Assessing the Dependability of Every NFL Starting QB

Scott Kacsmar@CaptainComebackContributor IAugust 29, 2012

Assessing the Dependability of Every NFL Starting QB

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    Iron Man. Mr. Glass. Clipboard Jesus.

    A NFL quarterback can gain a reputation based on how dependable he is each season. Some players can be counted on to start each week, while others are practically a lock for a few missed starts every season.

    Some will earn the dreaded “injury-prone” tag if that persists.

    Beyond injuries, you always have a group of teams trying to find a legit quarterback, which often means a player will be benched after an unsuccessful stint. They may regain the job again at some point, but they are not reliable starters.

    The following is a look at each team’s projected starting quarterback for Week 1 of the 2012 season.

    We will look at their origin story of how and when they became a starter in the NFL. Each quarterback has a number of missed starts in his career, broken down by type, and this is based only on games since he first became a starter.

    From there, a start percentage is given, which can be tricky for the players that have fluctuated from starter to backup. A summary of the missed starts will provide the context of their dependability.

    Finally, the concerns for what could go wrong in 2012 for that quarterback.

    A general rule of thumb: The longer the write-up for the quarterback, the more concerned you should be about their 16-game prospects.

The Five Rookies

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    A major theme to the 2012 season before it even begins is the number of young starting quarterbacks. Five rookies are set to start in Week 1, along with five more sophomore quarterbacks.

    Since they do not have any real NFL history yet, there is nothing to recap for these five rookies:

    * Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts): 31-7 as starter at Stanford
    * Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins): 22-18 as starter at Baylor
    * Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins): 12-7 as starter (QB) at Texas A&M
    * Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns): 23-3 as starter at Oklahoma State
    * Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks): 30-20 as starter at N.C. State/Wisconsin

    Tannehill is the least experienced, as he only switched from wide receiver to quarterback for his final 19 games at Texas A&M starting in 2010.

    If there is any past injury history to really note, it would be Griffin III missing much of the 2009 season due to a torn ACL, but he clearly has recovered fully from that injury.


    2012 Concerns

    The four first-round picks should have a long leash, but Wilson may need to play well early to hold off Matt Flynn in Seattle. If he does, it just makes for another Pete Carroll mystery in how he has handled the quarterback situation since 2010.

    Otherwise, these are just five NFL stories waiting to be told.

Arizona Cardinals: John Skelton/Kevin Kolb

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    As the last remaining open quarterback job, we will not be taking a look at the statistical start history for Arizona’s quarterbacks.

    Any day now this situation should be sorted out, but coach Ken Whisenhunt has yet to name his Week 1 starter, so we remain stuck looking at the John Skelton vs. Kevin Kolb competition.

    It has been an abysmal preseason for the Cardinals, but it is hard to see the team not going with Skelton, even if they did pay the turnover-prone Kolb all that money last year. Skelton gives them a better chance to win, though it is hard to imagine he can repeat last year’s close-game success.

    Skelton was inactive for the first 11 games as the No. 3 quarterback in 2010 but came off the bench for his first appearance against the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 5, 2010. Skelton started the final four games of the season.

    Arizona made the trade for Kolb last year, and he was supposed to be the franchise quarterback. He was also supposed to be that guy in Philadelphia but failed to even finish the first game of the 2010 season after suffering a head injury. Enter Michael Vick, and Kolb was history after the season.

    After a 1-6 start with Arizona, Kolb was out four games with a foot/toe injury. Skelton started in his place, but Kolb returned for the Week 13 win over Dallas.

    However, Kolb then missed the final three games of the season with a head injury.

    2012 Concerns

    Everything but Larry Fitzgerald is a concern with this offense. No matter which quarterback starts, the offensive line has been a mess, made even worse when left tackle Levi Brown was lost for the season with a torn triceps.

    Skelton looks more confident at throwing under pressure, but you can expect him to take some hits this season. Kolb has had a limited career but has struggled to stay healthy.

    Whatever happens, it won’t be pretty in Arizona this year. Fans will be ready to dump the two in the desert a la Joe Pesci and his brother in Casino. Hello, Matt Barkley.

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan

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    First start: Sept. 7, 2008

    Wanting to distance themselves from the Michael Vick era in a hurry, the Atlanta Falcons ushered in a new era when they took Boston College’s Matt Ryan with the No. 3 pick in the 2008 draft.

    He immediately became the starting quarterback and designated savior of the franchise. In four seasons, Ryan has led Atlanta to four winning records and three playoff appearances, which had never happened in franchise history.

    Total Starts Missed: 2 (two for injury)

    Start Percentage: 96.9 percent (62/64)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 35 games (active streak; 37 including playoffs)

    Missed Starts

    2009 (2): After suffering a turf toe injury and leaving the game against Tampa Bay, Ryan sat out the following two starts to heal. He returned for the last three games of the season and has not missed a start since.

    2012 Concerns

    Not much. Ryan has stayed relatively healthy in his career, as he usually gets rid of the ball quickly enough and avoids the big shots. He also is comfortable at throwing a pass away and rarely scrambles.

