Non-playoff teams need to embrace the future and play young quarterbacks
There's no need for eliminated teams to trot out veteran quarterbacks
The second NFL preseason has begun. For a league devoid of in-season practice snaps, especially for backup quarterbacks, it's time for some teams to act accordingly. For the sake of the long-term, a handful of organizations need to quickly alter what they are doing under center in the short-term.
So I'm advocating for change.
With most of the league reaching the point where they have nothing to play for, and actual game snaps so critical to evaluating and grooming quarterbacks, there is no better time than the present. I don't want to hear about people paying money to see starters play when possible, because the teams I am about to reference have already completed the portion of their season that truly count. With many teams having their future at the QB position at least somewhat, and in many cases, mostly in doubt, it's time to use the final two weeks of the season to get a look at what else is currently on the roster before those looming major off-season decisions are made.
No team has been more pathetic than the Cincinnati Bengals the past three weeks. The are a flailing franchise devoid of discipline wasting the final days of Marvin Lewis' coaching regime, and managing to get systematically worse by the quarter on both sides of the ball in the process. They were down, 27-0, with relative easy at Minnesota after failing to show up last week at home in an ugly, 33-7 to the lowly Bears, a week after blowing a 17-point, second-half lead at home to the hated Steelers. So why the hell is Andy Dalton still under center, with AJ McCarron's free agent status – restricted or unrestricted for 2018 – still in the balance and with Dalton at a point in which he could be easily traded?
What, exactly, is to be gained by sticking with the status quo? McCarron entered the game in garbage time Sunday – which really could have been any point after the first quarter given the way the Bengals played – and he might as well finish the season. Maybe he should be a cheaper alternative to Dalton next year. But with the Bengals failing to get across the 50 yard line until about 90 seconds remained in the third quarter, and with their record at 5-9 with games against the Lions and Ravens, it's time to get a look at another quarterback before you begin a coaching search.
But the Bengals are hardly alone.
Does anyone remember Eli Manning being benched a few weeks back so that ownership and management could get a look at the other quarterbacks on the roster to see what they have ahead of the draft? All that drama and outrage and the talk radio rants in NYC and all – that happened, right? So what precisely was accomplished by watching Geno Smith play the Raiders a few weeks back, snapping Manning's games-played streak? Why the hell isn't Davis Webb starting yet? There have been three weeks since all the madness to get him ready. With the Giants still in contention for the first-overall pick, there is nothing to be accomplished on the field, and consider me among the legions who believe Manning wants out after the season, anyway. And with two wins all season, it's beyond bizarre not to let their 2017 third-round pick show what he can do.
Even though the Brett Hundley era was cringe-worthy, it's time for the Packers to go back to the youngster. Aaron Rodgers was correct – he was not going to come back and instantly save Green Bay's season and it turns out his two-month absence was indeed too much for this team to overcome. Rodgers was battered around plenty in his first game back from a broken collarbone and that shoulder was tested time and time again. He was not quite himself and he underthrew receivers and got picked off three times and I'd go ahead and let Hundley play out the string now rather than risk anything recurring. Shut it down, get Rodgers signed to a massive extension before the start of next season and try to upgrade the cast around him in 2018.
The Dolphins face one of the more perilous quarterback situations in the league next year. Ryan Tannehill has suffered major injuries two years in a row and is due a non-guaranteed $17.5M next season, which his dead cap would be a mere $4.5M. In other words, he's reached a contractual crossroads, and while coach Adam Gase loves him, I'd be exploring all other options. The Jay Cutler thing has been real, but the Dolphins are now done at 6-8 after getting pushed around by the Bills Sunday, and it's time to get a look at David Fales for a few weeks and see what he could do. Cutler was already retired for much of this past offseason and the Dolphins have already won too many games to have a potential franchise quarterback fall right to them, and I'd see what the third-year man can do before entering what could be a critical winter for this regime.
The Denver Broncos owe it to all involved to see as much of Paxton Lynch as soon as possible, The recent first-round pick needs to play now that he has been cleared from his latest injury. Brock Osweiler will always have his magic comeback against the awful Colts on a Thursday night game that America collectively ignored. Let Brock Lobster go back into free agency off that high note, because heaven knows another one might not come around for quite some time. Give Lynch the final two weeks to see if he can show signs of life. And as much as the Jets seem to fear the very prospect of Christian Hackenberg having to throw a football in a professional football game, well, they've got nothing to lose, either.
Embrace the future. The present matters little.
Around the league
I keep telling you guys that Jimmy Garoppolo is the truth. He is going to transform the San Francisco 49ers and already you can sense a different huddle and confidence since Jimmy G took over. Get ready to pay him $100M for 4-5 years or warm up that franchise tag, Jed York. You're going to need it.
Been saying for a week that the Chargers had me a little scared, like Lucy with the football and Charlie Brown. As soon as you start to buy in on them again, as soon as they get back on solid ground, they tend to wilt. Three straight turnovers and Philip Rivers wilting in the clutch has just about doomed their season. Rivers' injury-prone start to the season, coupled with that dud on Saturday night, will quash those premature ripples of MVP chatter that some were trying to start (Brinson, that means you).
How about my man Case Keenum, again on Sunday? Ball barely hits the ground when he is on and he's been on more times than not this season.
All in all, thought Nick Foles had a nice game and got a feel back for the game and was able to build a foundation to move on with. Rallied the team when he had to, made some big throws. The Eagles have the luxury of playing around with things the next two weeks to figure out precisely what he does best within the scheme, and this was a plenty good baseline for them. The challenges will come against good defensive teams.
Look out for the Buffalo Bills. Their resiliency has been largely overlooked, but it shouldn't be. Tyrod Taylor dropped a bunch of dimes to keep them in the playoff hunt. I love how they utilized Shady McCoy in the pass game (four catches for 46 yards and a TD in the first half), and just because that particular QB is not their guy for the future doesn't mean they should have ever benched him in the heat of a playoff race. But rookie coach Sean McDermott never lost the locker room even amid that controversial decision and even a nine-win Bills team (they get Miami again in Week 17) may have the right tiebreakers to reach the playoffs.
Just a reminder that the Browns will have gone a year without winning a game when they next take the field and have one win in 30 games the past two seasons and four wins in their past 51 games dating back to December 2014. A football atrocity.
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