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NFL Draft 2014: Quarterback Edition

Mike Gallay (@memachine) May. 8, 2014 1:04 PM

(h/t dailymail.co.uk)

If you're a fan of smashmouth football and you spend any time observing the current version of the NFL, you're going to suffer some irritated moments. The game has changed. Running and defence and special teams have been marginalized. Today, the quarterback reigns supreme (and the rulebook has seen to it—a development I call the Matthew Stafford corollary, but more on that later). In the spirit of shaking off my curmudgeonly leanings, rather than mourn the fading balance in the league, I will celebrate today and the next three days—The 2014 NFL Draft—by breaking down each team's most important position: Quarterback. Who's got 'em, who needs 'em, and who is stuck with what they have.

I have laid out my analysis and cynicism by division, with the key QB battle listed beneath each team name.


New England Patriots


The Patriots, and female fans the world over, are contented having Brady at the helm. Tom Terrific turns 37 in August but nobody in Massachusetts seems worried. The organization hasn't drafted a QB since 2011, though the ever-wily Bill Belichick may decide this is the year to take another stab. I wouldn't expect the Pats to get their next franchise guy in 2014, but nobody expected 1999's 6th round pick to become arguably the greatest quarterback ever. (I did not enjoy typing that.)

New York Jets


On the precipice of being unshackled from the Mark Sanchez-era in New Jersey, the Jets started the offseason with a surprising lack of drama. They had a new mobile, under-throwing quarterback in Geno Smith, and that seemed about the right fit for Rex Ryan's brand of unevenly performing squads. But rather than simply allow their rabid fanbase to groan over Geno's inefficiencies for the next half decade, the brass brought in Michael (I'll never forget what you did to those dogs) Vick, another mobile quarterback with question marks, who is a lock to disappoint. So what will they do entering the draft, now that they've already set up a quarterback controversy? Why, they'll surely draft another competitor. Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Savage are the frontrunners but anyone is possible. Jets' GM John Idzik was part of the Seahawks organization when they selected Russell Wilson despite having just anted up significantly for Matt Flynn. It is in the team DNA to further confuse their QB situation. It is going to happen.

Miami Dolphins


Outside of Dave Lowry's beard during the 1995-96 Florida Panthers Stanley Cup run, I resent all things Miami (a quick Google search of "Mike Gallay Lebron James" will confirm that claim). Amazingly, I don't hate Tannehill. I think the Fish got it right. Some analysts vary on his long-term ceiling but he looked consistently quality to me when he was getting protection. I should probably say that a little quieter. You do NOT want to piss off his offensive line. It's not that they're so tough, just really mean and unpredictable...to each other. Miami was wise to cut the fiendish, though incredibly well-named, Richie Incognito, and to ship out Jonathan Martin in an effort to defuse the team's reputation as a chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. With protection, Tannehill will produce.

Buffalo Bills


Manuel serves to paint us a little recent draft history. The 2013 NFL Draft offered a shallow pool at quarterback and most outlets had Manuel going anywhere from the second to the fifth round. When the Buffalo Bills of Toronto nabbed him with the 16th overall pick, a lot of people shook their heads because, yeah, it's the Bills. Despite a knee injury which cost E.J. the last half dozen games, we got a good enough look to observe him appearing jittery and unpolished and like he could develop into a force. Bills fans can start to put Ryan Fitzpatrick's $59 million WTF contract behind them and start the healing. Well, it's Buffalo, so don't expect a full recovery. Baby steps.


Cincinnati Bengals


When I was seven I was obsessed with comics. Also when I was nine and fourteen and twenty-six. Marvel in particular was my jam, and I loved The Hulk. He would frequently face off against The Abomination or The Rhino, sometimes both. In those circumstances when the three were battling, The Hulk would have to figure out how to win when "an unstoppable force meets an immovable object." Usually the solution involved getting the two of them to smash into each other. An unstoppable force and an immovable object. That is the Bengals conundrum. They have quarterback Andy Dalton, a totally credible NFL quarterback with enough skills to tantalize and enough deficiencies to derail. If they stick with him, no question they can make a few more postseason bids. Also, if they stick with him, they are unlikely to ever win a Super Bowl. An unstoppable force and an immovable object.

