Three NFL quarterbacks that need big 2012 performances

In an era of professional football where the demand of having a high-quality quarterback on a roster is at an all-time high, some quarterbacks have a lot to prove in 2012.  For some of these quarterbacks, 2012 will be the deciding year in determining if they have what it takes to be a franchise quarterback or if they will be thrown in the “bust bin.”

2011 presented each franchise with a different set of challenges due to the NFL lockout.  Free agency did not take place until after a collective bargaining agreement had been reached, but the 2011 NFL Draft took place anyway.  Four quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder) came off the board after the first 12 picks.  Two showed glimpses of success in 2011 while the other two left much to be desired.

Christian Ponder arguably bears the biggest burden of anyone in the NFL.  Minnesota drafted Ponder 12 overall in the 2011 draft, which was a huge surprise.  Even though speculation exists that had Tennessee passed on Jake Locker and Minnesota would have taken Locker instead, the point still remains that Ponder was selected with the 12 overall selection and brought with it the high expectations of being a early-pick quarterback.

Christian Ponder’s 2011 can be described as unimpressive at best.  Should Ponder’s 2012 fare as well as 2011, that could lead many fans and even the front office to question whether they drafted the right guy.  Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier wants both to feel like Ponder can be the franchise quarterback.  By adding USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, the Vikings want to give Ponder more protection to find the open receiver in the passing game.  Minnesota’s rushing attack is led by Adrian Peterson and gives offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave hope for major improvement in 2012.

Musgrave utilized Peterson as well as Percy Harvin last year.  If Ponder makes huge strides in 2012, this is an offense that very productive heading into 2012.

Speaking of the need of improved play out of a team’s quarterback, perhaps no team went through more changes this past offseason than the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Not only does this team have a new head coach in Mike Mularkey, but the franchise is also under new ownership in Shahid Khan who hopes to build attendance back to where it needs to be.  Gene Smith remains as the team’s general manager from a year ago, giving the rest of the team some familiarity heading into 2012.  Smith drafted Gabbert in 2011 who, like Ponder in Minnesota, did not play very well at quarterback.

Mularkey was hired mainly to develop Gabbert into becoming a successful NFL quarterback.  Khan’s hopes that Gabbert’s successful development will mean increased attendance by the fans.  The addition of former Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon will certainly help both.

Gabbert needs to have a strong showing in 2012 to gain confidence from both himself and the front office, but most importantly Gabbert wants to gain confidence from the new owner.  Another lackluster performance could lead Khan to think that maybe his franchise does not have the quarterback of the future.

The last of the three quarterbacks needing a big 2012 is actually a guy who has had success in the past, but rumors continue to swirl that maybe he’s not quite the guy his franchise believes he is.  For years, people have looked at Dallas and wondered if Tony Romo can truly succeed in the NFL.  Dallas continues to stand behind Romo, but their stance can quickly shift if Romo does not reach the level that everyone wants him to.

Being in the NFC East means battles against Michael Vick and Eli Manning.  Being compared to quarterbacks like that can be difficult, especially if one just came of a Super Bowl championship like Manning did.  So if Romo does not play at a high level, Jerry Jones might find someone who can.

Unlike Ponder and Gabbert, however, Romo’s situation is not as bleak.  Romo has succeeded before, and that success can be used to argue that Romo is their guy.  Romo has made the throws that head coach Jason Garrett asked him to make, but a mediocre season could make all of that success irrelevant.  Romo’s record in the playoffs continues to plague him, but a few playoff wins could cure that and silence Romo’s critics once and for all.

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Tebow should be excited about Peyton Manning’s visit

A report came out earlier today regarding Tim Tebow’s reaction to Peyton Manning’s visit to Denver.  An article written by Michael David Smith on Pro Football Talk said that Nicole Darin, a sports anchor at WSTP-TV, reported that Tebow was “rattled” by Manning’s visit. 

He shouldn’t be rattled.  This could be the best thing for Tim Tebow’s career. 

Tebow played well in an option-style offense.  Unfortunately he’s not at Florida anymore, this is the NFL.  Professional football turned into a passing-oriented game.  Teams can still find success running the football, but the teams hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in recent years had reliable passing offenses. 

