The RZL Encyclopedia
Quarterback Edition:: Part 1
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
In a league that’s been around this long, the phrase “déjà entundu” (already heard) comes to mind when considering how to contribute articles. Just about everything has been done already. I really enjoy the various “Power Ranking” articles, and think that over the span I’ve been doing them I’ve developed a nice niche and am good at it. As it turns out, however, even that can get kind of stale, and you begin searching for new ways to contribute. I wanted to do a blend of an article I did in GZL (ranking starting QBs), with a mix of one KVW did here a while back (ranking backup QBs). I just over the course of a couple days started throwing QBs names out there and formatting. Then I started to move them around and rank them, but I was torn as to how I would present the information. Originally I wanted to rank every QB from 1st to worst, but I quickly realized that was not really fun or original – and really takes the “opinion” aspect through the roof.
If guys wanted to know what QB was the “best”, they could just look at whatever factor THEY wanted to measure by, whether it is Super Bowl wins, or if they just want to go to the Player Stats page and rank them. While the idea of “trade value” article seemed very fun, especially given the current dire state of available QBs in RZL, it just seemed like something that would offend to many as I “grade” their players in a manner that would appear to prime them for trade talks. I will say, however, that if a guy like Chad Henne can pull in a monster haul of a 1st and a 2nd now, it really makes you wonder why the guys who might pay such a price didn’t just throw a grandfather price for Andrew Luck. I mean, the Jets paid a lot, but seeing guys like John David Booty go for a 2nd and 5th puts the importance of a guy like Luck in perspective.
The top 15% of our QB crop is nearing eligibility to file for social security (in football standards), and I’m concerned the next crop of guys are more “miss” than “hit”. We have witnessed some self made guys “step up”, but there is a large majority of the “next big thing” group that just never materialized, or are on the fringe of never materializing. So what is the best course? In a time where Kellen Moore and Nick Foles are 1st Round Picks, I think we are approaching an age where the currency of QBs is going to go through the roof. After spending weeks glossing over literally EVERY roster (as I know others like Jeff Downey can attest), I simply realized that there ARE no QBs that are moving, and the 1% that are have price tags that will give even the most tenured spenders sticker shock.
How did I respond? I sucked it up and realized I’m all in on Hansen for the season. I cut Xavier Lee as the backup, and am fully committed to youngster Ryan Mallett as our backup if something goes wrong. Why not? If I end up having to play him, so be it. SOMEBODY is going to have to develop the next crop of youngsters! I wanted to approach this article in the manner of if I was starting over with a brand new franchise that had no QB. Who would I bring in? What would I look for? I quickly realized there was no way to accurately rank all QBs against each other in any fair and accurate way, so I broke them into four categories – “Big Project QBs”, “Career Backups”, “Potential Franchise QBs”, and “Old Guard Franchise QBs”. They broke down into a nice, neat, and tidy breakdown of 15-20-15-20, and already you can see that the “Potential” Franchise QBs and “Big Project” QBs (young guys with potential upside) are vastly outnumbered by the guys who have peaked and/or are declining (30 v 40).
That said, there are 32 teams, so 30 “potential” guys should be plenty, right? Everyone gets a vet or two, throw in a youngster, and have at it! No. Most of these guys are never going reach their potential, especially the project guys. Through researching this, there are some talented guys buried as deep as 3rd on the depth chart. Those guys have a special spot in my heart, as picking someone from the “scrap pile” helped guide my Buccaneers to two Super Bowls. Colt McCoy was largely written off in RZL after a couple rough stops in Minnesota and Washington, but we were able to bring him in for pretty cheap. We put in the time and effort, and he materialized into a two-time Super Bowl winner who could be on his way to his 3rd. You see other guys like Flacco take their bumps and finally reward their GM royally for having patience, and you can clearly see there are multiple ways to land “your guy”.
I remember a time when the QB scene was so rich in RZL that nobody would dare draft a QB in the 1st Round. We’ve seen a change in recent years as guys like Jimmy Clausen, Adrian McPherson, and Andrew Luck are going sooner and sooner. In fact, expect QBs to not only continue going high, but to generate significant returns in “trade up” scenarios as guys try to get to the #1 or #2 spot to obtain those play callers. Will we continue to see guys as talented as Andrew Luck? After fully evaluating the scene, I’d say it would be in the best interest of RZL to have at least ONE guy that good (or close) in the draft each year for at least the next few seasons. The trick then will be getting those “bad” teams to hold onto their picks, and turn down the ransoms that traditionally better teams throw at them. Atlanta/Clausen, Oakland/McPherson, Kansas City/Stafford – these are all unions that have SERIOUS potential to end up as well as the St. Louis/Flacco story did.
