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The Quarterback Scramble
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL quarterbacks Flynn Cassel Hasselbeck Palmer Garrard

We are told that the premier position in the NFL is quarterback. Now that's zero news, but add the words "as never before." Actually, that's not news either... the position has gained significance over decades of football, almost since its inception. Right now it's in a bit of a flux, perhaps due to fad, perhaps not. But important? Sure.
Which brings us to the topic of this discussion. The draft has yet to come, but this draft isn't quarterback-heavy as the past several have been. Free agents, outright rejects, anybody... teams are scooping 'em up. Pre-draft or not, it's time to assess the position for teams as they stand now, especially in light of recent moves. By divisions, perhaps?
Here, it's about 50-50 in terms of stability. In New England and Miami, things likely are as they were last season. Ryan Tannehill shouldn't have much to worry about after an impressive showing. Tom Brady has had nothing to worry about since 2001. But in Buffalo things are changing fast. Ryan Fitzpatrick was fed a huge contract and couldn't get it down, though clearly that wasn't all his fault. He's gone to Tennessee where an unknown fate awaits him with Jake Locker in the house. The Bills, meanwhile, have acquired Kevin Kolb. Remember him? He took Mike Vick's job in Philly with superior production several years back, only to see Andy Reid's feet get cold after one half of the season (that's one half as in 30 minutes). He played the good soldier, swallowing Reid's doublespeak, and eventually got his ticket to Arizona. Looked like a dream. Didn't work. Like at all. He arrives in Buffalo with his play in Philly still the only good thing on his resume. Meanwhile in New York, the Jets so far have proven that they are indecipherable, bringing in David Garrard (thought as extinct as the turntable by the same name) to somehow right a ship that still includes Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy. Only Tebow has done anything lately, and there's no word that he'll be considered for the job. You tell me.
Well, I guess we know who's starting in Baltimore. Joe Flacco will have a spotlight on him for three reasons: (1) he won the Super Bowl, (2) he got paid, and (3) he's one of the few familiar faces the Ravens elected to keep. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but not by much. Pittsburgh also may be a gang of strangers, but Roethisberger won't be one of them. Cinci resigned a bunch of their FAs (and there were a lot), so the Dalton Gang won't look terribly different. And then there's Cleveland. Colt McCoy has left for the City by the Bay (bringing his heart with him, one assumes). Unless the Browns intend to continue their game of musical quarterbacks with either Thaddeus Lewis or a draftee (or Jason Campbell??), it seems that Brandon Weeden will get another chance to lead them to the promised land. He was pretty good last season, but Cleveland fans want it all now, and the Browns' attempts to do just that have kept the second incarnation of the franchise in the dumps for nearly every season to date. Maybe it's time for a little consistency. Or not. There is after all a new regime, and nobody knows what they want.
The guess here is that Andrew Luck will win the starting job at Indy, with wily old Matt Hasselbeck to lean on --- but no Drew Stanton... or Bruce Arians. Will it matter? Matt Schaub ought to be set in Houston for one more try at least. After that, what? The Jags suffered through a bad season and Blaine Gabbert didn't rise from the rookie ashes as well as was hoped. Chad Henne tried to rise from ashes of his own and nearly did so. Both are still around, but word is that the Jags are eyeing yet another collegian (Smith?) for the position. Meanwhile, the Titans have replaced Matt Hasselbeck with Ryan Fitzpatrick. He will surely be allowed to at least compete with Jake Locker for the starting spot. Scary thing is, he might win it. Will the Titans provide more fertile ground than Buffalo? Or will Jake get his spot back and either mature or fall on his face? Stay tuned.
