NFL Predictions: 6 Quarterbacks Who Will Be on Different Teams in 2013
The 2012 NFL season is winding down and for many teams, playoff dreams are still alive. With only two weeks left in the season, 19 teams are still mathematically alive for a postseason berth.
For the other 13 teams though, there's very little to play for these next two weeks. Even though NFL players are immensely competitive and prefer winning over losing, another loss could be what moves the team higher up on the draft board. And with the psychological burden of repeatedly losing being a heavy one to bear, many players in this situation just want the season to end.
Many losing teams are also aware that change is coming and it is inescapable. Coaches will be gone, players will be cut and sometimes even new GM's will come in. This kind of change impacts everyone and can divide locker rooms as many players choose to fight for themselves as they sense that the currently constructed team is going to get an overhaul.
Out of all the players though, quarterbacks on losing teams have the hottest seats. Yes you have your franchise quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Drew Brees who will be on the same teams in 2013, despite having disastrous seasons. There are other quarterbacks though who will not be so fortunate and they will either try to get new starting jobs or even settle into the cushy position of backup quarterback.
The following quarterbacks have all started at least one series in 2012. Some are Pro Bowlers, others are newly drafted quarterbacks that are desperately trying to avoid being labeled as busts. All of these guys need a change of scenery to have any sort of success as a quarterback in the NFL.
The Buffalo Bills are now looking at their 13th consecutive season missing the playoffs, which is the longest streak in the NFL. For a team to miss the playoffs that many years in a row, there has to be many problems with the organization. It's also nearly a given that a team with a decade missing the playoffs has had quarterback issues.
For four years now, the Bills and their fans have put their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. That's a long time to start someone who was essentially a career backup before arriving in Buffalo. For the first four years of his career Fitzpatrick started sparingly for St. Louis and Cincinnati, until the Bills pried him away after the 2008 season.
Originally the plan was for the Bills to keep with Trent Edwards as their starter in 2009. However in both 2009 and 2010, Edwards missed time due to injury and Fitzpatrick had to play.
He did have some good stats during those years as he eclipsed 3,000 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in both 2010 and 2011. The main stat he could never get down was his standing in the win-loss column. As a Bills starter, Fitzpatrick is 18-31 and the team has never finished better than 6-10 with him.
Change is needed for both Fitzpatrick and the Bills. The Bills are notorious for being one of the cheapest organizations in the NFL however that perception changed slightly with the acquisition of Mario Williams last spring. It's doubtful they can pry away a top quarterback free agent to come to Buffalo but they could draft a quarterback of the future this year and hope he develops quickly like many of the rookies from this season.
Chan Gailey is already on record saying he wants Fitzpatrick back next year. I think that's a bold statement coming from a coach who has had three losing seasons and deserves to be fired at the conclusion of this season. Even if Gailey does come back, Fitzpatrick has worn out his welcome and Tarvaris Jackson might actually be a better bridge quarterback.
The truth is there's aren't many NFL teams where Fitzpatrick would be good enough to start. He's a great backup though, as he could step in and carry an offense if a team's starter were to be injured a few games.
Possible Landing Spots: Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders.
Places like Kansas City and Jacksonville can be ruled out since I think they will potentially draft their future starter in the first or second round. Arizona is a good fit for Fitzpatrick as all of their quarterbacks have been awful this season and he would be paired up with a dangerous target in Larry Fitzgerald.
In Philly or in Oakland, Fitzpatrick would be looking at a backup gig. Ironically, Oakland would see him paired with Carson Palmer, his Bengal teammate from 2008. And if Palmer continues to disappoint like he's mostly done during his Oakland days, the door could be opened for Fitzpatrick to take over.
I think we've all got to accept now that Rex Ryan has no confidence whatsoever in Tim Tebow. Mark Sanchez has been responsible for 50 turnovers since the beginning of the 2011 season, yet Tebow never got a shot at starting.
Only now after Sanchez's debacle on national television where he turned the ball over five times, is he benched. Instead of Tebow though, Ryan turns to third-stringer Greg McElroy for the final two games of the 2012 season.
There is clearly no place for Tebow in New York and it really was a waste for the Jets to bring him here at all. The Wildcat plays with Tebow have only helped to kill Sanchez's momentum and have been vastly underwhelming. Using him as punt protector is just insulting for a backup quarterback who at all times, is only one hit away from taking the field.
Everyone remembers what Tebow did with the Denver Broncos a year ago, even if his detractors refuse to give him credit for it. There's no telling if Tebow can do again or if he can develop as a legitimate starting quarterback. The only way this can ever be found out is if Tebow is traded to a team that will give him a chance as a backup or even as a potential starter.
