Football, motherfuckers! Don’t believe the Christmas propaganda, because this is truly the most wonderful time of the year. We have already seen the first week of preseason games and fantasy leagues are opening their doors for business. In a few short weeks, teams will start playing for keeps. Until then, most fans (except for people who root for the Jets and Browns) have talked themselves into some semblance of hope for the upcoming season.
But the majority of these people should not hope. Hope is the primary ingredient of abject despair. That hope will inevitably turn to bitter ash in their mouth, leading to anger and tears.
The reason is simple: this is a quarterback driven league and most teams lack a legitimate signal caller. Over the last decade or so, the NFL has slowly but surely modified the rules of the game so that they favor offenses. This has led to an all-out assault on quarterback records, including most touchdowns thrown in a season and most yards in a season.
A great quarterback can cover up a ton of bullshit. Look at the Colts with Peyton Manning: they were a Super Bowl contender every single year, and the only season he did not play they finished 2-14. Bad defense? That’s okay, we can just out score them nine times out of ten. No running game? Who cares, we can just complete short passes and treat them like runs. Mediocre receivers? No big deal, a great quarterback can make them look like Pro Bowlers.
The end result is that the game has shifted. “Defense wins championships,” barely applies anymore – with the notable exception of the current Seahawks, but they are a historically great defense. Teams that can run the ball and stop the run (the time honored formula for winning Super Bowls) are still heavily favored in the playoffs. However, without at least an above average quarterback, teams typically don’t even make it to the post season.
Even before the recent surge in offense, the vast majority of Super Bowls have been won by a great quarterback. Let me prove my point. Here is a list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Bart Starr (twice), Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach (twice), Bob Griese (twice), Terry Bradshaw (four times), Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett (twice), Joe Montana (four times), Joe Theismann, Jim McMahon, Phil Simms, Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Troy Aikman (three times), Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway (twice), Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Tom Brady (four times), Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Peyton Manning, Eli Manning (twice), Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson. This list includes a lot of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers, and only two or three Dilfer’s.
You can win with a mediocre quarterback, but it’s very unlikely.
So let’s take a trip around the league, looking at each team’s quarterback situation. I’ve taken the liberty of ranking each team, from worst to first, keeping the following in mind:
- While the aim of this article is to analyze each team’s overall quarterback situation, the vast majority of the ranking comes from the starting quarterback. The drop off from number one to number two at the quarterback position is typically colossal. So if the starter for any team sustains a significant injury, that team’s hopes likely die
- Final roster cuts have not been made. While some teams have three and even four quarterbacks on their current roster, when they have to make cuts they will usually keep – at most – three, oftentimes two
- Anything can happen on any given Sunday, but if aliens invaded earth and the only hope for the survival of the human race was for me to accurately predict quarterback play, I feel confident that these are the Independence Day of quarterback rankings
Let’s get on with living on, and surviving.
Endless Fucking Comedy
This category has been reserved for one team:
- New York Jets: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Jake Heaps, Geno Smith
Holy fuck. When a sixth round linebacker who was probably going to be standing on a lot of sidelines for the next year punches your starting quarterback in the jaw over $600, breaking it in two places and sidelining him for 6-10 weeks… And that’s potentially an IMPROVEMENT on your quarterback situation, you weren’t in very good shape to begin with. Smith makes a lot of bad decisions. I don’t even have a punchline for that, because being a painfully shitty quarterback isn’t funny. At least Mark Sanchez had the good grace to entertain us by running face first into another man’s ass. Smith is just… depressing.
This means that the Jets turn to Fitzpatick, famous for: graduating from Harvard, having one amazing game against the Patriots, signing a ludicrous contract extension from Buffalo and then degenerating into a turnover machine that I lovingly call “Pickspatrick.” He played in the AFC South last year, against my beloved Colts, and god damn will I miss seeing his bumbling inferiority twice a season. Oh, and going back to the opening sentence of the Jets’ section: this dude is probably an improvement.
Petty is a promising rookie, which means the Jets will utterly fuck up his entire career and he’ll be bagging groceries within five years. Tough luck, kid. And Heaps’ childhood friends don’t even know that he’s on an NFL roster, so why should you care?
Worse Than Bad – Utterly Nondescript
Bearing in mind that they are still in the top 1% of their profession world-wide, there are a lot of bad quarterbacks in the NFL, comparatively speaking. And we’ll get to those shortly. But first, we need to take a short minute to go over the quarterback situations that history will just as quickly forget. Because literally nobody cares.
