The quarterback is the most important person on the field on game day.
This wasn’t always the case. The NFL, in particular, and pro football in general used to revolve a lot more around running backs and defensive lines. Quarterbacks were certainly important, but teams could win without dynamic quarterbacks who threw for lots of yards and fattened up the stat sheet.
Now, it’s a lot harder to win championships without a great quarterback. The sport is pass-centric, and quarterbacks have to make decisions more quickly. Ranking teams’ quarterback situations is a fascinating exercise. A QB situation is based mostly on the starter, but as one goes lower in the rankings, the backup quarterbacks begin to matter more.
Let’s look at the eight worst quarterback situations in the NFL, keeping that point squarely in mind. And taking a look at the Super Bowl odds, these are the teams with the longest odds.
No. 32: Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have Deshaun Watson, but that is a technicality. He probably won’t remain with the franchise, and the plot twist is that given his legal troubles, the reason Watson might not play for the Texans in 2021 is not that he will be traded. Instead, he might have outside issues that could involve the legal system or NFL discipline.
This is a huge headache for the Texans. It is extremely unlikely that Watson will play for the team when the 2021 season begins. The Texans are not in position to get a lot of compensation in a trade. They didn’t even win big when Watson was on the team, and they hired a surprisingly obscure head coach, David Culley. This is an awful situation, one which doesn’t seem to have a good solution anytime soon.
No. 31: Denver Broncos
There were whispers on NFL draft day that with Aaron Rodgers being unhappy with the Green Bay Packers, a trade to the Broncos could have been a possibility. When the Broncos did not draft a quarterback, instead taking cornerback Patrick Surtain II with pick No. 9, rumors intensified that the Broncos were setting the table for a possible Rodgers deal.
Yet, that has never materialized, and it seems that if Rodgers doesn’t play for the Packers in 2021, the main alternate scenario is that he won’t play at all. He will retire. So, the Broncos do not seem likely to get Rodgers. They have decided that Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater will be their starting quarterback. That is not inspiring. the Carolina Panthers did not win very much with Bridgewater as their starter last season. Denver has not improved its quarterback outlook this offseason.
No. 30: Detroit Lions
When Jared Goff went to the Super Bowl two years ago with the Los Angeles Rams, he seemed to have a bright future. Since then he has clearly and sharply regressed under coach Sean McVay… and now he is moving to a bad team in Detroit with a coach, Dan Campbell, who wants to run the ball but doesn’t have a strong running game or offensive line. Goff is in a position to fail, and he now has a defense without Aaron Donald. This seems like a disaster in the making. Goff is better than Drew Lock, but not very many other quarterbacks.
No. 29: Carolina Panthers
In case you missed the NFL news, the Carolina Panthers traded for Sam Darnold this offseason. While this ranking might be underrating Darnold, who has great talent, it is a reflection of the fact (and it is a fact) that Darnold has not yet proved he can be a high-level NFL quarterback. If he proves it this season, he will rise substantially in the quarterback rankings. Right now, however, he has to earn the benefit of the doubt. It can’t be given to him until he starts performing up to his potential.
Yes, Adam Gase was a terrible head coach for him. Gase and the New York Jets did not put him in position to succeed, which is why it is still reasonable to think Darnold can become a good quarterback. Yet, that is pure speculation. It exists as a possibility, not as a certainty or even a likelihood. Until Darnold begins to make noticeable improvements, he has to be in the bottom five of NFL starting quarterbacks.
No. 28: New York Jets
Zach Wilson is a No. 2 overall draft pick, which would often mean a much higher quarterback ranking heading into his first season. The thought here, though, is that Wilson is wildly overrated by the draftniks and the Jets’ scouts. Justin Fields was hugely underrated in the draft process — he and the Chicago Bears are going to be much higher in these quarterback rankings than the Jets.
Wilson hasn’t played a down in the NFL, but much like his Jets predecessor, Sam Darnold, he has to prove he is worthy of the hype and the hope. The Jets have a first-year head coach, Robert Saleh, who is likely to be better than Adam Gase, but we don’t truly know what he will do for Wilson or this offense. So much is unknown about the Jets’ offense that it’s hard to give them a high place in the rankings, or even a middle-tier position. Skepticism is warranted until Wilson shows he is the real deal.
No. 27: New York Giants
You saw how bad the NFC East was last season. Daniel Jones was the starter for the New York Giants in a year when Dwayne Haskins was terrible for Washington, Dak Prescott got injured with the Dallas Cowboys and Carson Wentz struggled with the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s true that running back Saquon Barkley’s injury was huge for the Giants, but even when Jones and Barkley have played together, the Giants’ offense hasn’t done much. Jones is another QB who has to prove he is better than recent seasons and better than what his foremost critics say about him.
No. 26: Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, could be a special quarterback in the NFL, but he is surrounded by a subpar offensive line in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer has never coached in the NFL and has had problems with burnout in recent years. A lot of big names exist in Jacksonville, but this seems like a house of cards which is ready to fall apart. Lawrence could have a Sam Darnold-like first three years in the NFL. Don’t be too surprised if that happens.
No. 25: Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts is a good change-of-pace quarterback with some obvious similarities to Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints. Hurts is a quarterback who can come in a for a few series, maybe a quarter, and give the starting quarterback a break and provide a different look for a defense. He has not shown that he can be an every-down starting quarterback for four full quarters, much less every game of every week. Moreover, new coach Nick Sirianni has to prove he can get the most out of Hurts every week. This is a very fragile quarterback situation.