Quarterback is the most important position in NFL football. If that position is below average or worse, a team has no shot at being successful. It is also the first position where fans and media start clamoring for change if a team starts losing a lot of games. The NFL preseason is upon us. Now is always a good time to take stock of the signal callers under the most pressure for the upcoming season.
Joe Flacco: This entire situation is fascinating. John Harbaugh’s team has missed the playoffs each of the last three years. Ownership has stopped short of saying so, but it feels like some heads are going to roll if that trend continues for a fourth straight season.
Somehow, a fair bit of the heat has landed on Joe Flacco. While his numbers have dipped the last few seasons, Flacco still tossed 18 touchdowns and completed nearly 65% of his passes last year. He is 30 games over .500 as a starting quarterback in the NFL and a former Super Bowl MVP. The fact that Flacco is still just 33 would suggest that he has a fair bit of good football left in him.
Flacco certainly was not the reason the team missed the playoffs last year either. The defense could not stop a Bengals’ offense that was playing for nothing on the final drive of the regular season.
Yet, Baltimore maneuvered into the last pick of the first round to draft Louisville product and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Jackson is a great but undersized athlete who ran a lot in college. Those type of guys are always difficult to project at the NFL level.
Harbaugh has already said Jackson will at the very least see snaps in a package that is specially designed for him this year. Flacco is not flashy but has always been a more than adequate NFL quarterback. There are plenty of teams that would love to have him as their starter.
Still, if Flacco plays poorly and/or the Ravens start piling up losses. The calls for Jackson may become too loud to ignore. Quarterbacks are almost always drafted high with the goal of taking over as the starter sooner rather than later. Flacco knows he has to play well and win games. It should be noted that the last time he was under a similar amount of pressure, he unleashed one of the greatest playoff runs by a quarterback that the NFL has ever seen.
Ryan Tannehill: This is a tough one. With Tannehill out last year with a knee injury, Miami’s offense was a disaster. The team put up less than 20 points nine times with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore at the helm.
Still, Tannehill’s presence has not necessarily meant improvement for the Dolphins in recent years. He did help lead Miami to the playoffs in 2016, but he is under .500 as a starter and averages a lowly seven yards per attempt. Perhaps that is why the Dolphins were linked to every top quarterback prospect in the draft. They didn’t pull the trigger on any of them, but another vanilla year from Tannehill could be the end for both he and Adam Gase in Miami.
Jameis Winston: This is not a hard one to size up. The former Florida State star has been plagued by off the field issues since his college days. He will miss the first three games of the upcoming season due to a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. On top of that, Winston has never led the Bucs to the playoffs and has thrown 44 interceptions in three seasons.
Winston won three games as the starting quarterback in Tampa Bay last year, career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick won two while Winston was injured. If Winston does not mature and start leading the Bucs to a bunch of wins following his suspension, the coaching staff in Tampa will be gone. Also, when you add in the character issues, Winston’s NFL career may be over.