Week 3 Report Card Grades for Every Starting NFL QB
It's not even an argument anymore: The quarterback position is the most important position on the field.
The performance of the quarterback is typically the deciding factor between a win and a loss. The upcoming slides give a grade for each starting quarterback's NFL Week 3 performance.
ESPN.com was utilized to provide the stats of each quarterback included in this article.
Tony Romo: C+
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Stats: 25-39, 283 yards and one interception
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled to effectively move the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is the same Buccaneers defense that allowed Eli Manning to throw for over 500 yards. However, Romo was the only offensive player for the Cowboys to even have a little success.
His numbers look worse because the offensive line and running game both struggled. He was forced to deal with a lot of pressure up the middle, as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was able to record two sacks.
The fact that DeMarco Murray only averaged 2.1 yards per carry allowed the defense to drop extra defenders into coverage. This made it tougher for Romo to find open targets.
Basically, Romo didn't play a great game, but he did what was needed to pull off the win.
Eli Manning: B-
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Stats: 27-35, 288 yards and one touchdown
Eli Manning rebounded nicely from his turnover-filled performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finished the game versus the Carolina Panthers without throwing a single interception. Manning spread the ball around and continues to make those around him better.
The way Manning was able to work wide receiver Ramses Barden into the mix was amazing. Manning has been doing this his entire career. For example, he helped turn players like Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard into productive players.
This performance didn't need to be great, because the New York Giants were able to create distance early in the game. Manning's ability to protect the football is what helped them maintain their lead.
Michael Vick: C-
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Stats: 17-37 and 217 yards
Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles suffered a major letdown after their big win against the Baltimore Ravens. Vick avoided throwing any interceptions, but he did lose two fumbles to the Arizona Cardinals defense. The Eagles are very talented, but they won't win many more games if they don't start to take care of the football.
I really question the Eagles' offensive play-calling, as LeSean McCoy only carried the ball 13 times. With the way Vick and the passing offense was performing, there's no reason Andy Reid should've allowed him to throw the ball 37 times.
As has been the case all season, the Eagles struggled to protect the quarterback. The Cardinals recorded five sacks, but hit Vick as many as 13 times. It's hard for any quarterback to find consistency when he faces that type of pressure.
Robert Griffin III: B+
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Stats: 21-34, 221 yards, one touchdown, 85 rushing yards and one touchdown
Robert Griffin III keeps on finding a way to top his performance from the previous week. In the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Griffin III tallied over 300 yards in total offense and two touchdowns. However, his ability to remain poised despite being down by 17 points early in the game was more impressive.
Griffin III almost led the Washington Redskins to a shocking come-from-behind victory. It's a shame the Redskins defense isn't playing at a high level, because Griffin III is playing well enough to keep this team in the playoff hunt.
It's amazing to see Griffin III protect the football and avoid throwing interceptions. You can tell he's comfortable in this offense.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: B
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Stats: 22-35, 208 yards and three touchdowns
Sunday's performance against the Cleveland Browns was Ryan Fitzpatrick's best of the season. He made smart decisions and protected the football once his team gained control of the game. The Buffalo Bills got troubling news early in the game when C.J. Spiller was forced out with an injury.
However, Fitzpatrick was able to calm the storm and keep the offense moving with efficiency. If Spiller's injury is a long-term issue, the Bills will need Fitzpatrick to continue his strong play. There aren't many teams that can handle their top two running backs going out with injury. It's only possible if the quarterback raises his level of play.
I had to take into account that this performance came against a depleted Browns secondary. Cleveland featured a starting cornerback tandem of Buster Skrine and Dimitri Patterson. This is why Fitzpatrick's grade isn't higher.
Ryan Tannehill: C
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Stats: 16-36, 196 yards and one interception
Despite playing a tough defense and with little offensive weapons, Ryan Tannehill did a good job moving the football. However, the interception for a touchdown he threw to LaRon Landry kick-started the New York Jets' comeback.
These are the type of things you can expect from a rookie quarterback. Tannehill is still trying to learn the ins and outs of the league. He isn't use to seeing such complex defensive alignments and athletes like Landry.
