Last year, an eerily-large fan group had a mantra in Miami: “Suck for Luck!” It was their way of showing frustration that the Dolphins had seen such poor play at QB ever since the great Dan Marino retired 15 years before. After a very slow first half that had them in the running for the top pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and hence the rights to Andrew Luck, the ‘fins’ players rallied behind Head Coach Tony Sparano to finish strong to quickly be out of the picture by November and the protesters gave up.
But they obviously had made their point and the organization agreed with them on one thing: they needed a franchise quarterback.
So, what city’s fans are most likely to show up at the gates of their franchise with megaphones and “Blow for Barkley” signs this season?
Teams who have their 2012 starter in place but will be looking for one in the 2013 NFL Draft:
Arizona certainly will be unless they make a trade before then.
Oakland Raiders – Here’s another team with QB depth but no “breadth.” Carson Palmer has never been the same player he was before he injured his knee in the playoffs some 5 years ago. Matt Leinart has firmly established his credentials as a something-less-than starting NFL QB, and Terrelle Pryor is better suited to be a star tight end than a QB. He also happens to be the only QB on their roster that still has some upside so unless he gets a shot at starting late in the season (when the Broncos have sealed the division and the Raiders are out of any Wild-Card race), look for the silver and black to begin rebuilding in earnest from the disaster that was Hue Jackson’s one-year reign. While Palmer is the starter, I don’t think his place is as solid as may be believed. He shouldn’t be turning the ball over the way he has been at this point in his career, so the Raiders will still be looking for answers throughout the season.
New York Jets – Tebow or no Tebow…that is not the question. The question is “Can Mark Sanchez carry the team if they need him to?” So far, the answer has been a resounding NO. Entering his 4th NFL campaign, Sanchez isn’t nearly as good as Jets’ brass had thought when they traded up to nab him 5th overall. He’s also not as bad as a lot of analysts and pundits have claimed he is but he’s not a franchise-type quarterback. Franchise QBs can take an otherwise-average offense to the playoffs with good defensive play. They don’t even have to have great arms or athletic ability; they have to play within themselves and within the system. The best recent example of this I can think of is the Dolphins’ Chad Pennington. The Jets’ cast-off beat those same Jets, who had Brett Favre at their helm, to win the division and a home playoff game. The may have overachieved a bit but they played solid defense and Pennington took care of the ball, completing 67% of his passes and even finished high in the league MVP voting that season. This season will be the one that Sanchez is going to have to assert himself and if the preseason is any indication, he won’t. They have yet to score a TD on offense in the preseason. The fans are started becoming more impatient with his streaky play last season and are going to call for his head when they finish in the basement of the AFC East in 2012.
San Francisco 49′ers – Surprised that I included them after Alex Smith had a career year? You shouldn’t be. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh says the PC things to say about his guy, if you’ve listened to “Coachspeak” long enough, you start to learn some of the code words and phrases through hindsight. Sorta like when an owner says of his Head Coach “So-and-So is MY GUY” a few months before firing him. If Harbaugh were really happy with Alex Smith, he wouldn’t have pursued Peyton Manning. The whole thing started to look toxic when Smith went to Miami to talk about signing with them, but the Dolphins had made up their mind that Tannehill was going to be their guy. Therefore, they didn’t settle on a second-tier talent like Alex Smith nor Matt Flynn with their Kevin Kolb-like $8 million a year price tag. As any good organization would do, the Niners smoothed things over with their quarterback and added truckloads of receivers to upgrade and deepen their talent there. With any kind of salary cap management at all and relative few holes to fill in 2013, they have the luxury of either choosing a QB at the bottom of the first round or even moving up some if need be. Their fans remember the Montana/Young days and the trophies they brought to the Bay City.
Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel had a career-high 93.0 QB rating in 2010, but hasn’t posted very good numbers with the Chiefs otherwise, throwing only 1 more TD than INT in his other two seasons playing home games in Arrowhead. The Chiefs picked up Brady Quinn after two seasons in Denver, where he failed to beat out Kyle Orton. Cassel was injured again last season, and Ricky Stanzi quickly proved he wasn’t the answer. Rookie Alex Tanney from Monmouth College is the only one left, but the Chiefs have too much offensive firepower to waste millions of dollars a year on while they languish with mediocre QB play. They should be in the market for a franchise QB next year.
Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick may be the brightest of any NFL QB, having played his college ball at Harvard. Solving quadratic equations in his head won’t put the ball in receivers’ hands, however, and he is one of the streakier passers in the league. His ceiling is now known to be somewhat low, but his floor is somewhat high at the same time. Barring a breakout season from Fitz this fall, the Bills will probably be looking for their franchise QB in 2013 with the understanding that Fitz is good enough that if they have to sit a rookie for part of a season (or a full one), they’ll still be okay. Therefore, if the value is there for them (ie: they don’t have to trade up or trade up far), they may well grab one.
To recap, here are the teams I have in mind early that will draft a projected franchise QB in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft:
Arizona Cardinals: 100% chance
Jacksonville Jaguars: 85% chance
San Francisco 49′ers: 80% chance
Kansas City Chiefs: 80% chance
Oakland Raiders: 75% chance
New York Jets: 75% chance
Buffalo Bills: 70% chance
Miami drafted theirs this year and shouldn’t be looking, but every season it seems that the over/under looking for such a QB is six teams.
There still could be one team TBA….Philadelphia could look for one to groom if rookie Nick Foles doesn’t look the part. Michael Vick is 32 and has only played a full 16 game slate once since he was drafted in 2001 but missed 2007-2008 for an all-too-familiar reason among we animal lovers. They need a good backup with Vick’s injury history and will need a starter in another few years to begin with. The Minnesota Vikings’ Christian Ponder will probably get this year and next to prove his worth before they start to worry about drafting another as they’ve got a lot of holes to fill. Coaches and players are too professional and proud to “blow games” that they might win just to secure a particular draft pick.
Philadelphia Eagles: 20% chance
Minnesota Vikings: 15% chance