Quarterbacks are the faces of National Football League franchises and, ideally, the most important figures inside of a locker room and on the field. Granted, there have been some signal-callers who were carried, or even dragged in instances, to Super Bowl appearances and championships. The majority of the time, however, an organization requires either a great QB or one who is in-form and on a hot streak to guide a side past a conference championship contest and to the biggest game of the year. Nick Foles may not go down as one of the greatest of all time or as a Hall of Famer, but nobody can deny he deserved to win Super Bowl LII honors for his performance that memorable evening.
Of the 32 men who will begin the 2018 NFL regular season as starting QBs, a handful of them could, realistically, win at least one Super Bowl ring before they enter retirement. Not all of those in that tier as of the first week of September are seen as the best in the business, but, rather, are lucky enough to play on rosters filled with talent on both sides of the football. Meanwhile, at least seven quarterbacks scheduled to start the 2018 campaign under center for their teams won’t ever reach the figurative mountaintop for one reason or another before they retire. One or more of them may even lose their jobs before the end of the season.
21 Win a Super Bowl: Deshaun Watson
While it is reasonable that some would have concerns about Houston Texans starting quarterback Deshaun Watson while he is on the cusp of making his regular season return following the torn ACL he suffered in November 2017, all should remember that he looked like a Rookie of the Year and MVP candidate before he was sidelined. Rust and inexperience may prevent Watson from taking the Texans on a lengthy postseason run in his second season, but he has the goods to eventually become one of the best QBs in the conference once Tom Brady finally rides off into the sunset, assuming that day will actually arrive before Watson retires down the road.
20 Has a chance: Sam Darnold
It’s fashionable and also easy to crack jokes about the New York Jets these days, especially if the New York Giants happen to be playing well at the time. Don’t look now, but the Jets may have found the real deal in rookie Sam Darnold, seen by some as the best quarterback of the 2018 NFL Draft class. Darnold will experience some hiccups, and he’ll probably even cost Gang Green a couple of games during his debut year. Those in charge of the Jets need to have patience in the 21-year-old and let him develop as a starter now that he’s been given the keys to the offense. In may take a few years, at least, but Darnold absolutely has a chance to win a Super Bowl.
19 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Dak Prescott
Similar to Marcus Mariota, Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott worked to improve his mechanics after dealing with a bit of a “sophomore slump” season. The problem isn’t necessarily Prescott but the rest of the franchise. While Prescott’s upside remains high, thanks largely to the fact that Ezekiel Elliott is in the backfield, he needs better targets to throw to, especially on occasions when Elliott isn’t available for whatever reasons. This could be the boldest prediction of them all, but the Cowboys have to decide if the 25-year-old will be the team’s long-term starter after the 2019 season. One disappointing year could be enough for the Cowboys to consider different options.
18 Win a Super Bowl: Jared Goff
Following his lackluster rookie season, many out there would have said that it is wishful thinking, at best, to list Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff among those who will win a Super Bowl before he retires. The Rams changed Goff’s career path, and maybe his football life, by acquiring Sean McVay to be the team’s head coach ahead of the 2017 campaign. Goff is surrounded by a plethora of weapons and he showed last year he is good enough to win games for his team when asked. It’s not a stretch to say that Goff could be a favorite to win regular season MVP and play on his home turf in a conference championship game come next January.
17 Has a chance: Patrick Mahomes
Days before the kickoff of the 2018 NFL regular season, Alexis Mansanarez of the Sporting News compared Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to San Diego Chargers starter Philip Rivers. That’s high praise, but it also isn’t a one-off, as Mahomes has been on the receiving end of endorsements since even before he was given the KC gig following the 2017 campaign. Mahomes’ athleticism and arm coupled with the Chiefs’ offense and system has made him a candidate to have a breakout year following what was, essentially, a red shirt season. He may be the missing piece and the man who leads the Chiefs to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
16 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Philip Rivers
When comparing the two men simply on talent and nothing more, Philip Rivers is obviously a better option over Patrick Mahomes at this portion of their careers. Things quickly change, though, and Rivers is a 36-year-old quarterback playing for a team that is currently not seen as one of the best three sides in the AFC. Say, for the sake of argument, Rivers and the Chargers are eliminated from the playoffs after one or two postseason appearances. How much longer can the Chargers realistically rely on the best QB of his generation who has never won a Super Bowl? The math, more than anything, is against Rivers in September 2018.
