Quarterback Stories for Late 2023

Primarily using my Quarterback Metric, I’ll take a look at various quarterback situations around the NFL. To recap, the Quarterback Metric is a score I use based on statistical correlations to winning in the NFL. It’s an attempt to add more precision to the official NFL Rating, bringing in more stats. It is normalized by year so that players can be compared in any time period.

An average starter in the NFL has an average of 50.5 in the Metric. Rookies often post lower scores as they are learning the game. Because there are so many rookie quarterbacks this year, scores are averaging 49.7 this season – tied for the lowest among the 26 seasons I have full statistical data to work with.

Carolina Panthers (2-13)

Bryce Young, the first pick of this year’s draft, has struggled, but is coming off two of his best performances of the season – after a six-game stretch after which anyone other than the first overall pick of a recent draft would have been riding the bench. His average of 41 is very low for a rookie starter.

Since the Panthers invested so much in Young and the Bears own their first-round pick, there’s no chance Young doesn’t get another season to prove himself.

2024 quarterback: Young.

Arizona Cardinals (3-12)

Kyler Murray has been uneven since being drafted first overall in 2019. A 27-36-1 record as a starter is a concern. He posted a 53 in 11 games last season, was still working through an injury at the start of this season, and has a 47 average in six games – a little lower than Joshua Dobbs averaged while he held the fort the first half of the season.

The Cardinals are bad, but Murray is locked into a new five-year deal and it would be hard to make a change. A fresh and healthy start to 2024 is likely what the Cardinals want most here.

2024 quarterback: Murray.

Washington Commanders (4-11)

The Commanders seem to be giving up on last year’s fifth-rounder, Sam Howell. Not that fifth-rounders are known for ever working out as franchise quarterbacks. The last fifth-rounder even to get a long-term gig as a starter was Mark Brunell, drafted in 1993. It’s maybe the least exciting round for quarterback drafting. Sorry, fans of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Clayton Tune.

Howell has scuffled along with a 45 average and it looks like journeyman Jacoby Brissett will finish out the season if healthy. Not sure it’s necessary – the Commanders will have a high draft pick next year and that’s probably going to be a quarterback.

2024 quarterback: their first-round pick (Drake Maye).

New England Patriots (4-11)

I wonder what Bill Belichick could do with a top-five pick, knowing he needed a new quarterback. We likely won’t find out. Belichick is 71 and the Patriots are probably going with a new coach next year. No lifetime passes in this business. So there’s Mac Jones, who has started most of the season and been pulled mid-game as much as anyone ever has. Jones was the 15th overall pick in 2021 and posted a 49 average last season and a 48 so far this season. That’s not good enough.

Bailey Zappe, a fourth-rounder last year, may be the most popular guy in Boston right now, but his 47 average in relief indicates he’s more likely suited to the bullpen. He’s more consistent than Jones, who had a less-than-ingratiating habit of turning the ball over at the worst possible time. Zappe deserves to be in the mix, though I don’t think he’s going to be able to make the transition to full-time starter in the league.

2024 quarterback: trade down a bit for J.J. McCarthy? They’ve done well with those Wolverines.

New York Giants (5-10)

Daniel Jones got paid this year. I’m not sure why. He had a 51 average last season, and was considered to be breaking out. But it seemed late in a career to finally break out – with an OK season. This season, back to 48 and then injured. Undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito has people excited with a 51 average in a few games, but he seems to be coming back to earth. Career backup Tyrod Taylor, who has always shown flashes of brilliance followed by flashes of “huh?”, looks like he’ll start the last couple of games.

The Giants are bit stuck right now. Jones is locked into the starting role with all that money. Like Arizona, the Giants were burned by the dramatic change in cap percentage that now goes to franchise quarterbacks.

2024 quarterback: Jones, reluctantly.

Los Angeles Chargers (5-10)

Few expected the Chargers, signing one of the top young talents in the NFL to a huge second contract, to be dead last in their division. Justin Herbert had a strong 53 average last season, but dropped to 49 this year before getting hurt. He’s been good enough early in his career that it’s not yet time to worry.

2024 quarterback: Herbert.