This isn't the last game where Tannehill will throw an interception. He needs to put that mistake behind him and move on. The fact is he helped this team stay competitive even when Reggie Bush was forced out of the lineup.
Tom Brady: A-
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Stats: 28-41, 335 yards and one touchdown
Tom Brady was on the top of his game Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens. He was able to top the 300-yard mark despite missing Aaron Hernandez. One of the keys to his success was that the New England Patriots offensive line did a much better job handling the pass rush.
Despite all the talk of Wes Welker being worked out of the game plan, Brady looked his way early and often. It's tough to just forget all the chemistry those two have built over the years. Quarterbacks are always more successful when they have a strong relationship with their pass-catchers.
New England wasn't able to establish a running game this week, so Brady's performance came with the Ravens knowing he was going to throw the football.
Mark Sanchez: C-
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Stats: 21-45, 306 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
The New York Jets needed a defensive touchdown to help light a fire under the offense. Until LaRon Landry's interception, Mark Sanchez and the offense were held in check by the Miami Dolphins. However, Sanchez deserves some credit for leading his team to a come-from-behind win.
New York's biggest concern has to be focused on Sanchez's inconsistency. He continues to make poor reads and throw into coverage. The Jets were able to survive today because they were playing the Miami Dolphins, but a team with more talent won't allow New York to make a comeback.
One major positive to take from this performance is the fact that Sanchez and Santonio Holmes were in sync. Both will need to perform at a high level if the Jets hope to make a playoff run.
Kevin Kolb: B
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Stats: 17-24, 222 yards and two touchdowns
Kevin Kolb appears to be learning that he doesn't have to carry this football team. The Arizona Cardinals defense is talented enough that he just needs to avoid making mistakes. He also understands that he has an elite playmaker in Larry Fitzgerald to target.
The reason the Cardinals were able to pull off the win against the Philadelphia Eagles is because Kolb followed the game plan. He was smart with the football, let the defense make plays and targeted Fitzgerald nine times.
There will be a point in the season when Kolb must raise his level of play. However, a few more good games under his belt and he'll build some confidence.
Alex Smith: C-
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Stats: 24-35, 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception
The San Francisco 49ers' loss to the Minnesota Vikings was the biggest upset of the weekend. San Francisco was coming off two high-profile victories and might have overlooked the Vikings. Alex Smith didn't have a great game. The biggest issue is that he struggled to take advantage of openings down the field.
Smith also wasn't able to keep drives going, as the 49ers went 4-10 in third-down situations. Combined with two Smith turnovers, this was a recipe for an upset.
However, Jim Harbaugh deserves some of the blame for the loss. The offensive play-calling didn't make much sense. Frank Gore averaged over five yards per carry, but only had a total of 12 carries.
Situations like this one are the reason most question Smith's ceiling. He didn't perform when given the opportunity to lead his team to a win.
Russell Wilson: B-
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Stats: 10-21, 130 yards and two touchdowns
Russell Wilson didn't have a great performance against the Green Bay Packers. However, he was able to avoid mistakes and help his team win the football game. The Seattle Seahawks understand that they can't put too much on Wilson's shoulders. That's why they make Marshawn Lynch the focal point of the offense.
The biggest keys for Wilson is that he plays with in the system, allows Lynch to make plays and lets the defense keep the game close.
Sam Bradford: D+
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Stats: 18-35, 152 yards and two interceptions
Sam Bradford only completed 51 percent of his passes against the Chicago Bears. This played a major role in the offense only going 3-of-13 on third downs and failing to score a touchdown. However, Bradford didn't get much help from his teammates.
It's tough for any quarterback to succeed when he's sacked six times and facing constant pressure. The Bears made it difficult for Bradford to set his feet and search for open targets. This pressure was a major reason why Bradford threw two interceptions.
However, the fact is that he made the decision to throw the football into coverage. Even when faced with pressure, Bradford needs to do a better job protecting the football.
