Under Pressure: NFL Quarterbacks Who Need to Make it Happen in 2009
The NFL is not, necessarily, a league where your past accomplishments are enough to keep fan favor.
No. The NFL is about performance and execution and one, usually, dictates the other.
This year, there are a few quarterbacks who are finding that their good "favor" is beginning to run out with not only their die-hard fans but, in some cases, with management as well.
Guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning won't be on this list for obvious reasons; neither of those two future Hall of Famer's need worry about their Busts being tarnished—both have enough favor in the bank to last a long while.
The following guys, however, are on a shorter leash.
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
Last season saw the worst of McNabb's career thus far. He found himself benched at one point for (gulp) Kevin Kolb.
Why? He seemingly forgot what a football was and how to throw one to a wide receiver—that two game stretch in November still boggles the mind.
He did manage to redeem himself and lead the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game—where they would lose to the Arizona Cardinals.
Despite the hot and cold nature of his play last season, McNabb managed to post the best numbers of his career (3,916 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) while also starting all 16 games—something he hadn't done since 2003.
So, what's the problem? Well, McNabb is in the twilight of his career at age 32 (despite what his 08' numbers say) and the Eagles' window to win a Super Bowl with him at the helm is closing fast.
McNabb feels the team isn't that far away and can still contend for a title. He made his wish list and management responded by drafting Jeremy Maclin (WR) and Cornelius Ingram (TE) while also signing Jason Peters (LT).
The question now is, will he finally bring the Eagles to the promised land?
It's now or never.
Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers
Last season had to be a big disappointment for the Panthers. They entered the NFC Divisional Championship with, arguably, the best rushing attack in the league and one of its better defenses.
However, they were rewarded with a horrendously poor performance by not only their defense, which truthfully was Jekyll and Hyde all season, but also from Delhomme who threw five interceptions in the Division Championship Game.
Credit Jakey for coming back from Tommy John to make it happen for the Panthers but it's a head-scratcher to see him rewarded with a five-year deal at 34-years old while coming off such an ugly performance.
Warts and all, he still remains the team's best option, at the moment, but if he is to live up to the faith the Panther's have shown that they have in him, he's gonna have to be more consistent than he was during last season.
Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams
It's a miracle that Bulger is still considered the starter for the Rams. He had one solid season and has been, fairly, mediocre since that time.
Charge it to injuries, rotating coaches, bad offensive line play, etc. Pick one and use that as the excuse for how and why Bulger went from a 12-3 Pro Bowl QB to a sub .500 one since—either way, he's due to lose his player card any day now.
This year the Rams have upgraded their offensive line with the addition of stud left tackle, Jason Smith, but he won't likely be starting at the position when the season begins (he is not yet the pass blocker he should eventually become) but that won't keep the Rams from fielding a solid offensive line for Steven Jackson to run wild behind should he remain healthy.
That said, Bulger has lost Torry Holt and will be depending on a gimpy wide receiving corps to catch his passes. That can't be good for Bulger's comeback prospects.
Will he ever return to his 2006 form?
There are many who doubt he ever will.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Remember when Carson Palmer wasn't just a top five quarterback but a top three? Oh, how the memories wash away.
Palmer has been stellar when healthy but healthy is something he has not been in a good while.
He is poised to return to his old 4,000+ yard passing self this season, barring any further setbacks, but a shaky offensive line and the loss of T.J. Houshmanzadeh leaves some doubt that he will have the time or the targets to be effective.
If he can't stay upright and on the field, does he start moving from bust-out to bust status?
True enough, he had solid seasons in 2006 and 2007 (despite the increased in interceptions in '07), but that team had a fully-committed Chad Johnson, wait, OchoCinco, sorry, a great offensive line, and a respectable run game—all of those are question marks with this current team.
Add to that, there is nothing to keep anyone from believing that Palmer won't injure his knee, elbow, or some other necessary moving part again this year—how good of an idea was passing on Tommy John surgery, really?
If he can rebound from his year-long stint away from the game, he is immediately a sleeper candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. If not, it's likely to be a long season in Cincy.
Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins
Jason is a hard guy to figure. He's not a typical No. 1. His numbers are largely average and he doesn't do anything on the field to make you feel like he should be paid Brady, Brees, or Manning money.
Perhaps that's why the Skins didn't feel obligated to cast him a new contract this season.
Why bother? There are at least three backups who are capable of doing the same mediocre things that Campbell does on a weekly basis—play it safe, manage the game, don't take chances deep.
On the other hand, one look at the receiving corps and, it's hard not to see why he would want to take any chances in the passing game.
That said, if he wants to show that he is worthy of more than a side mention, he needs to step up and play like a big dog.
He will go into this year minus a long-term contract so, if he plays lights out, he may be able to punch a favorable ticket right out of D.C.—not that anyone is likely to miss him if he does. Personally, no offence but, I've seen statues with more personality.
Campbell is not a bad quarterback. He won't likely lose you any games but, the question with him is, does he have the killer instinct to win you the big one?
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