Submitted by Jim Feist on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 1:00 PM
by Jim Feist
2016…The Year of the Quarterback...Are you kidding? While the numbers that Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are putting up are sizzling, the last five NFL seasons have been the Year of the Quarterback Shuffle, too.
The number of NFL quarterbacks teams have been forced to throw in has been astounding. The Patriots had Brady suspended the first four games, then lost both backup QBs Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett to injuries. That all came to bear in a 16-0 home loss to the Bills.
Dallas has been battling injuries to QB Tony Romo the last two years. Last year it was a train wreck, using Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassell, but they struck gold this season with the play of rookie QB Dak Prescott. The Cleveland Browns haven't been so lucky, however, using five different quarterbacks because of injuries. Paging Brian Sipe!
The Jets tried backup QB Gino Smith until he got injured for the season, forced to go back to original starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Chiefs had an injury to Alex Smith, forcing newcomer Nick Foles to start. The Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger again, the Broncos have used two signal callers....and I'm not even out of the AFC yet.
The 49ers overpaid for Colin Kaepernick, benched him in favor of retread Blaine Gabbert, then benched Gabbert when he entered October throwing more picks than TDs. The Vikings lost QB Tedy Bridgewater even before the season started, while the Panthers have had to deal with injuries to last year's MVP Cam Newton.
This is nothing new. Two years ago the Cardinals made the playoffs despite being forced to use four signal callers because of injuries. That's quite a list of attrition emphasizing the violent world of pro football. It also emphasizes the importance of QB depth, though it's tough enough to find one competent field general.
The Steelers always seem to stockpile good backup quarterbacks and have needed to again with all the injuries to Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has had to use QBs Mike Vick and Landry Jones as starters in 2015 and 16.
Chicago lost Jay Cutler early on, then backup Brian Hoyer (6 TDs, no picks) played better than Cutler....until Hoyer went down just as jittery Jay was ready to return. Just a years ago starters Aaron Rodgers, Cutler, Vick, Sam Bradford and Jake Locker all missed time. Buffalo opened with then-rookie E.J. Manuel, but he didn’t last long, quickly giving way to Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. That was the same season the Jets lost starting QB Mark Sanchez in preseason -- gone for the year in a preseason game.
That showcases the important of the position, but what has really cropped up the last few seasons is the importance of reliable depth at the position. When Peyton Manning got injured with the Colts, Indy was forced to go with veteran QB Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter. During a game against Jacksonville the Colts offense was so inept that Painter threw 2 picks in one series! That resulted in an anemic offense, with more interceptions than touchdowns, and a 2-14 campaign that delivered Andrew Luck. And will Luck survive this season? He has been getting battered all year behind a terrible offensive line.
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. The good ones also pay close attention to stockpiling deep offensive lines as it's too dangerous to have a QB running for his life -- for the quarterback and his team's fortunes.