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Quarterback Shuffle

   by Jim Feist - 12/03/2012

2012…The Year of the Quarterback? Are you kidding? While the numbers that Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are putting up are sizzling, 2012 has been the Year of the Quarterback Shuffle, too. It started back in August when Seattle decided to pass on high priced free agent Matt Flynn and decided to go with rookie Russell Wilson. 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 and Ryan Lindley all seeing time – and few results. Let's not forget how difficult it is to play QB in the NFL with Seattle having the worst passing offense in the league despite a winning record. Their success has been behind tough defense and RB Marshawn Lynch.
That’s similar to what happened a year ago when the Jaguars decided to cut veteran starter David Garrard for rookie QB Blain Gabbart. The results were not a surprise: Jacksonville had the worst offense/passing offense in the league all season. This season Arizona has had one of the worst offenses not matter who they put behind center.
That shows the important of the position, but what has really cropped up the last two seasons is the importance of reliable depth at the position. Last year 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, forcing rookie QB Nick Foles in. Foles 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 two 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. That was the plan in New York with the Jets bringing in Tim Tebow, but it turns out they don’t have any QB that can pass. That was also the plan in Chicago where veteran Jason Campbell was brought in behind Jay Cutler, but Cambpell has been mostly awful.
No team has had more of a QB carousel than Pittsburgh. Star QB Ben Roethlisberger is still out, 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 and Steelers. What good is having a star QB if he's running for his life or getting killed?
Houston is in great shape to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC. A year ago all their plans of postseason success got upended because of a slew of quarterback injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, forcing QB T.J. Yates to start in the playoffs.
Speaking of No. 1 seeds the 49ers lost QB Alex Smith last month but backup QB Kolin Kaperneick surprised, running the football well but also throwing it, creating a bit of a controversy. 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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