As we emerge from the far side of NFL minicamps, we can start to have a look at the various quarterback situations around the league and break out some power rankings.
This is not power ranking teams in general, but rather focusing specifically on the quarterback situations and their respective strengths. Some of these passers will have poorer supporting casts, better defenses to lean on or be in more exciting offenses, but we are going to look purely at the strengths of the players that make up a team's quarterback depth chart.
In a league like the NFL the difference between teams is often down to the quarterback, which has never been a more important or more difficult position to play. Elite quarterbacks will hide a lot of ills, and having the best can make you a perennial contender.
Despite having some horrific offensive line play last season, Eli Manning was able to catch fire and drag his team to an improbable Super Bowl, with the help of an impressive pass rush on defense. Manning had less blocking help than almost any passer in the league, yet he was good enough to overcome all of that, to the point that most people barely noticed it was a problem.
The only problem with that plan is that losing those elite guys can send your entire franchise down the tubes—see the Colts circa 2011 after the indestructible Peyton Manning finally went down.
The best possible scenario for teams right now is to have an elite quarterback and a capable backup, but those are almost as rare as the elite passers.
At the bottom of the pile are the teams who have neither and are just sifting through the scraps to try to find a viable starter from somewhere.
So sit back and take a journey through the current quarterback situation in the NFL, starting at the bottom and working our way to the top.
The Cleveland Browns emerge from minicamps just looking for an answer at quarterback.
They gave Colt McCoy a shot last season, and he wasn't able to prove to them that he could be the guy going forward, while Seneca Wallace is no more than a backup and gimmick player at this point in his career.
Brandon Weeden was drafted in the first round amid some chaotic circumstances in the Browns' war room, and he has to be the right pick if the Browns are to be anything other than disastrous at the position for another few years.
Weeden was a pretty capable-looking prospect, but at 28 years old already, and 29 not long into the 2012 season, he doesn't have whatever small luxury of time a young prospect gets these days. Weeden has to get it, and quickly, for the Browns to crawl off the foot of this table.
Until that point, they will remain the worst quarterback situation in football with some serious questions regarding the talent evaluation and front-office work.
Jacksonville thought it had drafted its future franchise quarterback when it selected Blaine Gabbert last offseason.
As a raw prospect in need of some work coming out of Mizzou, Gabbert was always likely to struggle without a full offseason, but even by those standards his rookie year was a disaster. He didn't get much help from his receivers, but that's where the excuses have to end, as some of his play was just calamitous.
The Jaguars still have faith that he can be the guy, but just in case, they upgraded at backup with Chad Henne in the offseason. If Gabbert shows no improvement from 2011, Henne will be the starter before too long, but that in and of itself is no great thing.
Henne is a quarterback with obvious limitations, though there are worse players in the league. If the Jaguars are forced to take that kind of backwards step, they are launched back into the realm of teams with no clear direction at quarterback.
They need Gabbert to make major strides in his second season to climb this table, but right now this is where they belong. Their third quarterback, Jordan Palmer, is a career clipboard holder.
The Kevin Kolb trade for the Arizona Cardinals is looking worse by the day. Kolb is probably only still on the roster because of the significant money and trade pieces sent to secure his services—they invested a lot in securing him, and they weren't prepared to cut their losses so soon, even if he has yet to distance himself from John Skelton as the best option they have.
Kolb has been scattershot as the Cardinals' passer, prone to making poor decisions and loathe to attack teams the way they believed he could when they went after him.
Skelton, behind him, has been more prepared to attack, but at the expense of a worrying turnover rate and a propensity to throw some truly horrible balls into coverage.
Behind those two, Richard Bartel is unlikely to add much to the competition, and until the Cardinals can get more out of Kolb or find a way to iron out the poor play from either of their top two players, they will likely remain at the ugly end of this list.
The Vikings are in a similar boat to the Jaguars in that they are relying on their first-round pick to take significant strides forward in Year 2.