Pittsburgh Steelers


My wife is a Steelers fan and as such I wanted to title this section THE STATE vs. B. ROETHLISBERGER, but really, I don't need to keep bringing up his sexual assault charges in 2008. Or his other sexual assault charges in 2010. I'm just gonna say this: Big Ben is a championship quarterback, who eludes defenders better than anyone in the game, and eludes prosecutors even better! Ba-dum! (In the next team blurb you'll realize why I'm so pleased with myself.) Ben announced this week his intention to play until 2020 so doubtful the Steelers draft a backup or a project, since they have 2013's fourth round pick Landry Jones on the roster.

Baltimore Ravens


I am a Baltimore Ravens fan. Have been since 1998. It started off as a natural extension of being a man without a home team with an affinity for Edgar Allan Poe, and has sprouted into full-on obsession. After the Ravens latest Super Bowl win, I spent the next four months watching the NFL Network. It was Ravens porn. Based on hundreds of hours spent reliving Super Bowl XLVII, I am positive Jacoby Jones should have been named MVP, though Flacco was an understandable choice. I can't say I'm as sold on Joe Cool as Ozzie Newsome clearly is, but he's a proven winner and I suspect Gary Kubiak may be capable of finding more nuance to Flacco's all or nothing approach. Baltimore brass can't afford to tinker at the QB position, given their at-the-time record setting investment in Joe, but there have been rumblings about bringing in more competition for the backup spot, so a late selection of an Aaron Murray-type is possible (Murray's stock is likely rising too much for him to wind up in Maryland). Who they ultimately draft into competition is still a mystery. The only thing I'm positive about in Baltimore is they will win the Super Bowl this year and for like the next fifteen years also.

Cleveland Browns


For the Browns, quarterback is a "when" not "if" situation, with Brian Hoyer penciled in at starter. They've had a ton of swing and misses since the reboot of the franchise. Tim Couch in '99. Luke McCown in '04. Charlie Frye in '05. Brady Quinn in '07. Colt McCoy in '10. Brandon Weeden in '12. They have to get it right this time. They signed Vince Young last week more as a favour to help with his bankruptcy than because he's the answer. Johnny Manziel is the hot commodity in the draft, the siren song, the razzle which tends to lure moribund franchises like Cleveland, desperate to make a national splash. We will shortly find out what new management is made of. They almost have to take a quarterback on Day One. My bet is they wait until their late first rounder to nab the formerly buzziest pick, Teddy Bridgewater.


Indianapolis Colts


The Colts are set for the next decade. Luck gives congratulatory pats to marauding defensive ends after receiving blistering sacks, all the while complimenting them on the hit. How do you compete with that? He is tough and skilled, even-tempered and a winner. As a Baltimore fan, only thing left to say is, "Screw the Colts." Indy may draft a QB in the seventh round if Luck needs a personal assistant.

Tennessee Titans


With the eighth pick of the draft, the Titans select...Jake Locker. Flashbulbs! The audience stirs. Analysts rush to review their notes. It was a promising time. Jeff Fisher was still the coach. Veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck was still the most famous person in the family. But it hasn't worked out. I'm not convinced the Titans would have found more success drafting Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton, but Locker has played in fewer than half of their games in three seasons, and that's gonna come to an end at this year's eleventh pick. The former face of the franchise, Chris Johnson—CJ2K—is now a Jet, and Titans faithful need someone to believe in. Elvis sightings can only take a football fan so far. Tennessee is drafting a QB at 11.

Jacksonville Jaguars


Jacksonville needs a star. They need a player with buzz, someone who puts asses into club seats. The Jags are consistently the first franchise mentioned whenever another city sniffs around for a relocation project, and they have the smallest market in the league. Finally, they have a rising nucleus of talent and a third overall selection. For a team without a rich history of success, they've demonstrated surprising consistency at QB, with five guys—Mark Brunell, Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne—starting 93% of all Jaguars games, ever. They will be adding a sixth name to that list this year. If it isn't Johnny Football, it is likely to be Derek Carr or David Fales. Or Mark Brunell.

Houston Texans


The Houston Texans will be drafting first overall.

