NFL QBs: Dark Ages or Age of Discovery?
by Robert Ferringo - 10/30/2006
(This is an excerpt of an article that appears in the current addition of Every Edge Magazine)
Last week's Damon Huard Fiasco got me musing about the state of the quarterback position in the NFL. I felt comfortable entrusting my Game of the Year to a guy who had never started more than five games in one season. Why? How?
Oddly enough, I feel like Huard is one of the more consistent and reliable signal callers playing right now. Ben Roethlisberger looks like Bubby Brister and Jake Delhomme looks like an undrafted guy from the Sun Belt. They started in Super Bowls. I just got done watching Chad Pennington and Donovan McNabb get outplayed by Charlie Frye and David Garrard, respectively. Basically, if your name isn't Brady or Manning the odds are that you're ability to turn a profit (mainly by not self-destructing) is a tremendous question mark from week-to-week. It's distressing.
Personally, I loved the comfort that came with knowing the tendencies of Warner, Dilfer, Garcia, Collins and Fiedler. They were like high school buddies. They gave you so many great memories - mostly by embarrassing themselves - but now when you see them it's awkward. We've gone our separate ways and the past is now a creased, faded leather recliner that you bought courtesy of Collins' disastrous 1998 season in New Orleans.
We're at crossroads in the NFL. A Renaissance. It's possible that 15 of the 28 starting quarterbacks in Week 9 will be guys that weren't under center at this time in 2004. That's right, 2004. That turnover rate is on par with that of a Paraguayan politician.
So the question remains: whom can you trust? At the moment I say only your priest. However, our sample size for experiences with young QBs is slowly growing. Here is a thumbnail breakdown of nine first-year quarterbacks who you'll need to get better acquainted with in order to survive November betting:
Charlie Frye - 6-6 against the spread, career; 4-8 straight up, career
Fear the porn-stache. Frye has shown flashes and could become a player if Romeo opens up the offense. He's been solid in the second and third quarters (ratings of 84.4 and 89), but he's started slowly (50.9 first quarter rating) and finished poorly (42.5 fourth quarter rating). Look for him to struggle against clubs that can limit Rueben Droughns and the running game. The Browns still have to face San Diego, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, all of which possess top-tier rush defenses.
Vince Young - 3-1 ATS; 2-2 SU
The more that Young keeps covering the more the lines will shrink. He has accuracy issues (47.8 completion percentage) and he's failed to top 90 yards in half of his starts. But Young is managing the game and has a rating of 85 or above in each of the Titans last two games. Not coincidentally, he's won both. He's covered both of his road spreads, but things should get ugly in his next three games - at Jacksonville, hosting Baltimore and at Philadelphia. Real ugly.
Philip Rivers - 5-2 ATS; 5-2 SU
This gifted newbie is blessed with top-shelf talent and is a prime example of why field generals should sit a few years before hopping in the driver's seat. Rivers is running the show for an alleged Super Bowl contender but I definitely see him coming apart in the playoffs, especially on the road or against a veteran defense.
Andrew Walter - 3-2 ATS; 2-3 SU
In three of Walter's five starts he's completed half his passes or fewer. He's toiling behind a wet-paper towel offensive line and his best receiver couldn't be less interested in football. Walter has covered three straight weeks, and the Raiders are often assisted with double-digit spreads, but four of Oakland's next six games are on the road in difficult venues. I don't see him covering more than once.
Tony Romo - 1-0 ATS; 1-0 SU
Recent trends suggest that a quarterback who replaces Drew Bledsoe is destined for ATS success. Through one game of the Romo Era that's held form. The youngster seems to be utilizing his array outstanding receivers, but his gun-slinging style will leave him vulnerable against aggressive secondaries. I predict that Romo will suffer a late-season meltdown during a tricky six-game stretch against Indy, Tampa, the Giants, New Orleans, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Bruce Gradkowski - 3-1 ATS; 2-2 SU
I really like the moxie of Gradkowski. Unfortunately his offensive line is only slightly better than Walter's. Gradkowski struggles with his accuracy at times but has solid arm strength and is fearless. His upside is equal or greater than anyone's on this list, and I think he'll continue to make strides as the season wears on. That is if he doesn't get killed by the front four of Carolina (Week 10), Pittsburgh (Week 13), Atlanta (Week 14) or Chicago (Week 15).
Matt Leinart - 2-2 ATS; 0-4 ATS
I think Leinart will be an outstanding and incredibly reliable quarterback. Someday. Right now he's overrated. After his strong showing against Chicago three weeks ago Leinart has been a wreck, completing just 40 percent of his passes with one TD to three INTs. Getting Larry Fitzgerald back will help, but with four road games and home tilts remaining against Dallas, Seattle and Denver, if you see a number under a touchdown play against him.
Alex Smith - 6-8 ATS; 4-10 SU
With 14 starts Smith is the veteran of this group. This guy is night-and-day different from last year. He's very comfortable in the pocket (when it's not collapsing) and he's shown decent accuracy going up the field. Smith could develop into a hetero Jeff Garcia, and the crazy Mormon will be a better bet once he has some physical talent around him. Smith is 1-5 on the road, with the average margin of defeat at 18 points.
Seneca Wallace - 0-1 ATS; 0-1 SU
He's a short-term fill-in but we'll be watching Wallace wade through rough waters over the next month. He is mobile and has the benefit of a rock-solid line and an arsenal of wideouts. Also, soon he'll have Shaun Alexander to lean on. I like Wallace's presence and the only game in the next four that I think he'll be in trouble is when St. Louis comes to town on Nov. 12.
Carpe diem, my friend. And good luck.
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