Ranking Each NFL Team's Quarterback Situation Post-Draft
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Quarterbacks…Can’t live without them, can’t…live without them.
Having a reliable starter behind center is not only important, but having a second- or third-string signal-caller that can step in when called upon is crucial as well.
We saw it in San Francisco when Colin Kaepernick wound up taking over (permanently) for Alex Smith, now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. We saw it in Washington, where Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III was banged up several times and gave way to fellow rookie Kirk Cousins.
And we saw it in Pittsburgh, when Ben Roethlisberger, then Byron Leftwich went down and veteran Charlie Batch wound up playing, with mixed results.
Hence this look at all 32 teams quarterbacking status. We are not only rating the starting quarterback but the backup situation as well. And while you’ll see the obvious suspects both at the top and the bottom of the list, you’re probably splitting hairs when ranking the best of the best.
For now, we’re going to stay away from the undrafted free-agent quarterbacks that have reportedly agreed to terms with teams until those transactions become official (on more than one occasion a player has changed his mind and signed elsewhere).
Let the debate(s) begin.
32. Cleveland Browns
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In 2012, the Cleveland Browns invested the second of two first-round picks on former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden.
While no one was expecting big things by the elder rookie (who turns 30 before the start of the 2013 season), it was perhaps better than the 14 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions served up by Weeden during his first NFL campaign.
Enter new head coach Rob Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, both whom hope to get their new quarterback back on track.
The team did add former first-rounder turned journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell (Chicago Bears) this offseason. But it’s the work done by the coaching staff that will prove very crucial.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
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It probably surprised some people that the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t draft a quarterback last month.
Perhaps there’s still faith that former first-rounder Blaine Gabbert will pan out.
To be fair, the former Missouri standout did up his game before going down in November. Gabbert upped his completions percentage from 50.8 in 2011 to 58.3 in 2012 and also cut back on his propensity to fumble.
Still, he will compete with Chad Henne for the starting job as first-year head coach Gus Bradley hopes to find the right combination.
30. New York Jets
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Last season, the New York Jets won six football games, the fewest in four seasons under head coach Rex Ryan.
As of this writing, the J-E-T-S have 1-2-3-4-5 quarterbacks on the roster.
It starts with Mark Sanchez, who went from back-to-back appearances in the AFC title game to back-to-back seasons with 26 turnovers.
There’s David Garrard, who hopes to make a successful return to the league after missing the last two seasons.
Greg McElroy (who made one start last season) and Matt Simms are on the roster as well.
And then there’s rookie second-rounder Geno Smith (West Virginia), who goes from the NFL Draft green room to the NFL’s Green and White.
It’s anyone’s guess who or how many of these quarterbacks will be in the starting lineup in 2013. The best answer would be just one.
At least that’s what Ryan hopes.
29. Buffalo Bills
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We all know it’s been a long time since the Buffalo Bills were in the playoffs.
Their quarterback that afternoon in the 1999 Wild Card Game at Nashville was Rob Johnson. And we all know what happened by game’s end.
Once again, the Bills have a new head coach in Doug Marrone. And the team will have a new starting quarterback, be it Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson or rookie first-rounder EJ Manuel.
But all have question marks. If Kolb remains upright, could he big an upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick (now with the Titans)? Will Marrone throw Manuel into the fire for some serious on-the-job training? How does Jackson figure in?
In any case, that’s a lot of uncertainty for a team that’s finished last in the AFC East each of the last five seasons.
28. Oakland Raiders
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Give Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie the nod.
He’s going to do things his way and rightfully so. The franchise seeks its first winning season since 2002.
The Raiders dealt quarterback Carson Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals and followed that up with obtaining one-time Packers signal-caller Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks.
Flynn was the expected starter for Pete Carroll last season, but somebody named Russell Wilson got in the way.
Now Flynn looks like the man once again. But Terrelle Pryor remains with the team and McKenzie drafted Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) in the fourth round.
So we’ll see what happens. And as far as Flynn and this Wilson thing, we’ve seen this before.
27. Arizona Cardinals
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In 2012, the Arizona Cardinals started four different quarterbacks.
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals won five games.
Now it’s veteran Carson Palmer, late of the Oakland Raiders, to the rescue as Kevin Kolb (Buffalo Bills) and John Skelton (Cincinnati Bengals) were both let go. And Drew Stanton, who spent 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts and Bruce Arians (the Cardinals’ new head coach) is now the backup.
But the jury remains out on Carson, who has thrown 50 interceptions in his last 41 games with the Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals and had nine of those picks returned for scores.
