This list will consist of NFL teams that have a veteran starter in place, without a predecessor. So you won’t find teams like the Bills, Jaguars, 49ers, or Jets on this list, as they don’t have a solid starter.
Matthew Stafford still has some life left in his career. Many wondered though if losing Megatron (A.K.A. Calvin Johnson) would hurt the offense, but Stafford made sure they didn’t slow down. Throwing for 4,327 yards, with 24 touchdowns, Stafford did his part.
The fact that the Lions lost their star, and franchise face the year before but was still able to turn out a 9-7 record, is a real testament to how good Stafford is. He was able to spread the ball around and didn’t feel like he had to force a pass Johnson’s way just because he’s Calvin Johnson.
The offense has some room to build, and they have the guy to build around in Stafford. However, Stafford is 29, and may not be around for much longer. So finding his replacement is something Detroit should look into shortly.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have a solid starter in seven-year starter Andy Dalton. With that said Dalton has only produced two seasons in which he threw for more than 4,000 yards and only one season where he threw for more than 30 touchdowns. Throughout his career, Dalton has thrown for 142 touchdowns, and 81 interceptions.
That kind of turnout isn’t horrible. But, Dalton also hasn’t managed to win a playoff game in his career. In fact, Dalton plays some of his worst football in the playoffs. Throwing only one touchdown to six interceptions in four games.
At some point, the Bengals have to decide if their not making a serious run at the Super Bowl is something they want to do. Cincinnati not winning in the playoffs isn’t all Dalton’s fault. His stat line certainly doesn’t help.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since head coach Marvin Lewis took over in 2003. Coaching in seven playoff games in his fourteen years in Cincinnati, Lewis hasn’t won one game. People originally wondered if it was Carson Palmer’s fault. However, since Palmer left Cincinnati and moved on to Arizona, no one remembers his time in Oakland, Carson has since won one playoff game.
Dalton will be 29 going into this season, and while quarterbacks can last into their mid to late thirties, Dalton’s low-level of production, and playoff record worries me. No doubt Dalton has the talent around him to make a serious run, he just seems unable to do so.
The Bengals may be smart to start looking towards finding his, and Lewis’s, replacement.
9. Carolina Panthers
2015 Cam Newton was a stud. Winning NFL MVP, and going to the Super Bowl, and losing to the Denver Broncos. Things looked bright for the Panthers and Newton. Then 2016 happened, and some are wondering if Cam wants to play the game anymore.
In 2015 Cam threw for 3,837 yards, with 35 touchdowns. An average stat line for most NFL quarterbacks, but it was Cam’s rushing game that turned heads the most. He ran for 636 yards and ten touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards a carry, running for 56 first downs.
In 2016, Cam threw for 3,509 yards, with only 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. His running game took a significant hit too. Only running for 359 yards and five touchdowns. 2016 Cam looked like he didn’t try as hard as he could on most plays, and seemed like a shell of his 2015 self.
Cam didn’t lose any of his offensive line starters, and his primary targets of tight end Greg Olsen, and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin stuck around too, so his stats dropping make no sense from a personnel standpoint.
Either Cam needs to get his act together, or the Panthers need to move on from him. I’m not saying do it this year. Cam still has a few more solid years left if in him, if he chooses to play. He seems to be more interested in endorsements than playing. Don’t be surprised though if you only see Cam in commercials in the next few years.
8. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco threw for the most yards in his career last season. He also threw for the third lowest number of touchdowns, and second highest number of interceptions.
Flacco is on this list more for his age than his stats. He’ll be 32 going into this season. Even at 32 though Flacco has one thing Dalton, and Newton doesn’t a Super Bowl ring.
Flacco took the Ravens to the Super Bowl in the 2012-2013 season. Beating the San Francisco 49ers, then led by Colin Kaepernick. On his way to Super Bowl 47, Flacco set the record for most touchdowns thrown in an NFL postseason throwing 11.
An ACL tear in 2015 made Flacco miss the last six games of the season. Flacco didn’t look the same last season after returning. He didn’t scramble as much, not that he was a running quarterback before. (Only running for 712 yards throughout his nine-year career.) But he didn’t try to extend plays nearly as often as he used to. Most players don’t bounce back from a knee injury well anyways; especially, when it happens late in their career.
Flacco can still deliver above average seasons. But in a division with the Bengals, Steelers, and Browns (who are on the rise) above average may not be good enough. Drafting a quarterback in the coming years may be in the Ravens best interest; because not many QB’s are good after they turn 30.
7. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees may be a football God. Going into his seventeenth season, the 38-year-old shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Throughout his ten years in New Orleans Brees hasn’t thrown for under 4,000 yards. Brees has no doubt, had a Hall of Fame career.
Brees is 38, and eventually, will retire. It may not be for a few more years, but it will come. As of now, the Saints back-up QB is nine-year veteran Chase Daniel. The other quarterbacks on the roster are five-year perennial backup Ryan Nassib and second-year quarterback Grayson Garrett. Brees predecessor isn’t currently on the roster, and that’s a worry for Saints fans.
