Thursday, August 11, 2011

Accessing 15 High Profile Quarterbacks 25 and Under

Since 2008 there has been an influx of young Quarterbacks entering the league and making an immediate impact. That season, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco both helped their teams get to the playoffs as rookies, and the following season Mark Sanchez did the same with the New York Jets. This past season saw college football icons Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy change the fortunes of the dwindling St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns, and it’s no surprise that in the 2011 draft, six teams drafted quarterbacks in the top 36 picks.

Right now there are fifteen big name quarterbacks under 25 in the league. Thirteen of them were drafted to be franchise quarterbacks. What I’m going to try and do a little here is project where I see these quarterbacks going. I’m not infaliable, I once thought Matt Leinart would turn the Cardinals around and that Cade McNown would be the class of the 1999 draft. That being said I also was on the side of Rodgers over Smith, Manning over Leaf, McNabb over Couch, Flacco over Brohm, Cutler over Young, and everybody else over J.P Losman. I’m just a football fan who watched all of these players in college, loves to study quarterbacks, and has a great appreciation of the history of the position.

Listed alphabetically:

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (Age 23) – If I had to project one of these quarterbacks to be the best of the bunch I would choose Bradford. If he can stay healthy he’ll be great. In college, no young quarterback with that much raw talent showed that much poise since Peyton Manning. What may hold Bradford back is the injury question; his final season as a Sooner was plagued by a shoulder injury which he attempted to comeback from, but never regained his footing at the college level. Last year, his first as a pro, he again shadowed Manning in poise, and almost took lead the Rams to the playoffs. Projecting Bradford is easy; he’ll be a playoff QB as long as he can stay on the field. Right now he is far and away the best quarterback in the NFC West, and I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

Brian Brohm, Free Agent (Age 25) – Had Brohm come out of college in 2007, the Louisville product would have become some franchises future QB. Instead he stuck around an extra year and in 2008 was drafted in the second round as an insurance policy in case Aaron Rodgers didn’t pan out. Right now, Rodgers is the defending Super Bowl MVP, while Brohm’s career is in limbo after spending the past season and a half in Buffalo backing up QB’s with the last names Edwards and Fitzpatrick. I project that Brohm will land on a roster this season, but his only chance to ever become an NFL starter is going to be by following Fitzpatrick’s footsteps and performing well when given a chance. To this point, Brohm has had a few chances and his career will likely head the way of former Louisville prospect turned flameout Dave Ragone.

Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers (Age 23) – Of the 2010 QB class, some considered Clausen to be the most pro ready because of the system that he played in. Based on Clausen’s performance last year versus those of Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow it’s evident that Clausen was either less pro ready than those players, or far less talented. The Panthers believed that Clausen would improve so much so that they used the first overall pick that Clausen helped them obtain to draft another quarterback on this list, Cam Newton first overall. The good news is that not only has Clausen kept his number (2, which Newton at one point coveted), but as of this second in time he has kept the Carolina Panthers starting job. I project that at some point Clausen will lose the job, but he’s far too young to give up on. After this season Clausen will likely be on the market for cheap, and another team in search of a quarterback may take a look at Clausen instead of going through the draft. I don’t see any future for Clausen in Carolina, but I think he’ll stick around the league for awhile.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (Age 23) – Selected in the second round to be the Bengals successor to Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton is an undersized QB who played on a great college team in an average college conference. I give Dalton a very small chance to succeed in the NFL, not only because of his size and lack of skill, but also because he got drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, and as Carson Palmer cruelly found out, it’s a hard place to play. Unfortunately for Dalton, he can’t sit out this season and sign elsewhere next year. I project that Dalton will lead the Bengals to the worst record in the NFL this year, and next year Andrew Luck will be the starting quarterback in Cincinnati, as Dalton gets what we’ll call the Clausen treatment.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Age 23) – Last year Josh Freeman looked like the real deal. The only thing that could get in Freeman’s way is playing in a division that already has Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and now Cam Netwon. It’s never going to be easy getting to the playoffs playing the NFC South, not for a while at least, and though the Bucs had a tremendous 2010, I see a step back year. I also expect Freeman to cool off a little bit as the rest of the NFL really begins to prepare for Josh Freeman and his excellent skill set. Nevertheless, Freeman is the real deal, and I project that at some point he’ll take the Bucs deep into the NFC playoffs, and he’s the sort of player who will make the players around him better for a long time.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (Age 21) – Blaine Gabbert was the most pro ready quarterback in the NFL draft this past season, and despite his young age, he’ll likely start for the Jaguars this season at some point because it seems as though David Garrard simply cannot stay healthy. Gabbert plays in a division where offense rules, so it goes without shock that I believe Gabbert won’t be able to succeed until Jack Del Rio ends up the head coach of some college program. That being said, I project that Gabbert will be the best Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback since Mark Brunell, and that he’ll get the Jaguars back to the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (Age 23) – Colin Kaepernick came on strong at the end of last year’s NCAA season and competed his way into the 2nd round of this year’s NFL draft. That will be a great motivational speech that Kaepernick can one day give to family, friends, and high school players, because Kaepernick’s NFL career won’t really be worth talking about. What Kaepernick has to succeed at the pro level is size and speed. What will prevent him from succeeding is the fact that he’s just about as average as you can get at everything that goes into making a quarterback good at the pro level. I project that Colin Kaepernick will be a solid change of pace quarterback for teams looking to add a multi tool players, much like what Vince Young or Tim Tebow are. Kaepernick won’t start long term because at some point coach Jim Harbaugh will want a real quarterback.

