Best QB Packages
Raiders have the NFL's best posse of passers
by Adrian Hasenmayer - FOXSports.com
Quarterback is still king and rates as the most important position on the field, but in today's NFL teams often go through as many as three QBs in simply surviving the regular season. Even with rules slanted to protect the passer, a strong benefits package is suggested if you're an NFL quarterback.
So which teams are best positioned to not just survive, but flourish at quarterback in 2004? For the purposes of our rankings, the goal for every team is to find two, if not three, guys with plenty of experience. A great starting QB alone is most important, but a lack of solid backups can mean a big drop. Super Bowl experience definitely helps, since it's all about winning. Also, this list is for the 2004 season. Future potential means next to nothing.
Ranking the QB Packages
The Raiders have taken care of any QB questions and may the best man win between Gannon and Collins. Both have led teams to the Super Bowl and Gannon's a former league MVP. Even third-stringer Tuiasosopo has produced in limited action, giving Oakland a trio to bank on in case of injury. Nice balance age-wise, too, as Gannon (37) could be the man of the moment, Collins (31) for 2005-06 and Tuiasosopo (25) the QB of the future.
Philly's Andy Reid learned the importance of QB depth in 2002 when McNabb got hurt and missed the last six games, only to have Detmer and A.J. Feeley (now in Miami) go 5-1 as starters down the stretch. That's why he added Jeff Blake to the mix after dealing away Feeley, and so far Blake has looked right at home in Reid's West Coast offense in mini-camps.
Some may wonder why the Packers even employ backup quarterbacks on their roster? The last time Brett Favre missed a start, the original George Bush was still president. But with Favre moving up in years, Green Bay made a strong addition at backup QB with former No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch. Also, don't forget Doug Pederson, probably the most complimented clipboard holder in football history.
OK, all of you who see this group and can't believe it's ranked this high, open your eyes. Jake Delhomme might not be the flashiest guy, but only one passer was more clutch last season — a man named Brady. Carolina agreed, having just inked the Ragin' Cajun to a five-year contract extension. Throw in Peete, a solid backup with plenty of experience, and even Weinke, and the Panthers have three guys who could take them to the playoffs.
The NFL's deepest group still may not fully satisfy Jon Gruden's tastes, but perhaps no QB package is better prepared in case of a run of injuries. Despite rumors that Gruden wants another guy taking snaps, Brad Johnson owns a Super Bowl ring — and he was NOT Tampa's problem last year (ask Warren Sapp about late-game defensive tank jobs). Griese has experience and plenty to prove, Garrett has backed up Troy Aikman flawlessy and Simms may be Tampa's QB of the future sooner than you think.
Think Dick Vermeil knows the importance of strong backup QBs? He wouldn't have won a ring in St. Louis without Kurt Warner, so in case Trent Green goes down again, KC has two guys the franchise feels can run the team in Collins and Huard. Vermeil also has four other guys to get a look at during training camp to see if he can uncover another gem.
If Davey is as good as he looked in leading the Berlin Thunder to a World Bowl title, then the Pats' group leaps much higher. But without any real experience behind football's reigning deity, the Pats have serious questions if Brady goes down. His two Super Bowl rings, developing aura and consummate leadership actually slot the Pats higher than some teams with two strong QBs.
Tennessee has monitored its QBs very well under Jeff Fisher. The team's patient approach in bringing along McNair paid off, as he is one of the best and toughest players in the league. Volek was groomed to be McNair's backup while the team had Neil O'Donnell around, and last year Volek proved very capable when McNair missed his usual set of games with injury. Now the Titans will stash former Washington State QB Jason Gesser away until he ripens in a couple years.
Mike Holmgren isn't sleepless in Seattle anymore about his feisty QB. Once way too headstrong for his own good, Hasselbeck is maturing and finally bought into the system — leading to Pro Bowl numbers. He may never be the next Favre, but he seems primed to blossom completely in 2004. Trent Dilfer is one of football's most solid team guys and has a Super Bowl ring on his resume. The young Wallace is talented, and local boy Brock Huard is no stiff.