And we won’t discuss Arizona’s offensive line at this time.
26. Tennessee Titans
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Despite some question marks at the quarterback position, the Tennessee Titans could be an intriguing team in 2013.
Of course, how intriguing will depend greatly on the play of the man behind center. Or will it be men?
Last season, former first-rounder Jake Locker was anointed the opening day starter, and he had his ups and downs with injuries as well as performance. When it was all said and done, Locker started just 11 games and threw more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (10). Add in four lost fumbles and a 56.4 completion percentage and it was a long year for the talented performer.
Last season, Locker’s backup was veteran Matt Hasselbeck. Now it’s former Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had his own problem with turnovers with his most recent team.
There’s some work to be done here. But there are some interesting tools in place.
25. Minnesota Vikings
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Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2012 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings won 10 games and captured a playoff berth after finishing 9-23 the previous two years combined.
Some feel it was despite quarterback Christian Ponder, who suffered through an erratic second pro campaign. And after a solid showing in a season-ending win over the Green Bay Packers, he was unavailable for the playoff game vs. the Packers and gave way to Joe Webb.
Now we’ll ponder if Ponder will hang on to the starting job with veteran Matt Cassel in town. But he’ll have to up his game dramatically after committing 19 turnovers in nine games with the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
And while Ponder did throw 18 touchdown passes last season, he also coughed up the ball a total of 17 times and all 12 of his interceptions came in his final dozen outings.
For head coach Leslie Frazier’s sake, hopefully one of these quarterbacks steps up. And asking running back Adrian Peterson for another 2,000-plus rushing yards is far easier said than done.
24. Philadelphia Eagles
There’s a new bird in town.
That would be head coach Chip Kelly, late of the Oregon Ducks and now of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now the innovative head coach needs to find out if any of the quarterbacks on the roster can make his offense fly.
There’s veteran Michael Vick, who has had trouble staying on the field, and when he was, he keeps leaving the ball elsewhere. Second-year pro Nick Foles had some nice moments as a rookie, while Kelly’s former pupil in Dennis Dixon is on the team as well.
And then there’s Matt Barkley, who the Birds traded up for in the fourth round in April. Kelly is more than familiar with the former USC standout.
But the real question here is how long will it take for any of these quarterbacks to get familiar with this attack?
23. Kansas City Chiefs
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One year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs collapsed into a 2-14 mess which included 37 turnovers by the team, tied for the most in the NFL.
And 27 of those miscues came from quarterbacks Matt Cassel (19) and Brady Quinn (eight), who not surprisingly are now with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.
Enter head coach Andy Reid, who watched his Philadelphia Eagles self-destruct to the tune of 75 turnovers the last two seasons, the majority of those by his quarterbacks.
To rectify that issue, Reid and general manager John Dorsey traded for former San Francisco 49ers starter Alex Smith. Under Jim Harbaugh, the former first overall pick (2005) threw 30 touchdown passes in 26 regular-season games and committed only 13 turnovers.
That alone is a welcome relief for the Chiefs. But will Smith struggle under yet a new system? And should he go down, is Chase Daniel up to the task?
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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As we heard or read early in April, second-year head coach Greg Schiano isn’t exactly sold on quarterback Josh Freeman, who enters his fifth NFL campaign.
And it’s pretty obvious that Schiano is a man of his words. Freeman threw 27 touchdown passes a year ago but also served up 17 interceptions. And while that differential is impressive, a closer look shows that the former first-round quarterback threw for only two scores while being picked off nine times in his final three outings in 2012.
So the Buccaneers invested a third-round pick on quarterback Mike Glennon (North Carolina State), who could be more in the mix for the starting job than some may think.
Now it’s up to Freeman to make sure the rookie is a non-factor when it comes to taking his spot.
21. St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams quietly had a successful season in 2012.
So did quarterback Sam Bradford.
After being limited to 10 games in 2011, the former first overall pick (2010) was back at the helm all season, this time for head coach Jeff Fisher. Bradford threw 21 touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions in 2012, a step up from his rookie season when he threw for 18 scores and was picked off 15 times.
Surrounded with a young and new-look receiving corps, including 2013 first-round wideout Tavon Austin, it will be interesting to see if Bradford continues to improve.
And while the three-year quarterback hopes to remain healthy for a second straight season, it’s worth noting that veteran Kellen Clemens and unproved Austin Davis are in reserve.
20. Miami Dolphins
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Few teams were as aggressive as were the Miami Dolphins this offseason.
