Many people get into sports because of the fun, positive community they can create. People from all different backgrounds can come together under the common goal of rooting for the same color laundry, to quote the great Jerry Seinfeld. However, there is also an ugly side of sports where fans sometimes root for ill will for their opponents or sometimes their own players if they are struggling in a major way. This article is about that reality: players struggling who may be on their way to the bench soon. Here is a look at eight quarterbacks who could be in jeopardy of being benched in 2023, ranked from least likely to most likely to be asked to take a seat.
8. Zach Wilson
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has been telling anyone who would listen since future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles that despite him making the unfortunate history of being the only player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rank dead last in passer rating in consecutive seasons (69.7 in 2021 and 72.8 in 2022). Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas need him to look somewhat competent in this season-long audition since they went all in on selecting him second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Wilson checked the competent box in Week 4, totaling 245 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 28 of 39 passing for a 105.2 passer rating in a 23-20 loss against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on "Sunday Night Football." Sunday night marked the first game of Wilson's career in which he had multiple passing touchdowns and no interceptions in a game. His opponent, Patrick Mahomes -- the reigning NFL and Super Bowl MVP -- threw for 203 passing yards while also accumulating a touchdown and two interceptions on 18 of 30 passing for a 63.6 passer rating. Those statistics led to Wilson being the first quarterback to have more completions, more passing yards, more passing touchdowns and fewer interceptions than Mahomes in a game opposite the two-time Super Bowl champion across his 127 starts in college and the NFL, according to OptaStats. This performance led to Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons when retired NFL safety Rodney Harrison, a current NBC Sports analyst, called the Jets third-year quarterback "garbage" on national television after "Sunday Night Football."
Between former Packers backup Tim Boyle and being the other options in the Jets quarterback room, plus the draft capital invested in Wilson, the BYU alum is the least likely to be tossed aside among the passers in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
The Chicago Bears cast their fortune with Justin Fields this offseason, trading out of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft because they were confident in his future. Through four games, the 2023 season has already come off the rails during an 0-4 start. Fields before attempting to walk that assessment back later that same day.
He has lost 12 consecutive starts, making him the first, first-round pick quarterback to lose at least 12 consecutive starts since Archie Manning from 1981-1984. Fields is also the most sacked quarterback in the NFL since the start of last season, having absorbed 72 quarterback takedowns in that span. He did show a flicker of life in Week 4, a 31-28 defeat against the Denver Broncos as he set career-highs in completions (28), passing yards (335) and passing touchdowns (four). However, the production came against the Broncos, the owners of their worst scoring defense in the NFL, 37.5 points per game allowed, and he wilted in the second half as the Bears blew a 21-point lead.
Justin Fields in Week 4 vs. the Broncos
|First Half||Second Half|
The reason why Fields is unlikely to be benched is because of how much the team has invested in him, and their backup is undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent out of Shepherd. It's not like Fields has a known veteran lurking behind him. Plus, if the losses keep piling up anyways while Fields is out there, what's the harm? Between their own pick and the 0-4 Panthers pick, Chicago has a great shot to win the Caleb Williams sweepstakes.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 3-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC South in large part to quarterback Baker Mayfield. He has seven passing touchdowns to only two interceptions with a 70% completion rate. Mayfield has also been the NFL's best quarterback on third down, aka the money down, so far in 2023. That's impressive work.
Baker Mayfield on third down this season
* Among 34 qualified quarterbacks
Should Mayfield crumble as the season progresses, something that happened with the Carolina Panthers last season, it wouldn't be stunning to see him benched. He is on a one-year contract, so the team has no incentive to go out of its way to give him special treatment. Tampa Bay gave 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job this offseason. They were the last team to end their "quarterback competition" in the lead up to the 2023 regular season. If Mayfield backslides, Trask could see playtime sooner rather than later.
The NFL Draft order is currently determined by the league's worst records, going in reverse order from thirty-second to first. However during current Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton's one year sabbatical from coaching NFL football when he worked as an analyst for Fox Sports, he suggested the league could eventually follow the NBA's model to determine the draft order, a lottery system. His reason for that shift, just a few months ago, was because he thought teams would be tripping over themselves to select reigning Heisman Trophy winner and current USC quarterback Caleb Williams when he is draft-eligible in 2024.
"This player [Caleb Williams] is the type of player we could look back on in five years and say 'he's why the lottery exists now,'" Payton said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.
With the Broncos staring at a 1-3 start in 2023, with their only victory being over the helpless Chicago Bears in Week 4, this Payton quote is something to keep an eye on in Denver. Yes, the three losses mostly fall at the feet of the NFL's worst scoring defense as the Broncos are allowing 37.5 points per game this season. Plus, Wilson is actually playing well overall with nine passing touchdowns and only two interceptions, a key component of his 106.7 passer rating, the third-highest in the league.