    With good command of his offense, Ryan is a safe bet for a full, productive 2012 season.

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco

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    First start: Sept. 7, 2008

    Forever linked to Matt Ryan, Flacco was another first-round pick (18th overall) in the 2008 draft and an immediate starter for his team. With a 44-20 record in four seasons, Flacco is primed for a personal breakout year after coming so close to reaching the Super Bowl in 2011.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (64/64)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 64 games (active streak; 73 including playoffs)

    Missed Starts

    None. Flacco joins Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks to start 64 games in their first four seasons (16-game season started in 1978 with strike-shortened years in 1982 and 1987).


    2012 Concerns

    Though Flacco can sometimes hold the ball too long and take unnecessary shots, including some blindside hits that the Pittsburgh Steelers specifically seem to have planned for him, he has been nothing but durable in his four seasons.

    A freak injury can happen to any player, but Flacco’s style of play does not put him at any elevated risk.

Buffalo Bills: Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    First start: Dec. 4, 2005

    This one is a unique story, and a difficult player to do a start percentage for.

    Fitzpatrick was a seventh-round pick out of Harvard by the St. Louis Rams in 2005. His NFL debut was an incredible 21-point comeback win off the bench over the Houston Texans.

    He started the following week, but it was a much different result. After three straight bad starts, Fitzpatrick was benched and again the backup. He would be the No. 3 quarterback, well behind intended starter Marc Bulger for the entire 2006 season.

    After being traded to Cincinnati in 2007, Fitzpatrick went from Carson Palmer’s backup to his injury replacement for 12 starts in 2008. Palmer made three starts before needing Fitzpatrick to go into the fourth game. Palmer returned for one more start, but it was his last appearance, enabling Fitzpatrick to start the final 11 games of the season.

    Moving to Buffalo in 2009, Trent Edwards was the starting quarterback, but Fitzpatrick would replace the injured Edwards for two starts. After another relief performance when Edwards returned, Fitzpatrick would make six more starts with Edwards benched for the final seven games.

    Buffalo still went with Edwards to start 2010 but quickly changed to Fitzpatrick in Week 3, and he energized the stagnant offense.

    Only in 2011 did Fitzpatrick actually enter a season as the starting quarterback and start all 16 games.

    Total Starts Missed: 4 (two for injury, two for being benched)

    Start Percentage: 92.9 percent (52/56)*

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 16 games (active streak)

    *While one can argue Fitzpatrick has started only 52 of a possible 112 games in his seven-year career (46.4 percent), the fact is he has been a designated backup for much of his career. Ideally, he never would have made any of these 52 starts if not for injuries or ineffectiveness to Marc Bulger, Carson Palmer and Trent Edwards.

    Missed Starts

    2005 (2): Fitzpatrick was benched for returning backup Jamie Martin against the Eagles. Martin started the final two games of the season.

    2009 (1): Trent Edwards started the first six games of the season. Fitzpatrick started Games 7-8 with Edwards returning for Game 9. He was injured and benched for the rest of the season. Fitzpatrick would get six starts but missed the Week 16 game in Atlanta with an ankle injury. He returned for the season finale against Indianapolis. Overall, Fitzpatrick missed one 2009 start after taking over as the intended starter.

    2010 (1): Trent Edwards started the first two games of the season, but after an ineffective offensive showing, Fitzpatrick was named the starter for Week 3. He started the next 13 games before missing the season finale after a right knee injury kept him out of practice all week.

    2012 Concerns

    Not that the recent trade for Tarvaris Jackson should put much pressure on Fitzpatrick, his concern is showing he can play well for a full season and is deserving of the contract worth $59 million that he received last year.

    In his brief starting career, Fitzpatrick has shown a tendency to start fast but fall apart in the second half of the season. Last year was a prime example.

    Fitzpatrick had Buffalo at 5-2, while throwing 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions (97.8 passer rating). The Bills finished 1-8 with Fitzpatrick throwing 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with a 66.5 passer rating.

    Though he has been very healthy throughout his career, Fitzpatrick has not proven he is capable of being a consistent starter, which is a dangerous thing for a player heading into season eight.

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton

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    First start: Sept. 11, 2011

    Hoping to give Carolina its first real franchise quarterback, the No. 1 pick in the draft came out firing with back-to-back 400-yard passing games to start his rookie season.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (16/16)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 16 games (active streak)

    Missed Starts

    None. Newton joined fellow rookie Andy Dalton as the seventh and eighth quarterbacks to start 16 games as rookies.

    2012 Concerns

    Though he is built with great size, Newton had 678 touches last season, which is 42.4 per start. That average would be the highest in NFL history, exceeding Daunte Culpepper’s mark of 39.4.

    Newton made it through his rookie year in one piece, but should Carolina keep using him as its goal-line running back, it is just asking for trouble. Signing Mike Tolbert from San Diego should help in that department.

    If not, the Panthers have two other running backs they are paying a lot of money to do the job.

Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler

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    First start: Dec. 3, 2006

    Even though Denver reached the AFC championship game in 2005 with Jake Plummer, passing up on Cutler was too risky, so the Broncos traded and used the No. 11 pick in the 2006 draft to get him.

    Sitting behind Plummer, Cutler finally made his first start in the 12th game after the Denver offense struggled all season. He started the last five games of his rookie season and appeared to be the new franchise quarterback in Denver.

    Except Mike Shanahan was fired after 2008, and new coach Josh McDaniels jettisoned Cutler to Chicago for Kyle Orton and draft picks.

    The Bears were one of the teams to have their 2011 season derailed after an injury to their starting quarterback. Cutler looks to return strong while reuniting with Brandon Marshall.

    Total Starts Missed: 7 (seven for injury)

    Start Percentage: 91.8 percent (78/85)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 57 games


    Missed Starts

    2010 (1): After being sacked nine times in the first half alone against the New York Giants, Cutler suffered a concussion and had to miss the Week 5 game at Carolina. He would return the following week and started the rest of the season.

    2011 (6): Leading Chicago to a 7-3 start, a seemingly innocent broken thumb suffered against San Diego would require surgery, and Cutler was forced to miss the rest of the season. Chicago finished just 8-8 and missed the playoffs in his absence.


    2012 Concerns

    Mike Martz is no longer the offensive coordinator in Chicago, so that is a positive for Cutler’s health this season. The offensive line may still not be up to high standards, but Cutler is mobile enough to protect himself from taking too much punishment.

    This should also be the most talented Chicago offense he has had in his career, so all signs point to a career year here.

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton

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    First start: Sept. 11, 2011

    In need of a quarterback after the Carson Palmer situation, the Bengals went with TCU’s Andy Dalton with the 35th pick in the 2011 draft. An experienced starter in college, Dalton stepped right into the starting role last season and led the Bengals to a 9-7 record and playoff appearance.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (16/16)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 16 games (active streak; 17 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    None. Dalton joined fellow rookie Cam Newton as the seventh and eighth quarterbacks to start 16 games as rookies.


    2012 Concerns

    After choosing to release or not re-sign skill players like Cedric Benson, Jerome Simpson and Jordan Shipley, there is uncertainty on where the running game will come from and who will emerge as Dalton’s targets beyond A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham.

    As you can expect the Bengals to maybe put more of the offense into Dalton’s hands in season two, his lack of options could lead him into harm’s way.

    He does have decent mobility to help himself under pressure.

Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo

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    First start: Oct. 29, 2006

    Since Tony Romo plays for Dallas and has such high expectations, it is often forgotten that he is one of the league’s all-time great success stories.

    Undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo sat for over three years, learning under the likes of Bill Parcells and Sean Payton.

    When Drew Bledsoe was not getting the job done in 2006, Romo replaced him during a Monday Night Football game. The Cowboys still lost, but Romo took over the job and made his first start on national TV against Carolina. The Cowboys won, and Romo has been the starter (when healthy) ever since.

    Total Starts Missed: 13 (13 for injury)

    Start Percentage: 85.6 percent (77/90)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 32 games (34 including playoffs)

    Missed Starts

    2008 (3): Romo fractured the pinkie finger on his throwing hand in an overtime loss to Arizona. He would miss three consecutive starts before returning to finish the rest of the season.

    2010 (10): Against the Giants, Romo took a hard hit after completing a pass and broke his left collarbone. He would miss the final 10 games of the season and was placed on injured reserve.

    2012 Concerns

    The Cowboys have suffered a large number of injuries, and the regular season is still a week away. Romo has been one of the healthy players, but his suspect offensive line and questionable availability of top targets (Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin) make for a nervous beginning to the year.

    Not to mention owner Jerry Jones is well off the deep end these days.

Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning

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    First start: Sept. 6, 1998

    The first overall pick in the 1998 draft, Manning immediately assumed the role as the Indianapolis Colts' starting quarterback and went on the most prolific 13-year run in NFL history at his position.

    Once known as the iron man that only missed one snap due to injury, an entire season out of action raises some questions about Manning that he’s never had to answer before. Not to mention the part about being in Denver.

    Total Starts Missed: 16 (16 for injury)

    Start Percentage: 92.9 percent (208/224)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 208 games (227 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    2011 (16): After four neck surgeries in the offseason, Manning missed the entire 2011 season, ending his NFL-record streak of 208 consecutive starts to begin a career. Now in Denver on a five-year contract, Manning hopes his 36-year-old body will be as durable as it once was.


    2012 Concerns

    Manning’s health is a big question mark entering the season. The neck is not so much the problem as the nerve regeneration’s impact on his ability to throw with an adequate amount of power.

    Knowing how to play smart and get rid of the ball, Manning rarely takes big shots and should not see a lot of contact this year. He also should not be dropping back as often in Denver’s offense as he was in recent years with Indianapolis.

    If Manning can make it through the early part of the season unscathed, he will likely make it the distance, but those early weeks will be a very cautious watch for fans.

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford

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    First start: Sept. 13, 2009

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Matthew Stafford hoped to end “The Curse of Bobby Layne” and bring franchise quarterback play back to Detroit.