Tennessee Titans (5-10)

The Titans finally gave up on Ryan Tannehill, who dropped from 51 last season to 45. Tannehill has always been inconsistent, but a career 82-73 record, albeit without playoff success, opens a lot of doors.

Have they found their next franchise guy in Will Levis, drafted 33rd overall this year? Levis has posted a 50 average over eight starts, more than respectable for a rookie. He’ll undoubtedly have his opportunity as the full-time starter next year.

2024 quarterback: Levis.

New York Jets (6-10)

Aaron Rodgers was hurt before he even threw a pass this season. Zach Wilson improved from 41 in nine starts last year to 42 in twelve starts this season. Wilson, the second overall pick in 2021, probably isn’t going to get another chance to do anything but back up in the league, though he’s also probably the best reasonably healthy quarterback the Jets have right now.

2024 quarterback: Rodgers.

Chicago Bears (6-9)

Justin Fields is a coach killer. It’s not his fault. He has an unusual pattern. He makes highlight plays. He pulls off amazing runs every now and then. He wins games single-handed sometimes. And then he loses games single-handed. Last season, he managed a 52 average on a dreadful team – looking like he might break out after posting a dreadful 42 as a rookie. But he’s at 48 this season – as is his undrafted backup, Tyson Bagent.

Still, you see the highlight throws and runs and it’s intoxicating. You see the 9-27 career record and you know what the Bears need to do with what looks like the first pick of next year’s draft (courtesy of Carolina). As he’s entering the last year of his rookie contract, someone will trade for Fields.

2024 quarterback: their first-round pick (Caleb Williams).

Atlanta Falcons (7-8)

Desmond Ridder is in his second season and was drafted in the third round last year. 2022 was unusual for its lack of highly touted quarterback prospects. Ridder started the last four games. This season, he has averaged a score of 52 and will not finish the season as the starter. Journeyman Taylor Heinicke will take over if he’s healthy. The Falcons need a lot of luck and most likely wins in both remaining games to reach the playoffs.

Ridder has performed well for a third-rounder. The Falcons have been competitive in the weakest division in the NFL. This is basically an admission that Ridder is not the future. This is surprising given that Atlanta is still mathematically alive, since Heinicke is a solid backup (posting a 50 average when the Commanders gave up on Carson Wentz last season), but not a franchise guy.

2024 quarterback: Kirk Cousins?

New Orleans (7-8)

The Saints banked a franchise contract on guy with good career stats, but a terrible record for a quarterback entering his tenth year in the league. Derek Carr posted a 50 with the Raiders last year and an identical 50 so far this season (I don’t typically show tenths of a point because it’s not statistically significant over this small a sample size – but Carr is at 49.9 both this year and last year). This was an expensive mistake for the Saints and they probably have to give him at least another year.

2024 quarterback: Carr.

Las Vegas Raiders (7-8)

In letting Carr go, the Raiders gave bargain-franchise money to Jimmy Garoppolo, who is the poster child for doing everything right on paper, but seemingly throwing just enough interceptions at exactly the wrong time to make fans and coaches hate him. And then there are all the injuries, which seem like bad luck, but have added up.

Garoppolo has a 47-22 career record, but is also in his tenth year (not only has he missed time with injuries, but he also spent his early years as Tom Brady’s backup). Garoppolo is a star in the Metric (56 last season – and he’s usually among the leaders). But he dropped to 51 this season, and that has opened the door for this year’s fourth-round pick, Aidan O’Connell. O’Connell has faded to a 43 average, however, while the Raiders are a long-shot to make the playoffs. Would they have made it with Garoppolo? I think so, but perhaps not. You look at that 3-0 loss to Minnesota a couple of weeks ago and wonder.

2024 quarterback: trade up for Jayden Daniels?

Denver Broncos (7-8)

It appears Russell Wilson (124-79-1 career) will be released after the season. For financial reasons, though the cap hit Denver will take boggles the mind. Wilson, who will eventually be in the Hall of Fame, scored a 47 last season – miles below anything he ever posted before. He’s up to a solid 53 this year and had the Broncos in contention for a playoff spot until losses the last couple of weeks – losses in which he looked more like last year’s version. Since it’s unlikely 2019 fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham (zero career wins) is the answer and the top quarterbacks will be long gone before the Broncos draft next year, it’s anyone’s guess what they’ll do without Wilson.

