There is a lengthy argument that can be made for how the quarterback position may be the most analyzed, scrutinized and commercialized position, not only in football, but in all of sports. It’s the position that averages some of the highest salaries in the National Football League going into this season.
You don’t have to be good like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck to earn more money per year than the other 52 players on the regular season roster. While football is designed as a team sport with the quarterback being one of the 11 players starting on offense, there is a lot of pressure put on that position.
Being a quarterback in football means having to know all of the plays. You have to communicate to everyone from linemen to the running backs. There’s also the need for a quarterback to be able to look at a defense and make adjustments when necessary. With all of that in mind, it’s no wonder NFL teams pay so much money to quarterbacks.
But only a handful of the NFL’s 32 teams have a strong quarterback situation. That doesn’t mean having a Pro Bowl starting quarterback or someone with multiple Super Bowl rings. It means the team has a few people who not only can come in and start, but serve as backup in the event there is an injury that can keep a player out for two or more weeks.
The following list ranks all 32 NFL teams not only for their starting quarterbacks, but also the depth they have at that position.
32 Cleveland Browns
Football fans know about the infamous shop window jersey in downtown Cleveland with the seemingly never-ending list of names of failed starting quarterbacks that starts with Tim Couch in 1999 and probably would have grown twice as long if the store owner decided to keep it going. The newest man to go under center for the Browns is Robert Griffin III, who had started off well with Washington in 2012, but struggled with injuries and consistency the last three seasons. He could revitalize his career, but it’s Cleveland.
31 Denver Broncos
Defending Super Bowl champions should not have a quarterback problem the next season, but Denver has that problem. First, Peyton Manning was able to ride off into the sunset after earning his second championship. The backup who helped keep them in the playoffs, Brock Osweiler, went to Houston with a big contract offer. So the Broncos struggled to find someone to help them in their championship defense efforts. It seems the best they could do was sign free agent Mark Sanchez – known best for his “butt fumble” with the New York Jets.
30 San Francisco 49ers
You know your job security as a quarterback for a team is in jeopardy when you have to compete for the starting job with Blaine Gabbert. The past few seasons can be perfectly described as a downward spiral for Colin Kaepernick. After losing in Super Bowl XLVII, he was unable to defeat the division rival Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and has missed the playoffs since. Last season, Kaepernick had six touchdowns and five interceptions nine weeks into the season before he was benched for Gabbert.
29 Houston Texans
Brock Osweiler has a chance to really flourish after spending his first five seasons as a backup in Denver and had a breakout season last year when Peyton Manning was injured. Osweiler might miss having some of the targets he had in Denver, but he will have a better chance to be a starting quarterback with an offense that also features DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts. However, there might be some concerns with the amount of experience he has and there will probably be some growing pains to start the season.
28 Los Angeles Rams
A new city might be the home of a new start as Jeff Fisher is on a mission to not finish with a mediocre record. It’s a big reason why the Los Angeles Rams decided to take California quarterback Jared Goff as the first overall pick of the NFL Draft. He had some success in the past few seasons with the Golden Bears that featured more than 4,700 yards and 43 touchdowns last year at Cal. They are in one of the toughest divisions in the league, but there’s hope that Goff can develop into one of the best in the NFL.
27 Tennessee Titans
There is going to be a lot of attention on the Titans’ running back depth with names like DeMarco Murray and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. But a number of fans are interested in seeing how their former first round pick is going to evolve in his second season in the NFL. As a rookie, Marcus Mariota had some success with nearly 3,000 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 starts. He could evolve into more of the dual threat he showed he could be during his time with the Oregon Ducks.
26 New York Jets
Ryan Fitzpatrick is certainly the top man for the New York Jets after he threw for a little more than 3,900 yards with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Entering his 12th season in the league, the former Harvard quarterback has had a long career as a journeyman, having played for various teams either in a backup role or a starter. For the most part, he’s a good quarterback with a career rating of 80.8.
25 Chicago Bears
Die-hard fans of the Chicago Bears are sort of split on Jay Cutler. Sure, he had his best season statistically last year with a 92.3 rating and throwing only 11 interceptions. However, Cutler doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in a city that hasn’t seen their team in the playoffs since the loss in the 2010 NFC Championship to their dreaded rival in the Green Bay Packers. Cutler has had his struggles throughout his career and he’s entering his 11th season.
24 Baltimore Ravens
Despite a season shorted by injury and one of his worst touchdown-to-interception ratios since his 2013, Joe Flacco is an interesting quarterback. After helping the team defeat the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco earned his big contract extension. Since then, his numbers have been up and down. Before throwing for 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season after only 10 starts, he was one of the best in the league with nearly 4,000 yards and 27 touchdown passes. Flacco has been a decent quarterback and will likely have a good chance to bounce back in 2016.
