2011 NFL QBs on the Brink: Top 10 Rebounders, Reprieves, and Possible Retirees
When it comes to NFL quarterbacks, the current NFL lockout couldn't have come at a better—or worse—time. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the league right now, and none more than the QB position for a lot of teams.
I know what you're thinking: Carolina's Clausen conundrum with Newton , the Arizona air-ballers, Minnesota's mishaps, etc... But none of those things made the cut for this article. This one is all about the old, the bad, and the recently ugly.
All the guys on this list are guys who have had chances to succeed—and some of them have done so—but they're also guys who for whatever reason are not the men they used to be or the men they were supposed to be.
They've all taken different paths to get to where they are, but they all have one thing in common: they'd better do something impressive, and fast, if they want to help their teams take the next step in their evolution.
10. The Book of Eli Could Be Nearing Its Final NY Chapter
Eli Manning comes from a family with an NFL pedigree that is perhaps unrivaled, and he himself has added to their legacy by winning a Super Bowl ring of his own. However, that 2007 championship seems like decades ago no if you've watched his play over the last few years.
He's actually improved completion percentage, and TD passes in each of the last two years with over 4,000 yards passing. The only problems are that he also increased in interceptions thrown with a career high of 25 last season and has missed the playoffs in each of those years.
With his receivers getting healthy and the expectancy of those pass catchers not tipping as many balls to the other team in 2011, I expect him to rebound. That being said though, if he doesn't and the Giants miss the playoffs again, it might not be long before he's looking for a new team.
9. Jay Cutler Could Be Cut Sooner Than Later If He Can't Cut It Soon
Jay Cutler was one of the most promising QBs in the NFL at the end of the 2006 season, and after the 2007 season it was all but assumed that he'd be the next great Denver Broncos signal caller.
However, it never really worked out in the Mile High city, and after some disagreements with management and personnel there he was shipped off to Chicago to be the answer to the Bears prayers in 2010.
He did end up leading the Bears to an 11-5 record and a division title with a win over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs, but the year ended with a woeful performance in the NFC championship game against division rival Green Bay Packers during which he was injured and missed the second half.
His toughness and dedication was publicly questioned after that game for months to come.
That was just the icing on the cake though. When Cutler is on, he's really on. When he's no though, he's about as bad as they come. Since 2007, Cutler's first full year as a starter, he's thrown 73 TDs to only 21 picks in his wins, including playoffs.
In his losses, however, he's thrown only 24 TDs to a gaudy 54 picks in just four seasons. That last playoff game was just the icing on the devil's food cake.
I can't see the Bears giving him more than one more go at it. If he doesn't turn his image around in 2011 and get more consistent, I don't know that he'll ever get the chance to get it done in Chicago.
8. Kyle Orton Is on the Verge of Getting "Grossmaned" Again
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one says it all. Denver Broncos QB Kyle Orton is once again stuck between a rook and a hard case. This time though, it's not in Chicago. Still, the results are the same.
Orton is coming off of what are easily the best two seasons of his career, throwing for no less than 3,600 yards and 20 TDs in each of them with a QB rating around 87.0 for those years.
However, he finds himself in a familiar situation, behind the eight ball and waiting to find out if he will be replaced by a young unproven QB. In Chicago it was Rex Grossman. Now it's Tim Tebow who's threatening his job.
Orton has always been pretty good, but he's never seemed to be "good enough" to cut the mustard, so to speak. 2011 may be his last chance to show that he can be the guy to take his team to the next level, even if his team isn't the Broncos anymore.
Wherever he lands though, he's definitely down to one more chance to prove himself worthy of being a starter in the NFL. If he doesn't want to become a career backup, he'd better play like a pro bowler in 2011.
7. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Buffalo Soldier in Distress
Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills had the best season of his career last season and actually helped the league's most maligned franchise look like a real football team for the second half of the season. Still, his career bests weren't exactly all-pro numbers.
He threw for 3,000 yards flat and only completed 57.8 percent of his passes for a pedestrian passer rating of 81.8, leading the team to a 4-12 record at season's end. He did have 23 TD passes, which is very respectable, but he also threw 15 picks.
With 2010 being the first time he ever really got a fair shake though, it's not going to be easy for the Bills to just dismiss him, especially since he's the best passer they've had since Doug Flutie and maybe even Jim Kelly.
The Bills didn't reach for a high profile QB in the 2011 draft either, so it appears that they're going to give Ryan a full season to show what he can really do. But he'd better make the most of it, because if they have another top five pick next season I'm guessing they'll use that one on his replacement.