2024 quarterback: Justin Fields?

Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

Kirk Cousins (51 last season, 56 average this season before a season-ending injury, 77-70-2 career record) would be an acknowledged top-tier guy if only he had a handful of big playoff victories. Fran Tarkenton was the Vikings quarterback the last time they played in a Super Bowl.

Without Cousins, they’ve tried this year’s fifth-rounder Jaren Hall. They’ve tried trading for Joshua Dobbs. They’ve tried career backup Nick Mullens. Now it’s back to Hall and hoping for a miracle, as the Vikings are very much alive in the playoff race if they can win out. Cousins is a free agent next year. If healthy, he’ll receive good offers.

2024 quarterback: Russell Wilson?

Green Bay Packers (7-8)

It was finally Jordan Love’s turn to start. Drafted in 2020 in the first round, he learned from Rodgers and he waited. He’s at a quite respectable 52 in his first year as a starter. Under contract one more year on a rookie extension deal, the Packers will likely give him a huge contract during the off-season.

2024 quarterback: Love.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7)

Last year’s first-round pick (20th overall), Kenny Pickett, has had some injuries and has managed games decently. But his 48 last season, decent for a rookie drafted 20th and thrust into a starting role, has turned into another 48 this season. Backup Mitch Trubisky (52 in limited time last season, 46 in limited time this season) is more suited for a backup role in the league. Mason Rudolph is starting now (2018, third round, 6-4-1 career record) while the Steelers still have a small chance of reaching the playoffs. Pickett might return to the starting role if healthy. It looks like the Steelers are unwilling to go with Trubisky any more.

Pickett is likely considered the starter for next season. That’s not ideal, but perhaps they see development there.

2024 quarterback: Pickett, maybe Trey Lance?

Houston Texans (8-7)

Rookie and second overall pick this year C.J. Stroud has had some notable games, throwing for video-game numbers with some late-game heroics. The Metric is less enthused, though his 50 average with a high load indicates he was worthy of that number-two pick and could well win Rookie of the Year honors.

2024 quarterback: Stroud.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-7)

Joe Burrow, the top overall pick in 2020, received a huge second contract this season. He entered the season with a nagging injury and is now out for the year with a different injury. He posted a 54 last season, just after taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl in the 2021 season. He’s down to 49 this year, but should be fine and ready to rebound next year.

2024 quarterback: Burrow.

Indianapolis Colts (8-7)

The Colts drafted Anthony Richardson with the fourth overall pick this year, hoping the athletic phenom would pick up the pro game quickly. He did fine, posting a 52 in four somewhat abbreviated starts before one of his multiple injuries was serious enough to knock him out for the year.

Gardner Minshew, a sixth-rounder from 2019 with a backstory that sounds like a Peter Gent novel, has taken over and has the Colts in playoff position with only a 45 average. Richardson should be set to continue his development next year.

2024 quarterback: Richardson.

Seattle Seahawks (8-7)

Last year’s surprise, Geno Smith, has followed up his career-renewing 54 from 2022 with a 51 this year. Smith was a second-rounder in 2013 and didn’t do well at all early in his career. After adjusting to life as a backup, he’s received a second chance in Seattle and has made the most of it.

2024 quarterback: Smith.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)

The first overall pick in 2018, Baker Mayfield, has had an up-and-down career. He did poorly at first in Cleveland. Then he had a breakout season in 2020, then played through injury and struggled in 2021, only to get released when the Browns decided to trade a bunch of picks and pay a lot of guaranteed money to Deshaun Watson. Mayfield gave up plenty of guaranteed money himself to get a new opportunity in Carolina last year, where he did poorly and finished the year with the Rams, where he wasn’t much better. His 43 score last year might have been the end.

But the Buccaneers saw something in him and signed him to a bargain-basement contract. Mayfield has a 52 average this season and Tampa Bay is unexpectedly leading a weak NFC South. While he’s a free agent next year, the Buccaneers reportedly want to sign him to a long-term contract if they can afford it.

2024 quarterback: Mayfield.

Los Angeles Rams (8-7)

Matthew Stafford is in his 15th year in the NFL and recently won his 100th game – fourth in the league among active players. He has followed up last year’s disappointing 49 average with a 53 this season and has the Rams positioned for a Wild Card spot.