 The Houston Texans will be drafting Jadeveon Clowney.

The Houston Texans will be drafting Khalil Mack.

The Houston Texans will be drafting Johnny Manziel.

The Houston Texans will be drafting Teddy Bridgewater.

The Houston Texans will be drafting first overall.

There. It's settled.


Denver Broncos


Peyton is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. Most passing yards in a season. Highest QB rating in a season. Most touchdown passes in a season. We can fumble over a couple other names but he's at worst "as good as it gets". More likely, he's the yardstick going forward. But a little something happens on the way to the postseason. It gets cold. Old bones get brittle. Despite a passable record in cold weather and late-season games on paper, the eye test tells a different story. Maybe Manning's approach can have rare in-game faults, though full-season successes, like the Moneyball philosophy in baseball suffers. I dunno. Whatever it is, he's the NFL-equivalent of the 117-year-old Japanese man we query about diet and philosophy and Colorado fans should enjoy what may be his last hurrah. The Broncos know it's winding down for their chiropractic miracle, and they are throwing every measure of multi-positional support his way. They won't be major players on the QB market unless a gift falls in their lap (though they'll be wary of controversial QB picks— see Tebow, Jesus). A cold wind is blowing. It says Spring only on the calendar.

Kansas City Chiefs


It's hard to feel pathos for a multi-millionaire quarterback selected first overall, with a gorgeous wife in a Pro Bowl year. But I do. For every Peyton Manning there's a JaMarcus Russell. Smith was trending towards the latter when in 2011, he and the 49ers, took a turn towards greatness. He led them within inches of the Super Bowl. In 2012, amidst his greatest statistical season, he suffered a concussion and was replaced by backup Colin Kaepernick. He would only miss one game, but he would never start in the Bay again. Reborn in Kansas City, he and head coach Andy Reid turned around a 2-14 team, winning their first nine games, and made the playoffs. You'd think his future in Kansas would be a slam dunk, that Alex would be re-signed long term and everyone would enjoy a loaf of Brett, a slice of Biancalana and a pound of Balboni. Instead, Smith and the Chiefs are far apart in negotiations and the team is considering a QB with their first pick. Once again, Smith is looking over his shoulder to see which tattooed menace might be coming for his job. Stay healthy, Smitty. It just takes one game.

San Diego Chargers


Phil Rivers is known for a lot of things. Not missing a game since 2006, the fourth longest streak of all time. Getting traded for Eli Manning in an epic first round swap as a rookie. Being a rock-steady fantasy football contributor for several seasons. Mostly, Rivers is known as one of the most notorious trash talkers in the NFL. Opposing defences revile him. Jay Cutler doesn't like him.

He is ultra-competitive and the most video-captured whiner in the game. Yet, I have found, if you dig deeper, he's just misunderstood. Rumour is he has NEVER cursed. I'm not sh***ing you. Time to forget everything you thought you knew about Phil Rivers. This is who he actually is. Stay classy, San Diego.

Oakland Raiders


The Raiders are an exceptional organization. At one point legendary owner Al Davis (RIP) oversaw the silver and black to five Super Bowl championships over four decades. Now, they haven't had a winning season in eleven years, longest streak in the league (even the Browns and Bills had winning seasons in that span). You would need Nate Silver and the computer from War Games to make sense of their roster. I heart the acquisition of Matt Schaub, a quarterback who has had success, but his best days are quite clearly in the past, as all sensory input from last year would lead you to believe he is not very good at quarterbacking. Translation: he was meant to be a Raider. Will undrafted surprise Matt McGloin upstage him? Will Oakland draft Teddy Bridgewater in the first round? Will they draft a QB at all? Will they wind up retiring Schaub's number? Will Al Davis return from the dead, looking oddly similar as he did when alive, ready to coach? The Raiders are an exceptional organization.


