NFL Quarterback Carousel Presents Offseason Questions Everywhere
There will always be some teams unstable at the quarterback position. It is the single most important position on the field and must be solid for a team to succeed. A few teams perennially on this list like Detroit and Tampa Bay seem to have found their guys, but that doesn’t prevent many teams from having questions at the position this offseason. One interesting quirk on the list are the three playoff teams and another three with playoff aspirations.
With an uninspiring free agent crop, those answers may be a long time in coming.
Kurt Warner has announced a press conference for tomorrow. He is inviting his family to be there with him, and most speculation points to his retirement. Cardinals staff have stated that if Warner elects to retire, they are comfortable with Leinart in the lead role. With a modest resume in spot starts, he has yet to show any real capacity to become a full-time starter.
With San Francisco improving, Arizona can afford little dropoff from the team's 10-6 2009 record while Warner was at the helm.
Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid both feel he will be an Eagle next season. There is speculation that he will go to any number of places, as the Eagles are looking to move toward the future and past their 33-year-old veteran and his expiring (after one more season) contract.
With Kevin Kolb playing well in limited starts and people clamoring for an expanded Michael Vick role, the team will likely need to move at least one of the three. If they feel their starter won’t be re-signed at 34 years of age, they may try and milk trade value rather than letting him depart for nothing in free agency.
Will he won’t he? The fun of hiring Brett Favre is getting an enthusiastic player who can turn in pro-bowl seasons en route to a first-ballot trip to the hall of fame. It also means not knowing who will be your quarterback next year. The Vikings did win the division under Tavaris Jackson, but unless he made tremendous strides watching Favre from the bench, the team will need to find a new front-man if another deep playoff run is expected.
Jason Campbell is a free agent this offseason. It is up to Washington and its revamped office (new head coach/GM) to try and retain the 28-year-old. Campbell’s latest season was his best as a Redskin, with a quarterback rating of 86 behind 3,600 yards. He is also aided by the fact that Washington has nothing behind him and would need to start completely fresh with a veteran trade or rookie draftee.
Even if they draft a future quarterback, Campbell could find himself retained for a year or two in order to give a potential newcomer some footing.
Three young quarterbacks on roster, and none have been able to secure the leading job. Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick split the job last season, but neither impressed. Both threw more interceptions than touchdowns and were within a four points of each in quarterback rating (69.7 against 73.8).
The Bills already had some difficulty in the offseason with coaching since they fired the entire coaching staff, failed to land one of the "big" name coaches, and then were rebuffed by Brian Schottenheimer when they asked the Jets coordinator to interview for the job. They have found a head coach in Chan Gailey, but now the quarterback position needs to be addressed. Worst of all, they won just enough games so that eight other teams will have first crack at landing a franchise quarterback in the draft.
Matt Hasselbeck has been a mainstay for Seattle, outlasting other icons like Shaun Alexander, and became one of the team’s final holdovers from its days as a genuine threat. He is also going to be 35 when the season commences, and his body is showing the mileage. Last year he posted a subpar 75.1 rating while missing two games to injury. Seneca Wallace is an acceptable backup but not a future starter.
With multiple first round picks and a new staff helmed by head coach Pete Carroll, the team will likely start looking toward its future, quarterback included.
San Francisco 49ers
Alex Smith has appeared to lock down the quarterback job over Shaun Hill for now, which wouldn't be the first time. The highest rated season of his career was still something between average and subpar: an 81.5 rating with only two "big" games (more than 232 yards). After Crabtree’s holdout, he has spent some time with a true number one in order to learn the system and integrate. But does the team try to hedge its bets against Smith faltering once more?
St. Louis Rams
When a team fields one of the league’s better running backs yet puts up 175 total points, this is a big concern. The team went into the year trying to see if they had enough good years left in Marc Bulger to try and build elsewhere first. In his eight years Bulger has played a full 16 just once, back in 2006. He posted his third consecutive sub-72 rated season behind only eight starts.
With no project players behind him, the team faces one more conundrum. Holding the first overall pick, they will have to choose between securing a franchise quarterback or selecting Nebraska’s jaw-dropping defensive tackle. Should they elect to pick Suh, the quarterback situation grows even murkier.
The team is now trapped with one of the more hangdog contracts in football. Quarterback Jake Delhomme signed a big long-term contract extension before the 2009 season despite age and performance concerns. The amount of money left will make it hard to unload the 35-year-old despite his 8-18 touchdown to interception ratio and sub 60 quarterback rating.
Unknown backup Matt Moore stepped in when Delhomme went down and immediately made a case for supplanting Delhomme. When the Panthers were 4-7, they closed the year at 4-1. Moore did not simply post game-management numbers either, since he had eight touchdowns against two interceptions and an overall rating well over 100, even though he only makes roughly 1/16th Delhomme’s salary.
Original starter Chad Pennington is not only unsigned, but comes off yet another injury and still has concerns about the continual declination of his arm strength. Chad Henne, Pennington’s heir apparent, stepped into the role and performed respectably (7-6 as a starter), but failed to secure uncontested backing. Head coach Tony Sparano’s answers remain vague regarding whether Henne will be the 2010 starter. With little else around, he is likely to start. The question is whether he is truly backed by the coaching staff or whether he is getting the job by default.
Well, after 2009 they answered one of the big questions. They now know Derek Anderson is not the guy. He posted an abysmal 42.1 quarterback rating while helming the worst offense in football. Brady Quinn is more of a question mark. He was benched prematurely before showing some signs of progress with good games against the Lions and Chargers, but he stumbled toward the end and finished the year injured. The team has so many holes to fill that they are almost compelled to use Quinn, but does the team (especially with the retained Mangini) have faith in him?
Jamarcus Russell began the year as a starter, and reports are persistent that the team is still trying to find offensive coaching that can ameliorate his performance. He posted the worst rating among quarterbacks with at least 10 games (50.0), and were in not for Derek Anderson’s abysmal season, he would have posted the lowest of any quarterback who started a game.
The Raiders still have a huge amount of guaranteed money wrapped up into the former first overall pick, but they have to give attention to Bruce Gradkowski. Despite only four starts, Gradkowski nearly matched Russell's yardage and doubled his touchdown total. He had a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio (against Russell’s 3:11).
The Raiders have to wonder not only whether Russell can develop, but also whether they should try or go with Gradkowski and if Gradkowski’s spark in limited starts can translate across a full season or was a flash in the pan.
While the Bears slip to the back of this list because they don’t have any personnel decisions to make, they still have questions going into 2010. The Bears coughed up a few players and several high draft picks to land their "star" quarterback Jay Cutler. The result was 26 interceptions, 3,600 yards (in a year of ubiquitous 4,000 yard passers), and a rating of 76.8. In other words, no particular upgrade from a Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton (who quietly put up 200 more yards and a 10 point higher rating behind fewer attempts). The team is still looking for an offensive coordinator, as prospects are leery of working with Cutler.
Several other teams have questions to a lesser extent. Denver appears to have faith in Orton, but the former Bear is a free agent and may be sought by other teams looking to augment. Vince Young looked solid in his second stint as a starter, but the team has to be wondering if he can translate that to 2010. Kansas City has to hope Cassel can show more of his Patriots form next season after the entire team disappointed in 2009. New York, Detroit, and Tampa Bay hope their promising rookies can continue to improve and don’t hit the proverbial sophomore slump.
Ultimately, more than half the teams in the league stand to lose some sleep over this vital position in the upcoming offseason, and few will have their answers until the 2010 season begins.