Is This the Year of the Healthy Quarterback?

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Is This the Year of the Healthy Quarterback?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The answer to at least one trivia question through nine NFL games this season might be: Chad Pennington. And if you are wondering what the question is?  Well, here goes. Who is the only starting quarterback in the league to suffer a season ending injury?

That’s right. To the best of my knowledge, Pennington is unique in that category, and that uniqueness is a far cry from a season ago when Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, and Matt Hasselbeck went down.

And that's not to mention Tony Romo’s four game stoppage with a broken finger, Gus Frerotte’s bad back, Brodie Croyle giving way (perhaps mercifully) to Tyler Thigpen, Trent Edwards giving way to J.P. Losman, and Matt Schaub going down so the fans in Houston could gulp and cheer for Sage Rosenfels.

This season, however, nearly all of the league’s thirty-two quarterbacks, however hobbled, have managed plant their toes in the turf and fire away. Some, like ancient muse Brett Favre, have flirted with the league’s “questionable” injury report; in Favre’s case, a groin. Others like JaMarcus Russell, Kerry Collins  or Shaun Hill, have been benched, but benching and getting hurt are two different things.

Byron Leftwich can attest to that, having seen his share of both in his career.

And in Cleveland, where a revolving door ushers in a new quarterback faster than Captain Hook could yank a relief pitcher out of a game, the quarterback duties have been “shared” between anemic Derek Anderson and anemic Brady Quinn.

Still others, such as Trent Edwards have faced lesser injuries resulting in a just a few missed games (with the news today of Dick Jauron’s firing, and the ongoing chaos in Buffalo, perhaps Edwards wishes his injury had been more serious). Rookie Matthew Stafford hurt his knee on October 4 and didn’t return until week eight, Kyle Boller did his best impersonation of a quarterback when Marc Bulger missed a game or two.

But by and large, excluding these few injuries and benchings, I counted 25 teams where the season opening starting quarterback has started every game, and only ONE (Pennington) whose injuries have knocked him out for the season. 

And excluding Pennington, the total lost time experienced by starting quarterbacks due to injury is less than ten games for the entire league!

This is perhaps remarkable not only in comparison to big name casualties like Palmer and Brady last season, but even in 2007. By this point of the 2007 season, Minnesota, the New York Jets, Baltimore, St. Louis, Carolina, Arizona, Buffalo, San Francisco, and Oakland had all experienced significant health issues at the quarterback position.

And we all can recall too the season ending injuries suffered by Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair and Leftwich in 2005.

But this year is different.

Healthy speculation would suggest that rule changes protecting the quarterbacks have probably contributed to fewer injuries, and there may be some credence to such a view. Then again, the number of times that Aaron Rodgers has been planted into the turf (7 and ½ times by Jared Allen alone) makes you wonder.

But what I see week after week (with my ass parked in front of the television, a bag of Dorito’s on my lap, and the channel remote like a hot potato in my hand), is that the quarterbacks are scrambling less and less than ever before.

Less scrambling?

Maybe.

But the trend is there. And the answer to the question is still Chad Pennington.

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