Philadelphia Eagles


Isaac Newton's first law of motion does not apply to Nick Foles. It didn't matter how much pressure was thrown at him, he did not break and he did not falter. He was so good the Eagles dumped Michael Vick and were willing to make Mark Sanchez their backup in 2014. That's confidence. In Chip Kelly's hyper-tempo offensive scheme, Foles proceeded to set the record for best ever touchdown (27) to interception (2) ratio in NFL history. What the what? He threw for seven touchdowns in one game! Foles serves as an outlier, less for us to gain insight into the Eagles scattershot offence, but more that we might get excited about the upcoming draft, where a late third round pick without a clear path to a starting job could become a Pro Bowler real fast-like.

Dallas Cowboys


ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen warmly quoted Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this week:

"We were 8-8 (in 2013) and people still love us and we make a lot of money!"

Alllllllrighty, then. You can watch his entire conversation. It tells you what you need to know about Dallas.

Unfortunately for Tony Romo, because he's lost some heartbreakers, and because the team around him is poorly constructed, and because he has an albatross, uncuttable contract, he's the villain. Fact: he's sixth among active QBs in fourth quarter comebacks. Perception isn't truth with Romo, but the Dallas lights are blinding. Jones might not draft a QB for three more years or might trade up to take Johnny Manziel in the first round. I have no idea.

Washington Redskins


Technically, we could discuss how the District of Columbia Football Team has a lopsided battle at quarterback between superstar Griffin and the decent, if expendable, Kirk Cousins. Ho-hum. More interestingly, D.C. has to worry about Griffin's persistent battle with not lying on a gurney.

Washington can't draft a quarterback out of sheer pride, having sent several picks to the Rams to nab RGIII, but the science is hardly settled on whether he can stand the rigours of the league. They better hope medical science wins this battle because Griffin has not proven he can protect himself. There are many a YouTube link to prove this, if your stomach is settled.

New York Giants


(h/t nydailynews.com)

Eli Manning, the Bret Saberhagen of football (I should probably update this reference to Tim Lincecum). Could lead his team to a championship, could get his coach fired by October. He's 33. Coming off ankle surgery and a subpar season. His O-line is shaky, having been sacked a career high 39 times. When big brother Peyton went down with major spinal injuries in 2011 I never thought I'd ask: Will Eli be the first Manning out of football? He doesn't have anything left to prove with two rings and nine figures banked. If he doesn't bounce back this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see him consider retirement. Josh Freeman is a stop-gap for New York, and the team wants to groom the franchise guy. Apparently last year's fourth rounder, Ryan Nassib is just depth chart fodder. I could see GM Jerry Reese stoking the flames of competition.


Green Bay Packers


There is no quarterback controversy in Green Bay. Former Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers uses his unassuming charms to rally the Wisconsin faithful and does so with aplomb. If there's one battle Rodgers consistently faces, and sometimes loses, it is wrestling with the enormous chip on his shoulder. Ever since he slipped to 24th in the 2005 draft, he has been angry. Bruised. Slighted. There's even a Twitter account dedicated to his ego. He was featured in a reverential portrayal on 60 Minutes...then felt dissed. His championship belt-celebration dance (AKA the Discount double check) is the height of lame self-congratulations (though so are many TD celebrations). He resents people talking about his lack of toughness. Or his lack of height, even though he is 6'2. I don't know how many other ways to euphemistically call one of the greatest players of his generation a probable a**hole. Maybe the team should draft Teddy Bridgewater just to keep him motivated (being slighted seems to encourage him).

Chicago Bears


Have you ever seen the Bravo show, "Million Dollar Listing"? There's a guy who stars on it, one of the Hollywood realtors—Josh Flagg—he's a little greasy a little charming, and he's pretty much exactly what I figure Jay Cutler must be like. A sweatpants and midday naps sorta fella unless he absolutely HAS to get to work. And work Jay will, since he's signed to a freshly-inked, monster contract, and the Bears shipped Josh McCown out of town. I'm just not convinced he likes football that much. Seems more like a hacky sack type, you know?