15 Win a Super Bowl: Matt Ryan
28-3. It is the scoreline Matt Ryan and others who were part of that Super Bowl LI Atlanta Falcons team will never be able to escape unless they win a title. Matty Ice can frustrate fans and those who draft him for their fantasy football teams with inconsistent play from time to time, but the Falcons have done enough to give Ryan multiple opportunities to return to a Super Bowl before the 33-year-old even thinks about retirement. Ryan has one MVP award on his resume, and the fact that he plays home games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium gives him another advantage. His window to win a championship isn’t closed just yet.
14 Has a chance: Marcus Mariota
Those who would say that Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota needs to take the next figurative step of his career are correct. In Mariota’s defense, he did work to improve his mechanics during the offseason and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is expected to get the most out of the 24-year-old this year. Mariota has shown he can be a force in red-zone situations. He also sometimes has a little too much faith in his arm, particularly as it pertains to throwing into tight windows. Regardless of the flaws he has, it is still way too early for anybody to say Mariota doesn’t have at least a chance to win a Super Bowl over the next decade.
13 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Jameis Winston
Not only are we adding Jameis Winston to the list of QBs who won’t win a Super Bowl before retiring. We aren’t even sure the former first overall pick is going to be the starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17 of the upcoming season. By now, Tampa Bay fans are in denial if they don’t understand that at least some within the organization want Ryan Fitzpatrick to play well enough to keep Winston sidelined even after the 24-year-old is eligible to return from the suspension that will keep him a spectator through the first three games of the season. Winston is not the most popular commodity among NFL QBs these days.
12 Win a Super Bowl: Matthew Stafford
Maybe the best statistic as it pertains to Matthew Stafford’s future is that the Detroit Lions QB has appeared in every regular season game since the start of the 2011 campaign. With durability not a concern (knock on wood, Detroit fans), one has to believe that Stafford is too good to not win a Super Bowl now that he is in his 30s. To get there, the Lions will likely need to add more talent to the roster than what Stafford has before Week 1 of the campaign. Detroit could be one offseason away from landing the final pieces to make a Super Bowl contender, and that, coupled with Stafford’s talent, is why his odds to win a title remain high.
11 Has a chance: Blake Bortles
Do not scoff or laugh at this, those who often mock Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Yes, Bortles has suffered through many forgettable afternoons and evenings during his career, but he and the Jaguars were only a few minutes away from playing in the Super Bowl earlier this year. The 26-year-old who hasn’t been all Jacksonville thought he’d be when the team drafted him is proof that a QB getting hot at the right time could be all his franchise needs to make it to a Super Bowl as long as those around him play well. He may not be the MVP of the game, but Bortles has a chance to win a Super Bowl before the end of the 2020 season.
10 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Sam Bradford
We are sure that there are still some of you out there holding onto hope that Sam Bradford will be able to play through an entire regular season, perform well and guide the Arizona Cardinals or some other franchise to a Super Bowl. That type of positivity is admirable, but even the Cardinals planned for life after Bradford when the team drafted Josh Rosen. No disrespect meant, but the Cardinals probably aren’t winning the Super Bowl this year. What happens with Bradford’s career in the spring of 2018? Will the then-31-year-old be given a chance to start elsewhere in the league? Will be become a perennial backup? Nobody knows.
9 Win a Super Bowl: Jimmy Garoppolo
Unless you have not been paying attention to the NFL since last fall, you probably know that the Jimmy Garoppolo hype train has already left the station. Garoppolo was undeniably excellent after taking over as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, but everyone would do well to pump the brakes before anointing him the second coming of Tom Brady. Still, the options at this point are to either hop onto that hype train or get run over by it. Jimmy G isn’t leading the Niners to the Super Bowl in his first full season as a starter. Give him time, though, and he could follow in Brady’s footsteps.