Last season Christian Ponder struggled in a major way in a couple of key areas and never really stopped making those terrible rookie throws that you usually see from rookies early on.
He also never quite got used to the speed and athleticism of the NFL, continuing to get himself into trouble trying to outrun pressure and defensive linemen that he could outpace at the college level, but who have his number in the NFL.
Behind him the Vikings brought back Sage Rosenfels, who once upon a time was a starter in Minnesota. Rosenfels is not a bad backup, which would force the team higher in these rankings were it not for the fact that they are so firmly attached to Ponder.
Joe Webb is an immense athlete as the third quarterback, but he has not progressed in his ability to progression read and will likely never become a legitimate and competent passer. His best threat is as an athlete, which may be rendered useless if he's third on the depth chart.
The Chiefs' quarterback situation is Matt Cassel or bust. They will go as far as Cassel can take them and no further. Unfortunately for them, I'm not convinced that is particularly far without surrounding him with as much talent as humanly possible.
He was able to steer the ship of the Patriots pretty well in his first action in the NFL, but that was a side with Super Bowl talent. The Chiefs are doing a good job of giving him weapons and building a defense that can contend, but all of that falls outside the remit of this power ranking.
We're looking only at quarterbacks, and Cassel has obvious limitations. His arm is good enough but not all-world, and his decision-making is questionable at times. The good news for him is that he is on another level compared with the rest of the Chiefs' depth chart.
Behind him is Brady Quinn, who has failed at any and all destinations at this level. Despite this, he is still ahead of Ricky Stanzi on the depth chart, and Alex Tanney is best known for trick shots. This is not a healthy quarterback situation.
I think this is a low position for the Rams, because I actually like Sam Bradford and his ceiling, but based on his train-wreck 2011 season and the depth behind him, I can't justify putting them any higher up the list.
Bradford has big-time talent, with a quick release and a prototype build and arm. Last season he began to get spooked in the pocket with the pressure that came at him. The offense of Josh McDaniels didn't do him any favors, and Bradford began to flounder in the quicksand, sinking ever deeper as he struggled to claw his way out of it.
Rams fans have been there before. Marc Bulger was once good enough that the Rams felt comfortable letting go of Kurt Warner to go with him instead. Then Bulger faced so much pressure that he began to feel it even when it wasn't there, and that is the beginning of the end for a quarterback.
Bradford is in danger of having that happen to him as well, so this is a big season for him.
Kellen Clemens is proven to be little more than a body in team meetings, and Tom Brandstater is already on his fifth team in three seasons.
The Rams are tied to Sam Bradford, and they need to make sure he doesn't go the way of Marc Bulger and David Carr.
The Jets might prove to be far less than the sum of their parts because of the media storm that inevitably swarms around Tim Tebow.
Mark Sanchez and Tebow both have successful playoff seasons under their belt, but they have both been in circumstances that no longer apply, and the pressure that will surround the two passers—and their relationship should either struggle—will make the situation there untenable.
Sanchez has shown good and bad during his time with the Jets, but the loss of Damien Woody at right tackle was a massive blow for his development. The volume of open-side pressure that Woody's replacement, Wayne Hunter, allowed was catastrophic to Sanchez, who could see the pressure coming and consequently began to focus on the rush, not where he wanted to go with the football.
If the Jets don't patch that hole at right tackle, then Sanchez is on a short leash; it is just a matter of time before we see Tebow.
Tebow has potential to improve as a quarterback, but right now he is far too poor a passer to get the job done.
He did against the Steelers in last year's playoffs, but no team will play him like that again. The Patriots showed how to play against Tebow—play soft zone coverage and dare him to complete passes. Against that, he has yet to show he can get the job done.
Behind that pair is the forgotten man in the form of Greg McElroy.
This could improve rapidly if Andrew Luck becomes half the quarterback that people expect him to be, but right now he is an unproven commodity, albeit a highly valued one. Luck is expected to turn around the fortunes of the Colts and become the new face of the franchise, replacing Peyton Manning, who had that role since 1998.