    He started right away and, in a difficult task, had to open in the Superdome in New Orleans against a team that would go on to win the Super Bowl that year.

    Quickly earning the dreaded “injury prone” tag after missing more games than he played his first two seasons, Stafford returned with a vengeance in 2011, passing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdown passes as he led Detroit to 10-6 and the playoffs.

    Total Starts Missed: 19 (19 for injury)

    Start Percentage: 60.4 percent (29/48)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 16 games (active streak; 17 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    2009 (6): A knee injury kept Stafford out of two starts early in the season. After returning for six more starts, Stafford’s knee injury ended his season, missing the final four starts and being placed on injured reserve.

    2010 (13): After injuring his throwing shoulder in the season opener, Stafford returned for the seventh game of the season. But after just his third start of the season, he reinjured the shoulder and required extensive surgery to repair it, once again ending his season on injured reserve.


    2012 Concerns

    Now comes the validation season to show Stafford has shaken off the early injuries and is every bit the prolific quarterback he was last year, and there is even room for improvement.

    Stafford dropped back 721 times last season (45.1 per game), which is impressive for any quarterback to manage while avoiding any serious injuries.

    Still, a few more handoffs in 2012 would not hurt as Stafford improves his efficiency.

Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers

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    First start: Sept. 8, 2008

    By now everyone should know the story. Aaron Rodgers waited hours on draft day before Green Bay chose him with the 24th pick in 2005. Brett Favre hung around for three more years, and finally Rodgers had his turn in 2008 when Favre went to play for the New York Jets.

    Since then it has been four years of piling up points, yards, awards and records.

    Total Starts Missed: 2 (one for injury, one for playoff rest)

    Start Percentage: 96.9 percent (62/64)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 45 games (46 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    2010 (1): After suffering a concussion in Detroit, Rodgers missed the following week’s start in New England. Green Bay would lose that game, but Rodgers returned to lead the start of a 19-game winning streak.

    2011 (1): With a 14-1 record and top seed clinched, Rodgers took a seat in Week 17 against Detroit last season. Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in the process. Flynn probably thought it was a golden opportunity, and now he sits on the bench in Seattle.


    2012 Concerns

    The offensive line does not spark a lot of faith in its ability to protect Rodgers, but he is mobile enough to scramble out of trouble and make positive plays. He still sometimes takes too many sacks he shouldn’t, but it has been an area of improvement through experience.

    The passing game should be excellent again this season, and it makes it hard to blitz with all the receiving talent the Packers possess. Should be another full season with big numbers and MVP prospects, though not quite as big as 2011.

Houston Texans: Matt Schaub

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    First start: Dec. 26, 2004

    A third-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2004, Matt Schaub was never intended to be the starter. That was Michael Vick’s job. Schaub did have two starts for the Falcons, which were good enough to trade him to Houston to be the man in 2007.

    Since then Schaub has been borderline prolific but has also earned a reputation as being injury prone with only two complete seasons in the five years he has been with the Texans.

    Total Starts Missed: 16 (16 for injury)

    Start Percentage: 80.5 percent (66/82)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 46 games

    Missed Starts

    2007 (5): Schaub had to sit out the Oakland game with a concussion. He returned for three more starts but missed the final four games of the season due to a shoulder injury.

    2008 (5): Schaub missed the first meeting with the Colts due to an illness, which led to some NFL lore with backup Sage Rosenfels performing his infamous “Rosencopter” in Houston’s loss. A knee injury against Minnesota in Week 9 sidelined Schaub for four straight starts, but he returned to finish the season.

    2011 (6): The weight of Albert Haynesworth gave Schaub a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, ending his season after 10 games. He was unable to make his postseason debut, being placed on injured reserve.

    2012 Concerns

    Not that it really means anything, but Schaub, 31, has had a fantastic preseason. He appears fully healed from last year and ready to lead a team that should have little problem dominating the AFC South this season.

    However, Schaub is not a safe pick to finish every game this year. When you have career injuries to your knee, shoulder, foot and a concussion, then that is well within the range of “injury prone.”

    Don’t be surprised to see T.J. Yates, who filled in admirably as a rookie last year, make another appearance for Houston.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert

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    First start: Sept. 25, 2011

    Once thought to be a prospect for the top pick in the draft, Gabbert went to Jacksonville 10th overall and was not immediately given the starting job.

    After watching Luke McCown start the first two games, Gabbert entered in Week 2 against the New York Jets in a 32-3 loss. He was named the starter three days later, and like that, the Gabbert era began in Jacksonville.

    How long will it last? Good question.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (14/14)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 14 games (active streak)


    Missed Starts

    None. After being named starter, Gabbert started the team’s final 14 games to end the season.


    2012 Concerns

    Distancing himself from the newly acquired Chad Henne this preseason, Gabbert should have good job security this season as he tries to improve on a difficult rookie campaign.

    He will have better receivers to throw to this time with rookie Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson from Dallas, but this is an offense built around Maurice Jones-Drew, who is still holding out.