Teams as traditionally stocked as Tampa, New Orleans, etc – they should be FORCED to either find a guy in the scraps like McCoy, or draft one and take their lumps. Those “Old Guard” guys, they WILL start retiring, and the power balance in RZL will change – as long as GMs are loyal to the draft process – look at Pittsburgh this year without Big Ben. I know the Texans got better this year by trading with the Jets – but are the Texans set up for the next decade to compete? No, they look like a very competitive sub-.500 team that will compete each year, but will be depending far too much on subpar QB play to win close games. The Jets, on the other hand, likely have a Top 5 QB until the league closes their doors. So here we are, a journey into my personal philosophy of grading QBs (all based off of opinion, so please take nothing personally), as I evaluate the QB landscape in RZL. I hope you all enjoy.
THE “TOTAL GENIUS OR A TOTAL DOPE” DIVISION:: (D)
15. QB Terrell Pryor Upside? Michael Vick Downside? Willis Maddox
14. QB Nate Davis Upside? Joseph Brousseau Downside? Dennis Dixon
13. QB Tony Pike Upside? Erik Ainge Downside? Matt Ryan
12. QB Rich Prescott Upside? Dudley Hanson Downside? Stephen McGee
11. QB Christian Ponder Upside? Graham Harrell Downside? Troy Smith
10. QB Alfred Griffith Upside? Major Hester Downside? Colin Kaepernick
9. QB Tim Hiller Upside? Chad Henne Downside? Ricky Simon
8. QB Kevin O’Donnell Upside? Tyler Thigpen Downside? Michael Vick
7. QB Kellen Moore Upside? Drew Brees Downside? Chris Leak
6. QB Nick Foles Upside? Drew Stanton Downside? Albert Griffith
5. QB Andrew Dalton Upside? Matt Flynn Downside? Nate Longshore
4. QB Blaine Gabbert Upside? Bobby Reid Downside? Tad Shearin
3. QB John Skelton Upside? Joe Flacco Downside? Anthony Morelli
2. QB Ryan Mallett Upside? Byron Leftwich Downside? Eric Stubbs
1. QB Philip Thompson Upside? Colt McCoy Downside? Nate Davis
Philip Thompson looks the part of a guy who could really break out given the right supporting cast, but for whatever reason JP and the Packers push Bobby Reid as their starter despite a sub-.500 record. They are wasting invaluable time that could be used to turn Thompson into a Franchise QB, much like the Vikings and Redskins were doing with Colt McCoy.
Mallett and Skelton are two guys that just about fit the prototype for “my kind of QB”, although I gave a slight edge to Mallett because he’s younger. Gabbert is in a pivotal time in his career where he is either going to get a shot to prove he can be a Franchise guy, or he’s going to start looking more and more like a career backup. Dalton is in the same boat.
Foles and Moore are the rookies, and no surprise, Foles fits my “mold” for a QB much more than Moore – but watch out, as the Broncos are much more committed to Moore than the Vikings are Foles, and playing time can turn an average player into a legit starter – just ask Kellen’s uncle Matt Moore.
O’Donnell is a scrambler that can win games – a truly rare breed, and if given the chance on a talented team, I think he is better than at least 5 starters in RZL today. His window is closing fast, however, and a season-ending injury perhaps cost him his best chance of his career, after returning to Tampa this season behind the struggling Dudley Hansen.
Hiller and Griffith are two guys who should have had a chance much sooner, as they really look the part. Their windows might have closed – as their trade value certainly has. I would not see a team giving more than a 3rd to try that experiment out, and more realistically probably not more than a 4th. Neither team is going to give the player away for that, so they will likely remain on their current rosters, where their GMs will certainly not give them a chance.
Ponder, Prescott and Pike – the Pee, Pee, Pee’s. I don’t see any of these guys ever starting a 16-game season, but each has redeemable qualities. Ponder likely has the best chance, as he will never be tasked with replacing Drew Brees or Tyler Thigpen, but I think these are very tough projects to turn.
