SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 18: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium on August 18, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The NFL season finally gets underway tonight and I couldn't be more excited. In part because I love football but mostly it's because now when I'm at home the same time as my wife I have a built in excuse for why I can't spend quality time doing something together, which really means doing something she wants to do. Don't get me wrong, I love my wife. I just find it easier to love her when we're not around each other so much.
But you didn't come here to hear about my personal life, you came here to read about football and no position in football is more important than the QB position, despite what Mike Singletary believes. So I thought I'd go through and briefly look at how each team is set at that position. Today I'll go over the AFC teams and in my next post I'll look at the NFC teams.
After a 1-4 start under Kyle Orton last season the Broncos turned to Tim (why didn't you put 2 Kings 2:23-24 on your cheeks) Tebow and he immediately led them on an improbable run to the playoffs including a win against the Steelers. But John Elway didn't like Tebow so he must have felt like he won the lottery when Manning chose the Broncos. Tebow was dealt to Satan (am I being to mean to Satan) and now the Broncos are riding squarely on the shoulders of Manning and his surgically fixed neck. It's hard to say how he will play after such a major surgery and a year out of football but he looked pretty good against the 49ers in week 3. As long as Manning stays healthy and is able to perform at even 80% of his former ability the Broncos should be favored in the AFC West. However, if Manning suffers another injury the Broncos will have to turn to Caleb Hanie and his career 41.6 QB rating. As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get Caleb Hanie." I might have misquoted but you get the idea.
Philip Rivers is like a good looking girl who's really, really, boring. You're excited she said "yes" when you asked her out but by the 3rd date you're wondering why you wanted to go out with her in the first place. Rivers looks and plays like a top tier QB when the Chargers are soundly beating their opponents but if the game is on the line you just know he'll figure out a way to lose it. He even figures out ways to lose games they've already won. Behind Rivers is the savior of Seattle, Whitehurst. If Rivers is a boring supermodel, Whitehurst is something you bought on the HSN and immediately wanted to return once you took it out of the box. Throw in Norv Turner as the head coach and it's no wonder the Chargers are the perennial underperformers of the NFL. I look for the Chargers offense to do what they've done the past couple of years, put up huge numbers and miss the playoffs.
The Chiefs were hit so hard by injuries last season they were reduced to starting Tyler Palko at QB. If you just said, "Who?" after reading that, you're not alone. When the Chiefs originally signed Cassel away from the Patriots they were hoping he'd be the second coming of Tom Brady, or at least Drew Bledsoe. But he's failed so miserably to live up to those expectations that at this point they'd be happy if he was just the second coming of Alex Smith. Behind Cassel is Quinn who's one of those players that when you see him step onto the field you say to yourself, "Oh, is he playing with them now?" Fortunately for the Chiefs they have a great running game, the AFC West is wide open, and let's be honest, anyone's better than Palko who now works for Payless Shoes in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Sometimes the truth is way better than anything I could come up with.
The Raiders gave up a first round pick, a second round pick, and Al Davis's entire box set of "Tales From the Crypt" to get Palmer last year and watched as he played like someone who sat out half the season. Now Palmer's back for the entire season and ready to prove the Raiders didn't give up too much to get him, or at least that he was worth the box set. If Palmer struggles or is injured the Raiders can feel good knowing they have another overhyped QB ready to take his spot with Leinart, and an long term development project with Pryor. As is the case with each of the AFC West teams, they play in the AFC West and therefore have a shot winning it. Palmer spent many long seasons in Cincinnati learning what it felt like to lose, now he finally has a chance to learn what it feels like to lose but in a different city.
