Tale of the Tape:
Vince Young "The Comeback Kid" — 6'5", 230 pounds, age 27, drafted by the Tennessee Titans third overall
Games started: 39, Record: 26-13, Two Pro Bowls, TD-INT: 32-39
Matt Leinart "The Pretty Boy" —6'5", 225 pounds, age 27, drafted by the Arizona Cardinals 10th overall
Games started: 17, Record: 7-10, 0 Pro Bowls, TD-INT: 14-20
Jay Cutler "The Wild Card" —6'3", 233 pounds, age 27, drafted by the Denver Broncos 11th overall
Games started: 53, Record: 24-29, One Pro Bowl, TD-INT: 81-63
The quarterback class of 2006 has thus far been painstakingly average. Overall, the three quarterbacks drafted in the first round have produced an overall record of 57-52, gone to three Pro Bowls, and have a combined 127 TDs compared to 122 INTs.
You can't say those are disappointing numbers, but you also can't say that they are excellent.
As of right now, each has experienced dramatic ups and downs throughout their young careers and each head into the 2010-2011 season with something to prove.
Vince Young went from Rookie of the Year, to being benched, to "resurrecting" his career and leading his team to 8-8 after an 0-6 start.
Matt Leinart had a few solid games for Arizona, but was ultimately benched in favor of potential Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, who went on to take the Cards to the Super Bowl. He enters this year as the favorite to start, but Derek Anderson is nipping at his heels and Ken Whisenhunt isn't afraid to play whoever he thinks gives them the best chance to win.
Jay Cutler showed great promise in three seasons with the Broncos, including a trip to the Pro Bowl. Then, the unforgettable drama between him and new coach Josh McDaniels led to him being traded to Chicago. The result was Cutler being outplayed by Kyle Orton (his replacement in Denver) and throwing a league-leading 26 interceptions.
Despite his awful 2009 season, many still view Cutler as the head of the 2006 QB class, followed by Vince Young, with Matt Leinart cellar dwelling.
Let's take a look at some important key factors in a QB's development and how they might have effected each QB differently.
It's not a reach to say that Vince Young performed well despite not having a superstar cast around him. He started 13 games and went 8-5, throwing 12 TDs to 13 INTs.
Vince was able to lean on the run game a bit. The team ran the ball 469 times for a total of 2214 yards, led by Travis Henry with 1211 yards. Young was second with 552 yards on the ground.
Drew Bennett was Vince's No. 1 receiver, hauling in 46 passes for 737 yards and three touchdowns. Not stellar, but consistent numbers.
His defense allowed 400 points, good for 31st in the league. The Titan offense scored 324 points, good for 16th overall.
Young experienced a bit of a dropoff in 2007. He started 15 games, going 9-6, but his TD-INT ratio dropped to 9-17.
The team, however, managed to get a 10-6 overall record and advance to the playoffs, falling to the Chargers in the Wild Card round.
LenDale White emerged as the No. 1 back, rushing 303 times for 1110 yards. Young himself only managed 395 yards that year.
Justin Gage led the team in receiving yardage with 55 catches and 750 yards. Once again, not stellar numbers but nothing horrible.
The Titan defense tightened up in '07, allowing only 297 points, good for eighth in the league.
Vince only started one game in 2008, throwing a TD and two picks before getting injured and being replaced by Kerry Collins for the remainder of the year.
Titan owner Bud Adams forced coach Jeff Fisher to play Vince Young following an 0-6 start under incumbent Kerry Collins. It was time to see what kind of QB Vince was.
As good of a season as Vince had (throwing 10 TDs and seven picks and going 8-2 in 10 starts), he was overshadowed by sophomore runner Chris Johnson. Johnson rushed 358 times for 2006 yards, leading the league. Even when defenses stacked the line of scrimmage, Johnson found and exploited holes for big gains.
Rookie Kenny Britt led the team in receiving yardage with 42 catches and 701 yards.
The Titan defense allowed 402 points, ranked 28th in the league.
Overall analysis : Despite not having superior talent to lift him up, Young remains the only 2006 first round quarterback with a playoff appearance (unless you count Leinart sitting on the bench). The ground game was consistently the focus of the offense he ran, and his defense helped keep games close.
Matt was surrounded by an inconsistent, yet talented team. The Cards ran the ball 419 times for 1338 yards, led by Edgerrin James with 1159 of them.
Anquan Boldin exploded onto the scene as Arizona's No. 1 receiver in 2006 with 83 catches for 1203 yards. He was followed closely by superstar Larry Fitzgerald, who had 69 catches for 946 yards. It should be noted that Leinart only started 11 games in '06, so not all those passes were from him. Kurt Warner helped too.
Leinart's defense allowed 389 points, good for 29th in the league. His offense was 19th overall with 314 points.
Leinart went 4-7 in his 11 starts that year.
Leinart started five games in 2007, winning three and throwing two TDs versus four INTs. He only threw for 647 yards, including a game with only 53 and one with only 93.
During those games, the Cardinal offense ran the ball for 542 yards and the defense gave up 111 points.