Even if Luck is as good as Manning is, which is a big ask, he will likely be far from quality in his rookie season as he gets to grips with the NFL, so this is as high up the list as he belongs for the moment until we see proof otherwise.
Behind him, the depth chart is not much more impressive than it was at any time during Manning's tenure in Indianapolis, with Drew Stanton next in line and Chandler Harnish the final member of the group.
Stanton has shown flashes over his career but never for long, and Harnish was this year's Mr. Irrelevant, being selected with the 253rd and final pick of the draft.
Like the Colts and Andrew Luck, Washington is so low on this list not because of its starting quarterback, but because he is as yet an unproven quantity.
The reason the Redskins leapfrog the Colts, despite Luck being the higher draft pick, is because behind their rookie passer, the Redskins have a proven, albeit extremely flawed, entity in Rex Grossman.
Robert Griffin III has the kind of talent to completely dominate at this level. He is an athlete along the lines of Michael Vick, but with an arm and passing smarts that might be even better. He has the ability to become what Vick was always supposed to.
That being said, he is a rookie, and so we have to temper our expectations. Expecting anything more than this right now would be optimistic. Behind Grossman sits his ultimate replacement in the shape of Kirk Cousins, another rookie taken to some controversy after Griffin had already been selected.
The bottom line is that Washington is looking to revamp its depth chart from top to bottom, and it's set those wheels in motion. By the end of the season, the Redskins could be dramatically higher up this list than they are now.
The Oakland Raiders paid a crazy price for Carson Palmer when they traded for him from the Cincinnati Bengals, who had already decided he was the past and not the future of that organization.
In his first season for the silver and black, we saw some flashes of the old Palmer, but enough of the poor version that he remains a major question mark going forwards, especially without the coach or the personnel man that went after him still with the organization.
Palmer has big-time talent, but his decision-making has slipped over the past few years, and he has become prone to major mistakes and lapses in concentration, leading to huge interception numbers.
Sitting behind him on the depth chart is his old college backup, Matt Leinart. As a pro, Leinart has never really looked like he could get the job done, and I'm not convinced he has any of the requisite tools to succeed in the NFL.
Last is Terrelle Pryor, the former Ohio State star and top recruit. His prognosis at the NFL level is still entirely speculation, having missed time when he came into the league with suspension hanging over from his college days.
Pryor has huge talent but needs a lot of work to be an NFL quarterback.
Josh Freeman has been a wildly inconsistent quarterback since coming into the league. He began looking like he was only interested when the game was on the line with his back up against the wall.
He then began to iron out his play and looked like he was about to become a legitimate stud, but then 2011's Buccaneers season was a disaster for Freeman as well as the rest of the team. He threw six more interceptions than he did touchdowns last year, making major mistakes in almost every game as he struggled to cope with the team's issues.
Freeman has big-time talent, but he has showed he is also capable of some extremely poor play, and that's not good enough.
The team changed its backup and now has Dan Orlovsky sitting second on the depth chart. Orlovsky has never looked like has the ability to succeed at this level and will forever be remembered as the quarterback that ran out of the back of his own end zone for a safety under pressure from Jared Allen when he was playing for the Lions.
Things didn't look a whole lot better last year when he got his turn for the Colts, and he doesn't represent much of a safety net if Freeman can't play.
Brett Ratliff is the final member of the group. and he is on his seventh team in four seasons.
If good Josh Freeman turns up in 2012, Tampa Bay shoots up this list, but at the moment that is no sure thing.
I chose this image to remind people that David Garrard is a former Pro Bowl quarterback and has always been a vastly underrated player. There seems to be a degree of surprise running around Miami that in that quarterback competition, he is emerging as the class amongst the trio.
I think Garrard has the class to beat out incumbent starter Matt Moore and top draft pick Ryan Tannehill to start when the season opens, and I think he will do OK for the Dolphins when he does.
That's not to say that Garrard is perfect—far from it. He does have some flaws, but you can win games with him.