23 Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles definitely had the worst start to the 2016 NFL Preseason when Carson Wentz suffered a fractured rib in their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a big blow to the Eagles, who were hoping for big things after Wentz was drafted second overall during this year’s NFL Draft and there is currently no timetable for his return to the team. Philadelphia definitely needed some help on offense, with the 25th ranked passing offense last season.
22 Detroit Lions
The good news is that the Detroit Lions still have veteran gunslinger Matthew Stafford as their starting quarterback, who had more than 4,200 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. He’s always been able to put up video-game-like numbers. However, the bad news is that he lost his favorite target in Calvin Johnson. But fans should expect to see Stafford is still be effective as he has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past five seasons. The Lions will have good reason to expect the backups to not be a factor since Stafford hasn’t missed a start in the past five seasons.
21 Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill has the distinguished honor of being the lead quarterback for a Miami Dolphins team that would love to be in any division besides the AFC East. However, the fifth-year quarterback coming out of Texas A&M is not a terrible quarterback. In fact, he has slowly improved from his rookie season in 2012. Last year, he hit a career high of 4,208 passing yards, while having a two-to-one touchdown-interception ratio. He could have another great season, but he just happens to be in the same division as Tom Brady.
20 New York Giants
Last year was one to forget for the New York Giants, known as one of the worst passing teams in the league with a lot of issues. But veteran Eli Manning likely enjoyed being able to throw to receivers like Odell Beckham. This would explain why the younger Manning brother was still successful with more than 4,400 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions – much better than the 27 interceptions he threw in 2013. The team can certainly count on Manning being durable with not having missed a start since his rookie season in 2004.
19 Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith has finally found his perfect quarterback role in a system set up by Andy Reid in Kansas City. Not too much is being asked, but he gets the job done without making too many risky decisions as he finished last season with nearly 3,500 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The 12-year veteran played his part in helping the Chiefs win 10 straight games to make the playoffs last season.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars might be one of the most dangerous dark horse teams in the NFL as last year’s runners-up in the AFC South Division. Blake Bortels is entering his third season with the team and had an extremely successful season last year with more than 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. While he may not be the best running the ball with 14 fumbles last year (five were lost), he could be poised to take a big step towards being a playoff contender this year.
17 Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins hopes that fans like what he has done for the Washington Redskins since taking over for the struggling Robert Griffin III. Last year was his first full season as a starter and the now fifth-year quarterback definitely showed he deserves to be a regular starter. Cousins had 4,166 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also had five rushing touchdowns, despite usually staying in the pocket. Some might worry it was a fluke season, but his career numbers are still better than the rest of the options on the team.
16 Dallas Cowboys
It is debatable whether Dallas quarterback Tony Romo deserves much of the criticism he gets for how he struggles to stay healthy through an entire season. The last time he started all 16 games of a regular season was in 2012. Last year, he only started four games before the team would have to go into a quarterback-by-committee standard with no one finding any success in terms of wins and losses.
15 San Diego Chargers
After finishing in last place in the AFC West in 2015, the San Diego Chargers don’t look like a team that is going to do much better. It’s actually a shame considering that the Chargers have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, who will likely never play in a Super Bowl. Rivers had nearly 4,800 passing yards with 29 touchdowns last season as part of his career 41,447 yards and a career rating of 95.5. If healthy, the offense should put up a lot of yardage.
14 Minnesota Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater made quite the progress in his second year with the team by dropping his interception numbers from 12 in 2014 to just nine in 2015. However, his passing numbers are still somewhat mediocre with only 3,231 yards last year to go with 14 touchdowns. Then again, the Vikings game plan is focused mostly around veteran running back Adrian Peterson, so Minnesota doesn’t feel the need to make Bridgewater take big risks in the passing game.
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers might still need to catch up in every other position on the team, but they are doing pretty well in the quarterback spot. Jameis Winston has been losing some of that extra weight, making him a little more mobile, and he was already showing signs of being a young dual threat quarterback who could join the ranks of Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. In his rookie season, he had a little more than 4,000 yards with 22 touchdowns (along with six more touchdowns rushing).
12 Buffalo Bills
Based on the fact that the Buffalo Bills signed Tyrod Taylor to a six-year contract extension worth $92 million, it looks like the Bills have plans for who their long-term answer for the quarterback position is going to be. This came after Taylor had a great season last year taking over for former first round draft choice EJ Manuel. Last season, Taylor threw for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions in his 14 starts.
