The quarterback position is the most difficult out of any major sport in America right now. That's not hyperbole either. For every offense in the NFL, their gameplan inherently runs through the quarterback, and they're dependent on him for success in nearly every game. It's really no easy task to effectively execute the position effectively in the NFL. Even some of the game's best college quarterback struggle in the pro ranks, and it's no surprise that so many teams are always on the lookout for a franchise player at the position. It's just difficult to find anyone capable enough to be under center for the long-term.
Indeed, there are plenty of quarterbacks in the league right now who are de facto placeholders. They aren't the long-term answer, but they've been serviceable for a short time until the franchise can find a true solution. In short, they're just assisting the team to kick the can down the road. One thing's for sure; these players won't be mistaken for the Tom Bradys and Aaron Rodgers' of the world. They're players with a short shelf life, who have no chance at any real progression.
Ranked below are 15 hopeless starting NFL quarterbacks who will soon be backups.
15 Carson Palmer
Coming to the end of his rope with the Cardinals, Palmer has actually had a solid career. The main knock on him has always been that he comes up short in the playoffs, and it's a valid criticism. It's what always has made Palmer fall below the level of the truly elite quarterbacks in the league since his debut in 2004. Arizona will likely need to replace Palmer following this season, as an extensive injury history and regressing play have taken it's toll.
If Palmer does end up staying in the league, it will be in the role of a backup only. More likely however, he'll just retire all together. Certainly not the worst player on this list (actually, he may be the best), Palmer just was never able to take it to the next level, and he'll end his career without the elusive Super Bowl to his credit.
14 Jared Goff
Goff was a disappointment in every sense of the word last year. The 1st-overall pick proved that he wasn't prepared to start as quarterback on an NFL roster, and there are now serious questions as to whether he was worth the investment. The Rams are going to need to so a massive improvement in year 2 in order to quell their fears. Goff is facing an uphill battle for sure, despite the advent of a new coaching staff.
Los Angeles will be reticent to relinquish Goff of the starting job, considering his high price tag, but don't be surprised if he ends up sitting the bench in a couple of years. If he isn't able to show some improvement in the upcoming campaign, it's fair to say that his career is swirling the drain, with little chance of a rebound.
13 Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins are going all-in on Tannehill as their long-term, franchise quarterback. It's admirable confidence in a player that has showed only marginal signs of improvement since his debut in 2012. Tannehill may not be close to being the worst quarterback in the league, but he has very little chance of ascending to the heights of an elite one. If Miami thinks they can with win with that, then more power to them.
But history shows us that merely a "decent" quarterback will be replaced sooner rather than later. The Dolphins are probably willing to roll with Tannehill for a bit longer, but it won't be enough to get them into good playoff standing. They're better off moving on from him, in which case he's likely to become a backup.
12 Josh McCown
Everyone knows that the Jets are the biggest mess in the league right now, having entered a complete, full-scale rebuild. They let go of most of their upper-tier players, and have no answer at quarterback. They signed McCown to be a one-year placeholder, but he won't make it through the 2017 season. He'll start a few games, only to be replaced by one of the younger quarterbacks on the roster.
At McCown's age, even being a backup for much longer is a stretch. He's better off just facing retirement, than have to enter another situation where he's a stopgap or low-level replacement. There was a time when McCown was a solid 2nd-string player, but he's past whatever prime he may have had, and is now going to have an abysmal season with the Jets, which will likely be his last.
11 Tyrod Taylor
Certainly Taylor's story is an inspiring one, and he's quickly become a fan-favorite throughout the league. After serving as a backup to Joe Flacco for multiple seasons in Baltimore, the Bills took a chance on him as their starter in 2015. He's not only lasted 2 years as their starter (and gearing up for a 3rd), he's actually played fairly well at times, and kept the Bills in some kind of reasonable playoff contention.
However, he's just not the long-term answer. This is only further confirmed by the new coaching staff in Buffalo headed by Sean McDermott, who has no ties to Taylor and his starting job. Barring some kind of a massive leap this season, Taylor is destined to be a backup following this season, as the Bills likely draft a quarterback in the 2018 draft. This time, they'll be hoping for better results than what they got from E.J. Manuel.
10 Brock Osweiler
There's legitimate reason to believe that Osweiler won't even be the Browns' opening day starter this season, with several young quarterbacks in the mix this year, including last year's starter, Cody Kessler. He no doubt gives Cleveland more competition at the position group, but after a disastrous season in Houston last year, Osweiler's hype train has finally been derailed, and for good reason.
Most people though the Texans were foolish for handing out such a massive contract to a player with limited starting experience, and it turned out to be correct. Osweiler just isn't a capable NFL starter, and if he can't even play his way into that role on a team as awful as Cleveland, it will ruin any chance he has of becoming one in the future.
9 Trevor Siemian
One of the main training camp battles to watch is the one for the starting quarterback job in Denver for this season. Siemian, who started the majority of games last year for the Broncos, will be opposed by former 1st round pick Paxton Lynch, who will try to unseat him. Lynch definitely has the greater upside, and if he's ready to go nobody should be surprised at the possibility of Siemian sitting on the bench.
If Siemian does end up the starter, it's not likely to last long. He performed admirably last season, but he just doesn't have the skill set necessary to be a long-term starter in the league. Denver's above-average skill players can only help him for so long, and there are no guarantees regarding his roster spot.
