Quarterback Carousel Continues to Spin

What a whirl it has been already on the quarterback carousel in the NFL. We got a really early taste this year before the season even began when Geno Smith had his jaw broken by a teammate in the locker room. That thrust Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting role and the Jets have opened their season 2-0.

Drew_BreesWeek 2 dealt some serious blows to the stability of the quarterback position across the league. Drew Brees played all of Sunday’s game against the Bucs but he may miss next week with a bruised rotator cuff. That would place journeyman Luke McCown into game action for the first time since November of 2011. That isn’t exactly reassuring for the Saints but Verizon has to be thrilled. Believe it or not this actually affects Mark Ingram more than anyone else. The former Heisman winner has never had the chance to be a feature back in an offense but if Brees cannot play or is limited, the focus quickly shift to him to deliver. And he will need to deliver fast because the Saints are 0-2. Panic Level: Moderate

Jay_CutlerIn the Windy City, the Bears are already in free fall and Jimmy Clausen is set to retake the starting role, if only temporarily. Jay Cutler has a hamstring injury that Chicago has said will keep him out at least two weeks. Clausen filled in for Cutler last year after the latter got benched. He was passable, tossing two touchdowns but also throwing a pick. The more concerning thing is that he actually sustained an injury in that game last year, forcing Cutler back into the lineup. If Clausen were to go down, Chicago would really be in trouble then. The last quarterback on the roster is youngster David Fales from San Jose State. If he has to start for the Bears, this team will be in full scale crisis mode. Panic Level: Low (they can’t be much worse).

Tony_RomoDallas ended up taking the brunt of the pain from the losses this week. Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone, which will keep him out for the next eight weeks. The Cowboys have already begun handling his loss. They placed Romo on the short-term IR and traded for veteran Matt Cassell as a reserve option if now-starter Branden Weeden struggles or suffers an injury himself. Neither quarterback is much good but they are both serviceable, which is the best Dallas could hope for as they try to ride out the storm. Despite losing Romo, the Cowboys could still hold the division lead when he comes back based on how poorly the rest of the division has played. However, with Dez Bryant also out for probably a similar time frame, things in Big D are shaky. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the panic that should be surrounding this team. Panic Level: High

Johnny Manziel

I am starting to wonder if the Browns are afraid of success. After nearly reaching .500 last season, Cleveland made a number of questionable veteran acquisitions, including Josh McCown. They needed a quarterback for sure but not many pegged McCown as their savior. McCown entered the season as the starter but a nasty hit in the season opener left him with a concussion. In stepped the polarizing Johnny Manziel. He was far from perfect or even polished but he was productive. Posting to three touchdowns to just one interception in roughly seven quarters of relief work isn’t bad. The four fumbles are definitely concerning but Manziel has regularly kept plays alive and made something out of nothing. He isn’t throwing for a ton of yards but his is picking up a lot of yards when he does throw. He has been electric and exciting, something Cleveland has not had in a while, but the Browns maintain that once McCown is healthy, he will get his job back. I know I initially advocated against it, but after two weeks, I would like to see some more Johnny Football. They won too in Week 2, which is definitely a positive. A game against the Raiders could be winnable as well and would be a really good test for the young Manziel. Cleveland fans should actually start to panic if their original starter is in fact healthy, oddly enough. Panic Level: Moderate

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What if Brees had landed in Miami?

If you follow football, you’ve heard of Nick Saban. You’ve probably also heard of Drew Brees. These two have been wildly successful at what they do. Saban has coached Alabama to three National Titles in four years and Brees has both a Super Bowl trophy and the record for most consecutive games with a passing touchdown. These two have been very successful in their own right, but they could have been very successful together.

Nick Saban2006. Way back before either of them had had any of their major triumphs, Nick Saban was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Drew Brees was a young quarterback on the San Diego Chargers. Neither one had anything to do with each other. Saban was fresh from his days of coaching LSU and made the move to Miami. Brees was dealing with a career-threatening shoulder injury that had caused the Chargers to let him walk into free agency. The two nearly crossed paths, and we are going to discuss what might have happened if they had.

The Dolphins were searching for a starting quarterback during the 2006 offseason. Gus Ferrotte had been the Dolphins starter under center the year before but was not convincing by any means. Brees was a free agent and the Dolphins were in contract talks with him. Miami ended up ending negotiations when they traded for Dante Culpepper and Brees signed with New Orleans. But what if the Dolphins had signed Brees?

Brees had turned the Saints from a doormat to a playoff team in just one year. The Dolphins were already a pretty solid team and the addition of Brees would have put them over the top. Brees’ receivers would have been Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, and Randy McMichael, with Ronnie Brown in the backfield as well. Before you know it, the Phins would have had an offense that scared people. Brees would have had Andre Whitworth to protect his backside when Miami used their second round pick on him instead of trading it to the Vikings for Culpepper.

Drew_BreesInstead of faltering down the stretch, the Dolphins make a huge push toward the postseason in 2006, making it as a wildcard. As a result, Saban never jumps ship for Alabama and stays in South Beach. The Dolphins would be preparing for a stellar season in 2007.

Meanwhile, down in the Bayou, the Saints never end up with a quarterback, which means they select Vince Young in the 2006 draft. Young has a nice year for New Orleans as a rookie but fails to get much else going. After another year or two of poor play from the Saints, the team packs up and heads to Los Angeles. 

2007 comes and goes and the Patriots dominate the league going 16-0 again. Rather than suffer through a 1-15 season with Cleo Lemon at the helm, Brees guides the Phins to yet another wildcard berth. The defense is rock solid behind the play of Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder and Joey Porter. After the emergence of bench player Wes Welker with the gun slingin’ Brees at quarterback, Miami has no need for Tedd Ginn Jr. and opts to bolster their offensive line instead drafting Ben Grubbs.

In a storybook tale, Brees matches up with his former team, the Chargers and delivers a shocking win. Miami followed that up with an upset of the Peyton Manning led Colts, leading to a matchup with the rival Patriots. Miami is simply outmatched in that game, and falls in the AFC championship. The Dolphins get some satisfaction though as New England still loses in the Super Bowl as Tom Brady can’t seem to find enough offense with Welker on the field.

Instead, Welker and Brees are tearing apart the league, and in 2008 when Brady goes down for the season with a major knee injury, the Dolphins have their chance. The Dolphins rule the AFC and roll to a number one seed. Instead of Chad Pennington throwing four interceptions to end the Dolphins’ hopes in the wildcard round, Brees catches fire and the Dolphins look destined for glory.

Miami beats up the outmatched Steelers in the AFC title game and heads on to the Super Bowl played in nearby Tampa Bay. The Dolphins win a shootout with the Cardinals and Brees wins his first Super Bowl a year earlier than he would have in New Orleans.

The Dolphins go on to compete with the Patriots as the top team in the AFC, and the Brees vs. Brady matchup becomes a biannual classic. Saban goes down as a great NFL coach, instead of a quitter. Alabama never turns into a football factory and the Saints live out their days competing with the Raiders to avoid being the worst team in California.

There are some other interesting nuggets that would happen in this scenario. Brees would still go on to break the single season passing record, eclipsing Dan Marino, this time in a Dolphins uniform. However, unlike Marino, Brees would have a ring, which would probably hold weight for the conversation of greatest quarterback to don a Miami uniform.

Just think, all of this could have happened, if only the Dolphins had decided to sign Drew Brees in the summer of 2006.