Quarterback controversy. They are the two words that haunt National Football League franchises, head coaches and general managers. The old adage as it pertains to pro football is that a team that has two quarterbacks actually has none. A pro-style offense needs a true leader inside of the huddle, behind the center and in the pocket. While it is important for a NFL team, particularly one that wants to contend for a Super Bowl championship, to have a solid backup, it needs to be clear to everybody in the locker room and among the fan base of the club that the starter is, so long as he is healthy, the starting QB.
What happens, though, when a head coach is forced to pick one of two bad players to be his starting quarterback? You could ask fans of the Cleveland Browns about this. The truth of the matter is that one could dedicate an entire piece to the long list of failed quarterbacks and useless QB controversies that the Browns have been responsible for since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. One would think that a NFL team that is worth over $1 billion could, in 16 years, fall into a franchise QB at least once. The Browns continue to show that is not the case.
The Browns, as poor as they have been, are not the only team that has put fans through useless and mind-boggling quarterback controversies. Even teams that have won multiple championships, a storied franchise such as the Dallas Cowboys, have been forced into an awful quarterback controversy. Fellow NFC East team the Washington Redskins have seemingly been involved in a QB controversy for years, and a new controversy will likely be sparked at some point in 2016. Is it possible that the Redskins have a franchise QB on their roster as of November 2015? No, they probably don't.
15 Geno Smith vs. Michael Vick
This is an all-time favorite among QB controversies because of the two men it featured. Geno Smith may one day evolve into a legitimate starter in the NFL. Smith is not there yet and he certainly wasn't there when he was a teammate of Michael Vick. Vick, meanwhile, was more than happy to serve as a mentor and backup to Smith, to the point that the perception among fans of the New York Jets was that Vick would have preferred not playing. In Vick's defense, he was no longer the electric play-maker that he was in his prime when he was on the Jets.
14 Colt McCoy vs. Brandon Weeden
The multiple shout-outs to the useless QB controversies that remain in the memories of fans of the Cleveland Browns begins with quite a gem. Colt McCoy was an undersized quarterback who is mostly known by Cleveland fans for that one time that he was allowed to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers after he had clearly suffered a concussion. Brandon Weeden, meanwhile, was drafted by the Browns when he was closer to 30-years-old than to 25. The biggest problem with Weeden, of course, was that he could not play, something that another team found out in 2015.
13 Brian Hoyer vs. Ryan Mallett
Brian Hoyer linked up with the Houston Texans after the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, decided that he was not worth keeping around, after Hoyer failed to even pretend to be a mentor for Johnny Manziel, Ryan Mallett, it would turn out, had problems making it to team events on time, particularly after he was demoted to second on the depth chart behind Hoyer. While it is technically possible that either man could one day prove himself to be a championship quarterback, it is instead more likely that they will be known for being part of one of the worst QB controversies in the history of the Texans.
12 Matt McGloin vs. Terrelle Pryor
Matt McGloin can spin the football when he is not running for his life during games. The product of Penn State has never, however, really looked like the real deal during meaningful NFL games. Terrelle Pryor was so lackluster as a quarterback that he converted to wide receiver only a couple of years after this “controversy” was a talking point among fans of the Oakland Raiders. Fans of the Raiders are likely thankful that they no longer have to dwell on this part of the team's history. Derek Carr could be the QB that the franchise has needed for quite some time.
11 Jay Cutler vs. Josh McCown
Both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown can be solid quarterbacks for a time. The problem here is that both are prone to different types of breakdowns during games. This controversy arose during the 2013 NFL season when McCown played well while filling in for an injured Cutler. Cutler reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup when he was healthy and McCown eventually moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the Cleveland Browns. There is, as of the posting of this piece, little reason to believe that either will be celebrating winning a Super Bowl before they hang up their cleats.
10 Kyle Boller vs. Anthony Wright
The next time that you encounter a Baltimore Ravens fan who complains whenever Joe Flacco does anything negative, simply remind that person about this hilarious controversy. Kyle Boller was so awful during points of his Baltimore career that fans of the Ravens literally cheered when he went down with an injury. Those same fans then watched in horror when Anthony Wright was given the keys to the team's offense. Flacco may not be perfect. He is, however, essentially playing a different sport when compared to the likes of Boller and Wright.
