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Friday, July 12, 2013

Which QB will step-up this year, the Bears Cutler or Cowboys Romo.

With the end nearing for two of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the guard in the NFL is set to change.  Though it has been a while since either won a Super Bowl, their greatness is undeniable, with Manning being considered the greatest preparation quarterback of all-time, and Brady being considered one of the best winners.  With Joe Flacco winning a Super Bowl last year, the upper echelon of quarterbacks include Flacco, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers.  With the success of last year’s young quarterbacks, everyone is expecting big things from them this year.  Though these quarterbacks are talented, defensive coordinators have had a year to adjust to the run-option style that these quarterbacks utilize, so Year 2 will tell us a lot about the ability of these players.  The more intriguing group of quarterbacks includes Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, Phillip Rivers, and Matt Schaub.  These quarterbacks, though they have different experience levels, have all shown flashes of greatness, but have been unable to play consistent enough in big moments to garner elite status for themselves.  With training camp only a few weeks away, it is time for these quarterbacks to put in the work necessary to take the next step.
I personally believe Stafford has already arrived, and while he has only had one playoff appearance in his four-year career and went 4-12 last year, Stafford has had to overcome an awful defense.  Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011 and over 4,900 yards last year, and has the best receiver in the league on his team.  The addition of Reggie Bush will only help Stafford, and the Lions are trying to find a second and third receiving option to open up the field for Calvin Johnson.  If Stafford can continue to perform at his level, and the Lions can figure out how to play defense, Stafford could lead them to the Super Bowl, solidifying his place as an elite quarterback.  Unfortunately, it will likely take the Lions a few more years to develop their defense, as well as their receiving corps, so Stafford will likely have to wait to be considered elite.  

Cutler, who is in the same division as Stafford, is an entirely different story.  He has been a polarizing figure his entire career, and has been effective for the Bears, but hasn’t led them to the Super Bowl.  Some people may never warm to Cutler because of the immaturity he has displayed, both at Denver and Chicago, his frequent brush-ups with the media, and the infamous 2010 NFC Championship Game, which Cutler left with a knee injury.  However, winning and championships cure all, and the reunion of Cutler and Brandon Marshall was magical last year, and can only get better in their second year back together.  The Bears fired coach Lovie Smith and hired Marc Trestman; a respected quarterbacks coach, who worked with Cutler during the 2006 draft.  It will interesting to see how the team reacts to the change in coaching as well as the loss of defensive captain Brian Urlacher, a man synonymous with the Bears.  With the NFC North being crowded with talent, the Bears will likely find themselves on the outside looking in again this year, keeping Cutler’s relationship with the fans unsteady.

Phillip Rivers and Tony Romo may have had been put in the worst situations of all of the quarterbacks on the list.  Rivers, after being traded from New York to San Diego on draft day and backing up Drew Brees, seemed poised for great things, especially with his size and arm.  However, the Chargers have slowly been stripping the offense of some of Rivers favorite and most effective weapons, and expect Rivers to be able to replicate his results every year.  Since Rivers became a starter, the Chargers have gotten rid of LaDanian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, and Vincent Jackson, all of which were extremely talented receiving threats.  The only player left from the Chargers original offense is Antonio Gates, but he has been plagued by injuries for the last few years.  San Diego has had strong defenses in the past, but with the loss of impact players in recent years, the Chargers are rebuilding their defense.  With the rebuilding that the Chiefs and Raiders are going through the Chargers should be the second best team in the AFC West, but that won’t be enough to make the playoffs, left alone challenge for a Super Bowl.  

Romo, on the other hand, has the hardest job in football, being the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.  The Cowboys have been “America’s Team” and with the constant presence of Jerry Jones and Romo’s failure to deliver in key moments, Romo has been the source of media attention since he took over in Dallas.  This year may be Romo’s best opportunity to make the playoffs and even the Super Bowl.  The Cowboys are infinitely talented at many positions on both sides of the ball.  On offense, the Cowboys have Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Demarco Murray; all of who have battled injury problems the last few years, but are extremely talented and poised for big seasons.  The defense will be getting a makeover after Rob Ryan was fired, but they have the pieces in place to wreak havoc on the NFC.  Romo’s problem has always been his penchant for making big mistakes in the big moments, and it will haunt him until he can deliver a playoff victory and then a Super Bowl to Dallas.  I think that Romo could potentially lead Dallas to the playoffs, changing the way people talk about him, but I think Dallas needs another year to be a viable Super Bowl Contender.

That leaves us with Schaub and Freeman, two quarterbacks in entirely different positions.  Freeman has shown that he can be a franchise quarterback, but has been wildly inconsistent, leading Tampa to draft Mike Glennon.  Freeman has the opportunity to make great strides this year, with a second year under Greg Schiano.  The Tampa Bay front office provided Freeman with weapons last year, signing Vincent Jackson and drafting Doug Martin.  Tampa spent this offseason and draft rebuilding their defense, specifically their secondary, to help support the offense.  Freeman has yet to have the same offensive coordinator for two consecutive years, so he should find more consistency this year.  Freeman finds himself in the NFC South, which may be the best division in football, so it will be hard to get to the playoffs.  However, Freeman should have a season that will instill more confidence from the coaching staff and fans, allowing Tampa to be a contender in the next few years.  

Schaub, who was once Michael Vick’s backup in Atlanta, has led the Texans to the playoffs in consecutive years, and have taken advantage of Peyton Manning’s departure from the AFC South.  Schaub may lead the most balanced offense in league, with Arian Foster lining up behind him, and Andre Johnson, still one of the league’s best receivers, on the outside.  The addition of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator has turned the Texans into one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL, with talent all over the field.  J.J. Watt may be the best defensive player of this generation, and he has only been in the league for two years.  Brian Cushing is one of the best young linebackers in the league, but has had seasons cut short due to major injuries.  With the support he is getting from the defense, Schaub doesn’t need to focus on scoring on every possession, and has to start being more careful with every throw.  He has to show up in the playoffs for the Texans to get to the Super Bowl, and this seems like the Texans’ year.  Schaub has all the ability to lead the Texans to the Super Bowl and needs to take advantage of his position to put himself in the category of elite quarterbacks.

Bryan Ridall

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