Which NFL QBs Are on the Hot Seat?
As the NFL continues its formation into a quarterback-driven league, the pressure is higher than ever on the signal-callers who are responsible for anchoring their respective franchises.
Over the last few months, teams have used their wealth of salary cap space and draft picks to improve the talent around their young leader.
Meanwhile, a few former first-round draft picks still have to prove themselves to their new coaches as the quarterbacks of the future.
Who will be on the hot seat in 2013? Here are a few quarterbacks who will face the pressure this upcoming season.
Honorable Mention: Christian Ponder
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Christian Ponder is a quarterback who needs to be monitored over the course of next season. While his future with the Minnesota Vikings does not reek of concern for the future, the NFL is a league where players are judged by their most recent performance.
The additions of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson is an example of Vikings management and coaching staff wanting Ponder to gain more control of the offense in 2013.
His performance in Week 17 last season against the Green Bay Packers is currently the most notable highlight reel. However, it remains to be seen whether or not he can provide the consistency over the course of an entire year. The talent around Ponder should allow him to erase any labels of simply becoming an effective game manager.
Minnesota will only gain a second straight postseason berth if Ponder elevates his play on a weekly basis.
8. Ryan Tannehill
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Ryan Tannehill fell under the radar as a rookie due to throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, which resulted in only seven wins on the year.
Though, his conversion from a wide receiver just a few years ago in college and now becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL is impressive. His athleticism makes him an intriguing young player in the NFL. However, his lack of offensive talent surrounding him didn't help his growth as a starter.
General manager Jeff Ireland answered the scrutiny by signing Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller to improve the passing game. Though, Miami's aggression this offseason is a sign of desperation for a team to compete for playoff positioning in the AFC.
The reality of the situation is that the job of Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin could be in jeopardy if this team falls short of a nine- or 10-win season.
A major change with the front office and coaching staff could lead to the new regime searching for a quarterback in 2014.
It doesn't seem fair in any shape or form that Tannehill has to elevate this team into playoff contention, but it might be the only way to guarantee himself his starting job with Miami in the foreseeable future.
7. Philip Rivers
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The Chargers begin a new era with head coach Mike McCoy, who brings his creative offensive mind to San Diego with the hope of resurrecting the career of Philip Rivers.
Through the early parts of offseason practice, McCoy has been impressed with Rivers' work in the offense, which is why he does not currently hold a high spot on this list.
Despite the progression from the former first round pick, it's fair to acknowledge that his performances over the last few seasons warrant some criticism regarding his job security.
It's unknown how much time Rivers will have to turn his career around. However. with a talented group of quarterbacks set to enter the draft in 2014, the Chargers could look to quickly find his successor next offseason.
6. Andy Dalton
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Andy Dalton has developed well in his first two seasons as an NFL quarterback. The former second-round pick has anchored the Cincinnati Bengals toward an unfamiliar territory of two straight playoff appearances.
However, those two straight appearances resulted in immediate exits, and last year's loss fell on the hands of their young signal-caller.
The Bengals used the draft to add premiere talent around Dalton. Tyler Eifert can become a mismatch nightmare for defenses, while Giovani Bernard adds a dynamic to the backfield due to his explosiveness.
With a plethora of talent surrounding Dalton, the Bengals display one of the more talented offenses in the league. This year, Dalton will have to show if he is capable of increasing the level of his play against the elite in the NFL, or if his physical limitations prevent him from becoming a top-tier quarterback in the future.
5. Matt Schaub
The Houston Texans have been considered contenders for a championship during the past two years, and this season, expectations will not be hampered in anyway.
Although, the recent success from the franchise has overshadowed the question as to whether Matt Schaub is capable of elevating the league's youngest team to a championship.
Yet, the Texans' reported interest in a quarterback flew under the radar this offseason. With a weak quarterback crop in this year's draft, management ultimately did not decide to find a potential successor.
However, with next year's draft expected to produce a handful of quality NFL starting quarterbacks, a move could be made at the position if Schaub performs at a level that resembles his play from the end of last season.
The addition of DeAndre Hopkins significantly improves a group of wide receivers that can perform alongside Andre Johnson.
Last season, Schaub created doubt across the NFL on how capable he is of leading a team deep into the postseason. This upcoming year will be extremely telling of his future in a Texans uniform.
4. Brandon Weeden
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The Cleveland Browns appear to be a team that is destined to surprise, as the front office continued to improve a surging defense with the additions through the draft and free agency.
Yet, the outcome of the upcoming season will be determined in large part due to second-year starter Brandon Weeden.
The former Oklahoma St. product will receive a fair opportunity to flourish under the new coaching staff. Norv Turner is one of the more prominent offensive coordinators in the game, and he has shown the ability to develop young quarterbacks in that role.
Weeden will play alongside Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, who are expected to become pleasant surprises in 2013.
Ultimately, the changes across the organization puts Weeden in a difficult position. He must display plenty of progression this year or risk his tenure in Cleveland coming to a halt.
3. Jake Locker
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The Tennessee Titans have done the best they could to improve the talent around Jake Locker around this offseason.
The additions of Chance Warmack and Justin Hunter adds more young talent around Locker, whose inconsistency as a passer has not allowed Mike Munchak and the rest of the organization to commit to him long-term.
With an improved pass protection and a plethora of talented receivers, Locker's best opportunity to establish himself as the franchise quarterback is likely this one-year window.
If another dreadful season occurs in 2013, Locker along with the rest of the coaching staff could be shown the door. In a league where teams are expected to rebuild quite quickly, no job in Tennessee can definitively be considered safe.
2. Josh Freeman
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The expectations for Josh Freeman have become pretty simple. He must elevate this team to the next level by making the postseason, or the search for the new franchise quarterback is likely to occur.
Freeman enters the final year of his contract without a deal and does not have the full support from head coach Greg Schiano.
Tampa Bay spent its offseason upgrading one of the league's worst defenses, with the acquisition of All-Pro corner back Darrelle Revis.
Offensively, the Buccaneers showcase one of the league's emerging young stars in Doug Martin, and Vincent Jackson has proven to become a consistent No. 1 receiver in the league.
The consensus is that the talent surrounding Freeman should be enough to make this team a playoff contender in 2013. As a result, Freeman could be on the open market in 2014 if he doesn't deliver.
1. Sam Bradford
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In 2013, this will become a make-or-break year for Sam Bradford in a St. Louis Rams uniform.
The former first overall pick has underachieved as a draft pick across the league. However, many supporters, including myself, have given Bradford the benefit of the doubt due to a minimal supporting cast with him on offense.
Now, there are no longer excuses for Bradford not to perform at a high level. The addition of West Virginia sensations Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the receiver corps adds a unique dynamic of talent that will open plenty of opportunities to become a successful offense.
The offensive line also was rejuvenated with the signing of former All-Pro left tackle Jake Long. While Bradford doesn't benefit from playing in the league's toughest division, the talent on the Rams roster and the experience of the coaching staff seems to make anything less than a postseason berth equivalent to a disappointment.
Whether the criticism is fair or unfair, it will ultimately fall on the shoulders of the former Oklahoma standout.