By Zack Cimini
All across the country there are players vying just to play on special teams. While they?re battling, there are also the intriguing battles at quarterback going on. Every year NFL coaches squash any media hype of an on going battle between quarterbacks. The coach always tries to play it smooth, but deep down you know that the coach is under tremendous pressure. By putting in one quarterback over the other, it could end up costing the team an extra few games that would?ve made them a playoff team.
That?s why a coach will almost wait until the final week of preseason football to name his starting quarterback. Nowadays it is great to have competitions, because it keeps a quarterback on his heels at all times. He knows if he has a bad game or two that the coach will yank him out of the game in a heartbeat. Another reason why there are so many battles, is because of injuries. Almost every team faces the obstacle of having to use its backup for a game or two because of the starter going down. The coach wants to know at all times that the backup is capable of coming in, and still keep his team on a high playing level. That?s why each and every year more and more teams are paying extra money on signing a quality backup quarterback.
So as training camp starts, here is a breakdown of the top five quarterback battles.
1. Kurt Warner vs. Eli Manning, NYG
This battle has to be the biggest of any team. In Warner you have a quarterback that a few years ago every NFL team wanted him. But a couple of horrible seasons resulted in Warner being benched over a quarterback that couldn?t even throw more touchdowns than interceptions. It seemed that Warner was shaken in the pocket from all of the hard hits and concussions he had received. Every time he stepped back in the pocket he looked like an immobile old Dan Marino, without the decisiveness that Marino had. That resulted in fumbles after fumbles and horrible throws. The two-time MVP was left to keep his mouth shut and listen to his wife demand a trade. When he was finally released, shockingly few teams were interested. The Giants though took a gamble because they knew all along that they were going to draft Eli Manning.
Manning landed to the team that he wanted to be on, and also received one of the biggest contracts a rookie has ever received. It?s hard to believe though that he is going to be an impact player in his first year. A lot of NFL analysts have questioned his ability, but you know he is going to be a great one just because of his roots. Warner may have something to prove, and should be able to start the season as the Giants starter. The receivers the Giants possess are some of the best in the league, and should give Warner flashbacks of Holt and Bruce. In all reality though, if the Giants aren?t a playoff team by the end of the season than Warner won?t be a Giant next year.
2. Vinny Testaverde and Drew Henson, Dallas
No one knows why Dallas released Quincy Carter, but it had to have been something very serious. The Cowboys were planning on developing Carter even more, and it looked as if Carter was ready to handle the responsibility. Now he?ll probably fall off just like other great talents, and try to earn his way back in the NFL by being a backup somewhere. Out of Henson and Testaverde, it is going to be hard for either to finish the year as the Cowboys quarterback. Henson hasn?t played football since his days at Michigan, and likely won?t be ready to be an NFL quarterback for another year or two. Testaverde on the other hand is just getting up there in age. With the intensity that linebackers and defensive line?s play with every week, it is going to be extremely hard for Testaverde to handle hits every Sunday. The media can say whatever they want about Bill Parcell?s offense is based on Testaverde throwing the short pass, but the fact is Testaverde is 40 years old. We all saw how Testaverde?s skills have diminished when he started at 38 (lost job) and 39 (Pennington hurt in preseason).
Parcells obviously must have a trick up his sleeve, or is ready to sign a free agent.
3. Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey, Washington
This is a very tough battle, because both quarterbacks are very talented. In this case it isn?t an old faded out veteran versus a youngster. Brunell is a veteran that has a good two to three years left in him, and could take this team to another level. Ramsey on the other hand probably is years above anyone for his age. He had to learn so much last year because of how quick he was forced to release the ball because of tremendous pressure. He showed on and off last season that he is going to be a great one, once he gets in a balanced offense. He?ll have that this year with Clinton Portis as the new running back, and the same set of talented receivers.
It might be better off for Ramsey to rest a season, and learn from Brunell. Quietly, Brunell has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks over the last eight to ten years. In fact out of all starters in the NFL, he is probably the longest going quarterback as starter behind Bledsoe and Favre. The key for Brunell is he learned to use his field smarts after his serious injury reduced his mobility. That?s what Gibbs loves, and Brunell is fit perfect to run this offense.
4. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, San Diego
The Chargers gave Drew Brees a couple of seasons of opportunity and wasn?t able to do anything with it. By drafting Philip Rivers the Chargers are sending a message to Brees that this is his last opportunity. You can?t waste one of the best running backs in the league?s talents, by not having a solid quarterback. It appeared Brees was going to be a great player when he was able to hold off Doug Flutie for the job. But he has never been able to get over rookie mistakes, and settle down in the pocket.
By Rivers continuing to hold out it weighs more and more on Brees side as being a starter on opening day. It?s going to take an impeccable start to the season for Brees to be the starter the whole season. With the division and talent the Chargers have, we find that impossible to happen.
5. Jay Fiedler and AJ Feeley, Miami
Word out of Miami is that Jay Fiedler is winning the battle by a long stretch. It?s a wonder why Miami went after Feeley in the first place. All he did was win a few games when McNabb was out, but Miami found it enough to trade for him. Surprisingly Fiedler is going for his fifth straight year as Miami?s starter, and has been able to handle the responsibility since Marino retired. Being without Ricky Williams is going to add extra weight to Fiedler?s shoulders. No longer will Miami be able to run it thirty times a game, and have Fiedler only throw twenty passes.
That style of play is for a rookie or an inexperienced quarterback. Fielder is a veteran now, and needs to be able to handle the duty of being an every down quarterback. He now has David Boston to go a long with Chambers, and he still has Randy McMichael. One thing that Dave Wannstedt loves about Fiedler is he knows how to win games. He just needs to learn how to stay healthy for a whole season, because Miami has had unfortunate success with its backup quarterbacks.
This could be the last year for Miami to try to make a run. It could be already over without Williams this year. If things don?t fare well for Miami than you will likely see a whole new nucleus of players and coaches on this team next year.