The Colts used both the first pick and the last pick in the recent draft to take quarterbacks and no rookie quarterback has entered the league with more hype and greater expectations than Luck since (drum roll) Peyton Manning. As you'd expect from a rookie playing for the first time in the NFL, Luck hasn't always looked great, but he has made some jaw dropping plays and looks like he could be what the Colts were hoping for. The Colts even signed Dennis Green to a one day job where he gave a press conference ranting, "He is what we thought he was!" Ok, they didn't actually do that but it would have been funny if they did. The Colts also added a quality backup when they traded for Stanton from the Jets, and even Harnish has shown some ability. In one year the Colts have gone from having no quality quarterbacks to having three. Thankfully the Seahawks and Cardinals still haven't figured out a way to do the same thing. Don't be surprised if the Colts are this season's version of last year's Bengals, except with better looking uniforms.
Gabbert looked downright horrible last year. He seemed scared and unsure what to do with the ball, although having 300 pound men trying to through you to the turf could make almost anyone a little nervous. The last rookie QB I saw play that poorly was...well I won't say his name I'll just say it rhymed with palix pmith and he played for the porty piners. Yet he's looked like a changed man this preseason. The addition of rookie WR Justin Blackmon has certainly helped, but perhaps what's helped even more has been new head coach Mike Mularkey. I imagine Maurice Jones-Drew will be used a lot like Michael Turner in Atlanta and that should take some of the pressure of Gabbert, as well as him finally learning what the words "check down" mean. Henne provides a quality backup and the Jaguars might finally have turned the corner. Of course that's what people were saying about palix pmith in 2006 and we all saw what happened in the years that followed.
Schaub is one of those second tier quarterbacks who looks like he might move up to elite status if he can lead his team to a Super Bowl victory or might be on the verge of becoming the next Tony Romo or Philip Rivers. Last year Schaub was trying to do just that when he went down with a season ending injury. T.J. Yates proved to be a reliable backup helping the Texans to their first ever playoff appearance and even led them to a playoff victory. After Yates the Texans have Beck who, ummm, well, he's played for a lot of different teams. The Texans have to feel good about their QB situation and are looking for big things this year, but there have to be some questions on if Schaub is more Matt Ryan than he is Manning.
The Titans decided to name Locker the starter over veteran Hasselbeck mainly because they said Locker has more upside. In other news you can go from SF to NY faster in an airplane than you can in a car and dads are better at basketball than their 6-year old sons. If only the Titans brain trust had realized that last year when they let Hasselbeck start after coming back from an injury even though Locker had played well in his absence and the Titans lost to the Colts, missing the playoffs by one game. Even if Locker struggles early in the season they've said they're committed to him as the starter. But that doesn't mean this will be the end of Hasselbeck as a starter. After all, the Cardinals are still in the QB market.
Things were looking bleak for the Bengals before the start of last season. Carson Palmer was demanding a trade and refusing to play, Chad Johnson Ochocinco Johnson had gone over to the Patriots, and Terrell Owens had left to play for the Happy, Texas Armadillo Herders of the Super de Duper Arena kinda Football league. They had drafted WR AJ Green in the first round and Dalton at the beginning of the 2nd but were concerned about throwing Dalton out there from game one. Oh what a difference a year makes. Now Dalton and Green have turned the Bengals from laughingstocks to playoff contenders, Palmer is busy losing in Oakland, Johnson Ochocinco Johnson isn't playing for anyone, and TO is still trying to make it onto the Armadillo Herders. For the first time in a decade there's actually reason for optimism in Cincinnati.
It must be weird to be a rookie yet still older than half your teammates as well as half the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. After a failed baseball career Weeden went back to college, was drafted in the first round, and now will be the Browns starter at the age of 28. Hey, if he could lead a team to a mediocre record in college surely he can return the Browns back to mediocrity. McCoy, who went 6-15 as a starter over the last two seasons for the Browns, will now be the backup. The rumor was the Browns were trying to trade McCoy and keep Seneca Wallace but ended up cutting Wallace when they couldn't find a trade partner. Strange how no one wanted to trade for a player with a 6-15 record. It will be interesting to see if Weeden can actually get the Browns turned around or if he's merely Chris Weinke 2.0.