- Houston Texans: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage
If being a quarterback was about having a bitching name, these three guys would be first ballot hall of famers. “Hoyer the Destroyer”? Mallett? Savage? Too bad none of them are any good. Hoyer effectively got fired from the Cleveland Browns, whose own fans call their own stadium the “Factory of Sadness,” and that’s their best option at quarterback. Houston is wasting JJ Watt’s phenomenal defensive talents by continuously giving the offense over to boring, minimally talented scrubs.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Stephen Morris, Jeff Tuel
Is Blake Bortles the quarterback that’s visibly afraid of blitzing defenders? Or was that the last worthless shit heap the Jaguars trotted out to the slaughter? Henne is the worst version of Chad Pennington imaginable.
- Buffalo Bills: Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Matt Simms
Matt Cassel won 10.5 games for the Patriots one year when Tom Brady’s knee was blown out shortly after the first snap. He then took up a career of traveling vacuum cleaner salesman (because vacuums suck), and has now landed in Buffalo. Where Kevin Kolb once had to retire after slipping on a mat. People have spent the last few seasons asking if Manuel is a legitimate quarterback… and now, the question and its answer no longer really matters.
Another Lost Season
Speaking of the “Factory of Sadness”…
- Cleveland Browns: Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Thaddeus Lewis, Connor Shaw
The Browns are a Johnny Football away from being in the previous category. They are about to engage in the most pointless quarterback battle of all time. McCown is a mediocre journeyman but at least he has previously displayed the ability to competently steer an offense for at least a few games in a row given the right circumstances. Manziel will eventually become Tim Tebow without the charisma. If Lewis or Shaw even see the field, what was once a “situation” will have become a FEMA-worthy disaster. Either way, the Browns haven’t had a legitimate quarterback since decades before I was born… and that pattern will continue for at least one more season.
But, as Browns fans are now so used to saying, maybe next year!
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, Mike Glennon, Seth Lobato
- Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst, Alex Tanney
Taken with the first and second draft picks last year, Winston and Mariota will be discussed in tandem for as long as both are playing. And maybe, down the road, they will both be great quarterbacks. But right now, they are skittish rookies who both looked questionable in their first taste of NFL action. Winston, the alleged rapist and internet meme fan who once stole crab legs from a supermarket, threw 1.5 awful interceptions, had a fumble and displayed the accuracy of a Stormtrooper. Mariota, walking generic brand white bread, at least had a fantastic completion percentage to go along with his interception and fumble. Both of them were visibly adjusting to the speed of the game. Ranking one ahead of the other at this point is an exercise in splitting hairs… But I definitely feel it’s safe to say both of them are works in progress that will require patience from their fan bases. And you know, NFL fans are primarily known for their patience, so that’s good.
In Case of Emergency, Break Glass
I set up this category for injury prone quarterbacks. If these quarterbacks play all 16 games, their teams can definitely make the playoffs, and – once there – anything can happen. However, betting on these quarterbacks to play an entire season feels like pissing into the wind and expecting not to get splattered with your own urine.
- Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
Hey, remember when Griffin stole Andrew Luck’s Rookie of the Year award? I do. All you erroneous frauds who told me that Griffin was a better quarterback than Luck can officially suck it. Take a number, stand in line, and just suck it. Griffin leads the league in TAPP (Teammates Alienated Per Press Conference) and DSPM (Disingenuous Statements Per Minute). He recently said he’s the best quarterback in the league. What a god damned joke. His team mates question his leadership. His coaching staff questions his work ethic. Everybody talks shit about him, publicly and to his face. He wears dumbfuck shirts and spends more time on social media than in the film room. He had a good rookie year because he all he threw were slants and screens. The ball traveled an average of twelve inches from his hand to his receiver. His coaching staff had to contort its playbook into a pretzel in order to accommodate his dubious talents. Meanwhile, Luck took a 2-14 dumpster fire and led them to a division title and a playoff appearance, all while running an ACTUAL FUCKING OFFENSE that included ACTUAL FUCKING PASSES DOWNFIELD. Griffin “winning” this award will go down as a bigger travesty than Joaquin Phoenix losing the best supporting actor Oscar for his role in Gladiator.
Have you ever stretched Play-Do out until it becomes discolored and has all these shivering, tenuous little fibers? Have you ever seen an old rubber band that is discolored and no longer snaps back to its original state? Have you ever jumped the gun on incredibly hot pizza and tried to pull a slice out too soon, and the cheese gets all gloopy, looking like yellow blood oozing off the edge of the slice? That’s the inside of Griffin’s knee.