Matt Moore showed himself last season to be a capable starter, if far from elite. He can win games and is, in all honesty, unfortunate to find himself in such a tough spot for his job. With what he showed last year, he would comfortably start for the Browns, for example.
Ryan Tannehill is obviously the future, but he is likely too raw to turn that future into the present, especially when Miami has a couple of different ways it could go.
I think this is a pretty healthy group of quarterbacks, but right now it is held back purely by the ceiling of the group, with no clear star amongst them that can carry the team. In today's NFL, that is more important than having a good group with no stud.
Tarvaris Jackson is another player that will never get the credit he deserves. From the moment he started in Minnesota and now in Seattle, there has always been a large and vocal minority that sees only black and white, unable to deal with nuance, and terms him worthless.
Jackson is not a bad player, and you can win games with him at the helm, but he is flawed, and those flaws will forever cap his ability. That's why the Seahawks went after Matt Flynn in free agency, and the pair enter the preseason with Russell Wilson embroiled in a three-man battle for the starter's job.
Though Jackson may be an underrated player, he may also be the odd man out in this battle because he has the least invested in him. Wilson is a recent draft choice, and Flynn is the big(ish)-money free agent. In short, Jackson is the most expendable.
The question becomes, how much upside do Flynn and Wilson have? Flynn came from an offense that can make passers look very good if they have a sound grasp of it, but it remains to be seen how he will fare outside of Green Bay. Wilson is a player that defies all the measurables but just seems to understand how to play the position.
This was a group I found the hardest to accurately assess and project. They could land some distance either side of this final spot.
Aside from having one of the best beards in sports, Ryan Fitzpatrick is also capable of some great things at quarterback.
Unfortunately, he is also too easy to knock off his stride and send into a funk that can cost his team badly. The Patriots are masters at this, and unfortunately for the Bills, they play them twice a season.
Fitzpatrick is a rhythm passer, and if he can drop back and let the ball loose with confidence, he can march down the field and make plays on you all day long. He is also a far better athlete than given credit for and can move the chains that way.
His problem comes if he is confused by the coverage and has to read multiple targets in a short space of time. If you can confuse him after the snap, he finds it very difficult to come off his top target and has a tendency to force throws. This is a fatal flaw for an NFL quarterback.
Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen are battling it out for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, with the loser of that battle likely cut before the season starts. Both players have talent, but neither looks capable of starting long-term.
The final member of the group is utility threat Brad Smith, who Chan Gailey says will be used as a passer this season, not a wideout.
For as well as the 49ers did last season under new coach Jim Harbaugh, their starting quarterback is still Alex Smith. There is a reason they flirted so heavily (despite claims they didn't) with Peyton Manning this offseason.
Smith played pretty well in the system last season, but the offense was heavily modified to make the most of his talents and minimize the opportunity for him to make major mistakes. He is capable of playing well in that offense, and against the Saints in the playoffs in particular, he did go toe to toe with Drew Brees when the game was on the line.
Behind him are a pair of athletic quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Josh Johnson. Kaepernick is a big, mobile quarterback but has seen little but spot duty at this level. Johnson put up farcical numbers for Harbaugh in college but was never able to look as good in Tampa Bay when he saw opportunities.
Both guys remain major question marks but have talent, especially with Harbaugh helping them.
The only man ever to have a matching monobrow and Fu Manchu mustache, Joe Flacco was supposed to be the answer for the Ravens at quarterback and, after his rookie season, looked like he was.
The problem is that he has never really taken steps forward after that season, and even the Ravens themselves are cautious about extending him long-term and handing him big money.
Flacco has the arm and ability to be a big-time quarterback, but he rarely plays to that level consistently and has yet to really raise the game of his teammates. Despite his cannon arm, his deep-ball accuracy is also rarely fantastic, and the balls he does throw long are often too late leaving his hand.
Tyrod Taylor may be another Troy Smith behind him, though he was the orchestrator of one of the finest plays I have ever seen in his final bowl game in college.
