After going through the eight worst quarterback situations in the NFL, let’s move to the eight situations which, while not as bad as the worst ones in pro football, are still in the lower half of the 32-team league.
No. 24: New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have a former NFL MVP at quarterback, followed by a national championship-winning rookie quarterback. They’re No. 24 and their Super Bowl odds are at 25-1? It sounds weird, but it’s not something a lot of NFL people would debate.
Cam Newton had a bad first season with the Patriots in 2020. Injuries have contributed to his rapid decline as an NFL quarterback, but injuries are indeed part of the game. Newton is simply not close to what he once was. His arm strength is greatly diminished. His accuracy has decreased. He is simply a shadow of his former self.
Mac Jones did a fine job at Alabama, but he had receivers — DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — who were a lot better than the college cornerbacks who tried in vain to cover them. Jones will not face that kind of advantage in the NFL, and it remains to be seen if he is ready for the pros, provided he gets snaps behind Newton this season.
The Patriots were a dynasty under Tom Brady. Newton came in and they tumbled in the standings. This ranking is deserved. Newton has to refurbish his reputation with a solid year before this ranking will rise.
No. 23: New Orleans Saints
The Drew Brees era is over, and the Saints face the same questions that the Patriots did last year after Tom Brady left. The Saints have Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill and new draft pick Ian Book. They might be good enough to get the Saints to the playoffs, but New Orleans was a No. 2 seed last season. The Saints probably won’t get anything higher than a No. 5 seed this coming season.
The reality that the Saints are likely to decline is itself a commentary on the quality of this quarterback situation. Winston is too interception-prone. Hill is a good backup but hardly a proven starter. Book was a fourth-round pick who feels like a flier, as opposed to a sure thing. This is not a good situation unless or until Winston or Hill become noticeably better.
No. 22: Miami Dolphins
The big question surrounding the Miami Dolphins is whether Tua Tagovailoa is ready to be a 16-game starter. One has to remember that last season, Ryan Fitzpatrick won a number of big games for the Dolphins.
Tagovailoa played decent but rarely spectacular football. He looked competent and not overwhelmed, but he did not look like a dominant figure, either. He was a middle-of-the-pack NFL starting quarterback, and that was with a limited game schedule. He didn’t start all 16 games, and when the team needed a boost late in the season, Fitzpatrick made big plays in a Christmas weekend game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Tagovailoa won’t have Fitzpatrick to lean upon this season, making it an open question as to whether the Dolphins’ offense will thrive. This is a wait-and-see situation in Miami, so keep an eye on the NFL news.
No. 21: Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins will have a few games each season when he looks the part of a franchise quarterback … but most of a season is filled with exasperating moments which leave observers wondering why the Vikings bet so much on him. Cousins was an average quarterback in Washington. Similar to Winston, he fills a season with very high highs and very low lows, noticeably volatile and conspicuously inconsistent.
The Vikings could have chosen other quarterbacks instead of Cousins. They might have taken the next step toward the Super Bowl, but right now they are not one of the top five teams in the NFC and they didn’t even make the playoffs last season. That is a huge waste of potential.
No. 20: Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are coached by Frank Reich, who was the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles when Carson Wentz appeared on the road to becoming, before his injury, an elite NFL quarterback. Reich and the Colts fully believe they can fix Wentz, who broke down the past few years with the Eagles and needed a change of scenery.
Maybe Reich can solve the Wentz puzzle. If he does, the Colts will be Super Bowl contenders. Yet, is Wentz simply a quarterback who needs his former coach back, or has his game unraveled so much that not even Reich can save him? Everyone has an opinion on this question, but it’s all speculation at this point. When Wentz shows he has restored his game, this ranking can be elevated. Right now, it doesn’t seem uncharitable or unreasonable to keep him at 20.
No. 19: Cincinnati Bengals
This is a classic case of where a quarterback “situation” is worse than the talent of the quarterback himself. Joe Burrow is a better quarterback than many in the NFL. He might be the No. 13 or 14 starter in the league. However, his situation in Cincinnati is a bad one. Many people think coach Zac Taylor is in over his head.
The Bengals passed on the chance to draft offensive lineman Penei Sewell to protect Burrow, who operated behind a horrible offensive line last season. Burrow is a quality player, but the Bengals do not appear to have given him the resources he needs to succeed. If the player can’t win games, it might not be a commentary on him, but it can certainly be a commentary on his situation.
No. 18: Chicago Bears
The New York Jets were ranked near the bottom of this list because even though Zach Wilson was a No. 2 pick, he really didn’t prove nearly as much as a college quarterback as Justin Fields did. Fields deserves much more of the benefit of the doubt. He could become a legitimately good NFL quarterback, and has a better chance of developing into a star than Wilson does. It’s all potential now, but Fields deserves a much higher ranking than Wilson. If he has a strong rookie season, he could jump into the top 10.
No. 17: Washington Football Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick has never been great. He has sometimes been horrible. He is, on balance, a top backup quarterback and a serviceable starter. He’s the guy who can competently run a team and offer a reasonable degree of stability, but who will never take a team to very lofty heights. He represents a big upgrade for Washington over draft bust Dwayne Haskins, but Haskins was so bad that Fitz merely puts the Washington Football Team in the middle of the pack in the NFL. Nothing more.