As a lifelong Redskins fan, I know a thing or two about quarterbacks. Namely, I know a bad one when see him. I’ve watched Gus Frerotte, Tony Banks, thankfully was spared Brad Banks (he almost won the Heisman once!), Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, Rex Grossman, and Rex Grossman. Among countless others. Hell, I even watched Shane Matthews, Patty Ramsey, and Danny Wuerffel battle it out for the starting spot in 2002. One year, people thought Matt Hasselback’s brother was the savior. Another year, a journeyman 36 year old was the savior. If you’re still not sold, just a few years ago, John Beck proclaimed he was the starter over Rex Grossman. Yeah, ‘John Beck.’ If you’re thinking “Wait, who the hell is John Beck?????” then you’re just like the rest of us. Oh, and there was that unforgettable time we traded a 2nd round pick for a washed up division rival QB, who’d tortured us for the past decade. Skins fans recognize those names all too well, and I probably missed a few gems in there too.
The closest thing to competency that I’ve witnessed from the quarterback position was RG3’s rookie year. So yeah, I haven’t exactly seen expertise from QB, but it has at least reminded me (painfully) how important it is to have a stud QB in the NFL. And if you’re forced to rely on a game manager or dink-and-dunker, you’re in serious trouble. You can drunkenly talk yourself into believing it’s possible to sneak into the playoffs with a patry eight wins, or that you’re only a lucky break or two away from being a wild card team. But deep down, you know you’re screwed. You need shit like this to happen. Rooting for a team without a competent QB is a uniquely miserable experience in the sports world. The position is so integral for success in the NFL.
With the current rules protecting QBs and WRs though, we’re in a golden age for superstar QBs. It feels like there are more QBs right now that could legitimately lead a team to a Super Bowl than ever before. You’d feel fine with Brady, Manning (the good one), Rodgers, Brees, Luck, Wilson, Big Ben, Romo (just kidding), and maybe even Kaepernick if you had to win a Super Bowl this year. So that’s what we’ll do here–rank the QBs in the league who you’d want if you were trying to win NOW.
The Guys Who Only Produce In Garbage Time
32. Derek Carr
Going off of a couple things here: He’s David Carr’s brother, and he plays for the Raiders. He also doesn’t have a wide receiver whose name is worth knowing, and will be handing the ball off to the ghost of Maurice Jones-Drew. Take all those ingredients, shake them up, and you get a miserable season under center.
31. Shaun Hill
Granted, Hill shouldn’t be on this list. He’s a late fill-in for the oft-ACL-torn Sam Bradford. Poor Rams. A lot of people thought this was the year they took another step forward in the loaded NFC West. Bradford was surprisingly good last year, but Hill is your average, run-of-the-mill NFL backup who’ll cost his team enough games so that they’re already looking ahead to next year.
The “We’re Not Giving Up On Him After One Year” Division
30. Geno Smith
How the hell did Geno manage to elude the bottom three, when he nearly threw twice as many picks as TDs? The guy threw 12 TDs and 21 picks and had a completion percentage in the mid 50’s. And yet, I’ll still put him over the other guys so far. He was a rookie and had no offensive weapons. No, like really. He had Chris Ivory and Stephen Hill, and… Try to name the rest of his offense. It’s a futile exercise.
29. E.J. Manuel
Another 2nd year QB with lofty expectations and a weak supporting cast. Don’t get me wrong. C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Stevie Johnson is better than anything the Jets had, but you’re not going into a Bills game with much confidence in Manuel. He missed pretty much all of last season, fighting countless knee injuries, and when he is on the field, he has the look of a game manager.
The “We Can’t Wait Till He Gives Us a Reason to Turn to Our Rookie” Division
28. Ryan Fitzpatrick
27. Brian Hoyer
26. Chad Henne
25. Matt Cassel
Really not sure how Fitzpatrick still has a job. He might be just not bad enough to keep the Texans above water. I mean, all he has to do is not throw pick 6’s on a weekly basis. What’s the over/under on when Hoyer loses his job? Week 5 right after the bye? There’s no way Hoyer is keeping this job without the help of Josh Gordon. The sad part is Hoyer was moderately successful in his three starts last year. It’s not hard when you have a Pro-Bowl wide receiver and tight end, but Hoyer was certainly better than Brandon Weeden. Call it a hunch or that I had the misfortune of watching the Browns in preseason, but Hoyer is not a starting QB in the NFL. Henne has a more proven track record of mediocrity as an NFL starter than perennial backup Hoyer. I mean, at least Henne has started a little. He’ll throw for just enough yards on the putrid Jaguars to be fantasy-relevant a few weeks. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Jaguars have no weapons on offense, and, just like the Browns, the Jaguars’ best offensive playmaker is embroiled in a myriad of legal and NFL disciplinary issues.