And you want to know why? Because he’s a run first quarterback who doesn’t know how to protect himself. He slides worse than an asthmatic overweight dude chugging into second base during the sixth inning of a beer league softball game.
Fuck Robert Griffin. Fuck Baylor. And for good measure, fuck anybody who lives in his zip code.
- Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, Phillip Sims
Palmer last played a complete season during the Reagan Administration. And as proved last year, the Cardinals have no legitimate hope without him. What a terrible combination.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow
Bradford is a Heisman winning quarterback who actually deserved his Rookie of the Year award. I have nothing bad to say about the guy. He’s a legitimate stud who can make any throw on the field… and whose knees seem to be made out of paper mache. Nothing would make me happier than his knees holding up and him being the quarterback he was born to be. If he manages to play an entire season, all bets are off for the Eagles. I just wouldn’t put money on it. At least they have quarterbacks with experience winning playoff games to back him up – even if those quarterbacks are Sanchez and Tebow. I also would expect Barkley, after a solid showing in preseason, to be offered as trade bait sooner rather than later.
The following teams exist in quarterback purgatory: their current situation has some sort of fatal flaw, but they also lack better options.
- Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke, Mike Kafka
Together, we’ve gone through just over 2200 words so far. You must be tired. You probably need a break. Why don’t you step outside for a few minutes? Toss a football around? Get loose. Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you return.
You done? Welcome back.
And hey, just so you know, no matter how weakly you throw a football around, you still have more arm strength than Bridgewater. He reportedly does everything else required of the position very well: he’s smart, a student of the game and a solid leader in the locker room. But knowing where to throw the ball and actually getting your flaccid shoulder to make that throw is a terminable gap. Having an otherwise great quarterback whose arm most closely resembles an inflatable tube man is precisely like having an Ivy League educated ER surgeon with great bedside manner who becomes totally worthless at the sight of blood. Bridegwater’s arm is the poster child for why PEDs should be allowed in sports. At least Bridgewater can turn around three hundred times this season and hand the ball to a guy that – the Vikings hope – will hit open holes at least as hard as he hits four year olds in the scrotum.
- San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Dylan Thompson
Kaepernick has never met a pass he couldn’t overthrow. And he will miss Jim Harbaugh terribly. Spend more time on Instagram, Kaep. Oh, and Gabbert was the Jaguars quarterback who curled into the fetal position whenever a defense blitzed him. I remember now. Ugh.
- Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Josh Freeman, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Tannehill seems to strive for 8-8. He maybe has all the tools to be a great quarterback? I mean, to be fair to the guy, he gets about as much protection from his offensive line as Abraham Lincoln got at the Ford Theatre. He spends more time picking himself off the ground than a rodeo clown. He has more green stains on his uniform than lawnmower blades. His already below average offensive line was ripped apart by the bullying scandal his incompetent head coach somehow managed to survive. Look, just pray for the guy, okay?
- San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens, Brad Sorenson, Chase Rettig
Rivers has more guaranteed money on his contract than any other player in the league. What in the actual fuck? How much do you really want to pay for a first round playoff exit?
- Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
When Newton isn’t getting in fist fights at practice, he’s steering the subpar Panthers to losing records that still somehow contend for the number one spot in his putrid division. Anderson is famous for once being captured on the sidelines laughing and joking while his team was getting embarrassed on national television, and then breaking down in tears when he defended himself in front of the press. “This is my job! I take it very seriously.” Yeah, bro.
The following teams have serviceable quarterbacks. While you probably won’t win very many games BECAUSE of these guys, you definitely can win games WITH these quarterbacks.
- Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, Christian Ponder, Matt McGloin, Cody Fajardo
When the Raiders are contending for a playoff spot within the next two seasons, remember that you read it here. Carr shows a ton of promise, and can definitely be their quarterback of the future. They have had decades’ worth of high draft picks to build the team around him. Too bad they took a step back (literally) by getting him the running back equivalent of a wet fart: Trent Richardson. Ponder has a perfect name because I question why any team ever wasted a high draft pick on him.