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (Age 23) – The Titans invested their future in the likable Jake Locker, an athletic QB who has a lot of heart. He’s often been called a mini-Tim Tebow, but a lot of scouts think he has better fundamentals than Tebow and I’d have to agree. Locker can do well at the pro level, but like Tebow he’s going to need some time to marinate. I project that Jake Locker will be an adequate an NFL quarterback along the lines of a more athletic David Garrard.

Ryan Mallett, New England Patriots (Age 23) – Ryan Mallett went from hoping to be a first round draft pick to being drafted by the Patriots to backup Tom Brady. In all likelihood the Patriots drafted Mallett to groom, show off in ideal situations, then trade for a second or third round draft pick, or another cornerback. Mallett has a strong arm, some accuracy flaws, and a lot of mental issues. Still, he has the raw talent to become an NFL starter eventually, but if he were really any good the entire league wouldn’t have passed up on such a high profile player so many times. Every scout and coach in the NFL knew who Ryan Mallett was, and every scout and coach decided to pass on him multiple times. My projection is that unless Ryan Mallett goes to the UFL to get attention, he will never be taken seriously as a potential NFL starter. If by injury or benching Mallett gets a shot to start, he has the skill set to succeed. Chances are he will never get the chance to do so in New England.

Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns (Age 24) – Colt McCoy severely lacks arm strength. Colt McCoy is undersized. Colt McCoy’s college record means nothing because A. it’s college, and B. he inherited a national championship team. That being said, I really think Colt McCoy will be a solid NFL QB. Mike Holmgren believes in McCoy, and when Holmgren believes in QB they turn into names like Montana, Young, Favre, and Hasselbeck. McCoy should flourish in Cleveland’s west coast offense, and the defensive mindset that Cleveland is beginning to take on should alleviate a lot of the pressure off of McCoy. McCoy has shown that he is a leader, and wants to lead the Browns back to respectability. I believe that is exactly what Colt McCoy will do: make the Browns respectable.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (Age 22) – Cam Newton burst onto the national sports scene last year with the NCAA equivalent of Kurt Warner’s 1999 NFL season. Exiled from Florida, the king of JuCo, becomes Auburn’s starting QB, goes undefeated, wins national championship and Heisman Trophy. Newton takes that resume to the NFL where he’ll likely takeover the Panthers starting QB job in week one. Though a lot of people want to compare Newton to busts like JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young, or projected busts like Tim Tebow, in reality Cam Newton is a very unique player, much closer to a more athletic young Donovan McNabb than he is to either other those other players. Newton has a tremendous arm, a ton of athleticism, and isn’t as dumb as people make him out to be, or want him to be. I project that Cam Newton will have a solid NFL career, win a lot of games, make a lot of incredible plays, and become one of the most exciting players in the game.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (Age 23) – Christian Ponder better hope that Donovan McNabb looks more like 2010 Donovan McNabb than the 2009 counterpart, unless a Ponder may become the new Matt Leinart. The Minnesota Vikings were never meant to be a team that brings in a young QB to be groomed so it’s fitting that Ponder sits a while. Ponder needs to sit anyway. At Florida State, Christian Ponder was a good quarterback but he never looked like a first round pick. He has a strong arm and he practices hard. I project that Christian Ponder will underachieve. He’ll make a fine backup in the NFL, but I see more Kyle Boeller than Carson Palmer in Ponder.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (Age 24) – At this point in time any flaws that I could point out in Mark Sanchez could immediately be countered by Sanchez’s two playoff berths, and 4-2 playoff record. At this point in time Sanchez is by far the most successful quarterback on this list, being the only one to start one playoff game, and is also on what looks to be the best team of the bunch. Nevertheless there are flaws in the Mark Sanchez machine. Sanchez is 6’2 225 lbs: not exactly your prototypical quarterback build. Sanchez’s arm strength is inferior to that of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and his accuracy is on par with those QB’s in the lower part of the middle tier. Still, Sanchez continues to win despite his flaws like a quarterback is asked to do. I project that Mark Sanchez will continue to develop as an NFL quarterback. He may never become a pro bowler, but I definitely believe that he will end his career with a winning record as a quarterback. He’s proven that he can win at this level.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Age 23) – Matthew Stafford is one of the most gifted quarterbacks in NFL. How far Stafford goes as an NFL QB will be based solely around how long he can stay on the field. The Detroit Lions have a lot of good pieces in place right now, and Stafford’s offense looks like a force that will give defensive coordinators nightmares for the next decade. I project that Stafford will eventually get healthy and lead the Lions back to the playoffs within the next two seasons. Stafford will become a pro bowl caliber quarterback, and his legacy in NFL history will be cemented simply by making the Lions relevant.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos, (Age 23) – Thanks to alphabetical order the most controversial QB on this list goes last. First the flaws: he’s a left, his accuracy is average, his release is below average, his decision making is slow, and in two training camps he couldn’t compete for the starting job. The positives: he looked every bit as good last year as Kyle Orton did, he’s a dominant athlete, a leader on the field, brings other intangibles to the Broncos offense, and in three starts last year performed as well as any other rookie that season. I project that Tim Tebow will start in the NFL, become a playoff quarterback, and continue to prove the naysayers wrong. Tebow has done nothing at either level to make me believe otherwise. If his name was Mike Jones and he performed the way he performed at Florida and on the Broncos, he’d be getting more playing respect, but selling a lot less jerseys.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Panthers Should Start Cam Newton Week 1 No Matter What