9 Charlie Frye vs. Derek Anderson
There is so much about this useless QB controversy that makes it amazing. Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel decided to choose who would start in September 2007 by flipping a coin; seriously. Frye was so bad against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 that he was shipped off to the Seattle Seahawks. Anderson played well for the majority of the campaign, and the Browns rewarded him with a contract and a spot in the lineup. The QB repaid the Browns by never again playing as well as he did in 2007, and the team is still searching for a true QB.
8 Matt Cassel vs. Brady Quinn
Perhaps the best thing to come from this useless QB controversy that occurred in 2012 was the Deadspin story that had the following headline: “There Is An Awful, Awful Quarterback Controversy in Kansas City.” The Kansas City Chiefs were in a situation where the club had to pick between Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn, which is sort of like being asked to choose if you would rather be hit by a moving bus or dropped out of plane into the Grand Canyon. Alex Smith may not be Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but he is Joe Montana when compared to Cassel and Quinn. Cassel, amazingly enough, will be mentioned again later in this piece.
7 Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow
You either are not all that big of a sports fans or you hate the Denver Broncos and/or Tim Tebow if you did not have fun watching Tebow play for the Broncos in 2011. “Tebowmania” swept the nation and Tebow had his moment of glory when he helped the Broncos win a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As entertaining as all of that was, neither Tebow nor Kyle Orton were any good. The Broncos realized this during the offseason and the club responded by acquiring Peyton Manning and then sending Tebow to the New York Jets.
6 Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb
Tim Couch, like Kyle Boller, once heard cheers when he suffered an injury during a game. Kelly Holcomb will always be a bright spot in the history of the Cleveland Browns for that one time that he lit it up against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game. The Browns lost that game to their rivals because of course Cleveland lost, and neither Couch nor Holcomb did much of note while with the franchise. Couch admittedly had little to work with during the early years of the Browns reboot. Holcomb, meanwhile, just was not all that good.
5 Colin Kaepernick vs. Blaine Gabbert
Those of you who are fans of QB controversies are getting an early Christmas gift in the fall of 2015. San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula could be turning to Blaine Gabbert – yes, the same Blaine Gabbert who was deemed to be not good enough by the Jacksonville Jaguars – to replace Colin Kaepernick. You can file this controversy in the “how fast the mighty sometimes fall” category. It was not all that long ago that Kaepernick was seen as a franchise quarterback who was on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl. He could now be second on the depth chart behind Gabbert. Ouch.
4 Dave Brown vs. Kent Graham
Fans of the New York Giants should cherish watching Eli Manning every time that he takes the field while wearing Big Blue. The Giants did not always have it so good at the quarterback position. The team was searching for the next franchise quarterback to lead the team back to a Super Bowl in the 1990s when then-coach Dan Reeves had to choose between Dave Brown and Kent Graham. Reeves went with Brown. It ended poorly for everybody. These were some dark days for the Giants, a club that has been lucky to have Manning as a starting QB for over a decade.
3 Robert Griffin III vs. Colt McCoy vs. Kirk Cousins
This is such a wonderful controversy because fans of the Washington Redskins have had to convince themselves that each of these three quarterbacks could be the answer for the club. No intelligent football person believes that Robert Griffin III has a long-term future in Washington past 2015. McCoy has already been discussed in this piece. Kirk Cousins gave fans a great social media moment with his “You like that!” outburst following a win. It is probably only a matter of time before Cousins comes back down to earth. Maybe Cousins will make a believer out of doubters. More likely, however, is that the Redskins are going to need a new QB sooner than later.
2 Matt Cassel vs. Brandon Weeden
It is maybe the greatest awful QB controversy in NFL history, and it involves “America's Team.” With Tony Romo sidelined because of an injury, the Dallas Cowboys had to choose between Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. Even better about the situation, for those of you who hate the Cowboys, is that superstar wide receiver Dez Bryant was also injured while Romo has been unavailable. Weeden was awful in relief. Cassel was maybe worse. The Cowboys cannot get Romo back soon enough and he should never again go unappreciated by fans of the team.
1 The Detroit Lions QB Controversies
Trying to pick the most useless QB controversy in the history of the Detroit Lions is like attempting to pick out the most beautiful snowflake in the bunch. It is an impossible task. Gary Danielson vs. Eric Hipple. Rodney Peete against Erik Kramer. Kramer vs. Andre Ware. The Lions could be on the verge of another controversy in the fall of 2015, as Matt Stafford was benched for Dan Orlovsky during a game. Those who have followed the Lions for the past decade and a half have understandably complained about the team's inability to land a talented QB. Maybe there is something to the talk about the supposed “Curse of Bobby Layne" that hovers over the Lions.