Peyton Manning: B+
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Stats: 26-52, 330 yards and two touchdowns
It took Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos awhile to get warmed up against the Houston Texans. By the time they found their stride, it was too late to finish the comeback. Houston has one of the better defenses in the league, so it's not surprising it took awhile to get things on track.
One positive to take from this performance is that Manning avoided the interception bug. It was also nice to see Manning and Eric Decker find some type of chemistry. The Broncos need someone other than Demaryius Thomas to make plays down the field.
Obviously, those who expected Manning to immediately regain his old form were off.
Matt Cassel: C-
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Stats: 26-44, 248 yards and one interception
Matt Cassel didn't have much to do with the Kansas City Chiefs' ability to pull off the win versus the New Orleans Saints. He failed to complete 60 percent of his passes, while also throwing an interception. The Chiefs won this game because of what Jamaal Charles was able to do on the ground.
It's concerning to see that Cassel wasn't able to take advantage of the opportunities created by Charles. At one point in the game, the Saints were stacking the box with eight men. This means there were fewer defenders back in coverage.
The Chiefs need to start thinking about going in a different direction at the quarterback position.
Carson Palmer: B+
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Stats: 24-34, 209 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Despite the overall struggles of the Oakland Raiders, Carson Palmer has been playing good football. He's doing a good job keeping the offense afloat even though he was without his full complement of receivers. Upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers could be the spark needed to turn this season around for the Raiders.
One of the keys to the game was the Raiders' ability to convert on seven of the 12 third-down situations. This helped Oakland move the chains and put points on the board.
A lot of the third-down success was because of Palmer's ability to complete over 70 percent of his passes.
Philip Rivers: D-
Harry How/Getty Images
Stats: 21-38, 173 yards and two interceptions
It might be time to start calling Philip Rivers what he is: inconsistent. Over the years, a lot has been made of the San Diego Chargers' inability to play to their potential. Rivers is the leader of this football team, and it's time he starts to receive his share of the blame.
The Atlanta Falcons have a very strong defense, but Rivers needs to play better football. Turning the ball over typically results in a loss, especially when you're facing a team like the Falcons.
I understand this is just one game, but Rivers has shown a tendency to have these types of games. Rivers has the talent needed to produce at a high level, but he just isn't performing that way each week.
Jay Cutler: D+
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Stats: 17-31, 183 yards and one interception
Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears offense had another sloppy performance. They allowed a ton of pressure on the quarterback and had several dropped passes, with Cutler himself throwing several balls into coverage. He just doesn't seem to be in rhythm, as he also missed several open targets.
The St. Louis Rams have talent on defense, but Cutler should've been able to have a better performance. He needed to play better after the debacle against the Green Bay Packers.
Of course, many will point to all the pressure facing Cutler in the pocket as a reason for his inconsistency, but that's not a legitimate reason for him to force the ball into coverage.
The Bears defense is playing at a very high level. Cutler only needs to ensure he doesn't lose games—not win them on his own.
Basically, I gave Cutler such a low grade because he's the one responsible for making sure the offense runs smoothly.
Matthew Stafford: B
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Stats: 33-42, 278 yards and one touchdown
Despite leaving the game with a leg injury, Matthew Stafford did an excellent job moving the Detroit Lions offense up and down the field. The issue is the Lions defense also allowed the Tennessee Titans offense to have a ton of success.
Stafford did all he could to keep his team in the game, even keeping it close for backup Shaun Hill to make a late-game run.
This was the first game of the season where Stafford didn't throw an interception. A lot of that had to do with his injury taking away passing attempts. However, Mikel Leshoure's ability to establish a running game also helped.
Moving forward, Stafford will greatly benefit from the presence of a rushing attack.
Aaron Rodgers: C
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Stats: 26-39 and 223 yards
Aaron Rodgers and the entire Green Bay Packers offense is out of sync. The struggles of the offensive line have disrupted the flow of the unit. However, Rodgers also needs to share some of the blame. Against the Seattle Seahawks, he held the ball too long and was looking to attack down the field.
He needs to help his offensive line by working the underneath routes and getting the ball out quickly. This group isn't going to make a major improvement as the season progresses. So, it's up to Rodgers and Mike McCarthy to change the game plan.