Remember that time Cassel led that loaded Pats team to the playoffs, and people thought he was a legitimate starter? Since then, he had a monstrous 2010 campaign, but other than that, he’s been extremely average. I’d still rather have him than Henne or Hoyer though. Cassel at least looks like Romo out there, slinging away without a care in the world. And with AP taking the heat off of him, Cassel will have more chance of success.
The “We Still Think He’s a Franchise QB–But Only Because We Took Him So High In the Draft” Divsion
24. Jake Locker
This is the make-or-break year for Locker. For a top 10 pick, he’s been an absolute bust. At times last year, he showed glimpses of being a good starting QB, but he only played seven games due to injury. If he can lead the Titans to the playoffs, he’ll undoubtedly shoot up this list. Till then though, he’s just an average QB that was taken way too high in the draft. One thing to hang your hat on if you’re a Titans fan though: Locker has steadily improved in each of his first three seasons.
23. Ryan Tannehill
This guy is one of the toughest to project. Is he gonna become a star? He had a solid 24-17 TD/INT ratio last season, and at times, looked like he was sure to turn the corner and become an upper middle class NFL QB. He has all the physical tools. He’s 6’4 and one of the most athletic-looking QBs in the league, but watching him leaves much to be desired. Right now, he’s an enticing enigma in the QB hierarchy.
The “Enigmatic Household Names That Throw Way Too Many Picks” Division
22. Eli Manning
After last year, you could make the argument that Eli was the worst QB in the league. He threw a 3-2 INT/TD ratio. That’s right. He threw 18 TDs and 27 picks last year. He was terrible. That’s always been his trademark: for a talented QB (can we still call him that?), he throws way too many picks. But you can’t put all the blame on him, right? I mean, his entire team fell apart last year. He was just the captain of the sinking ship. Eli has one of the widest ranges of outcome for any starting QB in the league. Sometimes, you legitimately wonder how the hell he starts, and other times, he looks like an ELITE (!!!!!!) QB. We all know he’s one of the most clutch QBs in the league. Problem is that he’s often too horrible to even get his team in a position for him to be clutch.
21. Carson Palmer
Lot of people forgot that Palmer is still in the league. That’s what happens when you have a brief stint on the Raiders though. Palmer wasn’t horrible in his first season in Arizona. He threw 22 picks, but still had two more TDs than that. He got the Cardinals to ten wins, and that’d be good enough for the playoffs in any other division in football. The Cardinals just happen to play in the same division as the two best teams in the NFC.
The “Mediocre Game Managers” Division
20. Josh McCown
In McCown’s first year as a starter in the NFL, he’ll have huge guys to throw to, just like in Chicago last year. McCown excelled with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, two WRs over 6’4, who are great red zone targets. Now in Tampa Bay, McCown has Vincent Jackson and rookie wideout Mike Evans to chuck the ball up to. I don’t expect McCown to be as good as he was last year in Chicago. He had some of the best weapons in the league last year. But I’m not convinced that the Bears wouldn’t be better off with McCown as their QB, rather than Cutler.
19. Alex Smith
Pretty much the definition of game manager. The type of guy who only throws screen passes and never attempts passes longer than 20 yards. He singlehandedly tanked Dwayne Bowe’s value last year. Not that Bowe is a star receiver, but he was horrendous last year, as was everyone else on Kansas City’s offense, other than Jamaal Charles. Smith won’t throw many picks, but he also won’t win you any games. Remember when people actually thought there was a QB controversy with Colin Kaepernick? Funny.
The “Game Managers Who Think They’re Franchise QBs”
18. Andy Dalton
Just about everyone in the world ridiculed the Bengals for their $115 million contract they awarded to Andy Dalton. What were they rewarding him for? Making the playoffs in each of his first three years? And going 0-3 in the playoffs? Look, Dalton isn’t a bad QB. But he doesn’t deserve even close to what he got from the Bengals. If you’re going to overpay like hell for someone, at least wait for a reason to, a la Joe Flacco with the Ravens. He only got that massive extension because he played the games of his life in the playoffs and won a Super Bowl. You can do worse than Dalton for sure, but you can also do a lot better.
17. Joe Flacco
The Ravens paid Flacco like a superstar and will have to pay the price in the next few years. His huge deal hamstrung Baltimore’s cap, and leaves them in a tough position to add talent offensively. Take away this play and Flacco is probably five spots worse on this list and the Ravens take a QB in the 4th round to push Flacco for the starting job.
PART 2 COMING LATER.