    The team could replace Jones-Drew easier than you might think, but Gabbert’s development is the No. 1 goal for Jacksonville this year.

Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Cassel

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    First start: Sept. 14, 2008

    After not starting or playing a significant amount of football since high school, Matt Cassel made a name for himself when he stepped in for the injured Tom Brady to lead New England to an 11-5 record and productive offense in 2008.

    Before that fateful day, Cassel had spent the previous three seasons as Brady’s backup and never started a game in college at USC. He started the final 15 games for the Patriots and was traded in the offseason to Kansas City to be their starter.

    So far it has been two bad seasons and one good one in 2010, but healthy returns of key players give Cassel no excuses not to play better this season.

    Total Starts Missed: 9 (nine for injury)

    Start Percentage: 85.7 percent (54/63)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 27 games


    Missed Starts

    2009 (1): Missed the season opener after suffering an MCL injury in the preseason. Did return to start the final 15 games of the season, finishing 4-11 with a 69.9 passer rating.

    2010 (1): An emergency appendectomy forced Cassel to miss the San Diego game, which was a 31-0 loss in his absence. He returned to finish the rest of the season.

    2011 (7): An injury to Cassel’s throwing hand led to surgery and missing the final seven games of the season. He was placed on injured reserve.


    2012 Concerns

    Without much there (read: Brady Quinn) in Kansas City to push Cassel, his job is likely safe this season. But if he does not show improvement, then that would be three down years out of four.

    Time to start thinking about the next quarterback. The Chiefs have an otherwise solid talent core on offense.

Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder

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    First start: Oct. 23, 2011

    After sitting behind Donovan McNabb for five games, Ponder entered the game in Chicago on Sunday Night Football and looked impressive, albeit with the score well out of reach.

    Just like that, he had the starting job and made his first start against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. It was far from perfect, but Ponder showed some good plays and kept his job for the remainder of the season.

    Ponder is in a similar situation to Blaine Gabbert—sophomore quarterbacks that had a tough rookie year and are trying to show they belong in 2012.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (10/10)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 10 games (active streak)


    Missed Starts

    None. Started all 10 of his team’s games to end the season after earning the starting job.


    2012 Concerns

    Ponder is a good athlete, so he will not be afraid to scramble when he can. Minnesota likes to run the ball, though Adrian Peterson is a little bit of a question mark this season as he returns from the ACL injury.

    Ponder will be expected to take on much more of the offense this year, and his success is directly tied to coach Leslie Frazier’s job security. The leash is long right now, but the Vikings need to show improvement soon.

    The cost of replacing the 12th overall pick in the draft is not much these days.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady

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    First start: Sept. 30, 2001

    After sitting behind Drew Bledsoe as a sixth-round rookie in 2000, Tom Brady became the starting quarterback in the third game of the 2001 season after Bledsoe was injured by Mo Lewis.

    Brady never relinquished the job, even though some still wondered if Bledsoe would start Super Bowl XXXVI after Brady’s injury in the 2001 AFC championship game.

    Brady started and led New England to the first of three Super Bowl wins in four years. Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo in 2002, and it has been Brady’s team ever since.

    Total Starts Missed: 15 (15 for injury)

    Start Percentage: 91.4 percent (159/174)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 111 games (128 including playoffs)

    Missed Starts

    2008 (15): In the first quarter of the season opener against Kansas City, Brady tore his ACL and MCL on a hit by Bernard Pollard. He was placed on injured reserve, ending his consecutive start streak of 111 games, and it is the only time Brady has missed any action since becoming the starter in New England.

    2012 Concerns

    Should the offensive line not be up to par with recent years, Brady may find himself rushed and hit more this season than in the past. Not ideal for a 35-year-old quarterback in need of some solid protection.

    The offense should still be elite with the two tight ends (primary ones that is), Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, but it starts with the line keeping Brady in that statue-like pose in the pocket.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees

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    First start: Sept. 8, 2002

    After appearing in only one game off the bench as a rookie, Drew Brees became San Diego’s starting quarterback in 2002. He went through a difficult benching the following year, and the team made the draft-day trade for Philip Rivers in 2004.

    That ignited Brees to start playing at the level we are used to today, and in 2006 he was traded to New Orleans, where he has rewritten much of the NFL record books for quarterbacks.

    Total Starts Missed: 7 (five as a benching, two for playoff rest)

    Start Percentage: 95.6 percent (153/160)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 79 games (82 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    2003 (5): After subpar play from Brees and a 1-7 start, coach Marty Schottenheimer benched him for Doug Flutie for five games. Brees returned to start the final three games of the season.

    2004 (1): Locked into their playoff spot, the Chargers rested key starters in Week 17, including Brees.

    2009 (1): Having already clinched the NFC’s top seed, Sean Payton rested starters, including Brees, in Week 17.


    2012 Concerns

    Brees has never missed a start due to injury. Had it not been for the two playoff rest games, he would be on a consecutive starts streak of 131 games (140 including playoffs), which would have been good for third all-time.

