As good as the Seattle Seahawks defense was last season, they don’t win the Super Bowl without Russell Wilson, who only now is beginning to get the recognition he deserves. And look how Peyton Manning transformed the Denver Broncos, or what Andrew Luck is doing in Indianapolis.
Having a top quarterback, a franchise quarterback, is everything for an NFL team. And if you don’t believe that, just look at the teams that don’t have one. Either they have no realistic shot at competing for a championship, or worse – they’re just a mess.
At the moment there are at least eight teams in a somewhat desperate need for a quarterback, either now or in the future. Here’s a look at those eight and their current quarterback condition. The good news is many of them will be in contention for a Top 5 draft pick where Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or maybe Florida State’s Jameis Winston could be the answer to their prayers:
The benching of E.J. Manuel in his second NFL season in favor of well-travelled vet Kyle Orton is a huge indictment of the former first-round pick. His decidedly mediocre numbers and poor decision making didn’t bode well for a coach (Doug Marrone) who may have to answer soon to a new owner. Manuel wasn’t exactly thought of as a once-in-a-generation QB when he was taken, so nobody would be surprised if the Bills look elsewhere again next season if they can.
New York Jets
Owner Woody Johnson just expressed his faith in Geno Smith as a franchise quarterback, but then he went out and missed a team meeting (inexcusable for someone in his position) and played so poorly in San Diego he got benched for Michael Vick. He makes terrible decisions on the field, can’t seem to handle the pressure or the responsibility off it, and is now a huge target of the New York media. A new coach is surely on his way next season. May as well let him rebuild with someone else running his offense.
They are 3-2 behind the 31-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick and they have two young, somewhat promising quarterbacks sitting behind him in Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage. But both have plenty of question marks and may not be the long-term answer. The Texans are not winning because of Fitzpatrick who has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). If they had a real quality quarterback they’d probably be 4-1 at least. At some point, coach Bill O’Brien will have to start over with his own guy.
If Jake Locker could only stay healthy, maybe he’d look like a franchise quarterback. Then again, maybe not. In his fourth season already he’s put together numbers that would add up to a good, but not exactly great season. Maybe the ability is there, but a franchise can’t be led by a quarterback on the sidelines. Time for the Titans to move on.
They have maybe the most interesting quarterback situation in the league, with the dangerous and explosive Robert Griffin III constantly getting hurt and Kirk Cousins showing flashes of brilliance, followed by flashes of inconsistency. They’ll obviously have to make a choice between the two, but what about choosing none of them? They could probably trade both for picks and start over with someone that fits Jay Gruden’s system better than either of them do.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
To everyone outside the organization, Mike Glennon looks like the future. But inside he sure didn’t seem to win any friends in Lovie Smith’s regime early. Finally they reversed their crazy decision to start Josh McCown at the beginning of the season and Glennon has shown promise. But if the coach doesn’t fully believe in him, can he really succeed?
They’re not desperate for a quarterback there, but obviously Bruce Arians has built a solid team and one that could be well set up for the future. The problem? Carson Palmer will turn 35 in December and Drew Stanton, a limited backup, is 30. Maybe they can squeeze another couple of years out of Palmer, but at some point they need to start planning for future years. They’re probably too good to get a high draft pick, but if they have a chance and have a conviction on a first-rounder, they should pounce.
St. Louis Rams
Maybe no franchise quarterback has had worse injury luck than Sam Bradford, who has now suffered back to back ACL tears. Behind him on the depth chart is vet Shaun Hill and undrafted Austin Davis. Though Davis has shown some ability, the Rams are going to get a high pick this year and they’d be wise to take advantage and move on.
—By Ralph Vacchiano