2004. With the first overall pick the San Diego Chargers select, Eli Manning. Quarterback. University of Mississippi.

As we know the Chargers later traded that pick for Philip Rivers and lived happily ever after, right?

Not quite.

Though Rivers has been astounding, the real blunder the Chargers made that year was giving up on Drew Brees, who in 2004 developed into an all star quarterback, and by 2006 was an all-pro. The Chargers ended up getting two productive years out of Brees before letting him set sail to New Orleans. Brees has since won an offensive player of the year award, has been a perennial pro bowler, and of course a Super Bowl MVP.

Last year the Panthers drafted Jimmy Clausen, a quarterback out of Notre Dame in the second round of the draft. Clausen showed some signs of being pro ready, but in reality would have benefited from staying one more year at the college level, at least from a developmental standpoint. Despite a below average rookie season by post 1998 standards, Clausen does have many of the tools necessary to succeed in the NFL.

Unfortunately for Clausen, the Panthers have decided to put their future in the hands of this years #1 overall selection Cam Newton out of Auburn. Newton possesses tremendous physical talent, but his game could use a little seasoning before he steps into the pros. The issue for Newton becomes, what if Clausen becomes Brees?

And if you think Brees is a rarity, I'd beg to differ. Kurt Warner in 2007 over Matt Leinart. Derek Anderson in 2007 over Brady Quinn. Kyle Orton this offseason over Tim Tebow. These are all in the past few years. The idea of Jimmy Clausen stepping in and succeeding on a Panthers offense that really isn't that bad isn't too far fetched. It could happen, and it would be a mess for Carolina.

Tebow and Quinn were low-risk late first round draft picks. Tebow and Quinn were both teams second first round draft picks that year. Cam Newton was the Panthers #1 overall pick, he's what the franchise plans to build it's future around. Carolina has never had a player as marketable as Newton who with a few good seasons could become the face of the league. If by some chance Jimmy Clausen comes in and does well the last thing Newton and the Panthers need is a controversy.

But the object is to win, right? Yes. And if Clausen looks like Brees circa 2004, then maybe you trade Cam Newton for a first overall pick, I'm sure you could get it. Odds are he won't and he'll look more like a 2007 Derek Anderson. Neither Quinn nor Anderson panned out for the Browns and today some scouts believe it was because of the mismanaging of the QB depth chart.

Put the ball in Newton's hands and see what he has for the next three years. Perhaps my philosophy is flawed, but in this era of free agency where a QB only has a 4 year contract to develop, you need to know if he's your guy or not almost right away.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pre-Pre-Seaon NFL Power Rankings

We’re really close to the start of the NFL preseason, so now is the right time to make the first power rankings of the year. We’ll call these the pre-preseason power rankings. Before you get upset at where your team ranks remember what power rankings really are: a ranking 1-32 of the teams with the best chances of winning the Super Bowl. That’s the goal. A team like the 2008 Chargers at 8-8 had a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than the 11-5 Patriots who were absent from that year’s tournament, thus San Diego would have finished the season ranked ahead of New England.

My format for power rankings has the 32 teams broken up into four categories: the elite; or the teams with the best chance to win the Super Bowl, the very good; otherwise known as the teams with an average chance to win the Super Bowl, hanging in there; or the teams who are alive but barely, and the dead; or the teams with no chance of winning the Super Bowl.

For the sake of a fresh start to a new season no team is currently classified as “dead.”

So here they are, Funk Football’s first power rankings of the new NFL season. What lockout?

The Elite

01. Green Bay Packers – The defending Super Bowl champions only got healthier, which makes them better and more dangerous. Aaron Rodgers is one of the league’s top difference makers, and their schedule is easy enough where even if they don’t win the division they should be in the playoffs. This team is built well and built to win anywhere, and if Rodgers is healthy enough they can beat any team.