    Brees did suffer that shoulder injury at the end of 2005, which caused Miami to pass on him, but it did not impact his playing time.

    He drops back a lot but rarely ever gets sacked. He plays smart, and the Saints will be putting more trust than ever in Brees this season as they deal with the fallout of suspensions.

New York Giants: Eli Manning

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    First start: Nov. 21, 2004

    The No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, Eli Manning started the season watching Kurt Warner be the starter. It became Manning’s job in Week 11 against Atlanta.

    Since then, he has started 119 consecutive games and may even have a chance of beating brother Peyton’s mark of 208.

    Something about those good Manning genes.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (119/119)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 119 games (active streak; 130 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    None. Ever since becoming the starter in 2004, Manning has never missed a start.


    2012 Concerns

    None, really. Manning never misses games, and he just does not get hurt. He has taken his share of hits over the years, but nothing significant. If he was going to get hurt, it would have been behind last year’s offensive line, but even that did not happen.

    Keep riding the streak until it ends.

New York Jets: Mark Sanchez

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    First start: Sept. 13, 2009

    After pulling off the big trade to get Mark Sanchez with the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft, it was obvious Rex Ryan’s team would start him right away. It did.

    Now the question is how much longer he will be the Jets starter. Extension be damned, heads are going to roll if the Jets struggle offensively in the real games the way they have in the preseason.

    Total Starts Missed: 1 (one for injury)

    Start Percentage: 97.9 percent (47/48)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 35 games (41 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    2009 (1): After a sprained right knee on a scramble, Sanchez sat out the game against Tampa Bay in Week 14. He returned the next game to finish the season.


    2012 Concerns

    Sanchez’s durability has been fine in his career. The concerns rest with just about every aspect of the Jets offense. There is also a problem with the popularity of the backup quarterback.

    All it will take is one game where a struggling Sanchez is replaced by Tim Tebow, who does his “rabbit-out-of-the-hat” comeback trick, and that will be it for Sanchez in New York.

    Just wait for the circus to start spinning.

Oakland Raiders: Carson Palmer

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    First start: Sept. 12, 2004

    The No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, Carson Palmer spent his entire rookie season holding a clipboard as Jon Kitna had a career year. Palmer took over for the following season and played seven seasons in Cincinnati before being traded to Oakland during the 2011 season.

    Palmer’s dependability really took a hit on a fateful day in the 2005 playoffs when he tore his ACL after one pass. He was never the same quarterback after that.

    After 2010 Palmer wanted to be traded from the Bengals and threatened to retire if the team did not move him. The Bengals never budged, drafted Andy Dalton and Palmer was ready to live up to his word of retirement.

    With Oakland needing a quarterback, a trade was made in October to send Palmer there. Had Jason Campbell never been injured last year, Palmer might still be retired.

    Total Starts Missed: 15 (15 for injury)

    Start Percentage: 87.6 percent (106/121)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 51 games (52 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    2004 (3): Palmer suffered a knee ligament strain in New England and missed the final three games of the season.

    2008 (12): An elbow injury cost Palmer 12 starts in 2008. He rested one week and returned but would miss the final 11 games of the season.


    2012 Concerns

    Palmer’s turnovers are a concern, as is the fact he has not played that well since stretches of the 2009 season.

    The Raiders have some nice pieces on offense and could have the top big-play running back if Darren McFadden actually can stay healthy. There is enough here for Palmer to work with for a division title, but he must cut back on the bad plays he has been full of the last two seasons.

Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick

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    First start: Nov. 11, 2001

    While not trying to write a book, let’s just say talking about dependability and an injury history for Michael Vick is no short task.

    He was Atlanta’s No. 1 overall pick, but he made only two starts in eight games his rookie season in 2001. He was at his best in Atlanta in 2002 and then suffered that preseason injury in 2003.

    In the 2007 offseason, the dog fighting controversy broke, and Vick was out of the league until being reinstated in Week 3 of 2009 with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was a backup again and only became the starter in 2010 after an injury to Kevin Kolb.

    Now with yet another huge contract signed last year, Vick has already been injured twice in the preseason. Looks like a sign of what’s to come (again).

    Total Starts Missed: 22 (21 for injury, one for playoff rest)

    Start Percentage: 80.4 percent (90/112)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 27 games


    Missed Starts

    2002 (1): Missed Week 6 game at the Giants with an injury. Returned the following week to finish the rest of the season.

    2003 (12): Vick suffered a fractured right fibula in the preseason. He missed the first 12 starts of the season. Vick made his debut off the bench against Houston before starting the final four games of the season.

    2004 (1): With an “aching” shoulder, Vick sat out the Week 16 game in New Orleans, giving backup Matt Schaub the first start of his career.

    2005 (1): Vick missed the game against New England with a strained ligament in his right knee, which may be the reason Matt Schaub is in Houston today, as he played very well that day in a loss.

    2010 (4): Vick became the starter in Week 2 after replacing an injured Kevin Kolb against Green Bay in the opener. Vick missed three games before the bye week because of a rib injury. He rested for the playoffs in the Week 17 finale against Dallas.