Brees could easily be around for another five years, but he’s coming to the end of his career, and finding the next Drew Brees is something the Saints should look into soon.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Phillip Rivers, much like Drew Brees, and the quarterbacks to come on this list, has had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career. Throwing for 45,833 yards, with 314 touchdowns there are no doubts Rivers will be in Canton someday. However, with Rivers being 35, that day may be sooner than Chargers faithful would like to admit.
Probably the best quarterback, other than Dan Marino, to never win a Super Bowl. (Rivers still has time.) He has given the Chargers organization everything he could over his fourteen-year career.
The difference here between the Chargers and most of the other teams on this list is, they have some guys in place who could take Rivers place. Los Angeles has two rookie quarterbacks on their roster in in Eli Jenkins and Mike Bercovici.
I’m not saying either of these guys could take Rivers place, but the Chargers have always had good luck in finding a good quarterback. Drew Brees was their quarterback before Rivers. We won’t talk about Ryan Leaf.
5. New York Giants
The Giants have always been the team that could either win it all or the worst in the NFC East, depending on who you talked to and on what day. The reason behind the argument, on both sides, has always been the same, Eli Manning’s play.
A constant afterthought in the Manning dynasty of quarterbacks, people have always found it hard to faith in Peyton’s little brother. Even though, until Peyton’s win in Super Bowl over the Carolina Panthers, Eli had more Super Bowl rings than his brother, and father. Now the brothers are tied at two a piece.
Going into this season though Eli will be 36, and while he appears to have a few years left in him, he also seems to be losing his accuracy and his touch. So finding his replacement is something the Giants should do.
I believe they have, but that’s hard to say having never seen Davis Webb play an NFL snap. I thought before the draft that Webb was going to make waves in the NFL if he got drafted by the right team, and did he ever. The Giants are a great fit for the youngster. They have a solid young receiving corps for him to throw to for years to come, and a good young running back in Paul Perkins they can groom and let learn alongside Webb.
The ball is in his court. It’s up to him to show the Giants brass they can trust him, and hand him the reigns when Eli is ready to retire.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Now, onto the man who is the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, “Big” Ben Roethlisberger.
For some reason, Ben has always been on the outside looking in when comes to the “the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game” conversation. He has two Super Bowl wins, and in an era where Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were the two guys you had to beat out to get there each year, I’d consider that quite an accomplishment.
His career stat line is pretty good too. Throwing for 46,814 yards, with 301 touchdowns, and only 160 interceptions over 14 years, Ben has been great from day one in the league. Making it to the AFC Championship game his rookie season, (losing said game to Brady) then winning the Super Bowl the next he hasn’t looked back.
Making it to the playoffs nine times, to the AFC Championship game four times, and to the Super Bowl three times winning it twice. Ben is another great in the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty, and will no doubt make into the Hall of Fame once he retires.
As great as Roethlisberger is though, the Steelers are relying too heavily on him being here for a long time. Putting it simply in his latter years, Ben has become injury prone. He’s only played in all sixteen games three times in his fourteen-year career. If the Steelers think it will magically get better, then they are crazy. The way Ben plays leads to him taking too many unnecessary hits.
I understand why he plays the way he does too. Wanting to make the big play every time he drops back to throw. He often passes up on the short route to try and wait for the deep route to get open. When it doesn’t however, Ben then has to figure things out on the fly. Often, that means him scrambling from the pocket, and taking a hit on a throw that goes incomplete anyways.
Instead of throwing the ball to the guy short, or just throwing the ball away, Ben waits and gets hit, and the hits are starting to catch up.
The problem here is the Steelers don’t have a replacement for Ben when he goes down. Fifth-year man Landry Jones tries to fill in, but so far his play has been lackluster. In the fifteen games Jones has played in, he holds a 60.3 percent completion rate, with 1,071 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions.
The way Landry plays the game is just too different from Ben’s. The offensive line is used to Ben being able to scramble if he gets in trouble. Jones just isn’t as athletic as Ben is.
If Jones, is the Steelers long term plan, then they’ll have to completely change their offense to fit him when the time comes. And with more and more scrambling QBs coming out of college nowadays, Pittsburgh’s best bet is just to draft someone, and let Landry walk.
3. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is great. That’s something everyone can agree on, probably the second best quarterback in the game today, behind only Tom Brady.
Since Rodgers unceremoniously kicked “The Gunslinger” Brett Favre out of Green Bay in 2008, Rodgers hasn’t thrown for less than 4,000 yards in a season. (With the exception of the 2013 season, when he got hurt nine games in and still threw for over 2,000 that year.) He’s continued the legacy Favre left behind in Green Bay. He’s been the new ‘sheriff in town’ the organization needed, and the fans didn’t want until they saw him play.