Now let’s see if general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin can bankroll the moves into the team’s first playoff appearance since 2008.
The team is putting its faith in second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who finished with more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes and also lost four of his nine fumbles.
But the former Texas A&M product looked like a confident quarterback despite the subpar statistics. And with new weapons such as wide receivers Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Brandon Gibson (St. Louis Rams) and tight end Dustin Keller (New York Jets) in town, Tannehill is in a great position to succeed.
And with veteran backup Matt Moore in reserve, the Dolphins have a promising tandem. The only thing missing here is experience for Tannehill.
19. Carolina Panthers
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There were few quarterbacks hotter during the latter stages of the 2012 season than Carolina Panthers signal-caller Cam Newton.
The former Heisman Trophy award winner threw for 11 scores and was picked off just twice, plus added 387 yards rushing and four touchdowns in his final seven games last season.
Now if Newton can only play that well at the start of each year. As a rookie in 2011, 14 of his Newton’s 17 interceptions came in the first 10 games of the season.
So hopefully the third time proves to be the charm for Newton and the Panthers, who haven’t been to the playoffs or enjoyed a winning season since 2008. And with former NFL starters such as Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen as backups, the Panthers at least have experience at the position.
18. Chicago Bears
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It’s safe to say that quarterback Jay Cutler has had his moments, both good and bad, in four seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Most of those bad moments have come in his dealings with Dom Capers and the Green Bay Packers defense. The others have come trying to stay upright.
It’s been a rough two-year stretch for Cutler, who missed the final six games of 2011 and was lost for one contest a year ago. In his absence, the Bears are just 1-6 in those seven starts.
Josh McCown is back as the backup in the Windy City as Jason Campbell has moved onto the Cleveland Browns. Hopefully for Cutler, McCown won’t be moving off the bench this season.
17. Detroit Lions
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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford finally stayed healthy for an entire season in 2011 and you had to like what you saw.
The former first overall pick in 2009 put up impressive numbers in his third season, throwing for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
That was hardly the case in 2012, when Stafford threw much more and produced much less, totaling nearly as many touchdown passes (20) as interceptions.
Those numbers could and need to be better this year. Veteran Shaun Hill remains in reserve and has played well when called upon. But Stafford needs to put together consecutive successful seasons.
16. San Diego Chargers
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Could some fresh faces on the sidelines rejuvenate San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers?
A new head coach (Mike McCoy) and offensive coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) could be the tonic for the former Pro Bowler, who has looked like anything but a star the last two seasons.
The Bolts have turned over the football a combined 54 times in their last 32 games and Rivers is responsible for 47 of those miscues (35 interceptions, 12 lost fumbles). Hence one reason the Chargers have gone through two straight non-winning seasons.
A priority for McCoy and Whisenhunt is protecting Rivers, who was sacked 49 times last season. Still, he did throw 26 touchdown passes last season, so the situation isn’t truly dire.
Charlie Whitehurst remains the backup and the team added Brad Sorenson (Southern Utah) in the seventh round.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
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While playoff success continues to elude the Cincinnati Bengals, they are getting more opportunities these days.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is two for two when it comes to reaching the postseason. Unfortunately, he and the franchise remain frustrated as the club has not won a playoff game since 1990.
Early last season, the Bengals didn’t look like they would be making consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 1981-82. The team opened 3-5 and in those games, Dalton threw 14 touchdown passes but also served up 11 interceptions.
But it was a different story the second half of 2012 as Dalton threw for 13 scores and was picked off just five times during the team’s 7-1 finish.
Still, it was interesting to see the team add a pair of veteran quarterbacks in Josh Johnson (Cleveland Browns) and John Skelton (Arizona Cardinals) this offseason, moves that could prove to be highly beneficial should the need arise.
14. Dallas Cowboys
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Before we start blaming Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his mates for being 14th on this list, let the record show that he had nothing to do with this ranking.
But what he has done is keep his team in playoff contention the last two seasons, only to struggle at the most inopportune times.
Case in point was a year ago. After a miserable start in which he threw 13 interceptions (nine touchdown passes) in his first seven games, Romo rebounded to thrown more than three times as many scores (19) as interceptions (six).
However, three of those six picks came in the Sunday night season finale against the Washington Redskins, costing the team as NFC East title for the second straight year.
And when it was all said and done, Romo’s 19 interceptions were tied for the most in the league in 2012 (with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees). And given his much-discussed new contract this offseason, the pressure on Romo has certainly increased.
