Young quarterbacks are supposed to go through the highs and lows of learning the position at the highest level. Heck, there’s only a handful of elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and about a dozen or so that you would consider to be franchise quarterbacks to build around. We all acknowledge and talk about those stars all the time, this is about the state of quarterbacks around the National Football League.
I like the poise and instincts of Blake Bortles. Even when the Jaguars are struggling, you can still see his talent in some form or another. For instance, Bortles might be inaccurate downfield, but how did he get to the point of release? He’s pulling off his best Big Ben impersonation, shedding an arm tackle in the pocket, spinning away with his eyes up the field to make a throw. It sure helps to have a promising core to grow with, and Bortles is the guy distributing the ball and they have to get in shootouts to win games.
The same can be said for Derek Carr for the Silver and Black. He uses his head, even on third downs and in the red zone, to find the open target. Amari Cooper leads all rookies in receiving, but you often see Michael Crabtree taking advantage on the other side and even Seth Roberts has been the recipient of some touchdowns. Carr doesn’t care who gets the ball and that unconditional expectation will allow him to keep developing.
Bortles and Carr have a couple of seasons under their belt now. We don’t necessarily have to focus on rookies Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota because it’s so early and teams will have tape on them a year from now, but they both look like they belong so far. Winston is in a better situation: supporting cast, offensive coaching staff, and Tampa Bay has some hopes to catch a wildcard spot. Tennessee made a coaching change in the middle of the season, the talent isn’t really there, yet I see Mariota as the better player at this point in time.
With quarterbacks, it’s just so difficult to find the right guy and the right fit, let alone predict who’s going to be an all-time great. See, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck were expected to be great, and as you know, Tom Brady was the underground gem. I am really surprised at how well Mariota has played as a rookie. Bortles is one of my favorite QBs to watch develop on a weekly basis, so for me, it was great to see him put up 40 points last week.
We have to show some love to the veterans that are making it happen this season. From Pro Bowler to injured, bouncing around to a few different teams, Carson Palmer looks like he’s in his prime again and it’s great to see. Bruce Arians has reinvented himself as a coach, and these two work together as well as any other coach/QB duo in the league. Who doesn’t love how Palmer is playing, and leading? Arizona is a legitimate Super Bowl contender with him, and a completely different team when he’s sidelined.
How about Ryan Fitzpatrick taking charge and solidifying the Jets in the wildcard picture. Considering the injuries to New England and Cincinnati, as well as the struggles in Denver, Fitzpatrick and company have an opportunity to surprise the football world this postseason. Fitzpatrick is a 33-year-old journeyman that I find myself rooting for on Sundays, putting in work with a veteran supporting cast. That offense reminds me of the older crew that plays pick-up basketball and can still win games. I have every reason to believe that Fitzpatrick has earned the starting job heading into next season.
To be honest, I don’t think the 49ers and Rams have their starter for 2016 on their rosters. But hey, what do I know if the great Joe Montana sees Blaine Gabert as the right fit in the Bay? Not to say that Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles couldn’t succeed elsewhere, just not who they currently play for. When you think about it, the rest of the NFC believes in their current signal callers. That includes Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota, who they like a lot with the understanding that it’s going to take him some time. Also, Kirk Cousins in Washington. Jay Gruden seems adamant about him being the right guy for his offense. If that doesn’t turn out to be the case, then maybe they turn back to Robert Griffin if he’s matured enough. Either way, I think their starter for next season is already on the team.
The AFC teams also look like they’ll be moving forward with their guys in 2016, with the exception of maybe Cleveland and Houston. Who knows if Johnny Manziel will even be in Dog Pound in a year? Since they drafted him, they might as well see what he can do. After all, through 14 weeks, he’s led them to a pair of wins when they only have one without him. I guess Brian Hoyer could be given another opportunity, but he’s missing games this season to injury and Bill O’ Brien is an offensive mind that really wants to settle on a quarterback already. In a way, if Manziel and Hoyer get the nod in 2016, that would mean the entire AFC is prepared for next season under center.
It’s really interesting to look at the position around the league like this, and what I’m alluding to is, perhaps we don’t see a QB get drafted in the first round. Say what? Maybe a team can find that guy that fits their system like the Jets have. Finding the right coach could help Ryan Tannehill take a step forward. We’ll find out on that one. I know that Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan are having down years, but I don’t expect a transition at the helm in Detroit nor Atlanta. Kaepernick and Griffin could be on the move to add competition somewhere, but don’t expect them to get handed a starting gig.
I guess Denver could entertain acquiring a new guy. It would take the combination of believing that Peyton Manning is done and coming to the conclusion that Brock Osweiler hasn’t shown enough. Sam Bradford is a comeback player that I find to be improving, slowly, but he is. So, that would leave only his former team, St. Louis, that would be the most desperate to find a new signal caller if they move on from Foles or Case Keenum. I like Foles but the Rams need to actually care about the offensive side of the ball, on the field and at coordinator.
The lack of talent and reliability at the college level certainly makes this year’s cast of starters look better than they normally would, but just maybe they’re not all so bad after all.