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Eight quarterbacks with most shaky future


The Sports Xchange

It’s hardly a revelation that, to win in the NFL — with rare exception — you need a first-rate quarterback. Actually, more than a first-rate QB if you want to do more than just win some games, want to win a championship.

While teams with historic defenses, like the 2000 Ravens with Trent Dilfer at quarterback and the 2002 Bucs with Brad Johnson, have succeeded despite a so-so quarterback, they are the exception, not the rule.

And what that means, as teams have entered into their pre-training camp hiatus, is that a bunch of quarterbacks are on the hot seat because their coach and management, no matter what kind of lip service they pay to the incumbent, know they must keep an eye open for a replacement who will be an upgrade.

With that in mind, here are eight quarterbacks who arguably have the most shaky future with their current employer. The list counts down to the least secure:

8. Ryan Tannehill, Miami. Tannehill has shown solid improvement over his three seasons, enough to get a $45 million guarantee in his new contract. But if the Dolphins miss the playoffs again, it could be the end for Joe Philbin as their coach, and a new coach a year from now likely would want a new quarterback, regardless of that contract. Further, if the Dolphins miss the playoffs again, the quarterback would be in line for much of the blame.

7. Carson Palmer, Arizona. Hard to believe that Palmer is now 35 years old and headed into his 13th NFL season. That’s because he has never really been on the radar leading a top team until 2014, when the Cardinals had the league’s best record before his season-ending injury. He’s said to be on schedule in his rehab but Palmer, of course, still has Seattle’s defense standing in his way in the NFC West.

6. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia. It may not be Bradford’s fault that injuries derailed his career in St. Louis, but it is his problem. The Eagles think Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense will be a good fit for him, but regardless of the offense or his health, at some point, Bradford must perform like the former first pick he was. In an earlier NFL era, teams would have had near unlimited patience with a talent like Bradford, but not in today’s game.

5. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh might have gotten all there was to get from Kaepernick, whose passer rating and yards per attempt have declined each year he was a full-time starter while his TD-to-interception ratio has gotten worse each year. It’ll be interesting to see how much his offseason work with Kurt Warner has helped or if under pressure, Kaepernick reverts to old habits. The 49ers want to take the load off Kaepernick with a strong rushing game, but there is no more Frank Gore to help.

4. Peyton Manning, Denver. Manning would not seem to belong on this list, but we are not passing out career achievement awards here. Forget the talk about being asked for a $10 million salary cut or trade rumors. It can’t be denied that Manning has little time left and, while he may have another year of decent regular-season numbers in him, the late-season slowdown last season seems a likely harbinger of one of the greats nearing the end of the line.

3. Robert Griffin, Washington. This is a big year for Griffin because his contract is not guaranteed beyond this season and it’s his fourth year in the league and second in Jay Gruden’s offense. In other words, it’s time for him to demonstrate that his strong rookie season was something other than beginner’s luck.

2. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati. Talk about a tough spot. Dalton has made two trips to the Pro Bowl in his four NFL seasons and taken a perennial loser to the playoffs each year. Problem is, having tasted a little success, the Bengals now are tired of those one-and-out postseason trips, want more, and there is an expectation the fans will begin clamoring for AJ McCarron at some point. The Bengals have scored just one touchdown in each of Dalton’s four playoff starts, and his passer rating did not reach 70 in any of those games.

1. Jay Cutler, Chicago. We have lost count of how many different coaches and offensive coordinators have tried to fix Cutler, without success. In nine NFL seasons, his passer rating never has reached 90, he has less than a 3-to-2 TD-to-interception ratio, and his body language typically reflects a lack of leadership skills. The Bears would have loved to replace him this year, but his contract made that impossible. It’s hard to believe this will not be Cutler’s last season with the Bears.

–Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

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