The NFL is more exciting and competitive than ever. Yet, when you delve into a Sunday slate of games these days -- and take a closer look at the prime-time bouts -- one thing stands out pretty quickly: It feels like more teams have quarterback issues than ever before.
And there are some epic catastrophes, some abject failures at the quarterback position 2015. Thus, our crack staff at NFL.com asked me to list the nine biggest quarterback disasters in the league as we speak. For the sake of fairness, we took the rookies out of the mix. (You're welcome, Tampa!)
I didn't include the Pittsburgh Steelers here because Ben Roethlisberger will be back soon. And while Mike Vick doesn't know the playbook and appears dangerously close to retirement, Pittsburgh did lose Bruce Gradkowski to injury in the third game of the preseason. There was an initial backup plan in place. And Ben is a future Hall of Famer and current top-five quarterback by any measuring stick.
So, factoring in play, plan, contracts, current results and a glimpse into the crystal ball, here are the nine worst quarterback situations in the NFL today (with current team records listed parenthetically, as this figure is paramount when discussing the game's most important position):
1) Houston Texans (1-4)
It's all beginning to blend together.
Bill O'Brien is one of the best coaches in the league. He turned Houston around last year and received my vote for Coach of the Year.
Having said that, O'Brien's flip-flopping at QB has doomed Houston. Truthfully, entering this season with Mallett and Hoyer as the team's top two options at QB doomed Houston.
Brian Hoyer is a career backup. If O'Brien was going to have Hoyer, his opening-day starter, on as short a leash as he did, he should've just started Mallett and hoped the inexperienced -- but naturally gifted -- signal caller gained confidence and raised his overall level of play. Mallett is the football equivalent of Nuke LaLoosh, the fictional character from "Bull Durham." Remember what Crash Davis said about the million-dollar arm and five-cent head?
This is the worst quarterback situation in the NFL -- and it's not even close.
O'Brien has reinstalled Hoyer as the starter. It doesn't matter. The team is 1-4. And as we speak, the 2016 starting quarterback isn't anywhere near Houston, Texas.
2) Detroit Lions (0-5)
This is not a drill, people.
Matthew Stafford got benched for Dan Orlovsky, the quarterback who became the poster child of Detroit's 0-16 season back in 2008 when he inexplicably ran out the back of the end zone for a safety.
And the move was a no-brainer.
Stafford's play has been horrific this season. He threw three more picks against Arizona -- giving him a league-high total of eight -- and Jim Caldwell had seen enough.
Three offseasons ago, Stafford signed a $53 million extension that keeps him in Detroit through 2017. Our Albert Breer reported that the deal included $41.5 million guaranteed. On average, Stafford is getting Tony Romo money. Yet, Stafford has never shown the proficiency for the position routinely displayed by his Cowboys counterpart. Stafford has an absolute cannon for an arm ... but rarely makes good decisions and has serious issues protecting the football.
While there are deep problems in Motown -- which begin with certain members of the coaching staff -- quarterback is certainly one of them.
3) San Francisco 49ers (1-4)
Remember when the great Ron Jaworski looked into the camera back in August of 2013 and declared, "Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever"? Remember when Kap played in a Super Bowl and looked fantastic? Remember Jim Harbaugh?
(Good weekend, Jed York? Did you catch the Michigan score? Sorry, I digress ...)
Yes, Kaepernick played better in the fourth quarter during Sunday's loss to the New York Giants, but by and large, the 27-year-old has significantly regressed over the past couple seasons. It's clear in the statistical realm (Kap currently owns the lowest passer rating of his career at 76.8) and it's clear in the eyeball test (how many uncontested throws has he one-hopped this season?).
Now, original reports on Kaepernick's 2014 extension had the quarterback pocketing $61 million in guarantees -- but, as we found out in the days after the deal, the 49erscommitted far less real money to the raw young quarterback. Kaepernick has a $2 million roster bonus in each year of the contract -- which runs through 2020, but allows the team to really operate on a year-to-year basis.
How will the Niners proceed with the position going forward? It'll be interesting to see. One thing we do know is there is no real alternative to Kap on the current roster. Blaine Gabbert? He might be the worst backup in the NFL.
4) Washington Redskins (2-3)
They still have to cut ties with Robert Griffin III at some point. I like a lot of what Kirk Cousins has to offer -- the game-losing pick-six on Sunday wasn't entirely on him, as the receiver fell down -- but his ups and downs are just too extreme for an NFL starter. And Colt McCoy isn't the answer.
Washington has proven to be more competitive than most people anticipated this season, but the franchise still doesn't have a long-term plan at quarterback, which prevents the 'Skins from being taken seriously.
5) Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
Smith got a four-year, $68 million deal (with $45 million in guarantees) just prior to the beginning of last season. Factoring everything in, the pact put Smith in position to make an average of $15.1 million annually through 2018. For a guy with legit limitations in his game (see: downfield passing), this kinda dough just doesn't add up.
6) Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Dallas cracks this list because of the Cowboys' poor preparation. Romo's been an injury problem for a while, with his body breaking down on him in recent years. So why has Dallas continually neglected the backup quarterback position? Weeden is in the Gabbert class of reserve QBs. That is not a compliment.
CBS' Tracy Wolfson asked Jason Garrett a great question at the halftime on Sunday, asking if we'd see Matt Cassel after the break. Garrett gave the wrong answer -- NO! -- and stuck with Weeden, who finished the game with some highly underwhelming numbers, including an average of 4.8 yards per attempt.
Weeden's play is bad. Banking on him was worse. It's time for the Cowboys to at least try out Cassel, who is a pro's pro. Neglecting the backup QB position could end up costing Dallas a spot in the playoffs.
7) Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)
Sam Bradford threw two end-zone interceptions in the first 16 minutes of the game, giving him a third multi-pick game in five weeks with Philly. To his credit, Bradford settled down and guided the Eagles to a needed win over the Saints. I still think Philly is going to win the underwhelming NFC East. But Bradford, who certainly hasn't lived up to the hype generated in August, and Chip Kelly aren't out of the woods quite yet.
8) St. Louis Rams (2-3)
All in all, we're currently looking at career lows in completion percentage (57.4) and passer rating (77.6). Just not good enough.
9) Chicago Bears (2-3)
But when you factor in Cutler's gargantuan contract -- a seven-year deal worth a total of $126 million (with $54 million guaranteed) that was consummated in January of 2014 -- the bloom immediately vacates the rose. And when Jimmy Clausen's your No. 2 ... yeah, the backup plan isn't too inspiring.