02. New Orleans Saints – Several of you out there may be calling me crazy for putting the Saints at number two, but this is a team one year removed from one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history, and this year’s version of the team includes an upgraded running game with the addition of Heisman trophy winning running back Mark Ingram and former San Diego Charger standout Darren Sproles. Last year in a “down year” the Saints went 11-5 before an embarrassing loss on the road to the Seahawks. The 2011 Saints should be healthier, stronger on defense, better on offense, and believe it or not under the radar. They should run away with the division.

03. San Diego Chargers – A lot of people seem to think the Chargers were a losing team last year, but they were a 9-7 team, and probably the best team that didn’t make the playoffs. By the end of the season there was little doubt that they were better than the Chiefs, and New England, Indianapolis, New York, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore were shaking in their cleats over the prospect of facing Philip Rivers and company in the playoffs. The Chargers seem to have fixed their major weakness: special teams, which was really the teams only weakness. The running game is underrated, the defense is great, and if Bob Sanders is healthy, the Chargers will have gotten the most game changing free agent of the off season, because after all, how many Super Bowls have Asomugha and Haynesworth carried their teams to? Sanders is the 2007 defensive player of the year and he’s joining a defense where he won’t be asked to be the only guy who can make a tackle. Watch out.

04. Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles made 90% of the headlines in free agency and they certainly got deeper at a ton of positions. The only thing that can stop this team is health, and running into teams like the Packers and Saints who can score on anybody. Michael Vick was a great story in 2010, but it’s important to note that in Vick’s entire career he’s never had solid back to back seasons. In order for the 2011 Eagles to obtain immortality as Super Bowl champions, Vick is not only going to have to have a solid season, he’ll probably have to have the best season of his life considering at some point he’ll like have to face opposing offenses lead by Rodgers, Brees, Ryan, Peyton, Rivers, and Brady, any of which can score efficiently and mistake free.

05. New England Patriots – If the Patriots created 90% of the free agency headlines, the Patriots scooped up 9%, but their moves were far riskier. The acquisitions of Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth, and Shaun Ellis would all fall under the category of low risk, high reward. The problem is, the Pats aren’t handling it as low risk, instead moving their defense to a 4-3 to better accommodate for Haynesworth, while slotting Ochocinco as their #1 receiver in Brady’s offense. If you look at these power rankings, no other team in the top six would slot Ochocinco as the number one receiver. The move to 4-3 is far riskier than the Ochocinco move, not just because all five of Belichick’s Super Bowl victories have been with a 3-4, but because Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees have obscene career numbers against the 4-3, and relatively poor numbers against the 3-4. Still, I have to give Bill Belichick the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise. A tough division and a tough inter-conference schedule is this team’s biggest concern. A first round bye is paramount to a Super Bowl run for this team.

06. Indianapolis Colts – If the Colts plan to go back to the Super Bowl, this might be their last best chance, at least with this system. I’m not worried about Peyton’s neck, the Colts offense will be better than they were last year with an upgraded offensive line, and a healthy Dallas Clark and Austin Collie. What makes the Colts more dangerous than before are the defensive acquisitions they’ve made: the addition of injury plagued Tommie Harris, who by all accounts is now healthy, rivals that of the Bob Sanders acquisition as the best unsung signing of the offseason. You have to believe that if the Jets, Patriots, or Eagles made those signings it would be the second coming of Warren Sapp for all of those franchises. That’s east coast media bias, which has never stopped the Colts from having a great shot at a ring come January. This year should be no different. Like the Chargers and the Saints they’re flying under the radar right now, and that’s dangerous.

07. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers have followed their other two Super Bowl berths in the Roethlisberger era with seasons in which they don’t make the playoffs. A part of me believes that will be the case again for the Steelers, but I don’t believe enough in the Ravens or Browns to see that as plausible just yet. I think a Super Bowl loss will motivate this team, and a healthy Troy Polamalu is as valuable as any other team’s best player. The rings speak for themselves in Pittsburgh, and as long as Roethlisberger and Polamalu are there (and healthy), this is the team to beat in the AFC North.

08. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have been good enough to get out of the first round the past three years, but not good enough to get to a Super Bowl. The Ravens best shot at getting to one is going to be by getting a first round bye, and if ever that was possible this is the year. The Ravens need to stay healthy on defense, but if Joe Flacco can take that next step to borderline Pro Bowl quarterback, this Ravens team can win the division, and potentially get that first round bye. If they do, then watch out.

