The final four quarterbacks left in the NFL playoffs have a clear line dividing them: those that have won a Super Bowl and those who haven’t. For the two that haven’t, Alex Smith and Joe Flacco, each has taken their fair share of criticism. Some is warranted and some of it is not. Obviously we can’t compare these two players to either Tom Brady or Eli Manning. There just isn’t a non-Skip Bayless-like take that would actually make sense. Since we need a third quarterback to add to the mix we thought that we’d keep this somewhat relevant and toss in former New England Patriot Matt Cassel. At times all three of these quarterbacks have showed promise, other times they’ve looked like Jake Delhomme. So which non fantasy football starter would you want and for how long?
I would draft Matt Cassel, resign Joe Flacco, and cut Alex Smith.
The logic behind cutting Alex Smith is a pretty simple one. Like Tim Tebow, he is limited in his skill set. This year the 49ers struggled to find the end zone (which is evident by David Akers monster year) and despite playing all 16 games Smith only threw 17 TD’s (which ranked 17th and behind rookie Andy Dalton). His 5 interceptions were very impressive but he was called upon to be a game manager and throw short passes. He definitely succeeded in doing that and it’s evident by the 49ers record and success in the playoffs. Smith could be a late bloomer and being under the wing of Jim Harbaugh could be just the thing that Smith needs to succeed. However, how many other quarterbacks could have done what Alex Smith did this year if put in the same situation? I’m going to say about 95% of them (not Curt Paint or Sexy Rexy). Game management makes me think of Trent Dilfer the year the Ravens won the Super Bowl and that doesn’t impress me at all. That’s why I’m cutting Alex Smith.
There’s no way of knowing how Matt Cassel would have played in New England had Tom Brady got injured during his rookie year instead of in Cassel’s fourth year. Cassel wasn’t expected to do much when he was drafted in the 7th round and it’s hard to imagine him stepping in and leading a game winning drive in the fourth quarter on the road with limited college or pro experience. The first year that Cassel played he was successful (10-5 record, 3600+ yards, 21 TD’s, 11 INT’s) and he has to get some credit for that. Ya the Patriots offensive system was ridiculous the year before, but that doesn’t mean that any player can just get inserted into a system and succeed. Take a look at the 2010 Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner had just led the same Cardinals team to a Super Bowl and the Divisional playoffs the previous two years throwing for over 4000 yards each season. Derrick Anderson steps in the year Warner retires and promptly lays a turd sandwich as the Cardinals go 5-11 and he throws for barely over 2000 yards. Just saying, an offensive system doesn’t guaranteed success and if anything Anderson had much more experience than Cassel did so I would have expected him to play better. Unlike Alex Smith, Matt Cassel has actually put together two very good seasons. Each time his team went 10-5 and he threw for over 3100 yards and 21 TD’s. More impressively Cassel kept his turnovers down both years as he was +10 and +20 on TD’s to INT’s. This shows that Cassel can air the ball and not turn the ball over a ton. Cassel does have one and a half seasons where his turnovers were much higher and his teams record was more like that of the Cleveland Browns so he’s not totally immune from laying an egg. However, I believe more in the upside of Matt Cassel than I do Alex Smith. Smith hasn’t shown me anything whereas Cassel has. That’s why I’ll draft Matt Cassel and enjoy a year or two of flirting with the playoffs.
No one seems to like Joe Flacco and I think it’s a bit unfounded (that’s saying something because I’m a Steelers fan). Just because he was a first round pick doesn’t mean that he needs to be the next Peyton Manning. Joe Flacco has started every game of his NFL career. That’s right, he got thrown to the wolves right away and unlike Alex Smith who was a dumpster fire in his first five seasons, Flacco was actually more than serviceable. For his career he sports a 44-20 record and every year has thrown for more TD’s than INT’s. In case you were wondering, Matt Ryan, who was drafted third overall and ahead of Flacco, has a 43-19 record as a starter. Lets take this one step further. Here’s what Flacco and Ryan’s stats look like over their first four seasons:
Matt Ryan: 14,238 passing yards, 95 TD’s, 46 INT’s
Joe Flacco: 13,816 passing yards, 80 TD’s, 46 INT’s
Matty Ice, who many think of as a top notch quarterback, has never won a playoff game (he is 0-3). Joe Flacco is 5-3 including 4 of those on the road. I don’t want to hear that Flacco has had a better team around him. Two seasons ago the Atlanta Falcons were the number one seed in the NFC with home field advantage throughout the playoffs and lost. So why is it that everyone wants to dump on Joe Flacco so much? Ya he doesn’t have a 4000 yard season and he has never thrown for more than 25 TD’s but if you had Ray Rice as your starting running back would you be throwing the ball 40 times a game? I think not. Flacco is what many quarterbacks are not…consistent. He has thrown for 3613, 3622, and 3610 yards each of the last three seasons and was at least +8 in TD’s to INT’s each year. Sure it would be nice to see him get those TD’s up to 30 per season but is it necessary? No. The Ravens won the AFC North this year and were the number two seed. Flacco gives the Ravens more than a chance to win and isn’t someone who is just throwing 5 yard passes. Because of this we’ll resign Joe Flacco and enjoy our yearly quest to the playoffs.