Curtis Painter rounds out the depth chart. If Painter showed anything last season for the Colts, it's that he is not a viable quarterback at this level and may be best suited to bring the doughnuts to meetings.
Matt Hasselbeck is still a quality quarterback, but he is extremely brittle at this point in his career and is always likely to miss some time in a season. He's a smart, accurate passer with one of the quickest releases in football, which helps his offensive line no small amount by minimizing the amount of time they have to block.
The problem is that if he goes down, Jake Locker does not have those things. Locker has neither accuracy nor a quick release, which means the entire Titans offense changes to some extent when he has to come in. He still has talent and is a far, far better athlete than Hasselbeck is, but he is an unproven quarterback at this level, showing both good and bad in flashes last season.
Rusty Smith is third on the depth chart, and he hasn't looked ready when forced into action for the Titans.
This is a passing stable with some talent, but they have a strange dynamic that might not be for the best if injuries occur.
I shortchanged Cam Newton when he was coming into the NFL. I saw him rely on his superior speed, size and ability in college to just dominate physically and didn't see that translating. In the NFL, everyone is a great athlete, but even at this level, he is a physical freak that can't be matched.
He has the speed of defensive backs in the body of a defensive lineman, and he is still a threat to run like no other.
The hype machine, however, has run out of control, and he was far less effective a passer than the numbers suggest. His accuracy can be an issue, and Steve Smith bailed him out of a lot on poor throws. He needs to improve, and I'm sure he can, but we need to rein in our expectations of just how effective a quarterback he is.
After him, the Panthers are in trouble, with Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen next up, either one of whom likely sends the Panthers straight back to the kind of season that gave them a shot at Newton in the first place.
Andy Dalton was one of the surprises of last season, and his start was so good that few seemed to notice the way his play tailed off in the second half of the season. That the Bengals made the playoffs undoubtedly helped, but his performances dipped significantly.
Maybe it was the rookie wall, but whatever the reason, Dalton needs to iron out the dip and get back to the way he was performing early. There is a lot to like about his play. He is smart, accurate and usually puts the ball where it should go, which is an all-too-rare trait for passers today.
His backup is Bruce Gradkowski, who has shown he can win games if he has to come into the lineup. Gradkowski can play but usually comes unstuck if he has to start for any extended length of time.
Zac Robinson is third on the depth chart but has already bounced around multiple teams and is little more than a developmental guy.
The Falcons ask a lot of Matt Ryan, and he usually delivers, but the team has been unable to get over the hump in the playoffs. Ryan may not put up the gaudy numbers that the other elite passers do, but he earned the nickname Matty Ice for a reason, and he has an incredible ability to come up big for the Falcons on third downs and keep drives alive.
So far that hasn't translated to the playoffs, and he is in danger of being unfairly underrated because of those big games, but he is a top-quality quarterback. The problem for the Falcons is that after him there isn't much on the depth chart.
Chris Redman is their longtime backup, but he is there as much for his familiarity with the system as his ability to lead the team should Ryan go down hurt.
John Parker Wilson isn't likely to do much better in that scenario, so the Falcons are reliant on Ryan staying healthy.
On talent and performance alone, Vick would likely haul the Eagles higher up this list, and his development as a passer under Andy Reid has been impressive. However, he has become an injury concern for the Eagles, and you can't rely on him playing all 16 games with the abuse he takes.
Vick's running and desire to make a play may end up being more of a negative as his career goes on.
If he doesn't play, the Eagles run into significant issues, because Mike Kafka is next in line. Kafka didn't look terrible when he had to play, but the drop-off from Vick is massive, not to mention a completely different style of play and the change from a left-handed quarterback.
Trent Edwards is also on the depth chart, and though Edwards can be a good performer, he has been broken by a combination of pressure and injuries. It's telling that he can't force his way onto somebody's depth chart as a solid backup and potential starter in the wings at this point in his career.
