Imagine you are in the ultimate football draft with only one goal for your football team: win the Super Bowl this year. How would you go about picking a quarterback to lead your troops into battle? Forget past, forget future, and only focus on the present. Who are the signal callers in the league right now that you would go to war with in order to win the ultimate prize?
Here are my Top 20 Quarterbacks heading into the 2010 season:
20. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders
Always liked the guy. Stuck in a rotten situation with rotten coaches in DC for years, yet his completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns went up every single year. Will be playing for his 2,000th offensive coordinator in the form of Hue Jackson this season in the Black Hole. Last season every Raider supporter (so…me) said that if that team had a decent QB they would have made the postseason. Well, Campbell is a decent QB. Should Raider fans start saving up for playoff tickets? Probably not, but it wouldn’t totally shock me.
19. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
If I had one win one single game, Vince would probably be significantly higher on this list. He is dynamic at moments, but can also show how limited his skills as a passer are at others. His legs are clearly what make him a game breaker, but we’re going to have to get the touchdown-interception ratio better than 32-39 for a career before I truly want to build a team around him. He is still raw and has room to grown and learn, but the 2006 Rose Bowl wasn’t yesterday. It’s time for Vince to show if he is closer to growing into a Donovan McNabb or continuing on a path to becoming a Michael Vick (in terms of on the field only) clone.
18. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins
Yes, I know this is a guy that has only started 13 games in the NFL. Yes, I know that he had more INTs than TDs last season. Yes, I know he plays on a team with a conservative offensive approach, and many times, wasn’t even on the field in favor of the wildcat. Still, the guy can sling it. Big arm, big moxie, big game experience at Michigan. I wasn’t the biggest fan of him coming out of college because I thought he should have won bigger, which I guess can be a backhanded complement at his abilities. Miami has now given him Brandon Marshall to work with on the outside, and I expect Henne’s numbers, and Dolphin victories, to be on the rise in 2010.
17. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Youth doesn’t scare me when ranking these guys. I don’t believe we can look at Sanchez as the sum of the parts, but rather evaluate him on how he finished the season. Early on in 2009 he looked in over his head, confused at times, and uncomfortable with dealing with the media after tough performances. As the season moved along, and the Jets started playing to his strengths, he was phenomenal. He “managed” the games, but also made a few plays in each of those victories down the stretch that either won the contest or sealed the deal. He throws on the run better than almost any QB in the league, is already respected in the locker room, and will only get better with a full camp as the starter.
16. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
Still? When he is healthy, absolutely. Seattle is admittedly a tough team to predict, and there is a part of me that believes that Charlie Whitehurst will be the starter by the end of the season. But Hasselbeck can still lead an offense. Pete Carroll raved on The Shore Sports Report about the shape that Hasselbeck is in and the team leader that he is. Short, bald, and without a huge arm is no way to get legitimate recognition in today’s NFL, but at least he is getting some here.
15. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Put up or shut up. I am a big enough man to out myself as a Cutler guy, but even I could barely watch that 2009 debacle in the Windy City. From the 4 picks on opening night in Green Bay to the 0 TD, 5 INT stunt he pulled in San Fran on a Thursday Night we would all like to have back, Jay was a bust in the new city. Still, there is hope for a guy who looked destined for stardom during his early years in Denver. Mike Martz has arrived to run the offense, Chester Taylor is going to help shoulder the load in the backfield, and Julius Peppers should help keep Jay on the field. This is a make or break year for the entire Chicago franchise, led by the QB on this list with the potential for the biggest leap or possibly the biggest fall.
14. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
I’m comfortable with my team going to war with anyone from Carson on up this list. It looked like this guy was destined for a perennial Top 5 spot on this list during his early days out of USC, but injuries to his knee and elbow, combined with a change in offensive philosophy, have changed the kind of numbers he puts up. Still, this is a guy that has never played a full season without completing at least 60% of his passes, and shouldn’t be evaluated on those last two windy and cold games against the Jets and their ferocious defense. Antonio Bryant, Jermaine Gresham, and Jordan Shipley were great additions to a receiving corps that desperately needed it.
13. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Let the debate begin. I have people trying to convince me this is a Top 5 guy on a list list like this, and I’m not even willing to put him in the Top 10. I realize the kind of yards and rating this guy had last year, but I need to see more victories, less fumbles, and back to back healthy seasons. Don’t forget the knock on this guy was never his ability to throw it down the field, but rather in knack for being carted off it. Last year was the first time we saw him in all 16 games. Also, there is the fumbling issue and propensity for turnovers at the wrong time. That blown lead at home vs. Indianapolis is part of the reason I don’t trust this guy. This should be the year for him and the Texans to finally break through, but I’m not ready to believe quite yet.
12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
It’s not often that 9-7 can sell me on what a guy is made of, but it did here. I’ll admit that I don’t particularly care for Matt Ryan. I didn’t think he was great at Boston College, didn’t think he deserved the coronation for beating the Bears on a 10 yard post pass in his first game, and certainly didn’t agree with SI’s Peter King ranking him one of the Top 20 players in the sport after his rookie year. That being said, he showed he was a leader last season by coming back from turf toe when the playoffs we’re not a realistic possibility to lead his team to their first back to back winning seasons in franchise history. He’s on the rise…whether I like it or not.
11. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins
I still can’t believe that he was moved in division when Philly decided it was time for the divorce to become final. The city had it out for the guy from the moment Paul Tagliabue called his name in the 1999 Draft. He isn’t the player he once was, but that didn’t stop him from putting up his third best statistical season of his career last year. The last time Mike Shannahan inherited a QB that was 33 and without a ring on his finger was in 1995 out in Denver. That guy? John Elway. Denver never gave up on him and they celebrated together in 1997 and 1998. If history repeats itself, the only fans in the sport that won’t enjoy it will be those in Philadelphia.
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it.
Coming tomorrow: The Top 10