Matt played in four games in 2008, throwing 29 passes and completing 15 of them for one TD and one INT.
The Cardinals advanced to the Super Bowl without any significant help from him.
Leinart played in eight games, starting one in place of Kurt Warner. He completed 51 of his 77 passes, getting picked off three times and never throwing a touchdown.
Overall analysis : Leinart had key players like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Edgerrin James to lean on and an above average defense to lean on, yet produced the worst results of the three. However, because of the play of Kurt Warner, he was never given a full season to work and progress on the field.
Cutler didn't get his first start in the NFL until Week 13 of 2006 in a game against Seattle. That game, he completed 10 of 21 passes for 143 yards, two TDs and two INTs. That would be the worst game of his 2006 season. He won only two of five starts.
During the games Cutler played, the team rushed for 691 yards. Tatum Bell was the lead rusher that year, followed by Mike Bell.
Javon Walker was the No. 1 wide receiver. We've all seen what happened to his career.
The Denver defense was eighth overall in points allowed that season, allowing 305.
In 2007, the Broncos took a step back as a whole, but Cutler continued improving his game. 2007 was a year of emergence for some young talent.
Cutler would end the season with 20 TDs to only 14 INTs and would pass for 3,497 yards thanks to the emergence of Brandon Marshall. Marshall ended the season with 102 catches for 1325 yards.
The ground game was a jumbled mess all year for the Broncos, but somehow they made it work. Though their leading rusher (Selvin Young) only rushed for 729 yards, the team still managed a total of 1,957 yards on the ground.
The defense fell all the way down to 28th, allowing 409 points. It was the main reason that Denver finished 7-9 that year.
The Broncos started hot in 2008, but ended badly mostly due to inconsistency on defense. Once again, Mike Shanahan made something out of nothing in the backfield.
Running backs dropped like flies all season long for the Broncos, but they still managed 1862 yards on the ground. Peyton Hillis led the team with 343 yards.
Lucky for Cutler, the Broncos had bought him a brand new toy named Eddie Royal. Royal's rookie season was good for 91 catches and 980 yards. Cutler still had Marshall to throw to as well, to the extent of 104 catches and 1265 yards.
The defense dropped down even further, all the way to 30th in the league in points allowed with 448.
Cutler would end the season 8-8 as a starter, throwing 25 TDs compared to 18 INTs. He even made it to the Pro Bowl.
After being traded to the Chicago Bears during the offseason, Cutler was touted as the savior of the Bears franchise, the first real franchise QB they'd had in years. He didn't exactly meet those expectations.
Cutler would start the season getting picked off four times at Green Bay, and that wouldn't even be his worst game that year.
His team's ground game was constantly mediocre all year, ranked 29th in yards gained with a paltry 1492. Cutler had never been on a team that gained under 1800 yards on the ground.
Though overall yardage said Devin Hester was the No. 1 wide receiver, it was a two horse race between him and Earl Bennett, who finished with only 40 yards less then Hester's 757.
The Bear defense was hardly reminiscent of the 1985 Bears, ranking 21st in points allowed with 375.
Overall analysis : Cutler had above average talent around him in Denver and prospered, but when he was traded to the Bears, who had much less offensive talent, he had an extremely inconsistent season. Until he has had a few seasons under his belt in the new offensive scheme, I'd say we should wait before the Cutler trade is classified a bust. Once his receivers take the next step and he becomes more comfortable in the pocket, he may go on to many more Pro Bowls.
SUPPORTING CAST EDGE—Matt Leinart
Leinart had Boldin and Fitzgerald to throw to, Edgerrin James to take the pressure off him, and an opportunistic defense that liked to force turnovers. Yet, he produced the worst results.
In retrospect, Young had the worst supporting cast and arguably produced the best results. Vince produced more wins in less games then Cutler with less talent around him.
Stats That May Interest You
Vince Young is 18-4 in his career against teams that run a base 4-3 defense, even though his TD-INT ratio in those games is 18-20.
Jay Cutler is 15-15 against the base 4-3, but has thrown over 1/2 his TD passes (48) versus only 27 of his interceptions.
Matt Leinart also had his best games against the 4-3, with six wins and six losses. During those games, he threw for 10 TDs and 12 INTs.
None of the quarterbacks had winning records against teams that ran a base 3-4 defense and none threw more TDs then INTs against those teams.
All three quarterbacks threw more touchdowns than interceptions against Tampa-2 teams. Cutler had two wins vs. three losses with five TDs and four INTs. Young had four wins vs. four losses, throwing eight TDs against six INTs. Leinart never started a game against a team that ran a base Tampa-2, but in games that he has played he threw two TDs vs. one INT.
None of these quarterbacks can be definitively called busts, but all three enter this season with something to prove. Even though Matt Leinart enters this season as the worst of the three, he still stands a chance at rising to the top by the end of their careers.
I'd say Vince Young definitely has the most potential of the three to be great one day. His mobility and arm strength were never in question, he just needs to learn to grow up a bit and put in the time and effort it takes to be a starter in the NFL.
As of right now, Jay Cutler looks to be the best of the three. Whether it remains that way is yet to be seen.