Manning in a Broncos uniform still just looks wrong, but that is the scenario we find ourselves in. Denver seems to have taken the same approach to the depth chart at quarterback as the Colts did before, which is when Peyton Manning is No. 1, it doesn't really matter who No. 2 is.
That made some sense when Manning had played hundreds of consecutive games without injury and took fewer hits than anybody else because of his play, but now Manning is coming off a massive neck injury, and his ceiling in terms of play is a total question mark.
He was so good to begin with that if he gets anywhere near that level of play, he easily deserves to get the Broncos this high up the list. But Caleb Hanie is unlikely to have much of a positive influence should he need to see game time, and Adam Weber and Brock Osweiler remain young players with upside only. At this level, they are complete gambles.
But for the start of his 2011 season, Philip Rivers would have been higher up this list along with the Chargers. Rivers had a really rocky start to the year, and seemingly without any major cause.
His season took a major turn for the better when they lucked into the elite play of Jared Gaither at left tackle, and that should help Rivers in 2012, but the fact that he could have such a marked dip in form was a concern when making this list.
Behind Rivers returns his old backup Charlie Whitehurst after a failed stint in Seattle, but he is not a viable option should Rivers need to come out. The good news in that regard is that Rivers is one of the toughest players in the league and has even stayed in to play with serious knee injuries.
If the Chargers are going to take Rivers off the field, it's going to be on a stretcher.
Nobody really knows what to make of Tony Romo. He is clearly a very capable quarterback, but gone is that first season where he was virtually flawless and uncannily able to avoid mistakes. The current version of Romo makes mistakes, and some very bad ones, in his pursuit of making plays, and it costs the Cowboys.
Romo also has the "choking" tag firmly pinned to his uniform, fairly or unfairly, and until he can win a big game and force his way into a run of clutch play in key scenarios, he will always be a flawed passer that doesn't belong on the elite level at the very top of the game.
Kyle Orton behind him has shown he can start, even if he will always have a poor run of form at some point—usually just when you're sold on him being a capable player. Stephen McGee as the third guy brings some unusual athleticism.
Matthew Stafford may have thrown for over 5,000 yards, but I don't think he was nearly as good as that figure suggests.
At one point during the season when he was throwing some horrible passes, John Lynch speculated on the broadcast that he should be pulled from the game until his hand had healed and he was throwing the ball well again. That's the kind of poor throws that he was making at one point.
That being said, he can make all the throws you want and has the kind of tools that everybody looks for in a passer.
His only concern is durability, and he has been reliably nicked up since coming into the league.
The retention of Shaun Hill as the second quarterback for the Lions is a huge move and keeps them this high, because he is not a bad quarterback in his own right as one of the league's best backups. If the Lions were forced to play Hill for most of the season, they would likely be just fine.
Kellen Moore and R.J. Archer are battling it out for the final spot, but neither is much to get excited about, despite Moore's insane college win tally.
Big Ben Roethlisberger is huge for the Steelers, even if they somehow manage to keep winning if they ever have to play without him. He is one of the league's better quarterbacks and has been doing it despite some truly horrible play from his offensive line at times.
He will likely always get himself into some trouble with the amount of time he holds the ball looking to make a throw, but he more than makes up for that with the positives he generates from that style of play.
Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are the backups the Steelers have, and neither player brings a fraction of what Roethlisberger can, but the Steelers have enough talent across the board that they can hide that if they are forced to play either.
Jerrod Johnson is the final quarterback on the depth chart and may be lucky to make it to the final roster.
With a healthy Matt Schaub, the Houston Texans might have been the Super Bowl champions, or at least the AFC's representative in the big game.
Schaub may not be as good as the very elite quarterbacks, but he is a step up from what Houston was forced to rely on when he went down, and his skills perfectly match its play-action-heavy offense.
With him back at the helm, the Texans will be a contender again in 2012, and the exposure that he got when Schaub went down last season has to have done T.J. Yates a world of good, because he showed some impressive play at times in his stead.