Nate Davis entered the league with a ton of potential, only really needing to get his AWR up to become something special. He’s been around seemingly forever, but JoeBro has proven in Cleveland that all it really takes is one or two GREAT years and that AWR will fly. He’s got everything else, and if he finds a (perhaps desperate) team with some talent to ride him hard for 10-20 games, he could experience a late-career awakening. Not likely, but possible.
Pryor will never be Big Ben, obviously, but it looks like Pittsburgh will roll with him. Expect the Steelers to secure a Top 5 pick and do what is necessary to draft the ACTUAL replacement to Big Ben, while Pryor likely ends up on waivers for some brave Ohio State fan to try and turn into a reliable backup. Troy Smith need company.
THE “BACKUP PLAN” DIVISION:: (C)
20. QB JaMarcus Russell Perfect Backup Job? Miami Dolphins / GM Eric Eggleston
19. QB Horace Moon Perfect Backup Job? Houston Texans / GM Ricky Lung
18. QB Rusty Smith Perfect Backup Job? Tennessee Titans / GM Nic St. Marie
17. QB Graham Harrell Perfect Backup Job? Green Bay Packers / GM James Paronne
16. QB Stephen McGee Perfect Backup Job? New England Patriots / Brett Richmond
15. QB Josh Freeman Perfect Backup Job? Tampa Bay Buccaneers / GM Anthony Fernandez
14. QB Matt Ryan Perfect Backup Job? Atlanta Falcons / GM Trevor Gloekler
13. QB Roddick Rosario Perfect Backup Job? Denver Broncos / GM Jeremy Arnold
12. QB Tim Tebow Perfect Backup Job? Dallas Cowboys / GM John Stanley
11. QB Anthony Morelli Perfect Backup Job? New York Giants / Maurice Heard
10. QB Eric Stubbs Perfect Backup Job? New Orleans Saints / GM Kevin Mullendore
9. QB Colt Brennan Perfect Backup Job? San Francisco 49ers / GM Jay Hall
8. QB John Parker Wilson Perfect Backup Job? Kansas City Chiefs / GM Dave Bauer
7. QB Jordan Palmer Perfect Backup Job? Oakland Raiders / GM Gary Hickman
6. QB John David Booty Perfect Backup Job? Arizona Cardinals / GM Tyler Richardson
5. QB Alex Smith Perfect Backup Job? Jacksonville Jaguars / GM Matt Davis
4. QB Bret Meyer Perfect Backup Job? Indianapolis Colts / Erick Edwards
3. QB Billy Nicol Perfect Backup Job? Cincinnati Bengals / Vacant GM
2. QB Brodie Croyle Perfect Backup Job? St. Louis Rams / GM Jeff Downey
1. QB Aaron Rodgers Perfect Backup Job? Pittsburgh Steelers / GM Brian Brown
As mentioned above, I see the Steelers drafting a Franchise QB this offseason, and a talented veteran might be just what the doctor ordered for the always flexible BB. ARod, if he decides to stick around, could be a great mentor for a young pup.
GM Downey is at a point where he knows two things, 1) his team is going to compete for Super Bowls until Joe Flacco retires, and 2) Joe Flacco is going to get hurt regularly running the careless, yet explosive style of play that they run. No other team in the league needs a veteran backup QB annually on the payroll more than the Rams, and this is a problem they should fix this offseason (or sooner). Really makes you wonder why they didn’t pony up and give that $11M/year contract they gave YP9 and regressing DT Norman Bassett (11TAK/2SCK) to QB Alex Smith, who ended up signing for $8M. That is a “GM move” that likely cost them a 1st Round Pick (to acquire a backup) or home field advantage. A union of St.Louis and Croyle could happen this offseason, or this week.
I’m not a fan of Nicol or Meyer, but it’s hard to argue that either will be treated better elsewhere than where they are currently. Nicol is playing well in Cincy, and may get a permanent look when the team gets an actual GM. Meyer is (for whatever reason) viewed highly by (the old, AND) the new management in Indy, enough so that youngster Boone likely leaves town before Meyer does.
Alex Smith is on an expiring contract and is set to enter the FA pool once again. With the rash of QB injuries this season, he could find an even better payday this time around, but regression will likely neutralize that. Even still, heading from one bud (Arnold) to another bud (Davis) makes a lot of sense for the prototypical backup QB, a place where he could mentor Lou Bishop.