Christian Ponder: B+
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Stats: 21-35, 198 yards and two touchdowns
Christian Ponder's stat line isn't overly impressive, but there's a lot of other factors playing into this performance. First off, Ponder put up these numbers against arguably the best defense in the NFL. His ability to put points on the board and avoid turnovers is why the Minnesota Vikings were able to upset the San Francisco 49ers.
He played a very efficient game by helping Minnesota convert 50 percent of its third-down situations. This allowed the Vikings to control the clock, which is something the 49ers aren't use to dealing with. Being able to win the time-of-possession battle took San Francisco out of its comfort zone.
Ponder has played well all season long. It's important to note that Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season.
Joe Flacco: A
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Stats: 28-39, 382 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Joe Flacco continues to show everyone that he's ready to help lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl appearance. This team no longer relies on its defense to win football games. Flacco, Ray Rice and company are more than capable of putting points on the board.
One of the big things to take from this performance is the amount of confidence it gives Flacco. He knows he belongs on the field with the game's best quarterbacks.
Even with the tragic loss of his younger brother the night before the game, Torrey Smith was the offense's most explosive weapon—it's nice to see the Ravens get him the football. This is the first game of the season in which Smith caught over two passes. Baltimore needs him to keep the defense honest and open things up for the running game.
Brandon Weeden: B-
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Stats: 27-43, 237 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
Despite throwing two interceptions, Brandon Weeden had a very solid game against the Buffalo Bills. Both of his interceptions came in the fourth quarter when the Cleveland Browns were trying to mount a comeback.
Actually, it's hard to criticize a rookie for throwing two interceptions when he has 43 pass attempts. The truth is Weeden got very little help from the rest of the offense. Trent Richardson was only able to average 2.3 yards per carry.
The lack of a running game is why Weeden was forced to throw the ball so often. He also had to deal with a lot of pressure. The Bills were able to tally four sacks and five other quarterback hits.
This stat line doesn't look great, but it doesn't reflect how Weeden performed on the field.
Andy Dalton: A-
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Stats: 19-27, 328 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Andy Dalton is the reason the Cincinnati Bengals aren't facing an 0-3 start to the season. The defense is playing terrible, which has put a ton of pressure on Dalton. He is handling this challenge with great poise.
Obviously, Dalton does benefit from having an elite receiver like A.J. Green playing on the outside. They have a great relationship, which only appears to be getting stronger.
I absolutely love the way Dalton responded to the Washington Redskins tying the game. He rallied the troops and threw a touchdown pass on the next two possessions. This type of leadership is one of the main reasons the Bengals love Dalton.
Ben Roethlisberger: A
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Stats: 36-49, 384 yards and four touchdowns
If you look at Ben Roethlisberger's stat line, you'd be shocked to see that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Oakland Raiders. This loss doesn't fall on the shoulders of Roethlisberger. Actually, without him in the lineup, the Steelers would've been blown out.
The Steelers offense dominated the time of possession, even though they were only able to rush for 54 yards. They controlled the clock because Roethlisberger was very efficient, completing over 70 percent of his passes.
This loss hurts, but Roethlisberger can hold his head high, knowing that he did all he could.
Matt Ryan: A
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Stats: 30-40, 275 yards, three touchdowns and one interceptions
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons offense continues to run like a well-oiled machine. This unit has a ton of weapons, and Ryan is doing a good job getting everyone involved. Obviously, it's much easier to put up big numbers with weapons like Julio Jones and Roddy White in the lineup.
However, it's important to give Ryan credit because not everyone is capable of keeping everyone happy. This speaks to Ryan's leadership and how everyone is focused on winning football games.
The Falcons defense is also playing a major part in the success of the team. Its ability to create turnovers has given Ryan and the offense more opportunities to put points on the board.
Cam Newton: F
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Stats: 16-30, 242 yards and three interceptions
Cam Newton had a very bad game against the New York Giants. This happens to even the best quarterbacks from time to time, but most of them don't sulk on the sideline and appear to check out. His behavior and questionable maturity are the biggest things that should worry the Carolina Panthers.