Since McElroy has leapfrogged Tebow on the depth chart, it looks as though he will ask for a trade or release. It's a good move for Tebow to deal with this now since the Jets will inevitably not want to pay him $3 million to sit on the bench in 2013.
Possible Landing Spots: Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers.
Jacksonville makes too much sense for Tebow. It is mind-boggling that the Jags failed to get him in both the 2011 NFL Draft and also this past offseason, when Denver was trying to get rid of him.
They can't screw this up a third time. Tebow is a son of Florida and he would fill seats for an unpopular Jacksonville team based on his college resume alone. Also with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as the current options, it's not like there's much that would prevent Tebow from starting there.
Jacksonville is a really bad NFL team, so much so that I think they may be the only team where Tebow has a chance of starting. If Tebow were to go to the 49ers, it would not be in a starting role but instead to play the Wildcat, similar to what Colin Kaepernick did before he became a starter.
I think this could work since Jim Harbaugh is a far better coach than Ryan and he would be able to keep Tebow in check while also trying to get the most out of him. Also, Tebow could likely manage the 49ers base offense if Kaepernick were to get hurt.
As bad as the New York Jets' quarterback situation is, the quarterback situation in Arizona is considerably worse. At least Mark Sanchez has been able to stay healthy. All three of the quarterbacks who have played in Arizona have been running for their lives and have dealt with injuries in addition to their terrible statistics.
The offensive line is the easy culprit to blame here thanks to their embarrassingly awful play. They've allowed a league-high 52 sacks on the season.
Still I don't think this should totally absolve the three Arizona quarterbacks for their play this season. Consider that during their nine-game losing streak, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley have combined to throw just three touchdowns to 14 interceptions. And this is with an elite receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, who has now been relegated to almost nothing thanks to the ineptitude of his three quarterbacks.
Well, Fitzgerald can cheer up a little because there is no way that any of these guys is the longterm answer in Arizona. Since Lindley is a rookie, he might get a chance at being the backup or a third-stringer next season.
Skelton though, has to go next season. He's now lasted three seasons with the team, after being thrown in late during the Cardinals terrible 2010 season. Skelton did enough to get the backup job for 2011 when the Cardinals went out and acquired Kolb.
The Kolb acquisition has been nothing but a disappointment as Kolb is frequently hurt or just plain ineffective. This has led to Skelton getting more chances and amazingly he took advantage in 2011 when he led the Cardinals to a 5-2 record and made himself a serious threat to replace Kolb as the starter.
It looks as though Skelton's success in 2011 was more fluky or defensive driven than anything else. In those seven games, he had a quarterback rating of 68.9 and he threw for 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.
The Cardinals still have so much money invested in Kolb it might be difficult for them to cut ways with him, even though he will likely go nowhere near the starting job. Skelton though was a fifth-round draft pick so it's likely that he will get cut and play somewhere else in 2013.
Possible Landing Spots: New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs.
I truly don't think that Skelton will get a fair to start for another NFL team. His numbers just aren't good enough to start and it's likely his top career aspiration will be to get a job as a backup quarterback somewhere.
The Jets and Chiefs are good as guesses as any for teams that could sign Skelton. He would certainly be a backup for both, although it is possible that he's better than any quarterback currently playing in Kansas City.
With the Jets he could move close to his college Fordham University and potentially serve as a solid backup to Greg McElroy, or whichever free agent they sign over the offseason.
That six-year $100 million contract Michael Vick signed before the 2011 season just looks so wrong now. Instead of getting a dynamic playmaker who wins games, the Philadelphia Eagles have gotten an injury prone quarterback who constantly turns the ball over.
Similar to last season, Vick has missed significant time this year because of a concussion back in November. It was only a matter of time thanks to his stubborn refusal to slide when he rushes the ball.
Now both Vick and the Eagles are essentially done with their seasons. Nick Foles has started during Vick's absence and while he's shown some sparks, it is unclear if the Eagles new coach will want to keep him as the starting quarterback.
What is clear though is that no one believes the Eagles should be paying Vick so much. Whether they cut him or trade him away is irrelevant. Vick still believes he can start in the NFL, so it would be best to see if he can pull off another crazy comeback somewhere else.
Possible Landing Spots: New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals.
Although Mark Sanchez will likely be back with the Jets next season, it's crazy to think that he's got the starting job wrapped up. The Jets are going to look for someone new to lead the team and considering that their defense is still decent, it might be best for them to get a veteran like Vick.