John Beck is the third quarterback, which is less encouraging, but he at least has some extensive experience.
Meanwhile, Case Keenum put up massive numbers in college. Keenum could be an interesting long-term development guy to keep an eye on, but the Texans are all about the top two players on their depth chart.
No quarterback in the NFL faced more pressure than Eli Manning last season. Seriously, none. The fact that he was able to get used to it and actually improve his play as the year wore on is remarkable. By the end of the season he was playing as well as anybody and actually saved his best game for the biggest stage—the Super Bowl.
His ability alone has dragged the Giants this high up the list, because while David Carr might be a reasonable backup under ordinary circumstances, should the Giants lose Manning now, I don't think Carr would be able to function behind the blocking they have at the moment.
Ryan Perrilloux is the third quarterback on the depth chart, but he isn't really a factor in the short term.
Eli Manning forced his name last season into the conversation with the very elite in the NFL, just after claiming he was already amongst them, and you have to admire that.
Strangely, the Bears might have the best three-man depth chart of any team in the league at the quarterback position.
Jay Cutler is a legitimately fantastic quarterback on his day, and many people have forgotten that. Chicago's offensive line is barely any better than the Giants', but Cutler was enjoying similarly impressive play to Eli Manning behind it.
Cutler, however, has proved less durable than Manning and has missed time with injuries, causing the Bears to go looking for a better backup situation so that another injury would not end their season.
Jason Campbell is a fine answer to that, as he is well capable of starting in his own right and winning games. That might be the best starter-backup combination in the league, and the third player on the depth chart is Josh McCown, who is not an incapable quarterback himself.
If the Bears can patch up their offensive line, or at least improve its play in a new offensive scheme, this is a quarterback situation to envy.
If Drew Brees was signed and looking to the new season already, I'd have a much harder decision with the top three in this list, but as it is, the Saints are reduced to Chase Daniel and Luke McCown taking snaps.
I fully expect Brees to sign in time for the season and get on with things, but it's a situation that needs to be noted and acknowledged, however foolish it is for all parties.
Brees is as good a passer as there is in the league, and the numbers he was able to put up last season are simply ridiculous. Not long ago, Dan Marino's record looked untouchable, but Brees mounted a sustained assault on it before finally shattering the mark in 2011.
Chase Daniel has attempted just eight passes in the NFL and then injured himself when Brees' contract situation gave him the chance to show what he could do. Luke McCown was so bad last year that he was benched for Blaine Gabbert.
I think right now Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. If this list was simply about that, or about ranking the starters, he would be my No. 1. I think his grasp of the offense, arm, accuracy, decision-making and ability to make plays with his legs all go together to create the new standard in the league right now.
That being said, his backup is no longer Matt Flynn. It's now Graham Harrell, a player who was once seen as completely non-viable at the NFL level because of his arm limitations and lack of measurables. Maybe he has improved no end sitting on the bench for a few years. It's possible, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
Rookie B.J. Coleman is the only other quarterback on the roster. While Rodgers is as good as it gets right now, the Packers are solely reliant on him, exactly as the Colts were all throughout Manning's tenure then. If Rodgers goes down, then it's good night Green Bay.
What separates the Patriots from the chasing pack is their strength in depth. They have Tom Brady, obviously one of the game's best, entrenched as their starter, but they have options second and third on the depth chart that far outstrip anything the Saints and Packers can go to should Brady get hurt, which has happened before.
Brian Hoyer has looked capable when he has seen game time, but more importantly, he has showed himself well in preseason in what is often a showcase for backup passers. His name has often come up in trade talks, but the Patriots have kept him around for a while. They often cycle through backup quarterbacks as soon as they believe they can't improve, so Hoyer is doing his job.
Third on their depth chart is Ryan Mallett, a player that was seen by many to have first-round talent, but various character red flags saw him sink in the draft to the third round, where he was snagged by New England.
Top to bottom, the New England Patriots have the league's best quarterback situation.