- St. Louis Rams: Nick Foles, Case Keenum, Austin Davis, Sean Mannion
Which Foles will show up this season? The guy tied for the all-time record with most touchdowns in a game? The quarterback with one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios of all time? Or the guy who was playing poorly before an injury cut his season short? The quarterback whose coaching staff spent a lot of capital to move out of town? Who knows. I ranked him this high because I trust that he will not be asked to do much for the Rams, who have a solid receiving core, good running backs and a legitimately scary defense.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray
Smith gets a ton of shit, as a former number one pick who hasn’t really done much. But never forget that in his first seven seasons, he had somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen different offensive coordinators. That lack of consistency can do a lot of damage to a quarterback, especially when they were already a project. Harbaugh unlocked his potential, and he has found a great home with Andy Reid, whose complete lack of testicles will make sure that he never puts Smith in a questionable position. A couple of seasons ago, before AstroTurf turned his team into a season of the Walking Dead, Smith led an absolute assault on the up-and-coming Colts in the AFC playoffs. That is his ceiling, and to be perfectly honest, he represents a huge step up for a majority of the league.
We Have a Mole
The following quarterbacks are fantastic individual performers with a significant competitive flaw: they will inevitably – at the worst possible moment – make the stupidest mistake imaginable, thereby utterly fucking over your team. All of these quarterbacks will give you a great chance of reaching the playoffs, where the agony of their fuckery will cut deeper, leaving you stranded on an island called “What If.”
- Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, TJ Yates, Sean Renfree
“Matty Ice” is the least earned nicknamed of all time. “Matty Choke,” while less flattering, is absolutely more accurate. He has spent his entire career surrounded by top flight weapons inside of a dome, but sadly loves nothing more than gift wrapping games for his opponents.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, Josh Johnson, Keith Wenning
Dalton can make the playoffs in a hyper brutal division that includes the Steelers and Ravens! He can also vomit all over himself in the first round of the playoffs despite having one of the best receivers in the league!
- Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen, Shane Carden
I love Jay Cutler, the man who looks so apathetic he gave rise to a meme called “Smoking Jay,” which shows him with photo shopped cigarettes looking like he gives zero fucks. He plays like he gives zero fucks. He has insane arm strength, and absolutely could play well if he could fucking be bothered. And here’s the worst part for Bears fans: he’s the best quarterback they’ve ever had AND the best chance they have of winning anything of consequence in the foreseeable future. God I love watching him play. I call his offense the “Jay and Pray,” because he’s eventually going to try to make an ill-advised throw into quintuple coverage forty yards down the field, watch it get intercepted, shrug deeply, and then slowly lope towards the sidelines in no particular hurry, where he will make eye contact with nobody and accept zero responsibility for his actions.
Long live Jay Cutler.
- Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden, Dustin Vaughan, Jameill Showers
Romo is the physical embodiment of this category. He will go 9-7, sneak into the playoffs, and then implode in spectacular fashion. He is the quarterback Cowboys fans deserve. He will always threaten to return them to their glory days but just when his fans dare to hope, he will revert to form and shit himself on the field.
Long live Tony Romo.
Brandon Weedon, at the age of forty six, was the oldest rookie quarterback ever. Twelve years ago.
- Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Moore, Garrett Gilbert
Stafford is Jay Cutler with a conscience.
Orlovsky once went 0-16 in a season. During that season, he surrendered a safety by running out the back of the end zone while holding the ball. He just might be the single worst quarterback in the entire league.
- New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Luke McCown, Ryan Griffin, Garrett Grayson
New Orleans hasn’t won anything of consequence since the NFL stopped them from paying their defense to injure opponents. Brees is a fantastic individual quarterback who will rack up insane yardage, a ton of touchdowns, some late game heroics… and then he will throw bone headed interceptions that break the back of his team worse than anything Bane ever did to Batman. After which he will stand at the podium looking like a birth-marked fink.
Ain’t Get No Respect!
The following category is for Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who absolutely could win another one, and yet for whatever reason aren’t given the credit they deserve.
- Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Bryn Renner
Flacco is not an elite quarterback. He is a very good quarterback who can play mistake-free football with occasional flashes of brilliance. If you have a solid running game and a good defense – which the Ravens have had for most of his career – this is a great formula. Even though he put together one of the best post seasons ever during their run to a Super Bowl Championship, and even though he has the prototypical build of a quarterback, and even though he can make all of the throws you need your quarterback to make, he is overpaid and his new contract will likely handcuff the Ravens moving forward.
Schaub is so utterly forgettable that even after a decade of him handing two victories a year to the Colts, and even after I said his number should be retired in the Colts ring of honor… I couldn’t remember his name off the top of my head.