8 Has a chance: Baker Mayfield
A lot of people within the football community are high on the Cleveland Browns following the team’s recent offseason. One of the reasons is the drafting of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who performed well in training camp and August exhibition games. Mayfield is beginning his first pro year on the bench and behind Tyrod Taylor on the depth chart, but he’ll eventually receive his opportunity to play. The first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft looked like the best signal-caller of his class during the summer, and that reality is enough to give Cleveland fans dreams of Mayfield having a chance to do what no Browns QB has ever done; win a Super Bowl.
7 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Case Keenum
So many often hit out at the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets for the quarterback histories of those teams. Where are the jokes about the Denver Broncos, an organization that only found a franchise QB this decade because the Indianapolis Colts believed they had to replace Peyton Manning with Andrew Luck? Watching Case Keenum resurrect, or save, his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017 made for fascinating television for casual fans. Is this game-manager really capable of winning a Super Bowl as did Nick Foles last February? Would you be willing to bet any real amount of money on Keenum receiving a championship ring before he retires?
6 Win a Super Bowl: Cam Newton
Of all of the quarterbacks in the league who haven't yet won a Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers starter Cam Newton is probably the best of that bunch as of the summer of 2018. Newton hasn’t turned 30 years old yet, meaning he should still be in his physical prime, and the 2015 NFL MVP is built like a linebacker ad who has a tremendous arm unlike any player at the position. The Panthers hired Norv Turner to work as offensive coordinator earlier this year, and Turner’s history suggests he could help Newton get even better beginning this fall. The Panthers may not get to the dance this year, but Newton has plenty of years left to win a Super Bowl.
5 Has a chance: Derek Carr
Admittedly, it is probably not the best time to mention anything regarding the Oakland Raiders possibly winning a Super Bowl right after the team dealt its best defensive player, Khalil Mack, to the Chicago Bears. That decision is not sitting well with fans before the 2018 season and the Raiders are clearly worse, on paper, without Mack. That trade, as controversial as it is, doesn’t eliminate the fact that quarterback Derek Carr has MVP talent. That talent needs to be molded and matched with better players on offense, but it’s still early days into the Jon Gruden era. This process will take time, and maybe multiple losing seasons, but Carr has a good chance to win at least one Super Bowl.
4 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Alex Smith
Predicting that Alex Smith will win a Super Bowl before he retires would require a leap of faith. For starters, Smith is not known for out-dueling big-arm quarterbacks in must-win situations. Not even the best fan of the Washington Redskins, the team that traded for Smith after the 2017 season, would pick Smith over Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford if given the chance. Heck, some may even still prefer Kirk Cousins even though the Redskins clearly did not. Smith is good enough to take a team to the playoffs. He isn’t at that next level, or at least he hasn’t been during his career through the start of September 2018.
3 Win a Super Bowl: Andrew Luck
This is another example of optimism playing a role in a prediction. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck may never become the hybrid of John Elway and Peyton Manning so many believed he’d be at the time that he entered the NFL, but he can still evolve into one of the best QBs in the NFL as long as his shoulder stays healthy and the Colts give him an offensive line that doesn’t hang him out to dry on a weekly basis. Luck will be only 29 years old in the middle of September. It’s likely we haven’t yet seen him at his best. Don’t discount his chances of winning a Super Bowl once over the next five years.
2 Has a chance: Kirk Cousins
Much like the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Minnesota Vikings were close to playing in a Super Bowl earlier this year. Those in charge of the Vikings would say that the team upgraded at the quarterback position by signing Kirk Cousins to a contract that guarantees he will be the team’s starter for at least the next three seasons. It will take some time for Cousins and his new teammates to develop chemistry, and multiple NFC opponents improved since last February. Cousins has a better chance to win a Super Bowl today than he did with the Redskins, and he also has reasons to want to prove his former club wrong.
1 Won’t win a Super Bowl: Tyrod Taylor
By all accounts and reports, Tyrod Taylor is saying and doing all of the right things serving as the bridge quarterback for a rookie who was the first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Football fans and observers have seen plenty of Taylor throughout his time in the league to understand what he is and isn’t. Taylor can be a fine game-manager who limits avoidable turnovers and other mistakes that down unproven and shaky signal-callers. He has also sunk during big games, and he is lacking that supposed “it” factor possessed by future Hall of Famers like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Eli Manning. Don’t be shocked if Taylor is benched by December.