11 Oakland Raiders
In his second full season in the NFL, Derek Carr definitely showed some positive progression for the Oakland Raiders. After throwing for nearly 3,300 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2014, Carr had nearly 4,000 yards with 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His rating also jumped from 76.6 to 91.1. The former Fresno State star could be poised to take another step in helping the team's chances of climbing the AFC West standings and possibly a trip to the playoffs as a wild card team.
10 Cincinnati Bengals
The defending AFC North Champions are pretty happy with their quarterback situation. Andy Dalton returns for his sixth season with the Cincinnati Bengals, after missing three games to injury last year. But he did have another quality season with 25 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. He's likely to have a 4,000-yard season. But what happens if Dalton suffers another injury in 2016?
9 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts had some struggles last season with an injured Andrew Luck and was able to get by with veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck. But with his retirement, Luck became a much more valuable piece to the Indianapolis offense. He was already a valuable commodity as a former top draft pick in 2012. In his first three seasons, he played in all 16 games each year with plenty of big numbers. His best season was 2014 with more than 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns.
8 Atlanta Falcons
Usually, Matt Ryan would be one of the top choices for quarterbacks in fantasy football. But the second half of last season made him look a little more mortal than years past. However, it is highly unlikely the Atlanta Falcons are going to bench Ryan, since he hasn’t missed a start since the 2009 season. He’s also someone who is good for more than 4,000 yards, with weapons like Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
7 New Orleans Saints
New Orleans has always been a pass first offensive team, ever since Drew Brees came to the Saints in 2006. The Saints averaged 291 yards per game last season through the air and Brees had another big season with nearly 4,900 yards to go with 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions – the 10th consecutive season with more than 4,000 passing yards. With the longtime Saint embarking on his 16th season in the NFL, there’s a good chance the franchise is going to start looking towards the future as there might be some focus on developing second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson.
6 Arizona Cardinals
There is a lot of excitement around the Arizona Cardinals after dethroning the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West crown. A lot of that had to do with quarterback Carson Palmer’s 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns. While the Cardinals could be a repeat division champion, one has to start wondering what the team is planning on doing moving forward since Palmer is 36 years old. He also had a number of injury problems that limited him to just six games in the 2014 season.
5 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the better all-around quarterbacks in the league with Ben Roethlisberger, even if his rushing abilities have dialed down in recent years. He is still a solid pocket passer who threw for nearly 4,000 yards. But his accuracy went down with 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. It might be a temporary setback for the former Miami (Ohio) quarterback entering his 13th season with a career rating of 94.0.
4 Carolina Panthers
The defending NFC Champions are in a good spot to make a return run to this season’s Super Bowl game. A big part of that is the athleticism that Cam Newton brings to the Carolina Panthers’ offense. He threw for more than 3,800 yards and rushed for more than 600 yards to finish with a total of 45 touchdowns. It was his best season in his career and things are looking up for the former Auburn quarterback. The hope is that he’ll stay healthy.
3 Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is deserving of being paid like one of the best in his position. That’s because he is up there with Cam Newton as being a true dual threat quarterback, picking apart opposing defenses with his arm and his legs. In his fourth season in the league, Wilson had 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, with 34 passing touchdowns. He also ran for 553 yards with one touchdown on the ground. While the team doesn’t have Tavaris Jackson as a solid backup option behind Wilson, they are fine with developing two rookies since Wilson has yet to miss a start.
2 Green Bay Packers
The NFC North favorites in Green Bay are putting a lot of stock in Aaron Rodgers not getting hurt. The Packers probably assume that the 2013 season, where he only had nine starts in the regular season because of injury problems, was a fluke. Obviously, he’s going to lead their offense regardless of the wide receiver threats he has on his roster. After spending his first three seasons behind Brett Favre, Rodgers had had six seasons where he threw for more than 4,000 yards.
1 New England Patriots
It shouldn’t be a surprise to see the New England Patriots high on this list. Essentially, the Patriots are Tom Brady’s team – at least after the first four weeks of the season, during which time Brady will serve his four-game suspension for Deflategate from two seasons ago. This means third-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who had 168 yards on 11 completions in the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Based on that performance, the Patriots might be fine with Garoppolo on the short-term starting job.
Brady will enter his 17th season coming off another great season with 4,770 yards, 36 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. One would expect that he could have another season with similar numbers as he still has many of his aerial threats still in New England. With rookie Jacoby Brissett from North Carolina State, the Patriots might be in a good position in terms of their quarterback depth – just like every other position on the team.
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