The Ravens cut Curtis Painter meaning it will be up to Taylor if something happens to Joe Flacco. Then again, if you have to rely on Curtis Painter to lead you to victory you're already screwed so are they really that much worse off? Flacco is somewhat of an enigma. His numbers aren't eye popping, and he even regressed a little last year, but they're always solid. He also wins a lot. He wins in the regular season where he has 44 wins in his first 4 seasons, the most ever by a QB in their first 4 seasons. He wins more than he loses in the playoffs where he's 5-4 with two trips to the AFC Championship game. But as I said before his numbers aren't eye popping. If Philip Rivers is the boring supermodel, Flacco is the plain girl who's actually interesting to talk to. Is Flacco's success mostly because of the Ravens defense? Maybe, but he also seems to do what's needed to win when needed. Hey, that reminds me of that other QB I mentioned earlier who's name rhymes with palix pmith.
The AFC North is an odd place when it comes to quarterbacks. Weeden needs to prove he was worth a first round pick, Flacco and Dalton want to prove they're more than just quality starters, and Roethlisberger, well he wants to be remembered for more than trapping drunk and scared college girls in bathrooms. He wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. After all, he does have 2 Super Bowl rings, but he seems more like Eli Manning than Peyton Manning. In a way he reminds me of Lennie from "Of Mice and Men" if you've read the book, or if like me you cheated and watched the movie. I just keep expecting to find a dead mouse in his hands. As long as Roethlisberger is healthy the Steelers will be contenders to win it all and even if he does miss a few game Leftwich and Batch provide experienced backups. Roethlisberger may want to be considered elite but somehow the Steelers seem to do best when their QB is a step below. Just look what they did under Bradshaw.
Fitzpatrick led the Bills to a great 5-2 start last season, was rewarded with a nice 6 year $59 million contract, and then proceeded to fall apart throwing 16 interceptions, as opposed to only 7 in the first 6 games, while his passer rating went from 93.1 in the first 6 weeks to 71.3 over the rest on way to winning only one more game and finishing with a 6-10 record. Thigpen and Jackson have game experience and should push him if he struggles while some of their additions to the team, especially on defense, should solve some of their other problems. But the key is Fitzpatrick. He's proven he can play well, but if he doesn't clean up his mistakes it won't matter how much the Bills invest on defense, kind of like having really expensive rims and no car to put them on.
With David Garrard dealing with an injury and last year's starter Moore struggling in the preseason, Tannehill will be named the starter for week 1, something even Marino didn't do. It's not unheard of for highly drafted rookies to be named the starters from the beginning and both Dalton and Cam Newton showed how much they can impact their teams for the good. The problem is Tannehill has no one to throw the ball to. They also don't have a punishing running back like Jones-Drew to rely on and take away some of the pressure. Things might get ugly before they get good in Miami. The last time a rookie QB was asked to start without any go to WR and no established RB it was a mess. You might remember the player. He's the same guy I keep mentioning who's name rhymed with...well you know who I'm talking about.
This is a make or break year for Sanchez. He's been coddled and treated with kid gloves. He's been the savior of the Jets from the beginning and even took them to back-to-back AFC Championship games just 2 years ago. But Sanchez is more hype the reality. To use the girl analogy one more time he's a strobe light honey. He looks good in the club all done up with the lights dimmed low but when you wake up in the morning you run to the bathroom to throw up and not because you had too much to drink. Tebow is the anti-Sanchez. He's humble, hard working, seems to win on sheer force of will, and looks horrible doing it. The best thing the Jets can do for Sanchez is to put on some makeup and dim the lights, in other words get back to running the ball well and playing sound fundamental defense. Otherwise Tebow time might begin sooner than Sanchez would like.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, ??????
I think they have another QB or two on the team I'm just not sure who they are. Sooooo...yah. The Patriots have Brady at QB and that seems to work pretty well for them.