s never won a playoff game—in fact, he’s never even played in one because he got injured last year and T.J. Yates was the quarterback in the postseason.

    Schaub is a free agent after 2012, and he still hasn’t gotten a long-term deal with the Houston Texans, but I can’t see the team letting him go.

Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo

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    Comfort Rating: 7

    Every year, there seems to be speculation that if Tony Romo doesn’t finally win a Super Bowl this year, he’s gone. That hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen.

    Romo is a tremendous passing quarterback, and he has the weapons around him in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, to make a serious impact. He probably won’t make a deep playoff run in 2012, but I think there’s no doubt he will still be the Cowboys quarterback in at least two years.

St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford

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    Comfort Rating: 6

    I think most people know 2011 wasn’t Sam Bradford’s fault. But come on: a 53.5 completion percentage, just six touchdown passes in 357 pass attempts and a 70.5 passer rating?

    That’s ridiculously awful, and the St. Louis Rams were just 1-9 in games that Bradford started. He has a mammoth contract with the team, and I don’t think he is going anywhere, but he really better show something in 2012 after that miserable campaign he had in ’11.

Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder

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    Comfort Rating: 5

    The Minnesota Vikings have named Christian Ponder their starter heading into 2012, and Ponder thinks he will have a 10 to 15-year career with the team.

    Ponder had OK numbers as a rookie in 2011, throwing for 13 touchdowns to 13 interceptions while posting a 70.1 passer rating. He went just 2-8 though as a starter, and obviously, he will need to play better in 2012 for the Vikings to feel more comfortable about him.

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco

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    Comfort Rating: 5

    Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL; don’t you remember? Oh, and he’s a free agent at the end of the season, and he still hasn’t gotten a long-term deal from the Baltimore Ravens.

    He is a good enough quarterback that I think the team will work something out with him prior to the start of 2012. But Flacco could really use a Super Bowl ring next to his name, or at least a couple of Pro Bowl seasons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman

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    Comfort Rating: 4

    Josh Freeman has had a strange career so far. He was miserable in 2009, phenomenal in 2010 and then incredibly disappointing in 2011.

    Freeman has shown enough potential that I think even if he has more growing pains in 2012, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will bring him back for ’13 because of what he can do as a dual-threat quarterback with the ability to both run and pass.

Oakland Raiders: Carson Palmer

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    Comfort Rating: 4

    The Oakland Raiders gave up two huge draft picks to acquire Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals, and then he really struggled in 2011. Palmer threw 13 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, posting a career-worst 4.9 interception rate and an 80.5 passer rating six points below his career average.

    Palmer is signed through 2014, but that doesn’t mean the Raiders can’t get rid of him sooner than that.

Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden

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    Comfort Rating: 4

    I’m surprised the Cleveland Browns will be going with Brandon Weeden in 2012, but given that the team is more than willing to trade Colt McCoy anywhere, it seems like Weeden will be the Opening Day starter.

    That puts a lot of pressure on the 28-year-old Weeden (29 in October), who has told teams to look at him as just a 22-year-old. Weeden won’t inherit a lot of talent in Cleveland outside of All-World left tackle Joe Thomas, who should help keep Weeden standing upright.

Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Cassel

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    Comfort Rating: 3

    The Kansas City Chiefs seem to have great faith in Matt Cassel, as new GM Brian Dobell has said Cassel is an elite quarterback for putting up a pair of 10-win seasons.

    In reality, though, Cassel is coming off a disappointing campaign in which he threw for just 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions in nine starts, posting a 76.6 passer rating and a 4-5 record as a starter. The Chiefs don’t have capable backups in Brady Quinn or Ricky Stanzi, but that doesn’t mean they can’t draft a guy next year if they want to move on from Cassel.

Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick

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    Comfort Rating: 2.5

    Michael Vick is playing for his job in 2012; no doubt about it. He did establish a career-high in passing yards in 2011, throwing for 3,303 yards. He also threw 14 interceptions, fumbled 10 times and led the Philadelphia Eagles to an extremely disappointing 8-8 season.

    Vick hasn’t played a full season since 2006, and just once in his career. He is 32 years old already and injury-prone because of the way he plays the game so recklessly. And the Eagles drafted Nick Foles in this past year’s draft, meaning Andy Reid may already be looking at his quarterback of the future.

    The Eagles have an immensely talented team with DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, a great offensive line, an out-of-this-world defensive line and a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks. I just don’t know if they can win a Super Bowl with Vick, and he has a lot to prove this year.

Miami Dolphins: Matt Moore

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    Comfort Rating: 2.5

    Matt Moore won’t be the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins for very long, if he even makes it into camp as the starter. Moore had a solid season down the stretch last year, but then the team went out and drafted Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall selection, and it’s clear they view Tannehill as their future franchise quarterback.

    Moore is merely starting games, while Tannehill can learn the offense and get accustomed to the NFL. Moore has a few games, and maybe a whole season, to prove to another team that he is capable of playing in this league, but he better play well.

Buffalo Bills: Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Comfort Rating: 2.5 

    Midway through the 2011 season, the Buffalo Bills inked quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a six-year, $59 million extension. Fitzpatrick had led the Bills to a 4-2 start and won his next game right after his new contract, but he ended the season on a miserable run.

