|08-27-2006, 05:22 PM||#1|
The Burner Returner
Join Date: Apr 2006
Cutler's bandwagon just keeps getting bigger!
By Cris Collinsworth
Special to NFL.com
(Aug. 25, 2006) -- There's an old adage in the NFL that says the most important position is the starting quarterback, and the second-most important position is the backup quarterback. In today's NFL, the quarterback position is far too important to simply hope your starter stays healthy and effective for 16 games -- you have to have a backup plan. Three of last year's playoff teams -- Chicago, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh -- wouldn't have made the postseason without wins by their backup quarterbacks.
Even teams like the Colts and Packers, where backup quarterback seems to be a ceremonial position, have to be prepared for tragedy. Dan Marino hadn't missed a game his first 10 years in the league when a torn Achilles tendon cost him the last 11 games of 1993. The Dolphins, fresh from an AFC Championship Game appearance, missed the playoffs by one game behind Scott Mitchell and Steve DeBerg.
Five teams that cannot make the playoffs with their current backup
Colts -- Jim Sorgi/Shaun King: The Colts were already No. 1 on this list before Sorgi's injury, now they may be down to their backup's backup. King has had success from the bench, leading the Buccaneers to the '99 NFC Championship Game in place of an injured Trent Dilfer, but he has started only three games in the last five years and has been let go by both Detroit and Arizona. The Colts' complicated offense can only be run by Peyton Manning. He's more than the quarterback, he's the offensive coordinator, and without him at the helm the Colts are, at best, an average team.
Playing behind great quarterbacks has kept Matt Cassell on the sideline.
Patriots -- Matt Cassell: Everyone knows that Matt Cassell was never a starter at the college level. There's no shame in being a backup to two Heisman trophy winners in Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Few, if any, quarterbacks to come out of college in the last five years would have had any chance to start at USC ahead of either of those guys. But the fact remains that Cassell has only thrown 57 passes since high school and none of those have been with a game on the line. Despite a good performance in his last outing, major questions exist about Cassell's ability to lead the Patriots.
Vikings -- Tarvaris Jackson/Mike McMahon: Jackson is young and athletic with a strong arm, but he's only one year removed from Division I-AA Alabama St., where he transferred to after he couldn't beat out Matt Jones (now a receiver with the Jaguars) as Arkansas' starting QB. Jackson has been just short of brilliant this preseason, but defenses get much more sophisticated in about two weeks, and rookies rarely are capable of deciphering them in their freshman campaign. Veteran Mike McMahon had a 55.2 passer rating in seven starts for the Eagles last year. He has great mobility, but little else.
Redskins -- Todd Collins/Jason Campbell: Campbell may be the quarterback of the future in Washington, but the future isn't now. He has struggled in the preseason and hasn't even worked himself up to No. 2 behind Mark Brunell. He has been outplayed by journeyman Todd Collins, who was signed from Kansas City for his knowledge of Al Saunders' offensive system and is closer to being an assistant coach than a legitimate option under center.
Chiefs -- Damon Huard/Brodie Croyle: With the departure of Collins to Washington, Huard, with nine touchdown passes in 10 years, became the backup by default, though with third-rounder Croyle and former CFL Most Outstanding Player Casey Printers on the roster, Huard may not even make it to opening day. Croyle has a strong arm and may develop into an NFL starter, but has mobility and durability issues and has torn the ACL in both knees.
Five teams that can make the playoffs with their backup, and a few that may even be better off
Jaguars -- David Garrard: After Byron Leftwich broke his ankle, Garrard went 5-1 in the Jaguars' final six games of 2005, losing only to the Colts. He is better on the move than Leftwich, has a strong arm and makes good decisions, as evidenced by his one interception in 168 attempts last year. The Jaguars wouldn't have made the playoffs last year without Garrard and many believe he's their best chance to get back. Leftwich has outplayed Garrard thus far this preseason, but the QB controversy in Jacksonville will not abate as long as Garrard is holding the clipboard for the Jaguars.
The Broncos should feel comfortable if rookie Jay Cutler is called upon this season.
Broncos -- Jay Cutler: In the midst of the pre-draft Vince Young vs. Matt Leinart debate, there was a small group claiming that Cutler was the best quarterback in the draft. After watching tape of Cutler in the preseason, you can now count me among that group. He has a rocket arm, great accuracy and poise in the pocket you rarely see from a rookie. Jake Plummer, who had one of his best years last year, will, and should, be the Broncos' starter this year, but Cutler is more than capable of leading them to the playoffs should Jake stumble.
Cowboys -- Tony Romo: The Cowboys have the defense and skill position players to make a serious Super Bowl run, but have major problems on the offensive line. Romo's ability to evade the rush makes him a better option than the immobile Bledsoe, who was sacked four or more times in a game eight times last year. After an impressive showing on Monday night against the Saints, Bledsoe will probably be the starter on opening day, but he may not last the season. The more teams blitz Bledsoe, and the more this offensive line struggles, the more likely it becomes that Romo will be given a shot, despite having zero experience in this league.
Bears -- Brian Griese: The Bears, like the Jaguars, are in the enviable position of having two proven starting quarterbacks. Injury-prone Rex Grossman, who has started only eight games in three years, is the starter at the moment, but Griese and his 72 career starts has outplayed Grossman so far this preseason. Whichever player ends up starting, the other will be ready to step in without a noticeable decline in quality. Third-stringer Kyle Orton went 10-5 while Grossman was injured last year, making the Bears the only team that could conceivably lose their top two quarterbacks and still make the playoffs. Assuming Thomas Jones and/or Cedric Benson are healthy, the Bears defense will drag this team into the playoffs regardless of which quarterback plays.
Falcons -- Matt Schaub: Schaub threw for 289 yards with three TDs and no interceptions against the Patriots in his only start of 2005. He is more accurate and makes better decisions than Vick, but, like everyone else in the world, lacks Vick's athleticism. Several teams attempted to pry Schaub from the Falcons this offseason, but the Falcons held out for a No. 1 pick, which shows how valuable they consider him. There has been plenty of speculation about Vick's future in Atlanta, but for now Vick is the answer, and Schaub may be the best insurance policy in the NFL behind a quarterback that will always struggle to stay healthy because of his style of play.
|08-27-2006, 05:55 PM||#3|
Join Date: Apr 2006
good article. im not quite as down on jason campbell, he hasnt been impressive but he was getting a lot of pressure when he was in.