14 Sep State of the Franchise Quarterback
Ambiguity is a daily rap when it comes to discussing the quarterback in the NFL. One pundit will claim the QB cupboard is stocked. That it’s capable of feeding the league’s necessity for stars at the position, while another will claim that there is a shortage of arms, and the NFL is suffering as a result.
I fall in the former crowd. The fact of the matter is, aside from the top 10-11 quarterbacks, there are another 10-11 that are essentially interchangeable. Not to say that they are equal, but circumstances such as coaching, surrounding cast and sometimes, sheer luck, play a bigger factor than anything any of those triggermen can control.
A lot will be made of touchdown-to-interception ratio, or passing yards – a variety of volume stats that say very little about the quarterback’s ability to execute the offense on a down-by-down basis. Does Eli Manning offer the same running threat as Marcus Mariota? Is Kirk Cousins capable of driving the ball to the boundary in the same way Matt Stafford can?
Of course not. But the responsibility of the coaching staff is to devise a plan that makes these players successful. They all (for the most part) have the tools to be successful at this level – that’s how they got here.
This list was designed to both rank the quarterbacks in the NFL, as well as put the myth that there is a shortage of talented passers in the NFL, to bed.
Untouchables – Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees:
Every year, these guys are in contention for the MVP:
Top Shelf – Matt Stafford, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan:
Each one of these guys has the ability to rise up to MVP form, but they aren’t the baseline all-pro quality QBs, year-in and year-out, like the top three.
QB isn’t a hole on the roster – Ben Roethlisberger, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins:
If you have one of these guys, you’re not scrambling to the draft board every Halloween. The time of year when the bad teams are inevitably beginning the college QB scouting process. In the case of Roethlisberger, father time appears to be catching up with the first ballot Hall of Famer. With Mariota and Winston, they have every opportunity to climb to the next rung.
Limbo – Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer:
This category is unique in that you can’t put either Cutler or Palmer in a box. What are Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer at this stage? Both have had recent ups and downs, but the number of downs are occurring more frequently.
Too Early – Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, DeShone Kizer, Trevor Siemian, DeShaun Watson:
You know when you start a new job, and you get a pass on minor mistakes for a few months? That’s where these quarterbacks are. They are too green to make a definitive statement about their futures one way or the other.
Time to Play for the Future – Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Brian Hoyer:
For a few of these quarterbacks, success wasn’t always elusive in their careers. Recent performances have put their staying-power in the league in question as each struggles in more games than not.
Change is Imminent – Mike Glennon, Blake Bortles, Josh McCown:
These guys are being replaced in 2018. They know it, their teams know it, and the team’s fan base knows it.
The list of too-early-to-tell players is where the real divide exists. With two of the untouchables, and two more from the top half of the list nearing retirement, it’s pivotal that those four are replaced with adequate options. With players like Jimmy Garappolo and Patrick Mahomes patiently waiting their turns, those low odds receive a bit of a boost.
Then there’s the NFL Draft. The 2018 class is said to be one of the best in the history of the league. Even with Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson eligible to move onto the next level, the odds of hitting on a franchise quarterback remain not in favor of the quarterback-needy-team.
With roughly a 40% chance of hitting on a worthwhile quarterback in the first round, and those odds decreasing by approximately 60% with each passing round, the league isn’t flushed with a new crop of quality quarterbacks every April.
But that’s okay. 13 of the top 17 quarterbacks on this list are in, or very near their 30’s. The game slows down every year for a quarterback. Matt Ryan enjoyed, by far, his finest year as a pro after his 30th birthday. Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford have begun to take shape as high-quality quarterbacks into their 30’s.
While some guys are instant success stories (Prescott, Wilson, Luck, Newton) there are just as many guys that take some time to develop. So with the addition of the new 2018 class, and operating under the assumption that half of the “too-early-to-tell” crowd will pan out, the league is far from having a quarterback problem.