Courtesy of Jim Feist
2013...The Year of the Quarterback...Are you kidding? While the numbers that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are putting up are sizzling, the last two NFL seasons have been the Year of the Quarterback Shuffle, too.
The number of NFL quarterbacks injured have been astounding in 2013: Aaron Rodgers, Jay Curler, Mike Vick, Sam Bradford and Jake Locker. Buffalo opened the season with rookie E.J. Manuel, but he didn't last long, quickly giving way to Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel.
It started back in August when Jets QB Mark Sanchez was lost for the season in a preseason game! New York fans had seen enough of Sanchez, anyway, and while rookie QB Geno Smith has led the way to a few upsets, he started the year with 8 TDs and 16 picks.
Tampa Bay never got the offense going until they dumped Josh Freeman and took their lumps for a while with Mike Glennon. And the poor Cleveland Browns started the year with Brandon Weeden (now a 30-year old NFL QB in just his second season), then when he got hurt they struck gold with career backup 28-year old Brian Hoyer (5 TDs, 3 INTs). Hoyer led the team to three straight wins over the Vikings, Bengals and Bills. Alas, it didn't last long as Hoyer then got injured and the Browns' rookie head coach has had to go back to Weeden and Jason Campbell.
Can't tell the NFL quarterbacks without a scorecard? No. Not this season or last. Back in 2012 Seattle decided to pass on high priced free agent Matt Flynn and decided to go with rookie Russell Wilson in preseason. Throw in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin the third and there were a lot of kids being thrown into the NFL fire.
Arizona then decided to be a QB carousel with Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley before being so desperate they traded for sore-armed Carson Palmer this year.
That shows the important of the position, but what has really cropped up the last three seasons is the importance of reliable depth at the position. Two years ago the Colts got Andrew Luck because of the disastrous results of their lack of quarterback depth. QB Peyton Manning (neck) didn't throw a pass, veteran QB Kerry Collins battled a concussion, so QB Curtis Painter was running an anemic offense, with more interceptions than touchdowns. During a game against Jacksonville the Colts offense was so inept that Painter threw 2 picks in one series! Indy swapped bad luck for Andrew Luck.
The Eagles have learned that same lesson this season, with injuries to Mike Vick and Nick Foles, which forced them to use rookie QB Matt Barkley -- 0 TDs and 4 picks shows he's not close to being NFL ready. Foles went through the same thing a year ago as a rookie. He was great in preseason and many Eagle fans wanted to see him during the regular season. They finally got their chance but Foles struggled badly in a 31-6 loss to Washington, showing why the real season is totally different from preseason. It's hard to believe that just three years ago the Eagles were loaded at the position with Donovan McNabb, Vick and Kolb.
In addition, the QB has to be a team leader and even change the plays at the line of scrimmage when the situation dictates. Experience under pressure is key, as well, as you don't see quarterbacks starting as rookies and doing very well. It usually takes several years. It took New Orleans QB Drew Brees several poor seasons of play before he busted out in 2004. Peyton Manning started 16 games as a rookie, which is unusual. You may not recall, but while Manning threw 26 TDs as a rookie, he also threw 28 interceptions! Learning to play quarterback well takes time.
Depth in football is an essential ingredient to success. Players get hurt all the time because the game is so violent and physical. Good coaches and general managers actually anticipate injuries, stockpiling depth. Pittsburgh went through it last year, as well, with a QB carousel. Star QB Ben Roethlisberger was injured, then they lost backup QB Byron Leftwich forcing 37-year old Charlie Batch to step in. Batch stepped in and in his first start threw 3 picks as the offense turned it over 8 times in a loss at Cleveland! If you ever doubted the importance of stockpiling talent on the offensive line, look no further than the Bears, Steelers and NY Giants. What good is having a star QB if he's running for his life or getting killed? Better to have two QBs getting the job done and having to make a choice than to have no one competent behind center - just ask Rex Ryan!
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