Tebow cannot just run the option-offense for the remainder of his career and expect to win, a reality that he already knows.  That’s why he continued to work on his passing skills at UCLA during the offseason.  He wants to develop into that pocket quarterback the Broncos need. 

Who could help Tebow more than future hall-of-fame and, like Tebow, former SEC quarterback Peyton Manning?  If there is anyone whose attention to detail, perfectionism and experience can help Tebow to transition into the NFL, it’s Peyton Manning.  Oh and by the way, Manning might win a few games too. 

Being tutored behind a veteran quarterback is not exactly a revolutionary idea.  It’s been around for decades and several quarterbacks owe their successful careers to it.  With all of the success from rookie quarterbacks in recent years, it’s easy to forget about that.  Of all the starters in the league today, no one remembers a quarterback sitting behind Brett Favre before he got the reigns.  What was his name?  Oh yeah, Aaron Rodgers. 

Watching and learning the game from the sidelines does not happen as often today because teams are so desperate to find a quarterback to lead their team.  They draft a quarterback and expect him to win right away just because they have no other options. 

If Manning decides to sign with Denver, Tebow has a golden opportunity to learn the quarterback position from one of the best to ever play the game.  Although the prospect of losing the starting job that both John Fox and John Elway said that Tebow had, it will be a beneficial experience for the former Florida Gator in the long run.  Fox and Elway have not last faith in Tebow with this move, but it’s a move that signifies that Manning would give them the best chance to win this year.  And once Manning retires, Tebow would step in to the starting job with more training, experience and confidence.

Post-Combine Top 5 Mock Draft

Every Scouting Combine, prospects get the opportunity to change their draft stock.  Some make great use of the chance given while others send their stock plummeting.  This year’s combine played out that same way: some prospects looked better than at first believed while others will need a strong performance at their Pro Day to get their draft stock back to where it should be.  As for the top players of the draft, they held out of key drills at the combine and opted to run them at their respected Pro Day instead.  In short, the combine did very little to change the complexion of the top five picks with the exception of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. 

1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck/QB/Stanford – The closer that free agency draws, the more it seems that Peyton Manning’s days as an Indianapolis Colt will come to an end.  Indianapolis owes Manning $28 million in exactly a week, a reality that the Colts really do not want to come true.  It sure seems like Colts owner Jim Irsay wants to move on from Manning.  Andrew Luck would give the Colts a reliable, pro-ready quarterback replacement while also giving the Colts a lot more cap room thanks to the new CBA and the rookie salary cap.  This move will allow the Colts to be more active in free agency, a critical factor with a new head coach who wants to scrap the old Cover Two defense and replace it with the 3-4 defense he wants. 

2. St. Louis Rams – Justin Blackmon/WR/Oklahoma State – Funny fact: The winner of last year’s draft-day trade between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns might very well be the St. Louis Rams.  Cleveland and Washington are both in the market for new quarterbacks.  How they address that need remains to be seen, but if neither adds a quarterback through free agency, the Rams’ second-overall pick’s value increases dramatically.  If Cleveland then offers St. Louis both of their first-round picks as well as a day three pick, St. Louis simply could not pass on that.  Once there, Cleveland could take Griffin.  If a trade does not happen, expect new head coach Jeff Fisher to bring in a quality wideout to help out his new, young quarterback.  Blackmon could also still be on the board if the Rams ended up picking at four. 

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil/OT/Southern California – Minnesota gets a lot of value with this pick.  Not only do they get the top offensive lineman in the draft, they walk away with someone who could help fill a gap left by Steve Hutchison should the Vikings choose to release him.  They help their offensive line get younger, open up running lanes for Adrian Peterson and help protect their second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. 

4. Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III/QB/Baylor – Basically what selection #2 says, only this scenario would frustrate the Redskins if Washington wanted to get Griffin.  If the Rams somehow did not trade their pick and both Cleveland and Washington both wanted RG3, Minnesota would receive a lot of calls about trading.  If Minnesota determined that Kalil’s talent would be simply too good to pass on, Cleveland walks away with RG3 and does not lose any draft picks.  This “t00-good-to-be-true” scenario looks like it will be just that.  Only free agency will tell the future of this potential trade. 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne/CB/LSU – New head coach Greg Schiano might have tipped his hand (or in this case his draft board) when he hired former LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper to coach the same position in Tampa.  In a division filled with powerful passing offenses, Tampa will look to counterattack that by boosting their secondary.  Adding Cooper means easing Claiborne’s transition into the NFL by giving the cornerback a coach he’s familiar with.  Claiborne will give the Buccaneers another talented corner opposite of Aqib Talib.

