Sure, the NFL is accustomed to having quarterbacks step it up and play big. But to see the success that burst onto the scene last year is almost unheard of. Part one of this blog took a look at quarterback names that have represented the league since the turn of the century. However, last year three rookie quarterbacks led their previously playoff-less teams to playoff births, and a second-year back led his team to the Super Bowl. The NFL is looking white-hot when it comes to quarterback talent, but young and old. This post will take a look at the stellar youth QB’s that are going to mold the way the game is played in the future, and a few backs that may be seeing their careers begin to come to an end.
As if they need any introduction, the three quarterbacks mentioned in the preceding paragraph are of course, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Luck was a lock for most. They saw him as the most well rounded quarterback to enter the NFL since the guy who’s position he took in Indianapolis (*see: Peyton Manning in part one). As for RG III, he was a bit of a late bloomer that made a push for the NFL draft and was taken by the Redskins, completely understanding that he could be a high-risk high-reward type player (luckily he was more risk than reward last year). But it was Russell Wilson who shocked people by taking a lackluster Seattle Seahawks team, and leading them to a playoff birth and now they are considered one of the best teams in the league. These three quarterbacks could be aligned in any way you can imagine, whether it be, 1, 2, 3 or 1A, 1B and 1C. But the point is, they all are outstanding players and even better leaders. Luck is too talented for a sophomore slump. Wilson works too hard and is too smart. And RG III, assuming he stays healthy, is too fast and dynamic. You can expect all three of these quarterbacks to be talked about throughout the year.
As for Colin Kaepernick, well this time last year he was a little-known backup to Alex Smith in San Francisco. However, after an untimely injury to Smith, Kaepernick was given his chance to show what he had to offer, which was apparently a lot. Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and is now being talked about by some outlets as the greatest 49er QB not named Montana or Young. Kaepernick has scary size, eluding speed and moves, and an arm that only elite quarterbacks have. He may have limited options to throw too, but his natural physical gifts should allow him to have another successful year; one in which he is the starter from day one.
Aside from these four quarterbacks, there is another tier of players who are looking at put-up or get-out type years for their teams. Josh Freeman, Phillip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler, and Michael Vick could be looking at being the back for their respected teams if they don’t perform well this year.
Rivers has been the Chargers quarterback for as long as anyone can remember. The problem is, he’s also been on the hot seat for that long as well. Last year Norv Turner was let go from his position as head coach of the Chargers organization. And if Rivers doesn’t do well this year, he may be next.
Josh Freeman had a successful year with the Bucs two years ago. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow it up last year with the same success. It’s not that Freeman is on the hot seat for poor performance, as much as it is the truth that we are in a day and age where if you’re a quarterback that doesn’t perform well in a hurry, than you are likely to be on your way out. And if Freeman doesn’t do well this year, he could find himself out of Tampa Bay.
Matthew Stafford is presumably safe in Detroit for at least a few more years. But this is a team that had a monumental breakthrough two years ago, making the playoffs for the first time since the 90’s. With all systems go for the Lions last year, they barely made it out of the gate before Stafford began experiencing injury problems, something he has been prone to have since being drafted. With Stafford, he has got to come play this year, and play well. With Calvin Johnson to throw to, and a defense that is among the best in the league (when they aren’t getting suspended), all eyes will look to Stafford if the Lions don’t do well.
Sam Bradford is a lot like Stafford. Drafted first overall and expected to take a horrible team to a playoff contender. The only problem is that Bradford hasn’t had a Megatron to throw to, or a defense that consists of Ndamukong Suh. However, now Bradford has Jeff Fisher as his coach, who will expect the most he can get form his QB on a weekly basis.
Jay Cutler and Michael Vick may be both looking at the most pivotal years of their career. Cutler has been given praise throughout his career. But the last few years his desire and effort has come into play. And once you quit on your team once, only Super Bowls will help erase that memory. Vick on the other hand seems to finally be slowing down after years of getting pounded by defenses on his elusive runs. Both QB’s have new coaches, Marc Trestman for Cutler and Chip Kelly for Vick. So you can imagine that before the owners of their respective teams try for a new coaching staff, they would be better off testing their luck with new quarterbacks.
The quarterbacks in this section all are relevant in their own way. They all are the lifeblood of their respective teams and should never be discounted. But for some, they have the entire future ahead of them. While others need to prove that they can still play with this younger generation of players. These last two postings have been so fun, and we’ve still left out other influential quarterbacks. So we’ve decided to extend this posting to THREE sections. Take a look at the final installment to read up on other quarterbacks looking to make a name for themselves this year.