However, Payton reportedly told Wilson he needs to Jarrett Stidham to a two-year, $10 million contract this past offseason, a deal that is on the high-end when it comes to backup quarterback money. If the losses continue to mount thanks to a porous defense, Payton could sit Wilson down to fully engage in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes.and that he isn't "running for public office." The two don't exactly sound like BFFs. The Broncos also signed backup
4. Sam Howell
Second-year quarterback Sam Howell, a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has had an up-and-down first four games as the Washington Commanders starting quarterback. He looked fantastic in Weeks 1-2, throwing for 501 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception on a 65.7% completion percentage. However, he melted down against the Buffalo Bills, throwing a career-high four interceptions -- the most any quarterback has thrown in a game this season.
Howell bounced back in Week 4 despite the Commanders losing 34-31 in overtime at the Philadelphia Eagles, throwing for 290 passing yards, a game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson with no time left and no interceptions on 29 of 41 passing.
Perhaps just as big or an even bigger issue than the four-interception game against Buffalo is Howell's awareness in the pocket. In that same game, he was sacked nine times. Howell has absorbed an NFL-high 24 sacks in four games this season. That puts him on pace to be sacked 102 times this season, blowing past the NFL single-season record for the most times sacked, 76. The record was set by 2002 first overall pick quarterback David Carr in his rookie year with the Houston Texans, who were also in their first year in the NFL as an expansion franchise. Sacks are a statistic that a quarterback can control even with a shoddy offensive line. The Commanders 38.3% quarterback pressure rate allowed ranks 21st in the NFL, not great, but it's not too far from average. Howell's average time to throw of 3.08 seconds is the ninth-longest in the NFL, calling into question his anticipation, instincts and pocket awareness.
Washington did sign trusty backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett to a one-year, $8 million contract this past offseason. If Howell continues to struggle to stay upright and losses begin to stack up, head coach Ron Rivera may pull the plug.
Ryan Tannehill is 35, in the final season of his four-year, $118 million contract and is on pace to play the worst football of his 11-year career. His current 74.9 passer rating ranks 31st out of 34 qualified quarterback this season -- ahead of only Zach Wilson (72.3), Daniel Jones (69.7) and an injured Joe Burrow (69.1) --, and it would rank as the lowest of his career. He has thrown two touchdowns to four interceptions, tied for the sixth-most in the league, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio ranks 33rd in the league ahead of only Jones' 2-6 ratio among 34 qualified quarterbacks.
Tannehill also has two young Day 2 draft picks licking their lips behind him in the Titans' quarterback room. Tennessee selected second-year passer Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and he looked much improved in the 2023 preseason. They also traded up eight spots in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft to select rookie Will Levis 33rd overall out of Kentucky. The AFC South division is currently gridlocked in a four-way tie with all four teams possessing a 2-2 record, but if the Titans have a similar backslide like they did at the end of the 2022 season, losing seven consecutive games, then it wouldn't be shocking to see Tennessee turn to their young guns to see what they have.
2. Joshua Dobbs
Joshua Dobbs' play definitely doesn't merit him being this high on the list. He threw for a career-high 265 yards and a career-high two touchdowns while playing turnover-free football in a 35-16 loss against reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa and the undefeated San Francisco 49ers. Dobbs is in a tough spot, playing as the on one of the most talent-barren rosters in the NFL. His 99.4 passer rating through four weeks is the 10th-best in the NFL, but given that Murray is working to return this season, Dobbs will likely get benched whenever he is able to return.
The Atlanta Falcons felt the need to put out a statement that they weren't going to pursue quarterback Lamar Jackson when the Baltimore Ravens had him on the non-exclusive franchise tag this past offseason because of second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft. Fast forward to today and consecutive losses have followed the Falcons 2-0 start in 2023, and the team now sits at 2-2 with the offense being the primary culprit for the defeats. The Falcons have scored a combined 13 points across their two losses, a 20-6 defeat at the Detroit Lions in Week 3 and a 23-7 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London in Week 4.
Ridder ranks in the bottom 10 in the NFL in most key quarterback metrics as he struggles to take care of the football and push the ball downfield.
Desmond Ridder this season
* Ranks among 34 qualified QBs
His teammates seem to know it too given Falcons wide receiver Mack Hollins' furious reaction to a Ridder high-five offering after the quarterback was unable to connect with him after he broke open down the field.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith even said he understood why he was being asked about a potential quarterback change in his latest press conference after Ridder threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, in Week 4.
"Those [quarterback questions] are always going to come up when you have two games back-to-back where you don't score enough points," Smith said Monday. "I understand the question. You got a young player in his eighth start, and you have to find out. There is a fine line between being stubborn in situations. ... I thought he came back after throwing the two picks, one was a pick-six, and it obviously wasn't what you wanted result-wise, but he gave us a chance. ... We have to find a way to start faster. We have to get solved, so we're not sitting there in a 10 to nothing hole. When you're not winning, everything is on the table."
Atlanta signed former Washington Commanders part-time starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $14 million contract this past offseason. Given that Smith admitted "everything is on the table" after these last two losses, Ridder's seat couldn't be much hotter.