Several 2011 starting quarterbacks will enter next season with a tenuous grip on their job. Which incumbent starter will have the shortest leash in 2012?
It's simply too juicy not to suspect it would be Mark Sanchez in New York, with Tim Tebow staring over his shoulder. However, I'd have to say Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson is in the most danger (if he beats out Matt Flynn for the starting job in the first place). The Seahawks could have a very good team in a division that is winnable, but is far tougher today than at this time last season. Seattle will be a run-based team behind Marshawn Lynch, so the quarterback won't face that much pressure.
If Jackson can't handle what's being asked of him come game time -- especially since he's more familiar with the system and because he's had 34 NFL starts, 32 more than Flynn -- Flynn will get his shot. Coach Pete Carroll isn't going to wait too long, knowing he's finally got most of the pieces in place and simply needs adequate quarterback play to become a playoff contender.
Mark Sanchez will feel the most media scrutiny of any quarterback trying to hold on to his job. Blaine Gabbert must improve fast to keep his gig, too. But the shortest leash in 2012 resides in Tennessee.
Matt Hasselbeck might have almost no control when it comes to keeping his job. Jake Locker is the Titans' future at the position, and he showed last year in limited work that the future is nearly here. Locker could take the job before Hasselbeck even starts another game.
Tarvaris Jackson was a nice bridge QB for Seattle. I'm a fan of his and believe he is a top-rated backup and you can win some games with him. ... But Matt Flynn wasn't signed to roam the sidelines. Flynn is familiar with this kind of system and I fully expect him to beat out Jackson in camp.
I chose to overlook Rex Grossman in this discussion, because it's obvious Robert Griffin III is going to play right away in Washington. If Miami is able to select Ryan Tannehill, then it's even more likely Matt Moore is going to be pushed. (David Garrard will already do that some, and he could play early on as well.) Blaine Gabbert won't have a long leash, but unlike a few of these other scenarios, I can't see him not getting at least a good six weeks or so.
This is easy: Rex Grossman of the Redskins. Washington clearly made getting a quarterback a priority in the offseason, trading a bevy of draft picks to St. Louis for the rights to the No. 2 overall pick, and presumably Robert Griffin III. Also, with Kyle Shanahan visiting RG3 multiple times this spring, it appears the 'Skins will do everything they can to get the young quarterback ready to play as early as possible.
Other nominees are: Miami's Matt Moore, Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson, Arizona's Kevin Kolb and Tennessee's Matt Hasselbeck.
Kevin Kolb is supposed to be the starter in Arizona, at least that's what the $7 million roster bonus he recently received would suggest. And his season ended not because of John Skelton, but because of concussion symptoms that lingered for weeks.
Yet, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has made it known that Skelton will get a chance to compete. Not to mention, the team really rallied behind him over the back stretch of the season. Despite a sub-70 passer rating, Skelton went 6-2 in games he played in with seven of those being starts.
If Kolb holds on throughout training camp and preseason, he still will have about a two-week leash if he gets out of the gate poorly.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Tebow is best backup QB in league, so Sanchez must produce early for Jets
Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one. Jets fans will scream for Tim Tebow after Mark Sanchez's first incomplete pass in training camp. How many pick-sixes will it take for Rex Ryan to announce the Jets are going to a true "ground and pound" with Tebow? Ryan has desired that identity forever (which is why it's baffling that he never upgraded the RB position to suit that), and he'll have a much shorter leash on Sanchez in 2012. But the reason the answer is the Jets is simpler than Tebowmania. He's the best backup QB in the league, and it's always easier to turn over that position to a very capable player.
The only other situation that's even close is in Kansas City. Matt Cassel is looking over his shoulder at Brady Quinn, but Quinn's never been able to prove he can get it done. He's there as injury insurance. Other teams like Tennessee and Jacksonville are going into camp with a true battle for the top spot, while we have to wait and see what the Browns and Dolphins do in the draft to see if they bring in any competition for their incumbents.
Troy Aikman recently said Tony Romo was a better quarterback than he ever was, which smacked of the same sincerity of a father telling his little leaguer he's much better than the rest of the boys. (Or at least I imagine it smacking of the same sincerity, because my parents were always quick to point out that Darryl Kile was a much better player than me.)
But the point is: Romo is on a short leash. (And I'm talking about quarterbacks who matter -- sorry Mark Sanchez, Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassel.) Is Romo going to be benched in favor of Kyle Orton this season? No way. But Romo is not going to be the quarterback of the Cowboys next season if the team fails to reach the playoffs again.
So if you want to talk about the quarterback with the most to lose, it's easily Romo.
Is there really any answer other than Mark Sanchez? I mean, sure, we could discuss the fact that Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Hasselbeck might not be long for their respective starting gigs, but ... Tebow!
Rex Ryan and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano may only intend to spell Mark Sanchez in short-yardage situations -- for now ... -- but ask Kyle Orton whether or not the fans' incessant cheers, chants and pleas for Tebow affected his play in 2011. The only way Sanchez won't be subjected to the same sort of noise is if he's consistently terrific all season. In other words, Sanchez is doomed.