(h/t dailymail.co.uk)

(h/t dressedtoat.wordpress.com)

Detroit Lions


If you're a fan of smashmouth football and you spend any time observing the current version of the NFL, you're going to suffer some irritated moments. The game has changed. Running and defence and special teams have been marginalized. Today, the quarterback reigns supreme (and the rulebook has seen to it—a development I call the Matthew Stafford corollary, but more on that right now). Yes, I recycled the intro. It was not just metaphoric philosophizing, it was specifically about Matthew Stafford. He is everything that annoys me in the NFL. He holds the record for the most passing attempts in a season. He also threw for 5,038 yards in 2011 and 4,967 yards in 2012, a year the Lions went 4-12. Prior to 2011, THOSE WOULD HAVE BEEN THE THIRD AND FOURTH MOST YARDS EVER THROWN. More than Brett Favre or Kurt Warner or Dan Fouts or Peyton Manning (to that point). Stafford is the embodiment of the danger the NFL is in if it keeps promoting passing and scoring at all costs: guys like Stafford are going to make the Hall of Fame and never have had an actual great season.

Minnesota Vikings


I've been watching a lot of the FX show Fargo lately. Whenever I see the words "Minnesota" or "Billy Bob" in print, I immediately descend into a regional accent. The words "Blake Bortles" sound like they deserve to be interpreted by the Minnesotan patois. Matt Cassel already has the look of a career stopgap, so you know the Vikes are hungry to get the next man up. Norv Turner is the new OC in town, and with Teddy Bridgewater's stock falling, and Minnesota desperate for a marquee name to hand off to Adrian Peterson, Bortles could be the man. (Notice, I did not mention Christian Ponder in this entire paragraph. Well, most of the paragraph. Damn it.)


Carolina Panthers


If you go by the numbers, Newton hasn't lived up to the hype—he's far exceeded it. He won a national championship in college and the Heisman trophy. He was selected first overall. In 2011, he had the greatest rookie season by a quarterback ever (he became the first rookie QB to surpass 4,000 yards passing while scoring a record 35 TDs). In 2013, he showed growth and maturity, culminating in a division win. A great start to a career. Surely there is more mountain to climb...maybe. The Panthers will have him under centre for the next decade and, uh, it'll be fine, he'll put up crazy numbers, but, well, I just don't know if he can win it all. His statistics might be half-truths. Despite a few game-winning drives in the first half of the season, he looked panicky near the end, and was sacked a career-high 43 times (5th in the NFL). I should probably quit doubting Cam, he's loaded with talent and he's disproved doubters every time. The smart money is likely on him finding a way to improve. Plus he starred in one of my all-time favourite NFL commercials:

New Orleans Saints


In recent days, insiders have alluded to the Saints considering a Green Bay-style strategy, harkening back to when the Pack drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round while still having Brett Favre at the helm. These whispers arose last year at draft time too. Now Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger and A.J. McCarron have all been mentioned as targets. Ahem. And now for the number of quarterbacks drafted by the New Orleans Saints during the Drew Brees era:

2013: 0 2012: 0 2011: 0 2010: 7th round - Sean Canfield. Never took a snap. 2009: 0 2008: 0 2007: 0 2006: 0

Consider the above list a visual representation for "job security".

Atlanta Falcons


When an athlete named Dominique comes to Atlanta I take notice. Dominique Davis looks to push incumbe—okay, I can't do this. There's clearly no quarterback controversy in Atlanta—there's barely a second option. I just like talking about Atlanta athletes named Dominique. I'm going to use my remaining time here to engage in a practice I perform every day, which is to celebrate my favourite basketball player of all time, Georgia's roundball son, the human highlight reel, Dominique Wilkins (AKA the best in-game dunker of all time). Enjoy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Word broke this week Tampa Bay is shopping last year's starter, Mike Glennon, for a second round pick. Even the crickets sat this one out. A few teams are prospective landing spots for the lankiest, milkiest, least NFL-looking guy in the league. including New England, where Billy Belichick praised Glennon recently. With McCown in Central Florida, ready to set fire to a season of ho-hum Sundays, the Bucs are ripe for turnover under centre. There's something familiar about this scenario. Tampa looks a little like Kansas City did last year: roster full of pros who underperformed get a new coach, a consistent/unspectacular veteran at QB, and a good draft could push them into playoff contention. At #7 they could go Johnny Football for the crowd factor (a concern for both small-market Florida teams) or Blake Bortles for a guy they could develop. In a deep draft for good QBs—not great ones—decent chance they don't pick a thrower until a later round.