Luckily, the Panthers have someone like Steve Smith, who isn't afraid to let Newton know he's acting like a child. Smith's willingness to express himself to Newton should have a positive impact moving forward.
The key for Newton is to learn from his mistakes and put this game behind him. Dwelling on this performance could result in issues moving forward. A good example of this would be Newton trying to do too much in the next game. He needs to stay grounded and play within himself.
Drew Brees: C+
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Stats: 20-36, 240 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense are struggling to sustain drives. This is an issue because the Saints defense can't stop anybody. New Orleans will be locked in a shootout every week, and it needs Brees to be on the top of his game.
This is a franchise that is used to seeing Brees play well in pressure situations. In the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Brees failed to produce a single first down in the fourth quarter. This put the defense in a tough spot and allowed the Chiefs to mount a comeback.
There was a lot of talk that the Saints wouldn't take a major step back without Sean Payton. However, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Josh Freeman: F
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Stats: 10-28, 110 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Completing below 40 percent of your pass attempts is never a good sign for a quarterback. Josh Freeman really struggled in his game against the Dallas Cowboys. He lacked accuracy, made poor reads and turned the ball over. It's safe to say he played a major role in his team's inability to pull off a win.
The Cowboys have a very talented defense, but that's no excuse for this terrible of a performance. Freeman has plenty of weapons and should be able to put up better numbers. This is the type of inconsistency that forces a franchise to start looking in a different direction.
Freeman is absolutely playing for his future.
Matt Schaub: A-
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Stats: 17-30, 290 yards, four touchdowns and one interception
The Houston Texans might be the most balanced team in the NFL. They have a strong defense and a powerful running game. Because of the play of the defense and running game, Matt Schaub had not had to really do much this season.
However, it appears that the Texans wanted to open things up against the Denver Broncos. This resulted in four passing touchdowns and nearly 300 yards.
Houston's offense might lack a wide range of offensive weapons, but it has them where it counts. Andre Johnson is an elite talent who can dominate a game. He's given space because of how well Arian Foster runs the football.
Schaub really only needs to manage the game and remain healthy. However, that doesn't mean he lacks the talent to put up big numbers.
Andrew Luck: B-
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Stats: 22-46, 313 yards, two touchdowns and one interception
Andrew Luck played well enough for his team to win the game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, he failed to convert in the second half. Starting at the beginning of the third quarter, the Indianapolis Colts offense either punted or turned the ball over on seven straight possessions.
The one thing a young quarterback needs to learn is how to finish out games. Luck and the Colts had this game in hand, but failed to create enough distance between them and the Jaguars.
During this game, Luck demonstrated his level of athleticism. He did a good job extending plays and picking up yardage with his feet. The Colts just don't have the talent level needed to consistently play competitive football. However, it's important that they protect Luck and help him continue his development.
Blaine Gabbert: D
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Stats: 10-21, 155 yards and one touchdown
Blaine Gabbert orchestrated some last-minute heroics to help the Jacksonville Jaguars complete a come-from-behind win versus the Indianapolis Colts. However, Gabbert's poor overall play was also responsible for the Jaguars having to make that comeback.
Gabbert has failed to complete over 50 percent of his passes back-to-back performances. It's shocking to see such little success by Gabbert when he had Maurice Jones-Drew averaging over six yards per carry.
At some point, the Jaguars must consider turning to Chad Henne. It's obvious that Gabbert is struggling to pick up the pro game. They should know exactly what they have at the position before they head into the offseason.
Jake Locker: A
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Stats: 29-42, 378 yards and two touchdowns
It's really hard to judge Jake Locker's entire body of work this season. He's surrounded by an inconsistent group of playmakers and had two really tough matchups. However, he showed in the game against the Detroit Lions that he has the talent to put up big numbers.
Locker single-handedly carried the Tennessee Titans to a victory. As was the case in the first two games, Chris Johnson failed to provide Locker with any type of a running game. This forced the Titans to turn to the passing attack.
Games like this have the potential to kick-start a quarterback's career. There's no doubt Locker gained a lot of confidence from this performance.