- New York Giants: Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib, Ricky Stanzi
If – in a vacuum – you were doing a draft just from the Manning family, Eli would go after the family dog. And yet, he has more success than the rest of his family combined. I should rank him much lower than this, because 99 out of 100 times, he plays his position so poorly that everybody thinks he’s going to get his coach fired every single year. He seems to have only two speeds: soul crushingly awful and Super Saiyan.
Oh, that’s right. One time out of one hundred, little Eli goes absolutely berserk, becoming some unholy combination of David-killing-Goliath, the Green Power Ranger and a riverboat gambler on a mathematically improbable hot streak who hits five straight royal flushes. Eli is the one quarterback nobody wants to see in the playoffs because he might just summon the Dragonzord and smash through your 18-0 season. He could win six more Super Bowls and not get any more respect than he currently has.
But when the moon is in the southern hemisphere, and Orion is in the north, and the wind is blowing south-by-southwest at thirteen miles per hour… Eli is the best quarterback in the entire league.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones, Tajh Boyd
Roethlisberger is a big game quarterback who always seems to fall just outside of the “elite” discussion. He has won the Super Bowl twice – and those victories were legitimately because of him, including a breath taking two minute drill against the Cardinals, capped off by one of the sweetest fades to the back corner of an end zone that you will ever see in your entire life. His offensive line sucks. His receivers have been middle of the road. His defense has been both fantastic and complete shit. And yet, year after year after year he has his team in position to contend. That’s literally all you can ask for from your quarterback.
- Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Tavaris Jackson, RJ Archer
Wilson is young. A champion. A smart scrambler. Composed. Humble. He can make throws. He has also benefited from the best running back in the league, as well as one of the best defenses of all time. Seattle rarely asks Wilson to win football games for them. To his credit, when they need him, Wilson typically shows up.
The Last Ride
Technically, last year might have been the last ride. This window might be closed, and yet…
- Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Zac Dysert, Trevor Siemian
Number 18 suiting up means you always have a chance to win. He may be the single greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He’s certainly one of the smartest. He knows his offense inside and out. He knows defenses better than most coaches. He is coordinator and quarterback at the same time. He has been historically great for a long time. He commands respect from everybody he plays with and for.
He has one tragic flaw: he is a perfectionist who adapts poorly. If you can disrupt him at all, he becomes a much lesser quarterback. This has always been true. And now that father time has caught up to him and his surgically repaired neck – his physical inability to complete downfield passes by the end of last season was bitterly difficult to watch… Nobody really knows what he has left.
If not for the suspension related to Deflategate, this team would likely be number one…
- New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Lindley
But whenever you lose one of the most accomplished (allegedly) quarterbacks of all time for 25% of the season, you should be worried. Garoppolo, who I loved as Carmine the Bowler’s kid in Mystery Men, did not look good in his preseason reps. Brady can still probably carry the Patriots to the playoffs once he returns, and will probably have them in Super Bowl contention… But this would be a lock if he played all 16 games.
The Blue Chips
Which leaves us with the two teams that – appropriately enough – are being projected to play each other in the Super Bowl this year.
- Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck, Bryan Bennett
Luck was the most surefire prospect coming out of college since Peyton Manning. And he has more than lived up to the hype. He has gone to the playoffs every year, and actually got further each season. He has an absolute cannon on his arm. He is a battle tank. He screws with defenders heads by congratulating them on big hits. He is fearless. He has selective amnesia. With a minimum of help from running backs (they’ve sucked) and defense (they’ve also sucked), the Colts are feared and respected – mostly because of Luck. His front office got fleeced by the lowly Browns in the trade for Trent Richardson, and Luck kept the team chugging along. His head coach missed a season fighting cancer. Luck kept the team moving forward. He works hard. His receivers call him the best quarterback currently playing. He has more weapons this year than any year prior. He has the potential to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He is the future of the league, and the future might be now.
- Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien, Matt Blanchard, Brett Hundley
And for all of that, Rodgers is currently better. He is on pace to hold every single major quarterback record when he is done. He’s durable. He’s a proven champion. He’s all purpose and all weather, from domes to knee deep snow. He has fantastic chemistry with his receivers. He protects the football so well that his touchdown-to-interception ratio looks like a typo. He took over for an absolute legend, Brett Favre, and did so as well as you possibly can.
He’s an absolute stud. And by the end of this season, he just might be a two time Super Bowl champion.