Possible locations for Peyton Manning

You might have heard, but Peyton Manning could be a free agent. 

And if Manning departs from the franchise that he led to the land of success, you can expect a lot of teams to look at bringing Manning in to win a championship.

While Colts owner Jim Irsay made numerous comments about getting a new deal done with Manning to help their cap situation, it still looks like a deal will not get done.  If that happens, watch general managers sprint to the phones to get a deal out to him. 

The Washington Redskins really seem to be the team to top the list of franchises willing to give Manning a contract.  Being in a quarterback-loaded NFC East presents a challenge to the Redskins who play against Michael Vick, Tony Romo and Eli Manning.  If Shanahan wants to bring the Redskins to the next level, he needs to get a reliable passer to kickstart the offense. 

Washington’s willingness to get Manning in may not mean that much to the future Hall of Famer, who has earned a considerable amount of money from the Colts.  Instead, Manning might consider going to a team that only has one missing piece: a quarterback.  No team fits that description better than the Arizona Cardinals. 

Arizona passed on Blaine Gabbert in last year’s NFL Draft to get LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.  No one questions Peterson’s solid rookie performance, but many questioned why the Cardinals did not select Gabbert.  The threat of an NFL lockout loomed over the draft and forced many teams to grab a quarterback early.  In the first 12 picks, Carolina (Cam Newton), Tennessee (Jake Locker), Jacksonville (Blaine Gabbert) and Minnesota (Christian Ponder) all chose quarterbacks.  Arizona, at pick five, did not.  Instead, they traded for former Philadelphia Eagles backup Kevin Kolb after the lockout ended.  Kolb’s performance in Arizona left many feeling underwhelmed.

Matching up Peyton Manning with Larry Fitzgerald is nothing more than an absolute dream for offensive coaches.  And Ken Whisenhunt wants to make that dream a reality.

That might be why Whisenhunt hired Frank Reich, the Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach in 2009-10, as the team’s wide receivers coach.  Already the Cardinals are bringing in people that Manning is familiar with, which would make the transition easier. 

Another team being rumored for Manning services is an Indianapolis Colts AFC South rival: the Houston Texans.  Some reporters have tried to discourage the notion that the Texans would be interested in acquiring Manning, but Schaub’s history of injuries should at least make the Texans’ management look into the possibility.  And just like the pairing of Manning with Fitzgerald, a combination of Manning to Andre Johnson would be an equally exciting thought. 

With a top five NFL defense already in place, the Texans feel that they can make a legitimate run for the championship if they can keep a reliable quarterback healthy.  If the reports of Manning’s interest in going to Houston are true, then expect the Texans to follow up and offer Manning a contract.

Manning vs. Manning

(This video was posted by TheTVGuyTV on youtube.com)

The Super Bowl’s conclusion brings up an incredible argument, something that most NFL fans never thought would be an issue.

Who would have thought that after the Super Bowl, people would be discussing which Manning was better?

If this debate came up years ago, it would not be a debate at all.  In fact, anyone who claimed that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was the better of the two, it would be considered either an outlandish or idiotic statement.

And people from that era would have a good point, too.  Peyton’s resume’ speaks for itself.  Peyton Manning broke countless records and led the Colts to several consecutive AFC South championships.  His place in the Hall of Fame is not questioned.

Yet so many people measure the success of a quarterback by the number of championship rings he wears.  Peyton has one, but now Eli has two.

The NFL is a passing league.  So with all the records and successes that Peyton Manning achieved, how much more will Eli be given credit?  In truth, he should not get as much as he will.

Make no doubt about it, Eli elevated himself to an elite level after another Super-Bowl MVP award. But when you consider that the building that Eli played the Super Bowl in was built because of the success from his older brother, that really puts things in perspective.

Kurt Warner said recently that Eli Manning is still not a lock for the Hall of Fame until Manning can perform at a high level on a consistent basis.
So while another Super Bowl victory is a tremendous accomplishment for Eli Manning, it’s still not enough to consider the youngest as the best.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 06:  In this Gener...

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