    Fitzpatrick threw 10 touchdowns to 16 interceptions in the final nine games, as the Bills lost eight of nine and effectively eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Fitzpatrick ended the season with 3,832 yards and 24 touchdowns, but his 23 interceptions led the NFL, and I think the Bills made a huge mistake extending him.

    He’s going to be 30 midway through next season, and while he won’t face any competition in new backup Vince Young, Fitzpatrick just isn’t a franchise quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith

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    Comfort Rating: 2

    Alex Smith had a very good season in 2011, finally living up to the potential he displayed when the San Francisco 49ers took him first overall in the NFL draft a full six seasons prior.

    Smith threw 17 touchdowns to just five interceptions, leading the NFL with a 1.1 interception percentage. He led the ‘Niners to a 13-3 record and a berth in the playoffs and then turned in an improbable comeback in the NFC Division Playoffs, as he threw for two late touchdown passes against the New Orleans Saints to win it, 36-32.

    The ‘Niners desperately went after Peyton Manning in the offseason, then head coach Jim Harbaugh denied that he ever wanted Manning. Harbaugh can’t actually be happy with Smith. His 2011 season was the best he will ever be, and 17 touchdowns in 16 games in a passing league really shouldn’t offer 49ers fans a lot of security.

    And it shouldn’t make Smith feel comfortable about his own job security either.

Tennessee Titans: Matt Hasselbeck

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    Comfort Rating: 1.5

    Matt Hasselbeck is a good quarterback, and he’s had a very productive career, but his days as a starter are at the very, very end. Hasselbeck had a solid season in 2011 in his first year in Tennessee, throwing for 3,571 yards and 18 touchdowns.

    However, the future of the Titans is Jake Locker, and after throwing four touchdowns to no interceptions in 2011 as a rookie, Locker is primed to take over soon in ’12.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert

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    Comfort Rating: 1

    The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert in the first round last year, and that normally guarantees a quarterback at least three years or so to prove his worth to his team. But Gabbert—who was thrust into a starting role almost immediately—struggled immensely in 2011.

    He finished with 12 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, completing just 50.8 percent of his passes. He threw for just 2,214 yards, averaging a paltry 5.4 yards per attempt, and posted a 65.4 passer rating. He was also sacked 40 times for a league-high 294 yards and at times looked downright scared when he dropped back to pass.

    Do I think Gabbert should be on the hot seat already? Absolutely not. He’s playing on a terrible offensive team. Outside of Maurice Jones-Drew, there is really no one on the Jaguars worth bragging about. His receivers last year were guys like Jarrett Dillard, Jason Hill, a washed-up Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. He would be much better with a few years to sit and learn the offense, as well as a receiver like Terrell Owens in his prime that could stretch the field.

    But since the Jaguars signed Chad Henne to be a backup, they may be tempted to bench Gabbert early on if he struggles again.

Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb

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    Comfort Rating: 1

    At this point, Arizona Cardinals fans can’t be feeling too good about Kevin Kolb, who enters the second year of a five-year, $63.5 million contract, a deal that includes a ridiculous $21 million guaranteed.

    Kolb was awful in his first year in Arizona in 2011, throwing for 1,955 yards and nine touchdowns to eight interceptions while posting a 81.1 passer rating. The Cardinals were 3-6 in games in which he started. John Skelton isn’t much better but the team was winning when he started, and that should be enough to have Skelton take over pretty soon.

Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson

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    Comfort Rating: 1

    What in the world is Pete Carroll thinking by naming Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback over Matt Flynn? Flynn was a heavily-sought after free agent who signed a three-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks this offseason, and Carroll rewarded him by naming Jackson the starter heading into training camp.

    Flynn will probably be starting by the first game of the season. After all, Jackson hasn’t really had a lot of success in his NFL career, and Carroll is absurd to think he’s a better option than Flynn.

New York Jets: Mark Sanchez

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    Comfort Rating: 0.5

    Mark Sanchez should feel as comfortable about his job security as Norv Turner should about his if the San Diego Chargers get off to another miserable start in 2012.

    Sanchez was signed to a three-year contract extension in the offseason but the New York Jets also signed Tim Tebow, and that spells big trouble for Sanchez. Sanchez has been a disappointment since he was selected fifth overall in the 2009 draft, and he’s one incompletion away from Jets fans chanting for Tebow.

    Sanchez accounted for a career-high 32 touchdowns in 2011 (a really impressive number), but his 56.7 completion percentage and 78.2 passer rating won’t keep him his job. He posted the lowest yards per attempt total of his career in ’11, putting up a 6.4 figure, and the Jets missed the playoffs, largely because of shaky play from Sanchez.

    Sanchez will start the season as the starter. After all, Rex Ryan has gone out of his way to defend Sanchez over and over again. Ryan had said Sanchez will “be here as long as I’m here” and that he hopes Sanchez is the “long-time starter” in New York. Ryan praised Sanchez’s arm in OTAs this year, and Sanchez has claimed that he is not worried about losing his starting spot.

    But say the Jets start this season 3-3 and Sanchez is struggling. Meanwhile, Tebow has played well in limited snaps, rushing for a couple of key touchdowns and providing a spark off the bench. Believe me, Ryan will go to Tebow to be his starter. After all, Ryan has to win football games too, and I think he knows Sanchez can’t get the job done as well as Tebow can.

    And I think Sanchez knows that too.