09. New York Jets – The New York Jets Super Bowl hopes begin and end with Mark Sanchez. In order for the Jets to get to that next level, Sanchez needs to get to that next level. The Jets have gotten to the conference title game two years in a row the hard way; on the road as a wild card team with a below average playoff quarterback. If they had an average to above average playoff quarterback the Jets would have likely gone to the Super Bowl one of those years. The Jets roster is strong enough where Sanchez isn’t going to be asked to be Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, instead he’s going to be asked to be Brad Johnson circa 2002. Before you laugh at that here are Brad Johnson’s 2002 numbers: 62.3 completion percentage, 234.5 passing yards/game, 11:3 TD:INT ratio, 92.9 QBR. The only thing to laugh at may be expecting Sanchez to obtain those sort of numbers, nevertheless it’s what he’s going to need to do if the Jets want to get past Brady, Manning, Rivers, Rodgers, Brees, and Roethlisberger, most importantly in the regular season where the Jets have struggled the past two seasons.

10. Atlanta Falcons – Call me crazy for putting them down at number ten, but I just see this as a step back year for Atlanta. A lot went right for the Falcons in 2010, including being in the same division as a hung-over Saints, but in the playoffs the Falcons proved they didn’t belong on the field with the eventual Super Bowl champions. This year it may be the Falcons who have the hangover. I think this team is good enough to get to the playoffs, but their schedule isn’t exactly a cakewalk, either. Julio Jones is a great add, but rarely do rookie wide receivers make the impact that puts a team over the top.

11. Dallas Cowboys – If the Saints, Chargers, and Colts are under the radar, then the Cowboys are beneath under the radar. This is a team that has flirted with an NFC title for awhile now, but fell short due to a poor coaching staff and a mismanaged roster. A healthy Tony Romo, a new regime, and low expectations may be the gift that the Cowboys needed this whole team, at least for the first few weeks of the season and training camp. Expect Dallas to be back in the playoffs, and if the roster lives up to its potential, there’s a great chance they could be representing the NFC in Indianapolis.

The Very Good

12. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Favre’s miserable play and a bad offensive line in 2010 made us forget how good the 2009 Vikings really were. The roster isn’t that far gone and 2011 Donovan McNabb should be an upgrade over 2010 Brett Favre. This is a team that can compete for a playoff spot, and if things unfold the right way compete for a division title. Adrian Peterson should have a good year behind a revamped offensive line, and playing in a dome (ten times) should help revitalize Donovan McNabb’s career the way it helped Favre once upon a time. They may not win the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re better than the Eagles.

13. New York Giants – In 2007 Michael Strahan held out, Tiki Barber said sayonara, Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin were severely questioned, and the Giants did nothing but go on to win the Super Bowl. This year, Eli and Coughlin are again on the hot seat, Osi Umenyiora is holding out, and Tiki Barber is trying to find a team to attempt a comeback with. With all of the NFC talk focused outside of the Meadowlands, don’t be surprised if this is the year the Giants make another great run. Eli Manning is, believe it or not an underrated quarterback, and Coughlin coached teams are often winners. If they can sneak into the playoffs they’ll be dangerous, I’m not sure if they can win a division title, though. Injuries to start the season will hurt them.

14. Houston Texans – The Texans have felt like an on-the-verge team since 2004, but they have made some above average moves this offseason, and the Colts aren’t as dominant in that division as they once were. The key to the Texans season will be winning week one versus Indianapolis and using that momentum to help win a division title, the way the Titans did in 2008. If the Texans can get to the playoffs, then they’ll have that 2008 Cardinals danger to them that could help them defeat the Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, or Jets.

15. Chicago Bears – I’m going to go out and say it; I think this will be a down year for Chicago. The defense will be solid if healthy, Roy Williams could be a good addition at WR, and Jay Cutler may finally take that next step, but in reality they’re going to need all of those things to occur in order to get back to where they were. The window is closing in Chicago though, they have a veteran defense, so if they don’t get back to the playoffs this year, that may be it for this incarnation of the Bears.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars made a lot of moves this offseason, most of which I thought were bad. If David Garrard is injured to start the season then this team is dead on arrival, but if not they have a shot to win the AFC South, which is perhaps the most wide open division in the AFC. But in reality, number sixteen of thirty two is about where Jaguars are, and always seem to be. Until Jack Del Rio moves on I can’t see this team being consistent enough to get through Peyton or the Texans.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I have the Bucs at seventeen not because I think they’re untalented, but because I hate the division that they’re stuck in. The Bucs are a good young team with a lot of talent, but when they play four of their games against the Falcons and Saints it will always be hard to win their division. On top of that games vs Indianapolis, Dallas, and Houston, and at Green Bay, Minnesota, and Jacksonville could make this a long year for the Bucs.

18. St. Louis Rams – The Rams should win their division. The defense is strong and will likely improve a good amount this year. This teams entire Super Bowl hopes hinge on the arm of Sam Bradford, who will be asked to make progress like fellow former number one overall pick Peyton Manning made in 1999, his second pro season. The problem is, since Peyton Manning no second year quarterback who started their first year has made that sort of progress so it’s unrealistic, on top of that, 1999 Peyton Manning didn’t get to the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, a division title in 2011 will go a long way towards eventually helping Bradford get what Manning eventually got as well, a Super Bowl ring. I like Bradford, I could see him being a Pro Bowler this year, and I can see the Rams having a strong season, I just don’t think I can see them having a Super season.

