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Positional Power Rankings: QB packages
In the modern NFL, forget about your starting quarterback lasting the entire season.
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.
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So which teams are best positioned to not just survive, but flourish at quarterback in 2009? For the purposes of our rankings, the goal for every team is to find two, if not three, guys who can come in and start in case of injury emergencies. Ideally, the backups would include a veteran who has been through the NFL battles and a young, talented prodigy the team is grooming for the future.
A great starting QB alone is most important, but a lack of solid backups can mean a steep drop. Super Bowl experience definitely helps, since it's all about winning.
*NOTE: This list is for the 2009 season only.
RANKING THE NFL'S QB PACKAGES
Rivers has proved himself to be the fiery leader and franchise quarterback, coming one road AFC title game loss to New England in '07 away from a Super Bowl shot. While he gives the Chargers a great shot of getting over the super hump, backup Billy Volek is a solid veteran who has playoff wins to fall back on. Along with prospect Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego GM A.J. Smith has the Bolts well-positioned in case of a serious injury bug.
With two Super Bowls in five seasons, Big Ben is now among the top five — maybe even the top three — quarterbacks in the NFL. He's got the big arm, the elusiveness and calm under pressure. But the thing about Pittsburgh is, their system is built on consistency and continuity. So for most teams, Charlie Batch as backup QB could be an issue — but not in Steeltown, where he has already shown his ability to keep this team (behind a historically-good run game and defense) afloat. Dixon gives Mike Tomlin a versatile "Wildcat" threat, if he so chooses.
There has been plenty of focus around Tony Romo's off-field action, but he's been pretty good on it. At least during the regular season. He's got the numbers and individual accolades (Pro Bowl berths in 2006 and 2007), but not the respect earned through playoff success. This year he also has no T.O., which Dallas hopes will allow him to lead more effectively. If Romo gets injured, this year they traded for backup Jon Kitna as a strong No. 2 — especially from the character POV. Kitna is one of the tougher, more well-respected players in football and should prove a great outlet for Romo as he seeks to take control of the Dallas locker room.
Drew Brees is the fuel and engine for the Saints' high-powered offense. Consider that New Orleans led the NFL in scoring in '08 despite injuries to Marcus Colston, Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. If Brees goes down, the Saints should/could conceivably still sneak into the playoffs if all of their offensive weapons are standing. Mark Brunell's well past his glory days, but in the Saints' system should at least keep them competitive, as should Harrington. While New Orleans doesn't have the perfect package, they're hoping that one of the two veterans can win the job comfortably in training camp.
Brian St. Pierre
Essentially, the Cards are 1½ players deep at QB, led of course by the veteran Warner — coming off leading the Cards to their first Super Bowl appearance. Hall of Fame or not, even in his late 30s he delivers huge passing numbers (4,583 yards, 30 TDs in 2008). The big question: If Kurt got hurt last year, could Matt Leinart have led 'Zona to the Super Bowl? Likely not, though at least Leinart's working hard this offseason.
The man is back, and all of New England can breathe sighs of relief. But what if Brady, the three-time Super Bowl champion, gets hurt again? Well, we scoffed at the Pats' chances last September when Mr. Perfect got injured because Matt Cassel — a dude who had not started a game since freaking high school. Then Cassel turned in a Pro Bowl season. Could Bill Belichick do it again with NFL mysteries O'Connell, Gutierrez and Hoyer? Highly unlikely.
The Colts should move to L.A., as they'd be the perfect dweller in such a major city built on a series of earthquake-prone faults. Hey, they've got Peyton Manning, so they should have one of football's top two QB groups, right? Well heaven forbid, what will happen to the team if Manning ever DOES get injured? With all due apologies, Jim Sorgi, Curtis Painter and Chris Crane (who???) would not cause any defensive coordinators one less wink at night. Maybe the gambling Colts should move to Las Vegas instead.
By rallying his Eagles to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl, Donovan McNabb has re-established himself among the game's elite passers. Still, his injury history begs the question, "What if?" The jury is out on 2007 draft pick Kevin Kolb, who was forced to face the Ravens during a second-half in Baltimore in his only chance to snatch the starting gig from Philly's No. 5. At least Feeley has helped guide the Eagles during tough stretches minus McNabb in the past, giving Andy Reid an option of confidence.
Delhomme is set as Carolina's franchise quarterback and one of the better clutch arms in the business, plus with two division titles and a Super Bowl trip on his resume. If Jake goes down, their backup should keep them headed toward the playoffs. McCown has been a part-time starter in the league, but mostly on bad teams like Arizona and Oakland. Moore was overmatched in three emergency starts as a rookie in '07, but is young enough for the Panthers to groom for the future.
Everyone around the Bengals is aglow from watching Carson Palmer's offseason activity. With their two-time Pro Bowler seemingly in perfect health, the Bengals' passing game should come back to life — considering Palmer averaged 28 TD passes per season from 2005-07. Behind him, not too much. J.T. O'Sullivan turns 30 in August and whiffed on his best shot as a No. 1 in San Francisco last season. Neither Carson's little brother (Jordan, with two career picks in 12 passes) or Billy Farris have any NFL success to their credit.
John Parker Wilson
Ryan was a rookie revelation in 2008, and all signs point to even further development as a soph — both from minicamp reports and the addition of stud TE Tony Gonzalez, which should expedite his evolution. Behind Ryan, however, there's not much else. Redman is a veteran with 10 career starts, but a journeyman who was out of the league from 2004-06. Behind him are two young prospects, but already playing behind a second-year QB Atlanta would be better served by a veteran with more game experience.
Gibran Hamdan (RFA)
Edwards is the perfect quarterback to build around, which is exactly what Buffalo has done this offseason — the T.O. addition being a biggest move. If Terrell Owens can enhance and not inhibit Edwards' development, it's a huge win for the Bills. Credit Buffalo for a nice little pickup this offseason at their backup spot, grabbing Ryan Fitzpatrick from Cincy — who played admirably (especially down the stretch) while filling in for Carson Palmer in '08.
Believe it or not, this is not a bad group in Houston. While this is a make-or-break season for Schuab, he has shown enough in two seasons as the Texans' starter to give them valid playoff hopes. His biggest issue has been staying healthy, as he missed five games in each of the past two seasons. But Houston may not have too big of a problem as they should have a decent battle for the No. 2 spot this summer, as ex-Lions starter Dan Orlovsky takes on former Bears QB Rex Grossman. While both have their warts, Orlovsky often gave the terrible Lions their best chance at winning in '08 and Grossman did lead the Bears to the Super Bowl once. It could be worse.
Whereas the Dolphins were a total mess two seasons ago throughout the Cam Cameron nightmare, Bill Parcells has transformed his QB depth chart and now has three interesting options. The starter Pennington played keep-away to near-perfection en route to leading to Dolphins to the AFC East title last year while winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. But Miami really likes Chad Henne as a big-time QB prospect, while they also drafted the versatile Pat White this April as the possibly the perfect threat in their patented "Wildcat" offense.
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