8 Mike Glennon
Glennon has a chance to play better than a lot of people think, and he may even make the Bears somewhat of a reasonable team for the majority of the season. He had the unfortunate circumstance of sitting behind Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay for the last several seasons, despite the fact that he had a solid rookie season in 2013. He'll have a solid corps of veteran receivers at his disposal, and be looking to play his way on to the roster for the next couple of years.
But if you were to make a bet on it, the money says to not trust Glennon for over a single season. While there is a possibility that he could prove everyone wrong and maintain a starting role, the presence of 2nd-overall pick Mitch Trubisky makes this even more unlikely, even as ill-advised as that pick was.
7 Joe Flacco
Most quarterbacks on this ranking wouldn't have a chance to win a Super Bowl, but lo and behold, Flacco accomplished that in 2012, even if it came on the heels of a great defense. He's definitely been productive over his career, and the Ravens saw fit to give him a massive contract that ensured him as the franchise player. There are several problems with his current situation, however.
The Ravens are in a funk right now, and Flacco has done little to break them out of it. If Baltimore suffers another sub-par season in 2017, don't be surprised if the question opens up regarding his future with the team. Losing will make a team sour on their quarterback in a hurry, and Flacco's injuries at the moment don't help that outcome in any way. Consider him a question mark for this season.
6 DeShaun Watson
So this one is a total projection and nothing more, because Watson hasn't played a snap in the NFL yet. Still, how ridiculous would it be to see the rookie falter early in 2017? By all accounts, he'll be the likely starter in Houston, but players in those positions haven't seen much success over the last several years, during the Bill O'Brien era. Granted, Watson undoubtedly has a greater base skill level than the others, but there are no guarantees.
The Texans are very much in a "win now" mode with J.J. Watt's future in question, and other notable players (Jonathan Joseph, Brian Cushing) getting up there in the age department. If Watson struggles in his rookie campaign, how long before the team will pull the plug? It could turn out to be either a pleasant surprise, or a complete disaster.
5 Brian Hoyer
As a placeholder quarterback, nobody has gotten more opportunity than Hoyer has. He's seemingly been on half the rosters in the league at one point or another, and now he'll be the starter in San Francisco, while they search for their eventual franchise quarterback. This is one of the easiest situations to call on this ranking. Hoyer is a de facto backup, and while reliable in the sense that he won't be a complete embarrassment, he also stands little chance of actually heading a quality offense.
Truly, Hoyer is a stopgap in every sense of the word. There's almost no chance that he'll be the 49ers' starter in 2018, and he's probably OK with that. He knows his role, and isn't likely to expect much more. This has been the pattern throughout his entire career, and it won't change now.
4 Andy Dalton
Dalton is the most enigmatic and underwhelming quarterback in the league, considering what is expected of him. Despite some nice counting stats, and a perceived sense of stability, he's not going to elevate his team in a big game, and he's not good enough to be considered in the league's elite. The Bengals can only go one-and-done in the playoffs for so long before they make a change at quarterback.
When that happens, Dalton will be a confirmed backup for the rest of his career. Quality play at times doesn't mean that he is a good option for another team to bring him in as a starter. He lacks the "it" factor that good NFL quarterbacks have. The Bengals could sour on him as soon as 2018, and he won't get another opportunity.
3 Alex Smith
There's no quarterback who's perfected the art of the game manager more than Smith has. He's the ultimate risk-averse player; not willing to throw the ball down the field, but quick to check down, and hope that his skill players can make up for his deficiencies. It's worked out quite well compared to other quarterbacks who have implemented this strategy, but it's going to come to an end soon.
The Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the 1st round this year, and you can bet that they're gearing up for him to be the starter in the near future. If Smith struggles early, it wouldn't even be surprising to see Mahomes get the nod this season. Either way, Smith's time as a starter is limited, and he won't get another chance to prove his worth, now that he's getting up there in age.
2 Sam Bradford
Whether or not Bradford has a solid season in 2017, you can't help but believe that the Vikings have an exit strategy in mind for him. Simply, Bradford hasn't proven that he can elevate an offense in the NFL, and while he's not a 1st-round bust, he's still been severely underwhelming. Surely, Minnesota can't wait to get Teddy Bridgewater back, if that's even a possibility at this point, and if not they'll be looking to the draft for a long-term solution.
But Bradford isn't likely to be that guy. Just like Smith mentioned above, he's a risk-averse, but accurate quarterback who won't be able to overcome the league's best secondaries. Regardless of a high completion percentage, or how much the Vikings pretend he's the answer, it's easy to see through his deficiencies.
1 Blake Bortles
It's been a career of ups-and-downs for Bortles thus far, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. The Jaguars are sticking with him for now as the starter, but this year will ultimately prove to be the make-or-break career for him, as he strives for more consistency. Unlike some others, Bortles can't make the excuse that he doesn't have the skill player at his disposal, as Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and others make up a very formidable unit.
In all, Bortles probably isn't the long-term answer in Jacksonville. New head coach Doug Marrone has no ties to him, and there's no reason to stick with a quarterback who makes as many mental gaffes as Bortles is prone to in any given season. There's been flashes of brilliance, but the inept ability to make good decisions overrides it in the end. This very well may be Bortles last season as a starter with the Jags, at which point he'll enter the realm of backup journeyman quarterbacks that are so present throughout the league.
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