The NFL’s ever-spinning quarterback carousel is so minute-by-minute these days that the Eagles’ Michael Vick went from clear-cut backup, to temporary starter, to permanent starter — all in the span of 10 days.
I don’t know if Vick has been rendered dizzy from the crazy turn of events on Philadelphia’s depth chart, but I certainly know I have. Especially in light of Andy Reid’s surprising change of heart late Tuesday afternoon, when the Eagles announced they would stick with Vick’s hot hand in Week 3 and beyond, and relegate the team’s ever-so-brief Kevin Kolb era to the category of future consideration.
Reid simply doesn’t do flip-flops, and as recently as Monday had reiterated that a healthy Kolb would resume his team’s No. 1 quarterback role at Jacksonville on Sunday. But when it comes to starting quarterbacks in the NFL, almost everything’s written in pencil. So far in this still-young 2010 season, the only constant, as they say, has been change.
At least in the case of the Vick decision in Philly, I can understand the switch had to be made. He’s played too well in the last six quarters — leading the Eagles to 52 points — to return to the bench, and Kolb didn’t have enough capital stored up in the bank to force his way back into the lineup.
Even Reid apparently could see it was Vick who gave Philadelphia its best chance to win right now, not Kolb, who has been groomed for the starting job for the past three years. Especially with Kolb coming off a concussion and playing behind an Eagles offensive line that has been, at best, a work in progress. Vick can still elude any tackler in the NFL, and that’s a pretty valuable skill to have these days as an Eagles quarterback.
But the re-emergence of Vick has been just one of the many quarterback situations to already surface this season. By my count, we’re just 13 days into the NFL’s regular season and already 10 teams — about one third of the league — have had to grapple with quarterback questions brought on by either injury or ineffectiveness.
That means after months of offseason and preseason planning and practice time invested in one quarterback, those clubs have reversed direction and either chosen or been forced to cast their lot with a different player at the game’s most pivotal position.
What in the name of Earl Morrall is going on here?
In Buffalo, Chan Gailey says he’s making the change at quarterback because he’s looking for a spark, but in truth the Bills have been desperately seeking one of those for about 11 years now.
Tom Cable’s reasoning for benching Jason Campbell after just six quarters in Oakland? He was trying to give his struggling team “a lift,” which indeed have been few and far between in Raiders-land since about 2003 or so.
And after proclaiming on Sunday afternoon that it was “way too early to say” who would start in Week 3, Carolina’s John Fox on Monday elevated rookie Jimmy Clausen to the No. 1 QB job, ahead of the demoted Matt Moore. “Early” being one of those relative terms.
Has the NFL’s quarterback carousel ever been this active this early? I once covered a team — Sam Wyche’s 1993 Bucs — that benched its starting quarterback at halftime of the season opener (Steve DeBerg out, Craig Erickson in), but this year it’s almost difficult to keep up with all the moves being made under center. To wit:
• In Buffalo, Trent Edwards is taking a seat (again), and Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the chance to snap a 13-game Bills losing streak against the Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday. It’s the fifth in-season QB change for the Bills since the close of their brief Drew Bledsoe era in 2003.
• In Oakland, Cable isn’t saying if Campbell or Bruce Gradkowski will start at Arizona on Sunday, but the Raiders’ game of musical chairs at quarterback has grown to almost comical levels in recent seasons. So much for the notion that Campbell’s offseason acquisition put an end to that instability.
• In Carolina, what choice did Fox really have but to go with the untested Clausen over the struggling Moore, whose starting reign in Charlotte lasted all of seven games? The 0-2 Panthers have scored just two touchdowns, Fox is in the final year of his contract, and a home-opening loss to Tampa Bay has everyone in Carolina on edge.
• In Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio yanked the erratic David Garrard from the game in San Diego after his starter threw four interceptions, but backup Luke McCown fared even worse in a way, tearing a knee ligament and being lost for the season. So it’s back to Garrard for the Jaguars, who have the Eagles and Colts coming to town the next two weeks.
• In Tennessee, Vince Young remains the starter after being replaced by veteran Kerry Collins in the fourth quarter of that troubling 19-11 loss to the visiting Steelers on Sunday, but we’ve seen this movie before. Since the start of the 2008 seasons, the Titans have flip-flopped between Young and Collins on a fairly regular basis.
• In Arizona, it seems just a matter of time before Derek Anderson is handed a clipboard and asked to support rookie Max Hall as the Cardinals starter. Hall got his feet wet Sunday in Atlanta, relieving the inefficient Anderson late in the Falcons’ 41-7 blowout win. Where have you gone Kurt Warner? Cardinals nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo, woo, woo.
• And then there are the varying QB situations in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit, where injuries and/or a suspension have impacted the early-season lineups of the Steelers (Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch), Browns (Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace) and Lions (Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill). To go with the quarterback controversy that was quickly began and then settled in Philly, one seems more than likely in Cleveland in the very near future.