New York would provide many potential endorsement opportunities for Vick and if he were to have a spectacular comeback there, the sports media would be sure to provide incessant coverage of it. The same would not be true if Vick took his talents north to Buffalo but I still throw them on the list since the team needs more popular players and Vick would clearly be the best quarterback there.
One of the major problems with Blaine Gabbert's career is that he picked a bad year to come out in the draft. Cam Newton had a record-breaking rookie season while Andy Dalton may be leading his team to two consecutive playoff berths. Both rookies have put their draft classmates to shame and raised the stakes on how a successful career should be viewed.
One wonders what could have happened if Gabbert had been drafted at an appropriate place in the draft and instead gone to a good team. Instead the desperate Jacksonville Jaguars pulled the trigger far too early and forced Gabbert to start way before he was ready.
I don't want to take away from Gabbert being an awful quarterback, but Jacksonville is a barren wasteland when considering receiver talent. In 2011, Mercedes Lewis was Gabbert's top target and he finished the year with only 460 receiving yards.
Granted 2011 also saw the Jags run a ton as Maurice Jones-Drew captured the NFL rushing title in arguably his finest season yet. Jacksonville hasn't had that luxury much in 2012 with Jones-Drew injured and the team being repeatedly blown out early in games.
Still a passing game emerged in Jacksonville but not under Gabbert. Rather, Chad Henne has taken over the starting job and although they are still losing games, at least the passing stats aren't as ugly. Also players like Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon provide some hope that there could finally be a decent passing attack in Jacksonville.
That decent passing attack will not come with Gabbert as the starter. Before being placed on Injured Reserve, Gabbert threw for 1,662 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He also had a quarterback rating of 77.4, which is an improvement of his rookie season but still is ninth worst in the NFL this season.
The Jaguars are still in the running for the top overall pick in the 2013 draft. I wouldn't be shocked if they look at Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. Even Chad Henne could be around next year if he continues to play well or the Jags could finally get Tim Tebow.
Gabbert though, should probably be on the way out from Jacksonville. The term bust is starting to be thrown around and it will only be thrown around more if Gabbert stays in Jacksonville, particularly if he's relegated to bench duty.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins.
Note that all these teams have established quarterbacks. Just like John Skelton, Gabbert hasn't really shown much that would make teams think he can start in the NFL.
Chicago and Miami may be losing their backups in Jason Campbell and Matt Moore, respectively. Both quarterbacks are scheduled to be free agents during the 2013 offseason. Chicago would be an intriguing option since Jay Cutler typically misses a few games although I'm sure Bears fans who still remember Caleb Hanie would be terrified to see Gabbert start a game for them.
Out of all the quarterbacks looking for new teams in 2013, Alex Smith is by far the most intriguing one. He did nothing to lose his starting job this year and was actually on pace for his best season statistically. His passer rating of 104.7 is third best in the NFL and there's still a chance that he could finish in first.
Still Colin Kaepernick has played better than Smith, as it's clear that he gives the 49ers offense far more explosiveness than they had under Smith. No one can say with a straight face that Smith gives them a better chance to win, although it will be interesting to see if Kaepernick's inexperience costs them come playoff time.
After getting the short end of the stick yet again, Smith deserves a chance to start somewhere else. He's in a tricky position though since teams remember that before Jim Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco, Smith's numbers were not good. This could prevent him from getting a big pay deal.
Even though Harbaugh hasn't stuck with Smith, it's undeniable that he has resurrected the career of 2005's top overall pick. Smith was widely viewed as a bust before Harbaugh's arrival as he went through losing season after losing season as the 49ers starting quarterback.
Now Smith has perfected the role of game manager and he has thrown only five interceptions in successive seasons. It's now at a point where Smith is arguably the best quarterback in the league at protecting the football.
Smith can also air it out when need be. He got the 49ers to the NFC Championship last season after outdueling Drew Brees in a 36-32 thriller during the divisional round. Get him on a team with good receivers and it's possible we could see Smith put up the best numbers of his career.
Possible Landing Spots: Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs.
Arizona makes a ton of sense as a landing spot for Smith. He could get revenge against his former team twice a year and do everything in his power to make them regret going with Kaepernick. Also in Arizona, Smith would have Larry Fitzgerald who is better than all of San Francisco's current receivers, even future hall of famer Randy Moss who is clearly in the latter stages of his career.
I don't know if San Francisco would want to face the wrath of Smith twice a year though. They would probably rather ship him off to the abysmal Kansas City Chiefs, who are arguably the NFL's worst team this season.
With the Chiefs, it really depends which quarterback they draft and if he's ready to start. If not, Smith would actually have some impressive targets like Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. He would easily be an improvement over their quarterbacks this year and he could help this team contend in one of the worst divisions in the NFL.