In case you’re curious, veteran Kyle Orton remains the Cowboys’ backup.
13. Washington Redskins
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In recent seasons, the Washington Redskins have utilized the draft much more than in the early days of the Dan Snyder regime.
Of course, that process brought quarterback Robert Griffin III to the nation’s capital with the second overall pick in 2012. The former Heisman Trophy winner was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and helped the team win its first NFC East title since 1999.
The Redskins also drafted quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round and the former Michigan State standout had his moments in relief, helping the club edge the Baltimore Ravens in overtime and defeating the Browns at Cleveland.
Rex Grossman remains with the club, while the ‘Skins signed one-time Miami Dolphins draft choice Pat White this offseason.
12. Houston Texans
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Given Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub’s slump down the stretch and in the playoffs last season (three touchdown passes, five interceptions in final six outings), no doubt head coach Gary Kubiak was hoping things were much better.
But let’s not forget how Schaub performed the first 12 games of the season. And given recent seasons, there are more positives than negatives surrounding the former Pro Bowl signal-caller.
In reserve remains T.J. Yates, who was the team’s starter during the 2011 playoff run due to injuries to Schaub and then-backup Matt Leinart.
Obviously, the key here is Schaub and his ability to bounce back after last season’s late fade.
11. Seattle Seahawks
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A year ago, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson proved to be one of the league’s most talked-about players. And the conversation was all good.
The third-round pick from Wisconsin a year ago tied the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes in a season (26), co-owned by Peyton Manning. He also led his team to an 11-5 record and a playoff win at Washington.
Now Pete Carroll’s team is among those in conversation in terms of Super Bowl XLVIII talk. But will the Pro Bowler improve in his second season or digress? The feeling is the former. Still, Wilson only has one NFL season under his belt.
In reserve is Brady Quinn, the former first-rounder (2007 with the Cleveland Browns) who comes off a forgettable 2012 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
10. San Francisco 49ers
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If you include last year’s postseason run, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has started just 10 games in his brief NFL career.
But it was a pretty impressive 10-game run (emphasis on run), even though there was a bump or two along the way. The sky appears to be the limit when it comes to the former second-round draft choice.
It also helps to have a very well-rounded team at your disposal. And with former starter Alex Smith now with the Kansas City Chiefs, a lot will fall on the arm and legs of Kaepernick.
If the electrifying quarterback does slump or go down, enter Colt McCoy, obtained from the Cleveland Browns via trade this offseason. The team also drafted B.J. Daniels in the seventh round in April.
9. Atlanta Falcons
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Despite the fact that many like to point out the Atlanta Falcons shortcomings in the playoffs, the fact remains that quarterback Matt Ryan and head coach Mike Smith have been getting the team there on a consistent basis.
And while Ryan hasn’t always played his best in the postseason, he had his moments in 2012. The former first-rounder led his team down the field in the closing minute in a win over the Seattle Seahawks. A week later, Ryan threw for 396 yards and three scores (two turnovers) in the NFC title game loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Ryan has upped his touchdown pass total in each NFL season, throwing for a career-high 32 scores in 2012. But Dominique Davis is an unproven commodity as his backup. And we’ll have to see what rookie Sean Renfree (Duke), the team’s seventh-round pick this year, brings to the table.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
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With a new offensive coordinator at the helm last season, it was supposed to be a different kind of year for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Was it ever.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was having a terrific season before going down and missing three games, backup Byron Leftwich lasted one week before getting hurt and veteran Charlie Batch had his struggles before orchestrating a road win over the Baltimore Ravens.
But Roethlisberger wasn’t quite the same once he returned, despite finishing the season with 26 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions and the Steelers lost three of their last four games to finish 8-8.
The new backup in the Steel City is Bruce Gradkowski, while the team invested a fourth-round pick in Landry Jones (Oklahoma) in April.
More importantly, keeping Big Ben upright remains a bigger priority than ever.
7. Baltimore Ravens
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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to miss a start in five NFL seasons.
And his team has yet to miss the playoffs over that same span.
Last season, the former first-round pick from Delaware (2008) culminated a great postseason run by capturing MVP honors in Super Bowl XLVII. In four playoff games in 2012, Flacco threw 11 touchdown passes and wasn’t intercepted. That was quite a turnaround from the regular season, when he threw for just 22 scores (10 interceptions) in 16 games.
But what happens to John Harbaugh’s team should Flacco go down? Former sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor is on the roster and the team did add Caleb Hanie, late of the Denver Broncos.