19. Detroit Lions – I’m going to say it: the Lions can win the Super Bowl. What’s the catch? They play in the NFC North. I think the Lions will be improved this year, and if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, this could be a winning team and even a playoff team. I just don’t know if they can go deep into the playoffs just yet. The defense is going to be great one day, and the offense has potential to be even better. 2011 should be the year where the Lions finally re-enter the NFL as a legitimate team. If they’re healthy, that will definitely happen.

Hanging In There

20. San Francisco 49ers – In a way it’s a good thing that the 49ers plan to find out what they have in Alex Smith once and for all. Unfortunately for the 49ers I think that they’re going to find out Alex Smith isn’t a winning quarterback at this level. If the Rams don’t move forward, the 49ers could pass them and potentially win this division on the strength of the players around Smith. I could see the 49ers getting back to the playoffs this year, but I can’t see them going any further than a first round beat down by Philadelphia, New York, or Dallas.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – They were a playoff team last year and the most embarrassed playoff team at that. The best thing that could happen for this relatively young team would be to have a down year and find a real future quarterback. Cassell is good to start another year after this season, but I can’t see the Chiefs ever competing for a ring with Cassell. With Denver and Oakland ready to go on the rise, now would be the right time for the Chiefs to fail, before mediocrity turns them into this decades Buffalo Bills.

22. Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals cashed in their future for Kevin Kolb, a quarterback who has shown some signs of excellence these past few years, as well as some signs of futility. We’ll see what they have in Kolb, but the bigger problems in Arizona lie elsewhere. The offensive line has gotten worse, the defense has gotten worse, and I’m not sure if Kevin Kolb can do what Kurt Warner was able to do. I don’t see Arizona getting back to the playoffs this year, I honestly thing St. Louis are better overall, but if the Kolb move was a good one, then the Cardinals can become a force in the NFC again very soon.

23. Cleveland Browns – I’ll come out and say it: I like Colt McCoy as a pro quarterback. I think he has the intangibles, and enough of the skill set to succeed along the lines of a Flacco or Roethliberger, in that the numbers won’t be gaudy but the wins will be in abundance. The problem is, it will be hard for McCoy to pan out on an offense with so few weapons. The Jets got Sanchez every weapon he could ever ask for. The Broncos and Rams surrounded Tebow and Bradford with solid offensive weapons as yet. The Browns continue to rebuild, and McCoy may become the victim of this rebuilding process. Nevertheless, this is a team with a shot at the wild card in a slim AFC wild card picture. In order for that to happen, McCoy may need to play out of his mind, something I don’t think he’s ready to do.

24. Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll is becoming a mad scientist as a head coach. I can’t see this year going as well as last year. Their quarterback situation should be renamed “backup city” and their defense is average at best. I can see them battling around .500, but I honestly believe 6-10 is their peak.

25. Washington Redskins – Tough division for a team to try to rebuild in, especially with a coach like Mike Shanahan. If this season goes well for Shanahan then we’ll have to concede to his genius. If this season goes poorly for Shanahan then we’ll have to say that Al Davis was actually right and the only reason Shanahan has two Super Bowl rings is because of Terrell Davis and John Elway. The somewhere in between would be that Shanahan got too far inside his own head to the point where he started to believe in his ego, which told him that he could win a tough division with Rex Grossman or John Beck at quarterback, with no offensive game-breaker, and an improving but not great defense.

26. Miami Dolphins – They have the roster to become the most exciting team in the AFC East, the issue is they don’t have the quarterback. Instead of going after Orton they should go after Tebow. They won’t win much in the AFC East this year, but it’ll be fun to watch. Tebow in Florida would turn the NFL on its head, and with Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall, he could actually meet his potential as a major offensive weapon. It won’t happen because of the fan backlash that will occur in Denver, who are absolutely smitten with Tebow, but this what-if get’s the point across. The Dolphins biggest issue is quarterback, and they have done very little to address this issue. If Chad Henne develops this year, then I can see them making a push for the playoffs and hurting the Patriots and Jets first round bye hopes.

27. Oakland Raiders – It was going so well! Last year the Raiders had a shot at the playoffs. The Chargers were bewildered and the Broncos were in flux. This year the Chargers will be back and the Raiders will go back to third in the division. They had the right idea going for a veteran quarterback with Jason Campbell, but I think it’s time they find that franchise quarterback. If you’re going to beat Rivers consistently, you’ll need that heavyweight to throw up against him. It’ll be a step back year in Oakland.

28. Tennessee Titans – The Titans know that they’re rebuilding. Matt Hasselbeck is the right type of guy to tutor Jake Locker, and he’s openly willing to do it. This team’s best chance at the playoffs is Peyton Manning injury. This team’s best chance at a Super Bowl is a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers collective injury. In all seriousness, I’d rest Locker all year and let him watch.

29. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton will start week one, but we know that right now this franchise is relevant for one reason only, they currently own the rights to the NFL’s greatest enigma: Timothy Tebow. The Broncos have little to no hope this year, and all you Tebow-maniacs can circle Sunday, October 23 on your calendars as the day the Tebow era truly begins, in Florida when the 1-4 Broncos take on the 1-4 Dolphins. If the Broncos win that one expect to hear about whether or not Tebow is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Expect them to maybe win four to five games after that.

30. Carolina Panthers – I could see this defense being really good. I hope they give Jimmy Clausen a chance to sort of impress the league so that the Panthers can trade him for a mid to late round pick, probably to Washington or Seattle where they collect those sort of players. Cam Newton will probably do alright as a rookie, I can’t see him doing great like Roethlisberger or Young, and the Panthers won’t be as patient with him as the Broncos were with Tebow, in part because the Panthers don’t need a QB controversy between Clausen and Newton, two young guys. A brutal division will force this team to pick in the top five again next year, and I expect them to use it to find Cam some protection.

31. Buffalo Bills – This is the team that Andrew Luck should go to. It would be great, and he could singlehandedly help keep the Bills in Buffalo long term. C’mon Bills, do us a favor, don’t go on another stupid November-December run that moves you from number one pick to number eight pick. Not this year. In Andrew Luck you would have the best quarterback in the AFC East by 2013, and if you prefer Fitzpatrick and his Harvard degree please note one thing: Andrew Luck will have a Stanford degree. Me personally, I trust a Stanford man more than a Harvard man at anything.

32. Cincinnati Bengals – This team will probably end up at 32 at the end of the year. The problem is this is the one franchise at the bottom that doesn’t want to be in that position because they just wasted an early second round pick on an average quarterback named Andy Dalton. If Dalton shows hope this year, they’ll probably try to trade that number one pick to someone who needs it. If not, then Andrew Luck, like Carson Palmer, will be a Pac 10 quarterback headed to Cincinnati where he’ll likely never meet his potential.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Well Thought Out Reply to My Tebow Article

My friend Sebastian who has always been the most consistent Funk reader and responder wrote this reply to my earlier article on Tim Tebow. For some reason wouldn't let him post it, perhaps because of length, but either way it's more well written than my article and makes some accurate observations about anti-Tebow-ism.


For me so much of Tebow falls along political lines, once you remove Bronco fans, or Gator fans... and look at the people who love him vs. the people who hate him. You'll find the people who can't stand what he stands for, most likely find the concept of believing in god laughable, and all their anger and resentment that they have towards the church, or the unfairness of life, become focused through a magnifying glass towards Tebow. Add that to any pre-existing hatred and sports frustrations that might already exist by having a rivalry with the Broncos or Gators, and you've got someone more hated than the Pope. The Pope is just the head of a religion, he isn't a head of a religion, and playing for the Yankees. Now this is mostly true of the Tebow haters, and exists in milder forms through the anti-tebow spectrum.

For me, I don't go to church, I'm not dogmatic, or really religiously observant, but I really respect anyone who is. So when I look at Tebow, just as a man, religion aside, how can I hate someone who in the face of all he has accomplished on the field has done even more off of it. This is a man who has been more than generous with his time, and fame and serving something he truly believes in, in order to help other people improve their lives. To the cynical, it's for publicity, or because he thinks he better than others, but I can't. Here's a guy who took years out his life to go to other countries, before he was ever famous to help others. Not only that, this guy is a true natural leader, a guy who everyone of his fellow gators could look to, not only in the locker room, but in the huddle with seconds left, and the game on the line. He's one of these people who doesn't know how to loose. His mind is too strong, and he has it focused towards two things, winning football games, and helping people.

As a former athlete I respect it even more. I had tons of natural physical talent, but what I didn't have was that steel hard brain that could lie to me, and tell me we could win, and I can make us. As team captain my senior year, in the semi's, the furthest our team had gone in its history, I was in the huddle thinking.. "Yeah this is nice, we'll probably loose today." After a tight game we lost, I played tight, I shrank from the big moments, I was almost invisible on the field. I played ok when I had the chance but I didn't take over the game.

I respect the hell out of people like Tom Brady, or Michael Jordan, Federer, (I guess Tiger Woods?) Montana, all the greats, who can raise their game when it's needed most... So maybe Tebow isn't as naturally talented as those guys, but he's got the spirit, and we are giving him a harder time because of it? He should be commended. Not getting points off, saying... oh this is unfair! he only got drafted in the first round, BECAUSE HE'S AN AWESOME PERSON. Yes, and we should hope, not even NFL players, but just everyday people, were like him. And good things should happen to those people.

Meanwhile, Vick is untouchable. What really made over his image? Doing some obligitorty-guilt-ridden-post-
jail charity time, giving the required lip-service to saying all the right things. No, he just started playing really, really well. He's a changed man! Vick has to act good to inorder to have a career, Tebow is good almost seemingly inspite of his career. Tebow was doing all those things before he was expected to. Vick has to do them, or else he doesn't seemed rehabilitated, and would then having nothing. I don't think I've read any articles doubting that Vick has really changed. I'd love to read/write one. I mean, we were really easy to forgive him, but we can't forgive that Tebow got drafted in first round, because he's a good dude?