Now that Culpepper seems to have cut down enough on turnover-itis, the Vikings' group can reside in the top 10. The next step for Culpepper will be getting the Vikings back in the playoffs, much of which depends on the Minnesota defense, of course. Last season, Gus Frerotte subbed for the starter in two games, winning both, putting up big numbers and proving he is solid insurance in case the mobile Culpepper gets dinged.
Even with arguably the best quarterback in the league, this may be a bit high for the simple reason that if Manning ever does get injured, this position is one HUGE question mark. The other four QBs on the roster have one game of NFL experience combined. Manning has started every game in his six-year career and could be another Favre in terms of durability, but the lack of any seasoned backup is striking. Manning's greatness and reliability alone keep the Colts this high, but Tony Dungy had better not break any mirrors.
This group doesn't have the juice of other individual QBs, but forget about 2003. Brunell is still a dependable QB who can win in this league, but he was on a Jags team in rebuilding mode. Ramsey was in the worst situation in football as a pocket punching bag in Steve Spurrier's failed offense. But both these guys are solid, tough players whom Washington can build around. Even Tim Hasselbeck has some experience, giving Joe Gibbs a fine posse of passers to work with.
In St. Louis, why do the backup QBs always seem to save the team? Marc Bulger had better stay healthy this year. The Rams might have picked the right starter by cutting Kurt Warner and re-signing Bulger, but eyebrows were raised with the off-season addition of extremely brittle Chris Chandler. He has reached the Super Bowl as a starter, but should have retired years ago. Third-stringer Jeff Smoker may be a sleeper, but is only a rookie.
Vick is brilliant and awe-inspiring, but until he learns when not to fling his body around like a kamakaze and stays healthy for a whole season again, the Falcons will stay in the middle of the pack. I'm not sold on the so-called improvement at backup QB, as Ty Detmer could not even beat out Charlie Batch a few years ago in Detroit.
Ryan Van Dyke
The Giants were wise to gamble on Warner's thumb and head being healthy, seeing as they chased off incumbent Kerry Collins after mortgaging a chunk of the future in drafting Eli Manning. Forget Eli's potential; this is about 2004 and he's just another wide-eyed rookie. But we still don't know which Warner will show up in the Big Apple, the two-time MVP or the guy who hasn't won a start since 2001. And don't get me started on The Bachelor. Still, GM Ernie Accorsi has filled the roster with options.
I still don't buy Quincy Carter as a championship quarterback, but he did get Dallas back to the playoffs last year. Adding Testaverde was an excellent move by Tuna and Jerry, the only experienced guy in Big D who may end up bailing this team out in 2004. Drew Henson is a great prospect for '05 and beyond who Dallas hopes is not another Chad Hutchinson, who seems lost.
With apologies to Terrell Owens, new Browns starter Jeff Garcia is still a fine quarterback. He may not have the big arm, but he is a good leader and can move the chains. He should fit very well in Cleveland, especially with Kellen Winslow as his new tight end. Holcomb is back where he belongs, as the backup QB who can rally his team in emergencies.
A group headlined by Pennington should rank much higher, but losing Vinny to Dallas leaves a collection with as many NFL passes as you and me combined — ZERO. Brooks Bollinger is an unknown NFL-wise and will have to prove himself at some point. No, Ricky Ray is not the same character from Blue Chips, but he's the reigning stud out of the CFL who could become the No. 2 QB this season. The Jets will hold their breath the entire season watching Pennington.
Cincinnati keeps telling everyone that former Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer is ready to start and win now. They'd better be right, but it sure is nice to have Kitna behind him coming off a career year. If the Bengals start slowly, Kitna may be thrown back on the field as a savior — a role that may fit the deeply religious QB.
Brooks is proven when it comes to numbers, but not yet in terms of winning. He does have the skills to lead the Saints back to postseason play, and should excel in '04 with a healthy Donte Stallworth to pair with Pro Bowl-caliber wideout Joe Horn. Bouman and O'Sullivan have both been stars in NFL Europe, but only Bouman owns any reasonable NFL success, while backing up Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota.
Brees may or may not be finished in San Diego, but it certainly seems premature to bury the guy at age 25. Even if Brees fails miserably this season, No. 1 draft pick Rivers and the veteran Flutie are quality insurance for the rebuilding Bolts.
