Quarterback Quandary: Key NFL Position As Volatile As Ever
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What a difference a few weeks make.
Just this afternoon Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was released after a series of pedestrian performances, where his QB rating averaged in the low 50's. And this a mere three weeks after new head coach Chan Gailey lauded him with praise.
So much for loyalty. Mind you, that's not a dig; I'm all for going with whomever gives you the best chance of winning (see my previous article on the ever-irrelevant Michael Vick-Kevin Kolb debate).
But to see the myriad QB changes happen so early is baffling. Perhaps it is a reflection of the NFL owners' increasingly eroding patience. The days of a future Hall of Fame coach being allowed an occasional "off" year of 7-9 are a thing of the past (Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher notwithstanding).
A coach on the hot seat shortens the leash on an under-performing quarterback. In fact, even Fisher himself benched Vince young in Week 2 to "provide a spark." Granted he's not on the hot seat, but it speaks volumes as to the changing culture of the QB position and the NFL in general.
Looking beyond issues of performance, let's not forget the old injury bug, which itself can indirectly breed controversy—just ask Kevin Kolb. It makes one wonder what is going to happen in Detroit if Shaun Hill keeps lighting up the box score. He hasn't produced any W's yet so chances are Matthew Stafford is safe, though a change would be in keeping with this season's wonky game of musical quarterbacks.
Here's a look at all 32 teams and their respective quarterback situations. Most all of them are compelling in one way or another, it seems.
- Buffalo Bills: Ryan Fitzpatrick was given the green light a week ago and gave a spark in an ultimately losing effort. However, it was enough to cost the mercurial Edwards his job. Will it pay off? Time will tell, but chances are the Bills are in enough disrepair that a simple spark won't be enough.
- Miami Dolphins: No drama here; the only issue is how fast Chad Henne can go from "solid" to elite. Having Brandon Marshall to throw to helps those odds immensely.
- New England Patriots: Tom Brady looks every bit as good as he ever was. Is he in his 2007 form? The jury's still out, but he's on a roll thus far with a re-motivated receiving corps peppered with promising rookies.
- New York Jets: The Curious Case of Mark Sanchez has taken a giant leap forward this season; his sophomore effort has been great thus far. After throwing 20 INTs last year, he has zero this year...and added poise to boot.
- Denver Broncos: No controversy here, in spite of some questionable wheeling and dealing by head coach Josh McDaniels in the off-season. Kyle Orton is quietly having a career year.
- Oakland Raiders: After all of the preseason hype surrounding Jason Campbell, it was a bit of a surprise to see head coach Tom Cable cut bait so fast. It was even more surprising to see him stick with that decision a week later. But hey, it worked...almost, if not for a certain over-rated kicker.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Cassel has been running hot and cold this season, but it hasn't mattered. The Chiefs D and special teams have been enough. It will be interesting to see if he can level off and be more consistent this year. The other two parts of their squad are bound to hit a wall.
- San Diego Chargers: While the team itself is in a somewhat shocking tailspin, Philip Rivers has been great, even without Vincent Jackson.
- Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco's Week 2 disaster was a blip and nothing more. He's the real deal.
- Cleveland Browns: While Seneca Wallace has been solid, the other option, Jake Delhomme, isn't much more appealing given his injuries and recent inconsistency. You have to wonder just how committed Mike "Colt McCoy is NOT going to start this year" Holmgren is to that decision.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Much like the Denver Broncos running backs of the late 1990s, it doesn't seem to matter WHO plays QB for the Steelers; they're finding ways to win. Will Big Ben Roethlisburger make them even better when he returns? Or will he disrupt the "fly- by-the-seat-of-our-pants" chemistry that's working? My guess is the former, but it does beg the question.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer hasn't looked great, but he has worked this year, for the most part. It is, however, a cause for concern that he still struggled against a weak Carolina defense Sunday.
- Tennessee Titans: The good news is that Vince Young seemed to take his benching in stride, as he was decent against a mistake-prone New York Giants team yesterday. Indeed, he seems to have matured. Dare I say we're finally at the point where it's his team to lose? Having all-world RB Chris Johnson in your backfield doesn't hurt either.
- Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning could throw to the cheerleaders and still have about a 301/4/1 stat line.
- Houston Texans: Matt Shaub has the talent; it's just a matter of whether the Texans decide to be a record-setting running team or record-setting passing team. He's their guy for years to come, barring injury.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: David Garrard is seemingly one more atrocious game from being run out of town. So much for wins boosting sagging attendance. Los Angeles Jaguars, anyone?
And now for the NFC...
- Chicago Bears: What a difference a coordinator makes. Of course, tonight Jay Cutler takes on the vaunted Green Bay defense—arguably their toughest test of the year—but so far, he looks like his old self minus the drama-queen side.
- Detroit Lions: While backup Shaun Hill has been pretty darn good, this team is still Matthew Stafford's. There's too much talent with the latter...not to mention too much money invested to even think about a controversy.
- Minnesota Vikings: Ouch. If not for Adrian Peterson's rushing heroics, this team would most likely be staring at 0-3. Has Favre lost it? Or is it a receiver issue? For instance, even if he were 28, would he still be struggling as such? He's on borrowed time; the more they stumble, the more it looks as if he should have called it a career last season (38th retirement, total).
- Green Bay Packers: It's pretty much a done deal that Rodgers is on par with Manning, Brees, Brady and Favre. The "he's the next_____" talk is OVER.
- Atlanta Falcons: This past offseason, QB Matt Ryan pored over film of Manning, Brees, etc. He's arguably good enough as is. Poise, arm, talent—you name it. The sky's the limit for him.
- New Orleans Saints: It's debatable that Drew Brees is now in that upper echelon of Manning/Brady. The Super Bowl ring definitely helps his cause. Saints fans should be seeing the silver lining from yesterday's heartbreaker to the Falcons—he always bounces back, and plus, that pesky first lost is out of the way.
- Carolina Panthers: Is Jimmy Clausen the answer? Eventually perhaps, but he won't produce enough immediate wins to make an impact...in the win column OR on coach John Fox's job. Jilted former starter Matt Moore is the poor man's Kevin Kolb: a few good starts from a year ago don't necessarily translate into permanent, future success.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hmm, seems like Josh Freeman is the real deal. Granted plenty of 2-0 (now 2-1) teams have gone on to flop, but you have to like his confidence and his coach, Raheem Morris (the next Mike Tomlin in many folks' opinion).
- Arizona Cardinals: It all depends on which Derek Anderson shows up. However, the optimists out there have to think that the more he gets comfortable with the system—and his high-caliber receivers—the better he'll be.
- Seattle Seahawks: In spite of a shaky offensive line, and apparently the most mysterious ankle sprain in history with star LT Russell Okung, Matt Hasselbeck is getting it done through the air AND on the ground. Go figure. So long as the running game and special teams stay respectable, the 'Hawks could make a surprising run.
- St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford's performance has not disappointed so far. But to get a win, against a decent team no less? No one's saying the Rams are going to be the 2008 Cardinals, but the folks in St. Louis have got to be thrilled.
- San Francisco 49ers: Another "ouch." Regarded by most as the rulers of a mediocre division, they've taken quite the tumble so far. The question is: how much of the blame does the inconsistent Alex Smith deserve? To be fair, he's looked great at times this year. But there are perhaps too many holes across the board for him to recover from. For instance, he now has a new offensive coordinator after Jimmy Raye's surprise (maybe) firing today.
- Dallas Cowboys: One just never knows with this team. Tony Romo is a great quarterback, but the fact that he plays in Dallas and dates famous starlets...well, there's a higher standard there. If he played in, say, Carolina or Seattle, he'd be a highly regarded hero. But it's different in Texas. He looked good yesterday against Houston. So long as his running game keeps up production, he should lead the 'Boys to the playoffs. But 98 pass attempts in the first two games is inexcusable on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's part.
- New York Giants: Eli Manning has struggled since his decent (-ish) opener against Carolina. And admittedly much of it is his team shooting themselves in the the—oh, sorry, Plaxico—foot. If coach Tom Coughlin can right the ship mistake-wise, then there might be a glimmer of hope for Eli n' Co. Otherwise, expect another ho-hum season from Peyton's little brother.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick in a sense is now the perfect combination of youthful athleticism and older-and-wiser smarts. If he can just keep the amount of time he gets hit a game down, there's no telling what he can do.
- Washington Redskins: While Donovan McNabb has looked decent this year, the rest of the team can't seem to pull it together as of late. The loss to the lowly Rams has to sting. A media-frenzied visit to Philadelphia looms. Will he be motivated or distracted? It should be a compelling matchup either way.
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