Seattle Seahawks


Duh-duh. Duh-duh. Wiiiiiiilssooooonn. Unless you're familiar with the Phish-verse known as "Gamehenge" where the evil king Wilson battles the Lizards, this sentence hasn't meant much. In the greatest pairing of professional sports to nitrous oxide since Bill Walton and his collection of Grateful Dead tees, the first appearance of Russell Wilson at every home game is cued by the first four notes of the Phish song "Wilson", and the crowd responds in call-and-answer fashion with a long cheer of his last name. That's about the only quarterback battle in Washington State right now. King Wilson versus psychotropic lizards. When you are young, composed, talented, and you've already won a Super Bowl, nobody looks over your shoulder, no matter how undersized you may be. If Wilson ever goes down and the team needs to fill the leadership void, Richard Sherman's Twitter account could sub in.

San Francisco 49ers


As a tireless Ravens advocate, I do not like the San Francisco 49ers. I was pleased when they lost the Super Bowl, and am happy they have come up short for three straight years (despite being talent rich and possessing one of my Gallay All-Timers in receiver Anquan Boldin). But even I'm impressed with Kaepernick's skills. Incredible speed. Nimble. Laser arm. Oh, but that hubris. It has its own helmet. He increasingly stayed in the pocket in 2013—a sign of maturity—but when he does break one off, because of his confidence and size he rarely protects himself. He's still young and rubber-boned, and the hits don't phase him. But The Hit is coming. And it's going to cost him 6-8 weeks, maybe a year. Bay Area brass have to recognize it, so I don't see how the Niners avoid drafting a quarterback (also, they have fifty draft picks). San Jose State's David Fales has been linked to Harbaugh (that's the evil Harbaugh for those scoring at home).

Arizona Cardinals


Sports fans don't speak of the nomadic Cardinals in the same sacred breath as the Maple Leafs or Cubs because they aren't loveable hometown losers, having been kicked around from Chicago to St. Louis to Phoenix. But make no mistake—they are losers. At 67 years, the franchise suffers from the longest championship drought in the NFL. Burdened with 2013's toughest division, 33-year-old QB Carson Palmer did yeoman's work in his first year out of the AFC, registering a personal best 4,274 passing yards. Flashback: In the mid-2000s, then 33-year-old Kurt Warner set the quarterback reclamation standard for the Cardinals, leading to the team's lone Super Bowl appearance in 2008. Don't expect Palmer to do likewise (or as well as last year). Today the talk around Phoenix—beyond the chorus to build a taller border wall—has the team drafting defence first, with minor rumblings about Fresno State QB Derek Carr. It's possible they trade for Mike Glennon or grab a buzzier QB prospect in the first round (head coach Bruce Arians is a known quarterback whisperer), but likely they lay back, go with Palmer, and think of England. This may come as a disappointment to the franchise's dozens of fans.

St. Louis Rams


To discuss quarterbacks and the St. Louis Rams is to speak in hushed tones, glancing furtively. Nobody really knows what to make of the most significant trade in Rams history, even two years later. Break it down, and there's no way St. Louis didn't come out on top, trading their second overall selection in the 2012 draft to Washington, to move back just four spots so the Redskins (um, District of Columbia Football Team) could draft the hugely talented but chronically injured Robert Griffin. The Rams have a strong team defence, have taken four receivers in the past two years, have reaped five starters from that monumental trade...but still the talk goes back to quarterback. That's because Sam Bradford, the Rams' 2010 first overall pick, has been consistently hurt or ineffective (and now overpaid). One year of RG III tearing it up and nobody will care how many starters St. Louis yielded in The Trade. Perhaps that is why, despite St. Louis' dire need and Greg Robinson's tremendous ability to fill a void at offensive tackle, I have this minor piece of information to share with you. BREAKING NEWS: Johnny Manziel Alert. The Rams, like every other team in the NFL, are now being linked to "Ramziel". (In a related story, Sam Bradford has been watching the NFL Network. A lot. For more than just Molly Qerim sightings.)


How did you make it this far down the page?

(A) My scroll button got stuck.

(B) I wanted to work out my wrist in a different way than I usually do online.

(C) I read every word, Mike...after losing a bet.