Inside Football: The Shelf Life of the AFC South and West QBs

Just two divisions left and all the starting quarterbacks in the NFL have been unfairly judged by me. The AFC South and AFC West are perhaps the two divisions in football with the most upheaval ahead. They have consistent champions, yes, but they also have franchises that have consistently fallen behind in the standings and need a gale force wind worth of change throughout their organization.

AFC South

Houston Texans

Current Starter: Matt Schaub

Age: 28

Career: 747/1156, 8,970 Yards, 47 TD/34 INT, 89.6 Rating

Shelf Life: 5+ Years with a place as part of one of the most dangerous duos with receiver Andre Johnson.

Matt Schaub sat on the bench in Atlanta behind Michael Vick before coming to the Texans, who were looking for a reprieve after wasting a draft pick on David Carr to begin their franchise history. Then he came to the Texans and has a telepathic connection with Andre Johnson. As long as Houston keeps Johnson around Schaub’s career will be great. He has shown time and again that he is capable of putting together 300 yard games in winning efforts and he will continue to do so. I see his career closely resembling Matt Hasselbeck’s, so look for a few Pro Bowl appearances without the league-wide recognition as one of the best quarterbacks out there.

Indianapolis Colts

Current Starter: Peyton Manning

Age: 33

Career: 4110/6348, 48,799 Yards, 354 TD/174 INT, 95.2 Rating

Shelf Life: 5+ Pro Bowl Years with Peyton stopping after he passes Brett Favre on the career touchdown list.

Manning will continue to be a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback for quite a few seasons. In fact, he will go down as perhaps the best quarterback ever. The Colts offensive system is built around Peyton and does not appear to be changing any time soon, so expect plenty more years with 30 or touchdown passes. It is almost a forgone conclusion that, barring a string of disastrous injuries, Peyton Manning will hold the career touchdown mark by the time he chooses to retire. That record will probably be what drives him to keep playing as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Current Starter: David Garrard

Age: 31

Career:1055/1721, 11,975 Yards, 59 TD/35 INT, 85.1 Rating

Shelf Life: 5 Years as a game manager for a run-focused offense

David Garrard is far from a bad quarterback, but he is also far from a game changing quarterback. He can throw accurate passes within 15 yards, but cannot be counted on to take the deep shot down the field with any kind of moxie. This works for Jacksonville as they pound away with Maurice Jones-Drew, but eventually the Jaguars will want more than someone who can do more than not throw a costly interception. Then Garrard will move onto the next running-focuses offense in need of a game manager. How long his tenure with the Jaguars last will be decided by how long the team is willing to keep playing a ball control game.

Tennessee Titans

Current Starter: Vince Young

Age: 26

Career: 488/842, 5,471 Yards, 24 TD/34 INT, 70.1 Rating

Shelf Life: 3 Disastrous Years as the Titans struggle under his lack of touch

Vince Young is a great athlete. I remember watching him single-handedly him lead the Texas Longhorns over the USC Trojans in the 2005 National Championship at the Rose Bowl. The criticism for his side arm throwing motion subsided in the college game during that season, but it has been his undoing in the NFL. The professional game of football requires that a quarterback be able to do more than keep the linebackers on their toes with a scrambling threat. Young simply is not that threat and his failure to change positions upon entering the league will leave him with no place to go once the Titans finally give up on him. Tennessee will probably begin to look for new blood in the draft after next season.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Current Starter: Kyle Orton

Age: 27

Career: 701/1229, 7,521 Yards, 41 TD/32 INT, 75.4 Rating

Shelf Life: 5+ Years as a solid NFL backup

The job of an NFL backup quarterback is to come in and play conservatively in the event that the starter goes down with an injury. This sounds perfect for Kyle Orton. He does not have the big arm and bravado that makes a starting NFL quarterback and now that the Broncos are in the midst of a downward spiral that is more obvious than ever. His record as a starter has always been much more about the defense than his play and that is quite easy to recognize as the Broncos have only managed to score 37 points over the last four games (even taking into account the injury in Week 10) while the defense has given up 117. I expect the Broncos to begin searching for another quarterback in the NFL draft in 2011.

Kansas City Chiefs

Current Starter: Matt Cassel


Career: 508/844, 5,666 Yards, 35 TD/19 INT, 84.7 Rating

Shelf Life: 5+ Years as the Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback

The Chiefs took a chance trading their second round draft pick for Cassel so they are bound to him for at least three seasons. So far this season he has had quite a few bright spots in an otherwise trying season for a struggling (though improving) Kansas City Chiefs team. I think he is the guy and will be the guy for quite some time. Cassel has the arm, the vision, and the guts to be the quarterback to drag the Chiefs out of their current hell.

Oakland Raiders

Current Starter: Bruce Gradkowski

Age: 26

Career: 231/437, 2,163 Yards, 11 TD/ 16 INT, 59.9 Rating

Shelf Life: 2 to 3 seasons before earning salary as the third string option for a few seasons

Gradkowski has replaced JaMarcus Russell as the Raiders midway through an awful 2009 season. He has had a great first game with the third team in his four year career, but I would not expect to see him on the roster after this season. Russell will likely be relegated to the backup role as the Raiders search free agency for a viable option. The Raiders are not likely to so quickly turn to the draft after struggling with one high draft choice behind center. That is, of course, unless Gradkowski leads the Raiders on a four or five game winning streak during the second half of the season. I see Gradkowski floating around the league over the next few seasons before being relegated to playing football in some lesser league.

San Diego Chargers

Current Starter: Philip Rivers

Age: 27

Career: 1093/1749, 13,318 Yards, 95 TD/42 INT, 94.0 Rating

Shelf Life: 5+ Years as a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback

Philip Rivers had two pretty good seasons in 2006 and 2007, but he really emerged in 2008 when he threw for over 4,000 yards, had 34 touchdown passes to just 11 picks, and posted a 105.5 QB Rating. This season he is on his way to surpassing 3,500 yards, throwing 27 touchdowns, posting a QB Rating in the high 90s. He is going to be with the Chargers for some time and will likely be helping the team establish a dynasty atop the AFC West. He has the arm and the intangible factors that make him such a great fit that the organization let Drew Brees go away via free agency four seasons ago.

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