    2011 (3): Missed games 10-12 last season with a rib injury suffered against Arizona. Vick also had to leave games early in the season against Atlanta and the Giants.


    2012 Concerns

    It’s Michael Vick, so the concerns are obvious. All these years of playing football, and he still does not understand how to avoid unnecessary contact. Slide and play another down. Get rid of the ball instead of trying to make a huge play every single time.

    If he was built like a Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger, then it would be different, but he’s not. He is small, and he ends up with a lot of injuries that hurt his performance.

    We will see Nick Foles at some point this year. How permanent that will be is up to how Vick responds from last season’s disappointment and if Foles is actually as good as advertised.

    Vick is a well-known commodity, and a fragile, defective, overpriced one at that.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger

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    First start: Sept. 26, 2004

    The No. 11 overall pick in the 2004 draft, Ben Roethlisberger was not expected to start right away. After a Charlie Batch injury moved him to the backup spot, Roethlisberger entered his first NFL game in Week 2 at Baltimore for an injured Tommy Maddox in the second half.

    He would get the start the following week in Miami in hurricane-like conditions. After setting an NFL record with 13 consecutive wins to start his career, Pittsburgh had finally found its franchise successor to Terry Bradshaw.

    Total Starts Missed: 13 (seven for injury, four for suspension, two for playoff rest)

    Start Percentage: 89.7 percent (113/126)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 30 games

    Missed Starts

    2004 (1): After a 13-0 start as a rookie, Roethlisberger sat out the Week 17 game in Buffalo with the AFC’s No. 1 seed locked up. Though he did leave the Week 16 contest against Baltimore with an injury in the second half, it was not serious, and the Steelers were resting multiple starters in Buffalo.

    2005 (4): Roethlisberger injured his knee during the game-winning drive in San Diego in Week 6, causing him to miss the Jacksonville game the following week. In his second game back, Roethlisberger suffered a torn meniscus that required arthroscopic surgery. He missed the next three starts before returning to lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl title.

    2006 (1): The infamous offseason motorcycle accident did not cause Roethlisberger to miss any playing time, but an emergency appendectomy just before the season did take him out for Week 1. After a difficult start to the season, Roethlisberger suffered a concussion in Week 7 at Atlanta, causing him to miss the second half. However, he started the final 15 games of the season.

    2007 (1): Locked into their playoff seed, the Steelers rested multiple starters in Week 17 at Baltimore, including Roethlisberger. It ended his career-long streak of 30 consecutive starts.

    2009 (1): After suffering a concussion (fourth of his NFL career) in Kansas City, Roethlisberger left that game. He appeared ready to start in Baltimore the following week, but it was decided late that he would sit out, and Dennis Dixon got the start instead.

    2010 (4): In an offseason that featured a second allegation of sexual assault by Roethlisberger, Roger Goodell suspended him for six games to start the 2010 season as a violation of the player conduct policy. After the suspension was moved down to four games, Roethlisberger served it in the first four weeks of the season before returning to the team for its Week 5 bye week.

    2011 (1): After a high-ankle sprain in Week 14 against Cleveland, Roethlisberger limped his way to the finish of the game. He played against the 49ers the following Monday night but was ineffective. With the St. Louis Rams coming to town, the Steelers decided to let Roethlisberger rest his ankle and started Charlie Batch in Week 16. Roethlisberger returned the following week for the season finale in Cleveland.

    For more detail on Roethlisberger’s history of playing through and after injury, see here.

    2012 Concerns

    Roethlisberger appears destined to play behind a bad offensive line, as the latest injury news on rookie guard David DeCastro does not sound promising for 2012.

    Essentially never able to play a full 16-game season and already talking about a partially torn rotator cuff, look for Roethlisberger to miss a game or two this season (just like almost any season). At least he has done a good job of avoiding the significant injuries.

    In fact, with 314 sacks and countless other shots, it might be a miracle Roethlisberger has only missed enough starts due to injury to match his jersey number.

San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers

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    First start: Sept. 11, 2006

    A holdout late into the preseason helped Drew Brees secure the starting quarterback job in 2004. Brees played so well he kept Rivers on the bench for two seasons.

    Rivers finally took over in 2006 and has been the guy in San Diego ever since. He is in need of a bounce-back year, however.

    Total Starts Missed: 0

    Start Percentage: 100 percent (96/96)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 96 games (active streak; 103 including playoffs)


    Missed Starts

    None. Rivers has never missed a start since taking over in 2006 and currently ranks seventh all-time in consecutive starts (96). He did tear his ACL in the 2007 playoffs but never missed a start because of it.


    2012 Concerns

    Clearly there is no job security issue here, but Rivers must get back to the level he was at a few years ago. The last two seasons he has piled up a lot of yardage, but not enough wins to make the playoffs. There have been too many hollow stats for the Chargers that look good on paper but do not translate into wins.