It makes for an interesting situation to say the least…maybe.
6. Indianapolis Colts
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Last season, rookie Andrew Luck started all 16 games for the Indianapolis Colts and helped the team get back to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.
No doubt Jim Irsay would love to see his latest quarterback have a run of durability like Peyton Manning, who started 208 straight regular-season contests before missing the entire 2011 campaign.
But just in case the Colts run out of luck, they are fortunate to have secured the services of veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who not only brings plenty of experience but the ability to teach Luck a thing or two.
And no doubt the one-time Seattle Seahawks quarterback, late of the Tennessee Titans, will stress ball security to his pupil of sorts. Last season, Luck set a new rookie record for passing yards in a season (4,374) but also had as many turnovers (23) as touchdown passes.
5. New York Giants
Like brother…like brother.
No quarterback in the league has started more consecutive games at this time than the New York Giants Eli Manning. The former first overall pick (by the San Diego Chargers, remember?) took over for Tom Coughlin’s team in the 10th game of the 2004 season and hasn’t missed a start since.
But with Manning’s dependability comes his inconsistency. Yes, he’s guided the team to a pair of Super Bowl championships and captured MVP honors twice in the Big Game.
However, last season was atypical of his tenure with the team as he and the Giants faltered after a 6-2 start a year ago and contrary to 2011, Eli wasn’t playing his best football late in the season.
With Manning entering his 10th NFL season, the Giants did select Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) in the fourth round last month. David Carr remains the backup and veteran Curtis Painter is on the roster as well.
But you’ll see these latter quarterbacks in the preseason not in the regular season, barring a big surprise.
4. New Orleans Saints
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I’ll take ‘Quarterbacks drafted by the San Diego Chargers who have won Super Bowls for other teams for $200,’ Alex.
On the previous page, we discussed Eli Manning. Now it’s Drew Brees’ turn. The former Purdue star was a second-round pick by the Bolts in 2001, took the free-agency route to New Orleans in 2006 and led the Saints to a Super Bowl win in 2009.
Just as important, Brees has never missed a game due to injury (he sat out the 2009 season finale). And the numbers he has amassed while a member of the Saints are simply astounding. There have been six 5,000-yard passing season in NFL history and he owns three of them, including a record 5,476 yards in 2011.
Brees has also thrown a combined 89 touchdown passes the last two seasons. But without a reliable running game, he also tied for the NFL lead with 19 interceptions in 2012.
With Chase Daniel off to Kansas City this offseason, the Saints now have veterans Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace in reserve.
3. Denver Broncos
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Some would say that it doesn’t matter who the backup quarterback is for the Denver Broncos.
Just like they said it didn’t matter when Peyton Manning was with the Indianapolis Colts.
He’ll never get a chance to play.
Well, we all found out that everyone got to play for the Colts in 2011 as Manning didn’t take the field.
But the four-time league MVP made up for lost time a year ago, throwing a Broncos’ record 37 touchdown passes (the most by Manning since 2004) and capturing NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Still, just in case, second-year pro Brock Osweiler and seventh-round rookie Zac Dysert (Miami, Ohio) are in reserve…quietly.
2. New England Patriots
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Just as Peyton Manning lost a season during his amazing career, we saw basically the same thing happen to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
In 2008, the three-time Super Bowl champion played in just one of the team’s 64 quarters after suffering a knee injury in the season opener vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
But also like Manning, that’s been the lone blip on the radar screen. Brady has proven to be one of the most durable quarterbacks in league history. And he’s been at the controls of a team that with him as the primary starter has scored 500 or more points in four of his last five seasons.
Two-year pro Ryan Mallett remains on the roster. And one-time Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Mike Kafka is on the roster as well.
More importantly, Tom remains terrific.
1. Green Bay Packers
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The numbers that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has put up the last two seasons are simply mind-boggling.
In 31 regular-season games dating back to the start of 2011, the prolific passer has thrown for 84 scores and been picked off just 14 times. Unfortunately, those figures haven’t translated to championships for the player and the team that captured Super Bowl XLV.
Rodgers’ individual play is so impressive that it masks the fact that he took his share of hits last season. No quarterback in the league was sacked more than Rodgers in 2012, who was dumped 51 times a year ago. That could change with the latest draft class, one that includes running back Eddie Lacy (Alabama) and a pair of tackles in the fourth round.
Behind Rodgers is Graham Harrell, as well as 2012 seventh-rounder B.J. Coleman. Not exactly a ton of playing time there. But the overall situation isn’t too shabby.