There’s a familiar sameness to the reasoning behind most of the impatience being shown at quarterback around the league. The Bills, Raiders, Panthers and Jaguars were all losing teams last year, and in each case the head coach is fighting for his job in 2010. Ditto for Eric Mangini in Cleveland, where the Browns have been a quarterback clearing house in recent seasons. Defeat always begets change in the NFL, and that usually means right now, even before we’ve hit Week 3 of the new season.
Gailey, the first-year Buffalo head coach, is turning to Fitzpatrick, who started seven games for the Bills last season without emerging as the answer to the team’s troubled QB spot. He has started games for three NFL teams (Rams, Bengals and Bills), and while serviceable, the ex-Harvard standout has been on the losing end of quite a few games in his five-year pro career.
No matter. He’s not Edwards, and that’s enough to warrant the promotion in Buffalo, where Gailey was quick to remind everyone that “the implication might be that it’s all Trent’s fault and that’s not the case at all.” Maybe not, but when Gailey was asked right after that if any other lineup changes were in store, he replied, “Not right now, no.” Meaning Edwards is the only one paying for his part of the fault with his starting job. For now.
But stay tuned, because every week seems to bring a new look to the starting quarterback landscape in the NFL. As we all know by now, looking for a spark and actually finding one are very different things.
• As excruciating as the 49ers’ last-second 25-22 loss at home to the Saints was on Monday night, here’s one very sound reason San Francisco fans should not give up on their 0-2 team: Somebody’s got to win the NFC West this year, and it might be an 8-8 or even 7-9 champion.
No scoffing. Three times in the past six seasons — in 2004, 2006 and 2008 — the NFC West winner finished 9-7. But with two-time defending champion Arizona (1-1) looking a lot less intimidating without Warner, and the 49ers, Seahawks (1-1) and Rams (0-2) all having played at least one uninspired game so far, it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that a .500 (or even sub-.500) record might get the job done in the NFL’s weakest division. Especially since NFC West teams face the tough NFC South this year in intra-conference play.
• Between Michael Vick’s boffo start in Detroit and Adam “Pacman” Jones picking off a Joe Flacco pass in Cincinnati’s important home-opening win over Baltimore, it was a pretty good Week 2 on the redemption front for a couple of guys who had a very rough 2007. Vick and Jones were the NFL’s poster children for bad behavior not all that long ago, but in their own way, each has rehabilitated his career to a level few might have thought possible.
• On the flip side, Week 2 was a tough one for first-round offensive left tackles named Williams. Chicago’s Chris Williams left the game early in Dallas with a right hamstring injury, and in Washington, Redskins rookie Trent Williams was knocked out of action against Houston in the fourth quarter when he injured his left knee and a toe. The status of both remains uncertain for Week 3’s games.
• Here’s what I believe to be the most pertinent statistic to explain Brett Favre‘s painfully slow start in Minnesota this season: Only 13 of his 37 completions thus far have gone to receivers, for a mere 129 yards. Favre completed just four passes for 56 yards to his receivers in the loss at New Orleans, and just nine for 73 yards while being upset by Miami at home on Sunday.
Without the injured Sidney Rice in the lineup, Favre is not getting yardage in big enough chunks throwing to the likes of Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Greg Camarillo. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has been Favre’s only consistent deep target.
• It didn’t generate the biggest of headlines with all the other subplots that Week 2 featured, but Denver getting eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown from first-rounder Demaryius Thomas was a great hint of what’s to come for the top receiver taken in April’s NFL draft. Thomas missed virtually all of camp and the preseason with a recurrence of the foot injury that he suffered before the scouting combine, a problem that perhaps resulted in him lasting until Denver’s No. 22 pick. But he was still able to make an eye-opening impact in his first NFL game on Sunday against Seattle.
And we can’t help but notice that while former Broncos No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall has 12 catches for 124 yards in Miami, he has yet to find the end zone for the Fish.
• Because things had been going entirely too swimmingly for the Jets in the past 36 hours or so, Braylon Edwards decided to get his party hat on Monday night in Manhattan. With a fresh DWI on Edwards’ already less-than-pristine record, I’d say the chances of him getting a new contract for 2011 in New York slipped to the vicinity of slim and none.
• The reeling Cowboys play at 2-0 Houston on Sunday, and the juxtaposition is just too rich. With all the preseason talk of Dallas gunning to become the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field sounding emptier by the week, what if it’s the home-state-rival Texans who wind up representing the AFC in Cowboys Stadium in early February? Could Jerry Jones even bring himself to watch that?
And while we’re on the topic of the rivalry between Dallas and Houston, which quarterback would you rather have right now: Tony Romo or Matt Schaub? How about head coach: Wade Phillips or Gary Kubiak? It would be 2-0 Texans on a lot of scorecards, no?