6. Matthew Stafford Needs to Stay Healthy If He Wants to Stay a Lions' Staffer
Matthew Stafford is a big league guy with a big league arm who can make all the throws when he's on the field, but he can't make those throws form the bench while holding a clipboard. In the last two years, he's played a total of 13 games after being drafted first overall by the Detroit Lions in 2009.
He just can't stay healthy, and it's killing his team. The Lions have been awful for years, and Stafford was supposed to be the answer to the question, "how can we turn this thing around?" Instead, he's become the poster-child for "mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be football players.
With one of the league's best wide receivers on the field, he should be in there throwing up jump balls every Sunday and racking up TD passes at an alarming pace. In his three games last season, he threw six TDs to only one pick and had a passer rating of 91.3: But it was only three games.
If he can't stay healthy, he's just sitting there costing his team money instead of making them money by putting bodies in the seats. Last year, the team won their first road game since October 28th of 2007, tripled their wins from the previous two seasons combined, and started building a defensive front seven that is more than respectable.
Stafford better get back on the field fast, or he might miss out on the beautiful thing that the Lions are trying to put together over there. If he gets hurt again, and the team does well without him, that might be all she wrote in the motor city for Matthew Stafford.
5. Matt Hasselbeck's Last Stand with the Ball in Hand for Seattle Fans
Matt Hasselbeck is a former Pro Bowl QB and a Super Bowl runner up to the Steelers in Bill Cowher's only Super Bowl win.
The signal caller has been the starter in Seattle for the past ten seasons, but he's missed games due to injury in four of the last five years. In 2008, he only appeared in seven games and the team won only four games.
In fact, the Seahawks haven't had a winning record since 2007 when they went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Still, the Seahawks won the NFC West last season with a 7-9 record—the worst record ever by a division winner—and actually beat the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, a game in which Hasselbeck could seemingly do no wrong.
He completed 22 of his 35 passes for four TDs and only one pick in a 41-36 victory over the heavily favored Saints, and despite the Seahawks' recent struggles, Hasselbeck did lead the Seahawks to the playoffs for five straight years from 2003-2007 and made multiple Pro Bowls in that time.
For awhile, he was regarded as one of the league's best QBs, but those days are behind him. Now he's an injury prone QB in a division that just added Sam Bradford, QB of the St. Louis Rams. The rest of the teams in the NFC West are going to have to figure out a way to score points in bunches with this kid playing them twice a year, and that includes the Seahawks.
Hasselbeck is 35 years old—the oldest on this list—and is going into his 13th season. It may be his last no matter what happens this year, but if he wants to stick around, winning the division and staying healthy is a must in 2011.
Otherwise, it's been nice watching you play on Sundays. I'll look forward to hearing you talk about the guys still doing that if you can't hack it this season. Good luck.
4. Donovan McNabb: Nomad QB on a Mission
34 year old Donovan McNabb is probably the most accomplished player on this list. Eli has the ring, but McNabb has been to four consecutive NFC championship games, multiple Pro Bowls, and even a Super Bowl of his own.
He was the greatest QB to ever dawn a Philadelphia Eagles jersey, and he did his part to revolutionize the QB position.
However, with Michael Vick and upstart Kevin Kolb in Philly, there was no more room for the aging Donovan. He was shipped out to Washington for a homecoming of sorts in the town he used to call home, but it didn't quite go as planned.
McNabb had quite possibly the worst season of his NFL career. He threw for 15 interceptions to only 14 TDs, was sacked 37 times, lost more games than he won, and to top it all off he was actually benched for Rex Grossman of all players. That hasn't happened to anyone since it happened to Kyle Orton in Chicago, and for good reason.
The Redskins are clearly headed in a different direction this season, but that doesn't mean that it's over for this possible Hall of Fame QB.
It's rumored that the Arizona Cardinals are looking to bring him in to throw to Larry Fitzgerald, and there are even stronger rumors that the Minnesota Vikings are interested. The Vikings still have most of the players that went to the NFC Championship in 2009.
Either way though, D-Mac is going to get one more shot. He's going to go somewhere that he'll have a chance to succeed, but if he doesn't do that, then it will probably be the end of his storied career. It's time to put up or get out, and all of his chips are on the table.
3. Raider Nation Might Make QB Soup out of Jason Campbell
Jason Campbell is entering his sixth season as an NFL QB, but things just haven't worked out for the young man the way that many people thought that they would. He spent four seasons in Washington playing for the struggling Redskins before signing with the Raiders last off-season.