The timing has been off in Miami for decades. When the Dolphins had Dan Marino, they couldn't find a running game. Now they've got RB Ricky Williams, but constant questions at QB. Jay Fielder isn't the league's best passer, but he is a gamer who is good enough to get Miami to the playoffs — just not the Super Bowl. But is A.J. Feeley? Miami might have overpaid to get Feeley from Philly.
This group is not earth-shattering now, but it could be eventually if Roethlisberger lives up to his pre-draft hype. Tommy Maddox got his new contract and should hold the position with respectability in '04, but the ex-XFL champion is still not the greatest No. 1 in the league. Charlie Batch gives the Steelers an experienced option at third string, giving them some depth. But the chances of Roethlisberger becoming Bradshaw overnight are slim.
How far has Drew Bledsoe's stock sunk? The play of the former No. 1 overall draft pick and three-time 4,000-yard passer plummeted to shocking levels in 2003. Was Peerless Price that important to this passing game? Bledsoe needs a major rebound this year. Travis Brown has thrown 52 NFL passes without a start. Buffalo seems sold on first-rounder Losman, who is very ****y or confident, depending on your perspective.
Bradlee Van Pelt
Denver's season went south a year ago once Plummer got hurt as coach Mike Shanahan scrambled without a quality No. 2 or No. 3 QB. It doesn't seem like a problem solved. Plummer can win in Denver, but must stay healthy. The Broncos added backup QB Mike Quinn, a seven-year veteran with three NFL passes under his wristbands. Danny Kanell was one of 2003's main culprits (2 TD, 5 INT, 49.1 rating).
The pressure's on Harrington in Year Three as a franchise QB, especially with all the fun toys he gets to play with (exciting rookie RB Kevin Jones, WR duo of Charlie Rogers and Roy Williams). If he falters, Steve Mariucci likely will not hesitate to put McMahon in the lineup for a shot. Rick Mirer might be one of the worst first-round draft picks ever, but is perfectly suited here as a No. 3 quarterback.
If Boller is healthy and lives up to Brian Billick's expectations, this group can make a big move up this list. Otherwise, this team's depending on Kordell Stewart to, well ... hand the ball off and not screw things up. The injured Wright was a pleasant surprise in 2003, but won't return to the field until November. Billick's got to be wondering if he'll EVER get a decent QB in Baltimore.
David Carr will be a fixture with this team for years and was an excellent choice as Houston's first-ever draft pick three years ago. With an improving offense around him, he could flourish in '04. Tony Banks is still Tony Banks, but at least he has taken a few NFL snaps before.
The low ranking does not reflect views on the talent of Leftwich, who could be the best young quarterback in the NFL. But he still has yet to prove himself in the big leagues. Behind the prodigy is a decent prospect in second-year man David Garrard, but also Doug Johnson — an utter failure in Atlanta last season.
New Cards coach Dennis Green shocked the NFL by announcing Josh McCown as his starting QB at the beginning of off-season, with some other big names available. It may be even more shocking that he has not budged from this yet. If McCown is not the second coming of Neil Lomax, then at least they added a decent backup in former Buc Shaun King. John Navarre led Michigan to the Rose Bowl in 2003. Can he become another Tom Brady? If so, certainly not yet.
It's Rex Grossman's ship to steer in just his second year, and with questionable talent around him. The jury's out on whether his lack of size will hurt his NFL production. Jonathan Quinn's six-year totals: three NFL starts, three TD passes. Third-stringer Craig Krenzel got plenty of big-game experience in college at Ohio State, but this is the real world for a rookie.
Has it really come to this for the *****, the franchise of some of football's best all-time quarterbacks? With the divorce with Jeff Garcia finalized, it's major rebuilding time in 'Frisco. Rattay proved capabale enough in '03 (especially if you ask Terrell Owens), but will likely miss the start of the season to injury. That leaves Ken Dorsey, two years removed from an incredible college career at Miami. Word is he has added some bulk and has impressed the organization with his intensity and work ethic. But at the moment, this group is an embarrassment to the state of ***** football.
Re: Best QB Packages
LOL look who is last on the list. :redface: