The current NFL has been widely described as a QB’s league. The league has made rules to protect their heads, arms, legs and torsos (but I’m pretty sure if you want to bite their toes, that’s still allowed). The touted heroes of the gridiron are typically quarterbacks. Marino, Elway, Montana, Namath, Unitas, all QB’s. We keep hearing over and over, if you want to win in this league, you need to have a quarterback.
So, how does the Bills roster compare to the AFC East? Are we that kid that was picked last in kickball? Do we have some hidden secret talent that will surprise everyone in 2011?
AFC East #1 group of QB’s: New England Patriots:
The Patriots QBs rate first because of their raw talent and Bellicheck’s Rumpelstiltskin-like ability to turn straw into gold. They consistently find QB’s who fit their mold of high-accuracy, high performance QB’s who they can find in later rounds or as undrafted rookies. They do not hold onto underperforming project players and instead draft away unwanted talent for future steals.
Tom Brady – 6’4, 225. One of the greatest draft steals of all time, NFL record holder for single season touchdowns passes. Dates supermodels. Has a Cary Grant cleft, that you could park a Hummer in. Yes, Tom Brady is a great Super Bowl winning quarterback, who will walk into the Hall of Fame. But he’s also 33 years old and has seen a drop in his statistical fortitude over the past couple years. Completions, Yards, TDs all went down this year. Bill Bellicheck changed the nature of the offense by having Tom Brady throw less and running the ball more. Perhaps he’s just trying to protect his franchise QB from another season ending injury (2008). Maybe he just really likes 14-2 records. Would it be totally shocking if they traded Tom Brady for a couple first round draft picks? The Pats have a history of head-scratching trades. Richard Seymour, Randy Moss. Never a quarterback though, right? In 2002, Drew Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills, at the age of 30 after changing the face of the team, a year after signing a record ten-year, $103 million contract, so that the kid (Brady) could take over. Could Brady be one injury away from history repeating itself and him being traded to make way for Ryan Mallet? Common sense would say no, but if history tells us one thing, there’s no predicting what Bellicheck will do.
Ryan Mallet – 6’6, 238. Gunslinger whose teammates call him Big Tex. The next character changing success story for Bellicheck. Drafted in the third round, he is the under valued, huge chip on his shoulder QB who will see first hand what it takes from another under valued, huge chip on his shoulder Michigan QB (Mallet played 11 games for Michigan in 2011. This kid will learn to work hard and command the offense and has the potential to be great. In his two seasons as a starter for Arkansas, Mallet threw for 7,493 yards with 491 completions and 62 touchdowns. Great arm, great accuracy. If he walks Bellicheck’s straight and narrow line, we could be seeing the next face of the franchise.
Brian Hoyer- 6’2, 215. Brian Hoyer had an unremarkable collegiate career, splitting time with Drew Stanton in Michigan State. He was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Pats in 2009. Brian Hoyer caught my attention in the 2009 pre-season, with his accuracy and 66% completion percentage. Brian Hoyer has intangibles that make him a valuable asset and great depth for the patriots. He will likely be the backup to Brady this coming season, with Ryan Mallet breathing down his neck the whole way.
Jonathan Crompton- Crompton is not an NFL QB. He has not made an NFL team after being drafted in the fifth round in 2010 by the Chargers. He will be cut at some point throughout the pre-season.
AFC East #2 QB group: NY Jets
The Jets come in at # 2 for the sheer sake of options. I look at this lineup and I see 5 backup quarterbacks and a practice squad guy. But how many teams can say that they have 6 quarterbacks on their roster coming into the pre-season. I only see them carrying 3 quarterbacks into next year in Sanchez, McElroy and Clemens, but depending on if there is a pre-season and how much time guys have to work, a lot of things could happen. In Rex Ryan’s attempt to develop Mark Sanchez into the Franchise face that any NYC team needs to have, Sanchez has training wheels that have been welded on. Many a great quarterback was either thrown into the fire right away or played as a backup, to learn how to play. The Jets almost ended up at #3 behind the Bills, but 6-2 is just an unfair fight.
Mark Sanchez- 6’2, 225 lbs. Tom Brady’s long lost Hispanic half-brother. They’ve got the looks, the charisma, the flash and the college career. Unfortunately for Sanchez, he doesn’t have Tom’s arm, decision making ability, football IQ or big play making ability. Rex Ryan has been changing the offense to a more passing attack, but in big pressure situations Rex relies on his running backs to win it for them. Sanchez showed remarkable improvement last year, increasing his completions (278), attempts (507) and TDs (17) (Fantasy owners take note). He will need to keep winning, stay healthy over the next few years, and keep bringing the Jets to the playoffs if he’s going to be their QB of the future. Barring some form of injury, I do not see anyone taking his spot as starting quarterback and if things go right, he could be something special.
Greg McElroy- 6’2, 222 lbs. 5 year quarterback who is underappreciated because of Alabama’s psychotic borderline sado-masochistic schedule that they play and the amount of talent that he played with. He played against ranked opponents in 8 out of the 13 games that they played. Defenses like Penn State, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, LSU, and Nick Fairley’s Auburn were setting their sights on him week in and week out. Finished 2010 with a 70% completion percentage, 19 TDs, 2767 yds, and only 5 INTs, but because he played with Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones, his name gets thrown down and he gets drafted in the 7th round. The guy was good enough to win a BCS championship and an SEC championship with two cracked ribs, but was drafted in the 7th round? Kudos to the Jets for having the foresight to pick this guy up because he is one of the smartest, toughest, cerebral quarterbacks in this years draft and (bonus) he knows how to protect the football. He’ll be the backup to Mark Sanchez and possibly the fill-in if Sanchez gets injured.
Kellen Clemens- 6’2, 221 lbs. The Kellen Clemens who sparked the imagination of the fantasy world in 2007 is long gone. All we are left with is a future journeyman quarterback who has enough skills to make the team, but not enough to take a starting spot. With 9 career starts and only 1686 yds (187/gm), with 5 touchdowns, Kellen Clemens is in real danger of getting cut this year.
Mark Brunell- 6’1, 217 lbs. Yes, that Mark Brunell. Of Redskins, Jaguars and Saints Fame, his pro-bowl days have long since left him. He hasn’t started a game since 2009 and hasn’t won a game since 2006. I see him as the QB coach’s assistant who gets to wear a jersey. For this reason, I believe Brunell’s services will be retained this year, favoring an aged QB who has experienced greatness over the young but mediocre Clemens.
Kevin O’Connell- 6’5, 250 lbs. Experienced success as a rushing quarterback at SDSU. Might be retained as a fullback, but definitely not a QB. When the Detroit Lions are willing to trade a quarterback, it should tell you something.
Drew Willy- 6’3, 217 lbs. I believe Willy will be THE BEST QB in the NFL. But only because he played at UB. Started all four years at UB, set the records for completions, attempts, passing yards, touchdowns, total offense, and completion percentage. Only fitting that the only success he has experienced has been in the MAC East and the UFL.
AFC East #3 QB group: Buffalo Bills
The Bills have their starter for the 2011 season and the guy that will lead them to their first playoff win since 1999 in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Other than that, we need a lot of help. When free agency is lifted, I would not mind hearing that two or three QBS have been added to the Bills roster.
Ryan Fitzpatrick- 6’2, 225 lbs. The beard was every prom girl’s dream. Three sport star, graduated in the top 1% of his class, was accepted to Harvard. Broke the Harvard record for total offense by gaining 6,721 yards on the ground. Completed the Wonderlic in 9 minutes gaining a near perfect score. Was drafted in the 7th round by the Rams and waived shortly into the season. Here’s where it starts getting good. In his second year with the Cincinnati Bengals, he filled in for the injured Carson Palmer and lit the place on fire. With very little first team snaps, Fitzy started 12 games in 2008, completing 221 of 372 for 1905 yds and scoring 8 TDs. The next year he was picked up as a FA by the Bills. 2009 was a train wreck for everyone but Fitz as he amassed 127 completions for 1422 yds and 9 TDs in only 8 games. In 2010, he broke out under offensive minded Chan Gailey, starting 13 games and racking up 255 completions for 3000 yds and 23 TDs (scoring a TD nearly 1 out of every 11 passes completed). The only mark on Fitz has been his INT rate, consistently throwing more INTs than TDs with Cinci and 15 INTs with the Bills in 2010. He is a remarkably popular player with Bills fans, but he must get smarter with the football and learn how to protect it and throw it away. My perfect scenario would be for Fitz to lead the Bills to a playoff berth so that we get such a late pick, that we would not be able to pick a QB next year. Fitz is a great player with a hard, blue collar work ethic who is smart and has shown that he can play the game. Plus, he has never started a season as the undisputed #1. This year we’ll find out what he can do with talented receivers and all the first snaps. Unless Buddy Nix pulls his magic and we pick up Marc Bulger. Even then I would hope we would go with Fitz as the clear number one. This should be his job to lose.
Levi Brown- 6’4, 225lbs. Has the passing record in the Sun Belt Conference while he was with Troy. He was drafted in the 7th round by the Bills in the 2010 draft. Played in preseason games and did not impress. He was cut by the Bills with their final round of cuts and no-one picked him up until the Bills resigned him to the practice squad when Trent Edwards was released. Has only played in one NFL game, where he threw his first INT. Let me just say that he is less than impressive. I would not have a problem with the Bills releasing him and picking up 2 FA’s, or trading him to the Jets for Drew Willy.