Norv may be gone but Phil Rivers isn't going anywhere north of Oceanside. In Denver, the only way Peyton Manning gets benched is if John Elway decides to move in himself. The rest of the division is interesting, as usual. Kansas City won't have Matt Cassel to kick around anymore. They will have Andy Reid and Alex Smith. It's fascinating. Was Reid a tackling dummy holding down a talented team in Philly, or was it the other way around? Was Smith carried by the powerful Niners? Most of those burning questions are about to be demystified. And then there's Oakland, they of JaMarcus Russell fame. The new regime, led by Reggie McKenzie, got Matt Flynn from Seattle and jettisoned Carson Palmer. It may be a good move. It may also be another case of Same Old Raiders. Funny thing is they aren't the same old Raiders anymore, but it's said that Egypt's Old Kingdom fell apart because Pepi II outlived his heirs. Did Al Davis do the same thing in Oakland?
With the G-Men trying to think Home Super Bowl, the scary thing is that it's doable in this increasingly mediocre division. Quarterback stability could be the watchword for the entire division, with a few caveats. The Giants have no caveats --- it's Manning or bust. Same in Dallas, with Romo getting his big deal and officially on the hot seat --- one presumes, that is. He's survived so many disasters that it's hard to picture him being ousted without having a protracted Jake DelHomme meltdown. In Washington we hear the expected noise... Griffin healing faster than expected, etc. etc. He would already seem at odds with his coach, who is openly calling for fewer heroics. Ya think? Meanwhile Kirk Cousins, who filled admirably for RG3 last season, awaits a fate he cannot control with the Skins seemingly hogtied to Griffin's schedule. It's not the most stable environment, and whatever the outcome, it will take masterful situation management by Shanahan (perhaps not his forte) to keep a circus from ruining what could be, with either quarterback, a pretty good season. Philly, meanwhile, has piled up quarterbacks left and right, though one would think that only two --- Vick and Foles --- have a real shot to start. What the rookie coach will decide is a total mystery. Foles looked better than merely promising last season. Vick has more lives than a dog --- I mean cat.
Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit all have the QB situation under control, or at least so they think. What about Minnesota? Yes, they came from nowhere to contend last season. No, Christian Ponder did not appear to chuck the training wheels as a sophomore. Yes, they went out and got Matt Cassel. Looks to me like a competition between a talented but unpolished 3rd-year scrambler and a former ace backup whose star has fallen but who has tools. That will be the one preseason QB story worth watching in this division --- unless Cutler gets sacked in practice or Stafford's shoulder falls off.
Like the NFCN, things are pretty well set across most of the NFCS. Brees is clearly in. Ryan too. Cam Newton? You bet. Which leaves us with Tampa. Captain Comeback is still around, but Schiano has voiced his desire for some competition at the position. With Dan Orlovsky and Adam Weber in booths 2 and 3 and a new QB coach more to Schiano's liking now in the fold, it's hard to take that 'competition' line seriously at this point.
Suddenly this perennial doormat of a division has not only established contenders (2) but also interesting quarterback situations (4). Carson Palmer is in Arizona, joining everybody but Kevin Kolb. So is Bruce Arians. The latter dislikes the West Coast Offense and scramblers. Palmer, straight out of the John Unitas school, ought to be his man if he has anything left. Arians may be the single reason (other than Andrew Luck) that Andrew Luck's rookie season produced such success. There was little focus on completion percentages or inching downfield, but the results were spectacular. Desert fans have to hope that the real main man at Indy is in the house. Off in St. Louis, Fisher brought the Rams back from the depths to 7-9, which wasn't good enough. The Rams did, however, go 4-1-1 against their own division. Should they learn to beat other teams as well, Sam Bradford, the presumptive starter, can shuck off the shroud thrown over him by a flood of young QBs from the past two drafts and once again become something other than yesterday's news. In San Francisco, Colt McCoy gets a chance to watch Colin Kaepernick play unless and until he (Kaepernick) runs into somebody large and nasty. And Russell Wilson may have Tyler Thigpen to back him up, we hear. This might be the first season in which we truly discern the wisdom of putting all your eggs in one scrambler.
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