    His durability has been excellent, though reports last season often suggested he was playing through an injury. Nothing was ever conclusively discovered, and calling a spade a spade, Rivers was just well below his standard in 2011.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith

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    First start: Oct. 9, 2005

    The top pick in the 2005 draft, Smith did not start right away. He would step into a tough spot for his first start: Week 5 against an undefeated Indianapolis Colts team.

    Smith’s progression was slow; he was often injured, criticized for having “small hands” for a quarterback and long considered a bust.

    But things finally clicked in 2011 in Jim Harbaugh’s rookie campaign as head coach. Smith was a drive away from taking the 49ers back to the Super Bowl.

    Will the success continue? That is one of the great mysteries for the 2012 season.

    Total Starts Missed: 20 (19 for injury, one for a benching)

    Start Percentage: 76.7 percent (66/86)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 25 games


    Missed Starts

    2005 (5): After suffering a knee injury in his second start, Smith missed five starts before returning to finish the season as the starter.

    2007 (9): Smith separated his shoulder on a sack on the first series of the team’s Week 4 game against Seattle. He would miss the next two games. After returning, Smith would miss the final nine games as he had surgery to repair ligament damage on his shoulder, and he was placed on injured reserve.

    Note: Smith missed the entire 2008 season after injuring his shoulder three days before the opener. Technically he was the backup to starter J.T. O’Sullivan at the time, so these 16 games were not counted.

    2010 (6): After suffering another shoulder injury against Carolina, Smith missed the next five games before returning. However, after two starts, Mike Singletary again went back to Troy Smith for the Week 16 game at St. Louis. Singletary was fired, and Alex Smith started the season finale. It is unclear how many of the first five games missed belong under “benching” or “injury.”


    2012 Concerns

    There is a lot to be concerned about with the 49ers this year, as they did many great things last season that rarely repeat themselves the following year (mastery of turnover differential and a lot of close wins, and all with an unproven track record).

    Late-blooming quarterbacks are rare, and 2011 was an absurd season when it came to offense. Alex Smith should definitely throw more interceptions this year than he did last season, and whether or not he can make the same game-winning plays again remains to be seen.

    Staying healthy is a big risk too. A lot of work has been done on that shoulder over the years.

St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford

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    First start: Sept. 12, 2010

    Yet another No. 1 overall pick, Sam Bradford is the last of the lucky ones that cashed in on a monster contract by being the first player taken in the draft.

    You better believe they had to start him immediately, and Bradford went the distance with 16 starts as a rookie. He won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, though his success was overblown.

    His sophomore slump really began late in his rookie year, and the Rams were atrocious on offense last season. Now with Jeff Fisher in town, they have to try to turn around this horrific five-year stretch that has produced a 15-65 record.

    Total Starts Missed: 6 (six for injury)

    Start Percentage: 81.3 percent (26/32)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 21 games


    Missed Starts

    2011 (6): An ankle injury kept Bradford out of a total of six games. First it was Games 6-7 of the season, and then he was shut down for four of the last five.


    2012 Concerns

    Production is the first thing Bradford needs to work on increasing, as the offense has just been historically unproductive in St. Louis. He is the top pick with a ton of money invested, so they will be patient, but they cannot wait forever.

    Whispers about Bradford’s durability go back to his college days at Oklahoma. He held up well his rookie year behind a subpar line while dropping back 651 times.

    But last year, he was not so lucky. This year, well, two words sum it up.

    Wayne Hunter.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman

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    First start: Nov. 8, 2009

    After sitting on the bench for six games in 2009, Josh Freeman saw his first action over in London against the Patriots.

    Given a bye week, he made his first start against the Packers and led an 11-point comeback win. He would also pick up a comeback win over New Orleans later that season.

    In 2010, Freeman led five fourth-quarter comeback wins, which he quickly gained some attention for in a great 10-6 season for the young quarterback.

    But which Freeman is the real one: that 2010 comeback kid, or the 2011 turnover machine that is riding a nine-game losing streak into this year?

    Total Starts Missed: 1 (one for injury)

    Start Percentage: 97.6 percent (40/41)

    Longest Consecutive Starts Streak: 36 games


    Missed Starts

    2011 (1): Due to a right shoulder injury, Freeman missed the Carolina game in Week 13 last season. He returned to finish the season.


    2012 Concerns

    Under new coach Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay has made some interesting upgrades with wide receiver Vincent Jackson, rookie running back Doug Martin and guard Carl Nicks.

    Freeman is a good candidate for a bounce-back season after having 27 turnovers in 15 games last season. He may not ever get back to what he did in 2010, but he has to be better than 2011.

Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker

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    Jake Locker has yet to actually start a real game in the NFL, so he almost could have been included with the five rookies in the beginning.

    Locker played in five games last season, but Matt Hasselbeck started all 16 games for Mike Munchak's first year as coach.

    Now it is Locker's turn, and he is an interesting prospect because of his mobility and playmaking ability. Do not expect a high completion percentage, but he should find a way to get some big plays, especially if bonehead Kenny Britt can stay on the field for a few games.

    That will conclude the look at starting quarterback dependability.

    Scott Kacsmar is a football writer and researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to, including the only standardized database of fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive and can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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