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Around the middle of the NFL season, usually week 7-9, teams hit that proverbial fork in the road. Coaching staffs around the league have personnel decisions to make at the most important position, the starting QB. Option A is pretty simple, and it consists of staying with the starter QB you selected at the beginning of the season with the hopes that he will lead your team to the playoffs.
However Option B is a complex situation full of hard decisions and calculated gambles. Option B requires a coaching staff to replace the starting QB with someone on your bench for the remainder of the season. The complex part revolves around why replace the starter, who you do replace the starter with, and when do you finally pull the trigger.
Well in Week 7, six NFL teams have gone the route of Option B and that got my editorial partner, Kristian Winfield, and me to thinking. Which one of these fresh faces will have the better season? The candidates are as followed Charlie Whitehurst (SEA), A.J. Feely (STL), Christian Ponder (MIN), Carson Palmer (OAK), Tim Tebow (DEN), and John Beck (WSH).
It’s almost a loaded question against us because a QB swap is usually only made after a team has had an unproductive 7 weeks. We will admit that there are some exceptions, and injuries sometimes force the hand of a coach. More often than not, the former is the underlying factor in a change at the QB position.
Before we each give you our picks, let’s review why each QB is starting in the first place.
John Beck: John Beck impressed people during the preseason with his picture perfect passes, but because of a single interception thrown, the start was given to Rex Grossman. In five games Grossman might have hauled in 1,132 but it was clear Grossman was driving the Redskins’ offense into the dirt. Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan decided to make a change and Beck was named the new starter.
Carson Palmer: After losing starting QB Jason Campbell for the season because of a broken collarbone, coach Hue Jackson came face to face with his biggest crisis as new head coach, who was going to start at QB. In a surprise move the Raiders traded away multiple draft picks for former “retired” Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer.
A.J. Feely: Feely was the back up on the St. Louis Rams to Sam Bradford. In last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Bradford suffered a high ankle sprain that forced him wear a protective boot during the week. With a 0-5 record and the Rams clearly out of the divisional race there was no need to rush Bradford back, so head coach Steve Spagnuolo handed over the reins to Feely.
Tim Tebow: Late in the season last year Tim Tebow was named the starter on the Denver Broncos after the Broncos’ playoff hopes were dashed. Tebow was supposed to remain the starter this year but due to a coaching change and horrible pre-season play by Tebow, Kyle Orton was given his starting position back.
Under Orton this year, the Broncos went 1-4 and new coach John Fox gave Tim Tebow a chance to reclaim his starting position back. Charlie Whitehurst: Charlie Whitehurst was given the starting position after Tarvaris Jackson injured his pectoral muscle against the Giants.
Whitehurst had been previously named the starter late into the 2011 season, winning a game against the St. Louis Rams that sent the Seahawks to the playoffs. Christian Ponder: After Donovan McNabb’s abysmal 1-5 start for the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Leslie Frazier made a power move, inserting Christian Ponder into the lineup as the starting QB.
Now for what you’ve been waiting for, our “expert” picks.
The Vikings season was going nowhere fast, to put things into perspective, Donovan McNabb played absolutely terrible for the six games as the Vikings starter. In the first game of the season, he only threw for 39 yards—worst among starting QB’s in the NFL for season openers. Through five-and-a-half games, McNabb threw for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
I can name some wide receivers that have more receiving TD’s than McNabb has passing. Either McNabb was going to drag the franchise into the dirt, or a change was going to be made. Enter my pick, the pure passing rookie QB out of Florida State, Christian Ponder.
In their win last week over Carolina, Ponder played very well, considering the situation, throwing for 236 yards and a touchdown, while completing 18-of-28 attempts. And the week before, against the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, Ponder threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s still got a long way to go, but for a rookie that was pretty much dumped into the rotation after six weeks, Ponder is a significant improvement from the lackluster performances of McNabb. Ponder IS NOT the short term solution, but by showing promise and glimpses of greatness, he definitely is the Vikings’ QB of the future.
My pick is the man who can do no wrong, the Christian crusader, the legend himself, Tim Tebow. All of the reasons why I think Tebow will have the better season are not intrinsically football-related. Tebow has the will to win, and has proven that he can win on every level of football. You can’t teach a man how to be winner, that is something you have to be born with, and Tebow has it in spades.
For example take his performance in week 7 against the Miami Dolphins into consideration. Tebow played like absolute crap for 55 minutes of a 60 minute game, but when you have that never-say-die mentality, sometimes five good minutes is all you need. Tebow lead his Denver Broncos to score 15 points in five minutes, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for a two point conversion.
Being down 15 points and subsequently scoring 15 points in the final five minutes of game a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since the merger of the NFL and AFL in 1970. During the Broncos’ improbable comeback, Tebow consistently made big throw after big throw, performing so well that ESPN analyst Skip Bayless compared him to Steve Young.
However if there is one factor that could trump all of Tebow’s intangibles it would be his poor throwing mechanics. This has been the one gripe about Tebow since he entered the NFL last year. His awkward throwing release causes him to be inaccurate and overthrow receivers.
Before the 2010 NFL Draft Tebow worked tirelessly on correcting his throwing motion, when under pressure old habits tend surface and his team suffers. That same awkward delivery was on display during the first 55 minutes of the Dolphins game; Tebow consistently missed open receivers.
The one upside to Tebow’s glaring flaw is that his throwing motion can be fixed, and there are instances where he has shown that, just not on a consistent basis. Only time will tell us which one these six QBs will have the better season. The only that is for certain is that each NFL season is highly unpredictable.
For all we know, both Ponder and Tebow could perform miserably the rest of season, and make our expert picks null and void. If that happens let’s just hope that Toonari Post doesn’t swap us out for some fresh journalistic faces.
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