2024 quarterback: Stafford.

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7)

2021’s first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, followed last season’s breakout 52 average with a 53 so far this season. The Jaguars undoubtedly plan to give him the rookie extension, then work on a long-term contract next year.

2024 quarterback: Lawrence.

Buffalo Bills (9-6)

Josh Allen (seventh overall pick in 2018) is a fixture in Buffalo. He’s enjoying an All-Pro-level 54 average in the Metric this season.

2024 quarterback: Allen.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-6)

The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs have made it clear they feel Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the NFL, and they want to pay him accordingly. His Metrics of 59 and 55 the last two seasons back up that statement. He hasn’t been as sharp in recent weeks, but that sort of thing can happen in long careers and it’s probably Taylor Swift’s fault anyway.

2024 quarterback: Mahomes.

Dallas Cowboys (10-5)

The Cowboys have always had an unusual relationship with Dak Prescott. He gets the money eventually, but they make negotiations uncomfortable and he never has quite the same long-term security he might have elsewhere. He’s solidly among the top quarterbacks in the league, though (55 and 53 the last two years). Almost unprecedented for a fourth-round pick (2016).

2024 quarterback: Prescott.

Cleveland Browns (11-5)

The Browns gave up three first-round picks (the third is next year’s first-rounder) and a $230 million guaranteed contract for a quarterback who played six games last season (47 average) and six games this season (45 average). On the surface, this seems like the kind of trade that defines a franchise – mires it in last place for years. That’s hasn’t happened. The Browns have clinched a Wild Card berth and seem to be better without Deshaun Watson.

In the meantime, they’ve tried P.J. Walker (32 in two starts), fifth-round rookie Thompson-Robinson (30 in three starts) and have finally settled on the aging Joe Flacco (the 18th overall pick, 2008), who wasn’t on anyone’s roster until the Browns gave him a recent tryout (50 in four starts through last Sunday). So Flacco it is, with Watson likely getting another chance to impress next year. My guess is Flacco’s gunslinging style fails against teams that can generate consistent pressure without blitzing, so a long playoff run isn’t in the cards, but it’s a fascinating story. If Watson was healthy and anywhere near the guy he seemed to be early in his career in Houston, the Browns would be Super Bowl favorites.

2024 quarterback: Watson.

Detroit Lions (11-4)

Jared Goff looks even better than the guy who brought the Rams to a Super Bowl early in his career. The first overall pick in 2016, he has actually been an improvement over Stafford, who won a Super Bowl his first year in Los Angeles. Goff (57 last year, 56 this year) seems primed to provide Detroit with at least what would be its second playoff game victory in 66 years. It would be a huge mistake for the Lions to let him go into 2024 on the last year of his contract.

2024 quarterback: Goff.

Miami Dolphins (11-4)

Tua Tagovailoa (56 and 54) has been healthy all year and has proven that left-handers can succeed in the NFL, after a long period of time in which none even started. He’s a star now, and it isn’t just the receiving crew.

2024 quarterback: Tagovailoa.

Philadelphia Eagles (11-4)

Jalen Hurts (55 and 53) has lifted the Eagles to new heights, and they are a real threat to repeat as NFC champion.

2024 quarterback: Hurts.

San Francisco 49ers (11-4)

It seems more like a movie than reality. Brock Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant in 2022 – the end of a very weak quarterback class. With injuries to Garoppolo and Trey Lance (still earning a lot of money while third on the Cowboys’ depth chart) last year, he grabbed the starting role and if it weren’t for a serious injury that ended up changing the quarterback roster rules, he might have gotten the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

This season, he’s picked up where he left off and has San Francisco in contention again. His Metrics (55 last year and 52 this year) are impressive and it’s a shame the rules don’t allow San Francisco to reward him until 2025, as seventh-rounders earn close to the minimum.

2024 quarterback: Purdy.

Baltimore Ravens (12-3)

Lamar Jackson (47 last year) has finally shown up statistically the same way his unique talent dominates games on the field (he’s at a 53 average this season). The Ravens broke the bank to get him signed to a long extension this year, and it’s paying off so far.

2024 quarterback: Jackson.