Even though Rodgers is 33, he shows no signs of slowing down, and that bodes well the Packers. Because they don’t have someone to take his place should he choose to retire tomorrow. Don’t worry that won’t happen, I think. Anything can happen in the NFL. (Except for being able to play for the team you love until you want. Okay, that’s the last Brett Favre shot I’ll take. I promise.)
Brett Hundley is the only quarterback on the Packers roster with any experience, and he’s only thrown ten passes with only two completions, with no touchdown and one interception.
Hundley could be the best-kept secret in Wisconsin, Rodgers was until he took over. Maybe that’s what Green Bay is doing again. I guess Packers fans will just have to hope that’s the case and hope they don’t jump the gun on playing him.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer is on the downside of his career. His stats don’t show it because the Cardinals organization have done an incredible job of putting talent around him.
It’s hard to play badly when you have one of the best receivers ever to play the game to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald. From top to bottom the Cardinals have one of the most talented receiving corps in the NFL. With the aforementioned great Larry Fitzgerald, possibly the next Fitzgerald in John Brown, Jaron Brown, and underrated talent Aaron Dobson. It’s hard not to play well as a quarterback with that much talent to throw to.
The Cardinals also have one of the best young running backs in the game today in David Johnson. The only problem the Cardinals have on offense is their offensive line. (I broke all this down in my last article.)
Palmer, however, is getting old, and doesn’t have many years of play left in him. The Cardinals don’t have a good back-up to take over when he leaves either.
Currently on their roster behind Palmer are ten-year vet Drew Stanton, who is nothing more than a glorified back-up. Along with Blaine Gabbert, who last year in San Francisco led the 49ers to the second-worst record in the league.
The only ray of hope the Cardinals have lies in rookie quarterback Trevor Knight.
In Knight’s college career he played three years for the Oklahoma Sooners, and one for the Texas A&M Aggies.
In his three years at OU Knight was hit and miss at best. Throwing for 3,424 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions over his three years. He would look great on one drive, then turn the ball over on the next two. Former Sooners Head Coach Bob Stoops eventually gave up on Trevor, which led to him transferring to Texas A&M for his last year.
At A&M he threw for 2,432 yards, nineteen touchdowns, and seven interceptions. His play looked somewhat better at A&M. It was evident he had learned a little from his days at OU and was trying to do better. So, maybe there’s light at the end of his tunnel, only time will tell.
1. New England Patriots
I know. I know. Tom Brady is G.O.A.T! I get it. I’m not going to argue that point. He is undoubtedly the best quarterback playing today, and depending on how the rest of his career plays out, the best to ever play. And if you have any doubt of that after his historic comeback in this year’s Super Bowl you’re either crazy or in denial.
But the fact remains, age catches up to everyone. Brady is 39, and even though he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated Peter King, “I’d like to play until my mid-forties. Then I’ll make a decision. If I’m still feeling like I’m feeling today, who knows? I know next year is not going to be my last year,” Brady said. “I have the answers to the test now. You can’t surprise me on defense. I’ve seen it all. Now I really know what to do, I don’t want to stop. This is when it’s really enjoyable to go out.”
I have no doubt Brady can play until he’s in his mid-forties. But the fact remains, the Patriots have a young, hungry QB in Jimmy Garrrapolo sitting on the bench behind Brady. And the kid looks like he’s taken advantage of the opportunity to sit and learn under the great Brady, and Belichick.
Garapolo has said that he wants to play, and is tired of waiting. So, when his rookie contract comes up at the end of this year, the Patriots will have a decision to make. Move on from Brady, and set your eyes toward the future. Or, let the guy who could be the next Tom Brady walk and sign with another team.
Brady would later say in the interview, “I don’t ever want to play for another coach. I don’t want to play for another owner,” Brady said. “But this is professional sports. I’ve seen some of the best players I’ve ever played with on other teams. You never know. That’s why I want to keep taking care of what I need to take care of.”
Going off of that statement Brady has no intentions of walking away from the game of football at the end of this next season, and Garapolo will be ready to take over or move on by then too.
In a perfect world, Garapolo would be happy to watch and learn from the best. But he’s not interested in that. He wants to lead the way and start winning his own Super Bowls. Teams are obviously interested in him. With every team without an established starter reaching out to the Patriots for a possible trade for the young man. So on the free agent market demand for him would be huge. The same it would be for Brady.
So owner Robert Kraft has a huge decision to make by the end of next year.
It would be tough letting Brady go makes the most sense. Yes, Garapolo is unproven, but he has shown some serious potential. Brady will be 40 by the time this season kicks off, and he has a few more years left in the tank. However, Garapolo, if he plays well and can handle the hard hits, has at least a decade to play. The future is bright with Garapolo, and Belichick is famous for letting old players walk in favor of younger guys. He let Vince Wilfork go just a few years ago.
Don’t be overly surprised, because everyone will be if Brady gets cut at the end of next season. Just know the Patriots are moving forward, and hope Brady stays true to his word and retires, and goes on to announce for ESPN or NFL Network.