Ask ourselves a question: do we want a world with 1000 more people like Vick, or 1000 more people like Tim Tebow? (I'm not saying Vick is the nadir of humanity in the NFL, for the sake of the question you can replace Vick with Matt Cassel. Cassel's probably a nice good guy, but Tebow is just that much more of a special person.)

The point is, we should care more that Vick is potentially a bad dude, no one bemoans what he gets*, because he is a good player on the field. So right now, until Tebow can show he's a good player, people don't really care that he's a good person. But I think more people should be rooting for the good person, to also be a good player. Not Hating him for it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Weighing In On the Tim Tebow Media Storm

Tim Tebow is an "A-List" national sports star. You may not like to hear that, but he is. Tebow's celebrity is on par with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning, and surpasses that of virtually every other active NFL player. East Coast sports fans (I'm looking mostly at New England and New York) will respond to that statement with something along the lines of, "you gotta be kiddin' me!? Tebow is a bum. What has he eva dun?"

What has Tim Tebow ever done? At the University of Florida he won two national championships, was the first Sophomore to ever win the Heisman trophy, was a finalist for another two Heisman trophy's, had an 88 to 16 career TD to INT ratio, ran for 2,947 career yards and another 57 touchdowns, and was the first player since the 1950's to win the prestigious Maxwell Award twice; an award given out to the best overall player in college football. If you don't watch college football then you don't appreciate Tim Tebow's greatness, the same way where if you don't watch the NBA you don't appreciate Dwight Howard's greatness. Bottom line is that the greatness is there, and Tim Tebow did more for the popularity of college football on the national stage than any player in the history of the sport. College success does not mean Tebow will have NFL success, but it explains his vast popularity without going to East Coast media route and attributing it entirely to southern Christians.

And now there's a media fire surrounding reports in Denver that Tim Tebow is going to again enter the regular season as the backup quarterback for the Broncos, but the truth is that this really isn't that big of a deal. This doesn't mean that Tim Tebow is a bust at the pro level, it doesn't mean that Tebow will never start a game as pro. The only thing that this means is that in week one, Denver will be starting Kyle Orton at quarterback because they believe he gives them the best chance to win.

Last year Tim Tebow started three games for the Broncos, throwing for 650 yards, rushing for 200, with five passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Broncos went 1-2 in those three games which took place in a season where they went 4-12. For a rookie quarterback, those are above average numbers (if you want to use fantasy sports as a means to understand those numbers, Tebow was the leading fantasy QB for the combined weeks of 15-17 last year), and if you've had an opportunity to watch the games in which Tebow played in, there was a certain energy surrounding a lifeless team that didn't exist before.

I understand where Brandon Lloyd is coming from with his frustration surrounding Tebow vs Orton. The fans, the media, and even some players and coaches want to see what Tim Tebow can do in large part because he is already an "A-List" sports celebrity. Some people may read into Lloyd's frustration as a sign that Tebow is an inferior player to Kyle Orton. That may be the case, but what I take from it is that Lloyd wants to know who the QB is going to be because he needs to prepare. One thing that no one is really talking about in this is the fact that Tim Tebow is a left quarterback, and when you have a lefty quarterback, especially a young one, players need time to adjust because the ball is going to be coming at them from a different angle. Not to mention that Tebow's style is drastically different than Kyle Orton's.

When Steve Young, a lefty QB with mobility, took over for Joe Montana, a righty QB with little mobility, there was a learning curve early on, and at times the 49ers players were completely out of sync on offense. Last year, Michael Vick was successfully able to acclimate to the Eagles offense, but he had already been on the team for two seasons, including one full offseason, not to mention the players were used to Donovan McNabb's big arm and ability to throw outside the pocket.

Tim Tebow is probably not ready to be an NFL starting QB, but it doesn't mean that he will never be. I'll also go on the record and say that I believe Tebow will start more than three games for the Broncos this year, because once the Broncos end up 2-5 or 3-6, there will be no reason to stick with Orton. Kyle Orton is a nice quarterback with a career 11-17 record in Denver. He has put up some gaudy numbers the past two seasons in Denver, numbers that Tebow will likely never be able to put up, but I firmly believe that Tebow could put up better numbers than 11-17, and he has done nothing to prove otherwise. Not in college, not in the pros, not in practice, not in the locker room.

Whatever Tim Tebow does is news, and it will continue to be news because it gets ESPN, NFLN, and all the sports blogs, radio shows, and websites great ratings. He will never be Drew Brees, but a franchise would dumb to ask him to be. What Tim Tebow has the potential to be is Vince Young with a good head on his shoulders, and for all the headaches that Vince Young created, he has a much better career winning percentage than Kyle Orton.