It's combine week. Indianapolis is once again NFL central. And the only thing outsizzling the steaks at St. Elmo's is the white-hot NFL rumor mill. With almost every NFL head coach and general manager speaking, the QB carousel gossip is hotter than the cocktail sauce at St. Elmo's. Decision makers talk. The rest of us speculate. It's what we do.
And in that spirit, I'm spotlighting nine quarterbacks with a common offseason plight: uncertainty. Each situation is unique, but they all essentially boil down to one question: Will the incumbent QB be his current team's Week 1 starter in September? Let's examine, Schein Nine style!
1) Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
The Brissett era in Indy is over. Owner Jim Irsay spoke this week. As did general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich. And while Reich was more bullish in his backing of Brissett than the other two, I'm not taking the bait. I don't have to be a combination of Ian Rapoport and Sherlock Holmes to know that Brissett will not be the Colts' starting quarterback come Week 1. And he shouldn't be.
I think Jacoby is ... decent. If I had to rank all of the NFL quarterbacks, including those in this year's draft pool, Brissett would fall in the 26-35 range. He's a fringe starter. And yes, he was put in a pretty tough spot last season, taking the reins in the wake of Andrew Luck's shocking retirement. But he just didn't get the job done, especially down the stretch. The Colts sprinted out to a 5-2 start last season, but finished just 7-9 -- a pattern that pretty much mirrored Brissett's worsening play over the course of the season. A midseason MCL sprain obviously didn't help the quarterback, but it seems pretty clear at this point that Colts decision makers question Brissett's long-term viability -- even at full health. Ballard has significantly upgraded this roster over the last few years, but Brissett wasn't able to elevate the team in 2019.
I think Philip Rivers is destined to be a Colt and play behind a good O-line for once. The old Chargers connections with Reich and Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni are huge. This seems like a perfect match. If, for whatever reason, Rivers doesn't relocate to Indy? Derek Carr could be an option. The draft, too. But I definitely expect the 2020 Colts to start someone other than Brissett.
2) Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Every time Bruce Arians speaks, I become more convinced he simply loathes Winston and his knack for throwing passes to the other team. Thirty picks can do that to a coach. There's no reason to bring Winston back. We've seen five years of this quarterback at the NFL level, and at this point, he is what he is: A naturally talented thrower whose wildly erratic play keeps both teams in every game. Jameis will never live up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick -- a pick, by the way, that Arians didn't make.
So, who else could work in Tampa going forward? Carr, Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater would each be a clear upgrade.
3) Tom Brady, New England Patriots
I think there's a realistic chance Brady leaves, but who knows?
What New England offers the soon-to-be 43-year-old is comfort -- comfort in Josh McDaniels' offense, comfort with Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft, comfort in the current surroundings for his family. That said, I think the pull of teams like the Chargers, Titans and Raiders could be real, for a variety of reasons that are unique to each particular situation. And all that aside, does Brady just feel disrespected by the Patriots? Might he want to prove his GOATness by winning in a different jersey? Is Belichick looking to move on at the game's most important position?
For the sake of this exercise, I will say Brady comes back. If he leaves, though, I do think a year of Andy Dalton would make sense for the Pats.
4) Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Oh, hell no: Trubisky simply CANNOT be Chicago's Week 1 starter. I don't care what Ryan Pace is saying in Indy. The Bears GM will get slaughtered if Trubisky is under center in 2020. Pace and Matt Nagy need to check their egos. It's over. They lost. Pace traded up and picked Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. That's devastating. But it's time to take the L and move on. Stop trying to put lipstick on this pig.
Do NOT pick up Trubisky's fifth-year option. Bring in a better quarterback. With Bill Lazor taking over as Chicago's offensive coordinator, Dalton makes sense -- those two spent three years together in Cincy. How about Carr teaming up with his old friend, Khalil Mack? That'd make plenty of football sense, but the salary cap could get in the way.
5) Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
I thought Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson handled the press brilliantly this week. They basically told Tom Brady they wanted him and didn't commit to Tannehill. It's always Brady over Tannehill. It's always Derrick Henry over Tannehill. And then, if you don't get Brady -- and after you re-up Henry -- you see if Tannehill wants to come back on your terms.
To be fair, I thought Tannehill was flat out sensational last season. It was a stunner. But can he do it again? That's the multi-million dollar question. If the Titans can't lure in Brady, re-upping Tannehill on a short-term deal makes sense. And seeing how I deemed that Brady would stay put above, I guess I'll predict the same for Tannehill. He will be Tennessee's starter in Week 1. But the pause from Vrabel and Robinson lets you know that the Titans will (smartly) have a cap on how much they offer the Comeback Player of the Year.
6) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Mike McCarthy was fantastic talking to the press on Wednesday. He rightly called Dak a franchise quarterback you can win a Super Bowl with. It's true. And he preached patience in this, the NFL's business season. He didn't ruffle the feathers of his new quarterback or his new bosses, while making sure Dak knew how much he wants to work with him.
Bottom line: Prescott will be the Cowboys' quarterback in 2020 and beyond. The franchise tag makes no sense to me. Dak has earned his megabucks contract. Get it done.
7) Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
One year ago at this very event in Indy, Mike Mayock called Carr "a franchise quarterback." This year, he stressed how the Raiders will always look to improve at every position. Yep. I sense a change of heart. OK, Mayock also threw in some very praiseworthy words for Carr. But at this moment, I wouldn't advise Carr to invest in Las Vegas property.
Personally, I remain a Carr fan. He can play. And at age 28, he could just be entering his prime. If I were Gruden, I would bring Carr to Sin City. Antonio Brown torpedoed last season before it began. Why not get Carr a few more viable receiving options and see what happens?
That said, you really get the sense that Gruden -- who didn't hold a press conference in Indy -- is antsy to make a change. Personally, I would only consider replacing Carr if Brady wanted to play Vegas. But I think Gruden has made up his mind: He's done with Carr.
8) Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars
On Tuesday, Doug Marrone said there's no timetable on deciding between Minshew and Nick Foles. This was somewhat surprising to me, as I expected Minshew to be Marrone's guy.
Plain and simple, Minshew played better than Foles. And drew national attention to the Jags. So, I'll stick with the gut feeling here: Minshew is Jacksonville's Week 1 starter.
9) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
I see no reason why the Lions should deal Stafford. And apparently, neither does Matt Patricia, who called the trade rumors "comical" Thursday on NFL Network.
Stafford has been a great quarterback in Detroit. And with him coming off of the back injury, why sell low? Why take on a huge hit in dead cap money? It makes no sense. Even if the Lions draft Tua Tagovailoa at No. 3, he very well might need a redshirt season. Detroit could keep Stafford for another year, during which time he could build up serious trade demand by logging a healthy season.