JDB, Palmer, Parker Wilson, and Brennan are premium backup candidates that have seen extended reps as starters in recent years, much to their respective teams dismay. Four guys you’d love to have holding down your team for two games a year, but certainly not twelve. JDB has already been moved twice and may move again, Jordan Palmer should be a prime trade candidate at the deadline when Bishop returns, Parker Wilson is treading water in KC where they already look out of the playoff hunt, and Brennan has already been benched in Pittsburgh after (surprise, surprise) failing to live up to the shadow of Big Ben.
I think 3 of those guys will be in new locations next year, in my humble opinion. JDB would allow the Cardinals to officially make Porter the guy, while moving on from Leinart. Palmer would be a nice fit in Oakland backing up Franchise QB Adrian McPherson, while Hawaii guy Colt Brennan would make a lot of sense in San Fran backing up Anderson Mendoza, who 49ers GM Jay Hall told me in an exclusive interview “is our future”. If he’s the future, don’t expect them to spend $20M to bring back ARod if they can get a guy like Brennan for >$7M. Parker Wilson is the best candidate to stick – partly because of an awful contract, and partly because GM Bauer has a best bud (GM Downey) who is a prime example of why you need 2 QBs. One wild card scenario would be Downey getting desperate at the deadline and sending a 1st or more to KC for Wilson – but that would be ill-advised.
Stubbs has found himself in a good, stable situation in New Orleans with his old buddy WR Christiansen. Matt Moore is the starter in New Orleans, and likely will be for a while, but Stubbs is a guy who can stick on the roster for a few seasons and provide a spark if necessary behind a solid offensive line and explosive rushing attack.
I’m pretty sure the Seahawks would have released Morelli 10 minutes after they signed him, had he not already nuked their current QB’s player roles by dotting on the line. He is not the long term answer in Seattle, not even at backup, and I think he has a skill set that resembles youngster Tony Pike quite a bit, who the Giants seem fond of. If Thigpen doesn’t last under the new regime, a Morelli/Pike pairing in New York would be ideal for Morelli. For the Giants? They could probably do better, but it depends how high they are on Pike. Morelli can't be traded, but could be targetted in Free Agency.
Tim Tebow is a winner, and so is Cowboys GM John Stanley. The Cowboys backup QB position has been in flux, but I know they’re not satisfied after failing to have lured a few RZL greats out of retirement to be the backup QB in Dallas. While Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers didn’t see the point in sitting behind Matt Flynn in Big D, Tebow is a guy who would show up to work on time every day, and fill in decent if they need him.
Doesn’t Rosario look a lot like Graham Harrell – who Jeremy’s brother Jason did some pretty good things with in Washington? Rosario and rookie Kellen Moore would comprise perhaps the worst QB duo in the league on paper, but it’s a union that might work, and certainly has to be more appealing that paying glass man Brian Brohm $17M to sit the bench.
Gloekler is a Falcons fan, so surely he has a warm spot in his heart for Matt Ryan. He’s holding onto one of the hottest young commodities in the league, Gustavo Bates, but if he’s smart he’ll move him for a 1st and change this offseason and look for a real backup for Jimmy Clausen.
Fernandez is a Bucs fan, so surely he has a warm spot in his heart for Josh Freeman. Jaaaash has been the definition of career backup in RZL, but he has built the AWR necessary in that span to be a cheap, reliable backup if the team is forthcoming with their intentions of developing Ryan Mallett.
McGee has bounced around, and after failing to do anything substantial when given a starring role on the most explosive offense in the league (STL), I suspect he’ll be bouncing again next year. He’s not a bad backup, he just is not starting material.
Graham, Rusty, and Horace sound like the three lead actors in a Hillbilly Horror movie. Horace is strictly a scrambler, and likely only has a shot for a guy like Ricky or Nic. Graham is a perfect backup fit if Green Bay smartens up and sends Reid to the highest bidder before going all in on Thompson. Rusty is a career backup, but could develop into a pretty cheap and reliable one.
The fact that JaMarcus Russell has started more than one game this year expresses the dire state of the RZL QB situation. It’s only going to get worse as the Old Guard begin to ride off into the sunset. Doubt JaMarcus gets a better shot somewhere else than he's getting in Miami.
Stay tuned for Part 2! Thanks for reading!
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