Despite being a prospect that everyone was waiting to pan out, he's only been in the playoffs once—in 2007 when the Redskins went 9-7—in his five seasons. That was also the only year that he's ever led a team to a winning record.
He's only played all 16 games twice in four years, and has never thrown for more than 20 TDs. Yet he's still been named the Raiders' starting QB going forward into the 2011 season. He beat out the Raiders other QB, Bruce Gradkowski for the job after he had lost the job to Bruce only weeks before.
Gradkowski got hurt, and the Raiders started winning games despite Campbell throwing for 2,387 yards and 13 TDs to eight interceptions and completing only 59 percent of his passes. Campbell really didn't do much with the ball as far as playing QB goes, but the team ended up going 8-8. For the first time since 2002, the Raiders won more than five games. That apparently won Jason Campbell the starting job.
This will be the first time in Jason's career that the offensive coordinator from the previous year (Hugh Jackson) is still on staff—this year he's the head coach. So for Campbell, it's a light at the end of the tunnel for now. He's going to get yet another shot at starting for an NFL franchise. As we all know though, when it comes to the Raiders, chances can be short lived.
This may be Campbell's last chance to show what—if anything—he can do on the NFL level as a starter. If he does well, he may not be a Raider for life, but he may just get to keep things going for one more year somewhere else.
2. Young Guns: Vince Young Has Tools, but Can He Get out of His Own Way?
It's time for the curious case of Vince Young, and what a curious case it is.
This guy was a national champion QB at Texas and almost won a Heisman trophy. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2006 with the third overall pick and has been there ever since, but his run in Tennessee is over in the 2011 season.
After losing his temper once again and getting into it with former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, he's no longer welcome in Tennessee. It wasn't the first time his mental state raised red flags and caused him to miss action either.
He was rumored to have had a mental breakdown in a previous season and threatened to end his own life. He missed significant time do to that scandal.
That's not the only thing that's enigmatic about this young player though. As a starter, Young has a win/loss record of 30-17, which is over .600 ball and very good. However if you look at the rest of his stats, they tell a very different story.
He's thrown for 8,098 yards, 42 TDs, 42 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 57.9 in his five year career with a QB rating of 75.7. There's nothing there to write home about. Also, he's never played more than 15 games in a season—he did that twice—and only started 15 once. His next highest total starts in a season was 13 followed by 10, eight, and one.
Young is far from consistent, and his one playoff start ended in a loss. Yet there is still a certain belief that Young will once again be starting somewhere this season, and there are more than a few teams in dire need of an experienced signal caller. Young is that, if nothing else.
The truth is, no one really knows what they'll be getting when they sign Vince Young. He could be the dedicated-to-winning fun-loving kid who just wants to win games, or he could be the more-trouble-than-he's-worth head case that all but forced his way out of Tennessee. Only time will tell which one he'll be, but if he goes back to unhappy land, his career will probably go with him.
1. Alex Smith Is STILL an NFL Starter? What Is the World Coming To?!?
With only one spot left on the list, we've come down to the biggest head scratcher of a one more chance guy in the entire NFL: Alex Smith.
He's had the same problem that Jason Campbell did with the offensive coordinator being a different guy every year and having to learn a new system, but Smith, in my opinion, has literally done nothing to warrant him still having a starting job in the NFL.
In his six years in the NFL, he's had only one season in which he started every game. His next closest was ten twice, seven twice, and once he missed an entire season. His career win loss record as a starter is 19-31. His career completion percentage is 57.1, he has a career QB rating of 72.1, and he's thrown only 51 TDs to 53 interceptions.
In six seasons—five really with him missing one whole season—he's put up Vince Young-like numbers with an Alex Smith record. It's nothing short of a miracle that he was still a starter last season, and then a new head coach comes in and signs him to another year to start for him.
I realize that Jim Harbaugh is supposed to be a QB teaching guru, and they say if anyone can help this guy it's him. Still, he's got his work cut out for him. If he can help Alex Smith become a successful starter then he could be the next Bill Walsh.
Regardless, Alex does get one more chance and he's going to try to make the most of it. He's in a less than ideal situation, but he should be used to that by now. The 49ers haven't even sniffed the playoffs since he's been there.
This would be one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history if Ale can salvage a productive career, but I'm not holding my breath. If this doesn't work out for Alex, I don't know if he'll even have a backup job that he can go to.
Who Will Be This Year's Jake Delhomme?
Some of them, however, did make it to 2011. Matt Hasselbeck was in this tight spot last year, and he saved his job for the time being, so it can be done.
Keep your eyes peeled for these guys in 2011. The landscape is changing in the NFL, and some of these faces might be part of that change.