Separating fact from fiction in quarterback competitions around NFL
The quarterback competition on everyone's radar this summer will be held in New York, where Michael Vick arrived in March to challenge 2013 second-round pick Geno Smith. Rex Ryan did nothing to quiet that battle recently, proclaiming that his team "definitely" can win with Smith but that Vick "definitely" will get a crack at overtaking him on the depth chart.
The Jets' QB picture has a fraction of clarity as June approaches. Even Michael Vick admitted Wednesday that "it's not an open competition" -- Smith will head to camp ahead of the pack, forcing Vick to play catch-up.
Things are far more complicated elsewhere. There appear to be at least five other teams with shake-ups possible at QB, four involving 2014 draft picks and another featuring one of Smith's '13 draft mates.
So as rookie mini-camps take place around the league, where do the starting chances for Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Mike Glennon stand? It all depends on how much you want to believe.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
What they're saying: GM Rick Spielman deemed Bridgewater on a slow-and-steady course from the moment Minnesota drafted him, stating in the press conference that followed the pick, "We're very comfortable with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Teddy ... has plenty of time to sit there and develop."
Head coach Mike Zimmer echoed those comments at the Vikings' recent rookie mini-camp: "I really don't care where his jersey ranks, or sales or anything like that," he said, via the Pioneer Press. "We're going to bring Teddy along at the right time."
Zimmer did reveal that Bridgewater will take some first-team reps during the Vikings' upcoming full-team OTA, at least giving the rookie QB some exposure to Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and others. Other than that, though, Minnesota is not committing to much with regard to its new potential star.
BS Meter (scale of 1 to 10): 3. The Vikings obviously were not satisfied with the Cassel-Ponder combo -- with good reason -- so Zimmer does not figure to hang too much of his future on either guy. That said, Cassel performed at least adequately in going 3-3 as a starter last season and has had some success during his NFL career, so he allows the Vikings to bide their time a bit.
Minnesota's score ticks up a couple notches because there is no way that the staff is going to bury Bridgewater behind Ponder as a third-string guy. The failure of the Ponder era is what led to Bridgewater's selection in the first place. Count on Bridgewater to claim at least the No. 2 gig by Week 1.
Johnny Manziel, Browns
What they're saying: That Johnny Manziel definitely is not the starting quarterback. Heck, that Johnny Manziel is not even close to being the starting quarterback right now.
"Who's the best quarterback right now? Brian Hoyer ... by a substantial margin," GM Ray Farmer told the "Bull and Fox Show."
That falls in line with the pre-draft comments of head coach Mike Pettine, who said that "it will be very difficult for anyone in this draft class to come in and beat [Hoyer] out." And Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told Manziel, according to ESPN.com, to act "like a backup quarterback."
The Browns even went so far as to have Manziel working out of the No. 3 QB spot at mini-camp, behind Hoyer and Tyler Thigpen.
BS meter: 8. Hoyer earned a shot at the Browns' starting job by posting wins over Minnesota and Cincinnati prior to injuring his knee last season. Right this second, the five-year veteran probably is ahead of Manziel in the pecking order.
But let's not pretend Manziel has landed in a Jimmy Garoppolo-like situation behind Tom Brady here. Those two victories were the first of Hoyer's NFL career as a starting QB and he, like Manziel, must learn the system of new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Manziel has three-plus months to close the gap -- a gap that's not nearly as large as the Browns are trying to make everyone, including Manziel, believe.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars
What they're saying: The Jaguars want Chad Henne to be their starter and Blake Bortles to learn from Henne as the backup for the entirety of the 2014 season, says second-year Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley.
"We really felt comfortable with [Henne] coming back with another year in the system," Bradley told the NFL Network this week. "I think it gave us flexibility. When Blake was there available for us, we really wanted to capture that opportunity. And we do feel good about where Blake's at, but we feel like this time that he has under Chad, a year to develop, will be really good in the end result."
BS meter: 1. The scouting report all along on Bortles was that he would need more time to develop, in comparison to Bridgewater, Manziel and maybe even Derek Carr. Meanwhile, Henne was a 13-game starter for Bradley last season. The team's decision to re-sign him in March provided a safety net with which Bradley felt comfortable, even if Henne's below-average performance (13 TDs, 14 INTs, 76.5 QB rating) does not exactly scream "playoff contender."
Bradley may reverse course somewhere during the 2014 season, if Henne's faltering and Bortles shows some progress. This is Year 2 of at least a three-year rebuilding plan, however, so patience is Jacksonville's ally.
Derek Carr, Raiders
"We’re going to let things play out," Oakland head coach Dennis Allen said during a press conference at the team's rookie mini-camp. "Obviously, we brought Matt Schaub in and Matt Schaub is our starting quarterback. We feel very good about that. I’ve said this before, he’s been a top-10 quarterback in this league and he’s performed at a high level. We feel very good about that.
"We like Derek Carr and we’re going to let him go out and compete and see how things work out. You can’t have enough good quarterbacks in this league. You never know when injuries are going to occur and you’ve got to be prepared for that. When you have an opportunity with a guy like Derek Carr that you feel good about, then you go out and get him."
In other words, Schaub has a stranglehold on the No. 1 job, with Carr likely having an inside edge on the backup role.
BS meter: 5. This score has more to do with Allen's public valuation of Schaub than of where Carr might stand. Sure, statistically, Schaub produced some gems -- he led the league in completions, attempts and passing yards during the 2009 season. In NFL time, that is ages ago. More recently, Schaub fell out of favor in Houston and then was given away to the Raiders for a late-round draft pick. Pretending that he will be more than a stopgap solution is bogus.
Carr needs work, in large part because the pass-happy offense he played in at Fresno State does not translate all that well to the NFL level. The Raiders may prefer to wait until 2015 or '16 to give him a real chance as a starter. The delay just will not be because Schaub shows up as a Pro Bowler.
Mike Glennon, Buccaneers
What they're saying: It depends on when you heard Lovie Smith discuss his quarterback situation.
Smith was asked back in March, after his team acquired ex-Chicago QB Josh McCown, if he considerd McCown the starter over Glennon. "Yes, he is," Smith responded. A month before that at the combine, Smith said that the Buccaneers would consider taking a QB early in the draft because, "Whenever you have a chance to get a franchise quarterback, you have to consider that" -- a seemingly clear indication that the Buccaneers did not have that type of player on their roster yet.
And then this happened following Tampa Bay's actual draft selection of WR Mike Evans:
"Just talking about our quarterback position, our quarterback position is as strong as any quarterback position I've had when I've been a head coach," Smith said. "You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starter. I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here. So why would you want to add a third quarterback to the mix?"
Glennon later confirmed that Smith had told him the same thing all along: that he was the long-term hope under center. That leaves the Buccaneers with McCown headed toward being the starter in 2014 and Glennon taking over soon thereafter ... maybe.
BS meter: 7. The idea of starting McCown for a year while Glennon (the lone non-rookie discussed here) takes a step back is a prudent one, on paper. Perhaps that is indeed what Smith had planned all along.
Nevertheless, this situation has been an extremely hard one to get a grasp on so far. Was the talk of possibly drafting a quarterback a smokescreen? Or is the recent pump-up of Glennon's stock the true misdirection, with Tampa Bay hoping to trade him somewhere during the preseason? Somewhere along the line, Smith bent the truth.