by | NFL Insider

Stop making up quarterback controversies and just let the battles play out


Matt Flynn was judged to have not done enough to overtake Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson ... in June. (US Presswire)  
Matt Flynn was judged to have not done enough to overtake Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson ... in June. (US Presswire)  

There are only a handful of truly open NFL quarterback competitions, and, contrary to recent speculation, none of them has been won or lost in June. That's not how it works.

We live in an era of complete football saturation, where the only few weeks a year when news is not truly percolating still need to be filled with something. We live in an era where seemingly any time an NFL quarterback throws a ball -- first-pitch public appearances included -- there is a camera there to document it and it ends up as a report somewhere. We also live in an age where people generally want their NFL information before it happens on Twitter, etc.

So couple all of that together, and the dog days of June are filled with intimations that Matt Flynn is already a free-agent bust in Seattle, or Ryan Tannehill is buried in the abyss on the Dolphins' depth chart. Stop the madness, please. Heaven forbid somebody gets an opportunity to throw a pass in full pads at a contact practice, or, bite my tongue, maybe even gets a chance to suit up in an actual preseason game! Why wait for that?

Trust me, no coach is going overboard about what a rookie or newcomer did during glorified walkthroughs. Everyone is at a different point in his learning curve. The pressure is off in the spring, there aren't as many eyes watching, the climate is still gentile, there are no opponents to face and, for the most part, there are no injuries or outside factors forcing coaches to juggle plans.

I've got news for you -- all of that changes come August. It's hot as hell in most places. The pressure is ratcheted up significantly. There will be opposing players trying to make rosters looking to pummel the quarterback. Pressure, and eyes, are everywhere. People will get hurt and plans will change and quarterback rotations will be altered due to some issues beyond the staff's control.

So please, let's not get all breathless about what has transpired during OTAs and a minicamp. No one's mind has been made up. Everything is subject to change and if someone who has been allegedly cast aside before July 4 comes out slinging through a few weeks of camp and an exhibition game or two, no one is going to be running back to reminisce over OTA returns.

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Give it a little time to breathe. The coaching staffs will be accumulating as much information as possible before making their determinations. No decision maker is going to get too high or too low about a few weeks of spring ball. Some veterans might shine more than the novices, sure, but in these rare situations where there truly is uncertainty about who is going to be under center, the pecking order will change, and in many cases change significantly.

For all the shots being taken at Flynn, for instance, do you really think Seattle GM John Schneider, who was in Green Bay when Flynn was drafted and knows him well and who did exhaustive work on him in the offseason and worked him out pretty good during his visit, is panicked now? And does anyone really believe Tarvaris Jackson, who I actually have championed as an underappreciated quarterback, has shown enough in June to be pulling away with that job?


Jackson has never had a game like Flynn did against Detroit. Hell, few in the history of the game have. Jackson has a head start in coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense, yes, going back to their time together in Minnesota, but a bunch of passes to guys in shorts against air isn't going to change the relative financial investment made in Flynn and the fact Seattle's aggressive pursuit of Peyton Manning and Flynn -- and drafting of Russell Wilson -- shows that they were by no means convinced they already had their quarterback solution on the roster.

Jackson is one of the better swing quarterback options in the league, as a very capable No. 2 with the chance to win you games as a starter as well, but he's not in a position to be vanquishing the competition three months before Week 1. If I had to try to predict how this thing plays out, I would venture to guess Flynn has some pretty strong preseason performances and ends up winning that gig. But trust me, he hasn't won it or lost it yet.

Likewise, no one in Miami's meeting rooms is crowning David Garrard.

He is more experienced and polished than Matt Moore or Ryan Tannehill, but this is still someone who is coming off some serious back injuries who could be vulnerable to further injury. It has been a long time since he has had to absorb a shot to that back and withstand that kind of abuse. Going through the rigors of the preseason is going to be very different from what transpired the past few weeks.

And Moore, who showed some nice flashes a year ago, still has plenty of time to impress new coach Joe Philbin. Plenty of time. And, should the Dolphins start slowly, this is a team with nothing to lose and tremendous pressure to finally have a young quarterback of the future. It's hanging over the entire organization.

And they just took a quarterback in the top 10. Let's not pretend that stuff doesn't matter. Especially for a franchise fighting for fans and its market share and to fill its stadium. And that has struck out repeatedly with big-name players and coaches. If Garrard -- someone with few other playing options -- or Moore opens up as the starter, neither would have a long leash as the mistakes and losses pile up. Quite the contrary.

I wouldn't be surprised in the least that after 17 games are in the books, the rookie ends up with more starts than either veteran. But I suppose June isn't the time for a long view, or perspective.

I'm not going to put the Browns in this discussion, because you're not going to find too many execs in this league who don't think Brandon Weeden is going to be starting come Week 1 as long as he has two arms. And Arizona, if I had to handicap right now, I would expect John Skelton to push Kevin Kolb and probably beat him out in the end ... but again, this all has to play out in real time, and whoever shines brightest will get the job. Hence, the term "open competition."

And Jacksonville bears monitoring as well. I can't foresee Blaine Gabbert doing enough to lose that job in the preseason, but how long a lack of improvement would be tolerated, if there aren't strides made, is a legitimate question. Chad Henne has been less than sterling in his career and struggled with consistency, but his highs have been higher than anything Gabbert displayed as a rookie under duress, and he has won games at this level. With a new owner and a team grappling for more revenues and a greater national identity (just like the Dolphins), the Jaguars aren't in position to be married to any quarterback who isn't performing.

And, for various reasons, ditto for the Chiefs and Matt Cassel, and the Jets and Mark Sanchez.

But make no mistake, these judgments are still to be made. In practices that more closely resemble the real thing. In games that, while they don't count, do matter. And, in many of these cases, only after games have been won or lost that do affect the standings will the coaches themselves know which quarterback will end up taking the bulk of the work at that position through the 2012 season.

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.

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