The Bills Game Plan: We need to go out and get FA Marc Bulger and rookie Pat Devlin out of Delaware just to add depth and perhaps find the next guy (Devlin) to lead the Bills offense in the future. I love Fitz and hope that we keep him, but I believe he’ll out perform his contract next year and end up being a FA in 2012. Also, he is approaching the dreaded 30 year old mark. (Watch out for the Bills to trade for Tyler Thigpen if we do not get Bulger or Devlin and reunite Chan Gailey with a young quarterback he was able to coach up )
AFC East #4 QB group: Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins went out and got a huge playmaker in Brandon Marshall to support the dice-’em-up trademark run attack, but apparently forgot that no-one can catch the ball if it doesn’t get near them. The Miami Dolphins come in dead last in terms of their QB group in the AFC east, for sheer lack of starter talent and ability to lead an NFL offense, as well as an indecisive, lame-duck head coach in Tony Sparano, and a front office that knows how to make them the worst team in the NFL. J-Lo makes better decisions when she picks her outfits every morning, than any that the Dolphins front office has made in some time.
Chad Henne- 6’3, 230 lbs. Henne had a stellar collegiate career in Michigan winning 9 performance based awards. He also holds the school’s records for completions, yards, touchdowns, interceptions. However, Henne’s biggest NFL accomplishment was in helping Mike Hart, Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, and Steve Breaston get to the NFL (Are you kidding? That would make a fantastic WR/RB core in the NFL today). Henne has thrown more INTs than touchdowns in both years as a starter, and all of them have been at exactly the wrong time in each game. The explanation in 2009 was that Henne has no weapons. But when Marshall was brought in, Henne only gained 300 more yards in 2010. In the last game of the 2011 season, he was benched twice for backup Tyler Thigpen. How do you get benched twice in one game? Henne could have a long career as a backup quarterback but he is not the long term starter for the Dolphins. He has had the reins both years as a declared starter, but simply can’t get the wagon moving without hitting a pothole and breaking an axle. Henne is the main reason Tony Sparano gets no respect.
Tyler Thigpen- 6’1, 224 lbs. Drafted in the 2007 draft out of Coastal Carolina, Thigpen has gotten a raw deal every year. Thigpen had a breakout year in 2008 when Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard both went down. Thigpen shined throwing for 18 TDs, running for three and even catching one with only 12 INTs under the tutelage of none other than Chan Gailey. He was traded to the Dolphins for a single draft pick at the beginning of the 2009 but suffered embarrassment by being behind noodle arm Chad Pennington and Speedy Gonzalez Pat White. He made his first start for the Dolphins when both the starters went down in week 17 against the future Super bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He scored a TD followed by two straight INTs (but hey it was the Steelers D). He has never really been given a chance to show what he can do. Then again, he has never really done anything in the offseason or pre-season to earn the spot. Is it too much to say that the Dolphins put way too much emphasis on pedigree and PR, than talent and performance? Who knows if he’ll ever get his chance to shine again? Thigpen is the Dolphins’ best option to succeed in 2011.
All in all, the Bills QB situation is temporarily fine, but dire in the long run. Nix needs to work the kind of magic he did with this year’s FA class and undrafted rookies to give the Bills some kind of hope if Fitzy gets leveled under the same O-line that has seen Trent Edwards get destroyed two years in a row.
Coming up next week (Tuesday, May 24) I’ll break down the AFC East Defensive Tackles and how well they fit in each of their systems.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_e3SElfNJzQ4/TDf6YC_sEsI/AAAAAAAAACI/MzR811ugsY4/s1600/peyton_manning_tom_brady-4173.jpg
Mark Sanchez: http://helmet2helmet.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/mark-sanchez.jpg
Ryan Fitzpatrick: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_AURT-qx6lII/TR-S3rzNdyI/AAAAAAAACSo/ih6jHVmUB4Q/s1600/buffalo_bills+ryan_fitzpatrick+football+analysis+nfl+2010.jpg
Tyler Thigpen: http://5.cdn.bit2host.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/tyler-thigpen.jpg
Tags: AFC East Bill Bellicheck Brian Hoyer Buddy Nix Buffalo Bills Chad Henne Chan Gailey Drew Willy Greg McElroy Jonathan Crompton Kellen Clemens Kevin O'Connell Levi Brown Mark Brunell Mark Sanchez Miami Dolphins New England Patriots NY Jets Rex Ryan Ryan Fitzpatrick Ryan Mallet Tom Brady Tony Sparano Tyler Thigpen