NFL

These QB situations are ripe for controversy

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John Czarnecki

John Czarnecki has been the editorial consultant for "FOX NFL Sunday" since its 1994 inception. This season marks Czarnecki's 32nd year covering the NFL. He is one of 44 selectors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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It is simply human nature to choose sides, pick a favorite, so to speak, whenever a quarterback controversy flares up. However, every head coach prefers a leader, one quarterback to stand out, to break from the pack. Such perfect scenarios rarely exist unless you work in New England or Indianapolis or Pittsburgh, where there is no doubt who the quarterback will be even in the worst of times.
Coaches are currently enjoying their final week of vacation prior to the opening of training camps later this month, but there is danger right around the corner in several NFL hot spots. Some franchises through the years have been able to succeed while coping with quarterback controversies — the Rams, especially in Los Angeles, and the Redskins come to mind. Heck, the late Tom Landry actually rotated Roger Staubach and Craig Morton in the same Cowboy games for much of a season. However, such approaches generally backfire, leaving those in the locker room wondering what hit them. There are five teams with major quarterback situations that sure have that combustible look this summer: Minnesota, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Buffalo. I wanted to add the Lions, but they start so far off the NFL radar after being 0-16 last season that choosing between a rookie, Matthew Stafford, or Daunte Culpepper, a former Pro Bowler who has lost 30 pounds and talks about reclaiming past glories, isn't that compelling. Let's see the Lions win some games first! The best place to start is Minnesota where coach Brad Childress has unhitched his wagon from Tarvaris Jackson, who was supposed to be the next Donovan McNabb, in favor of Brett Favre, who turns 40 in October. This entire episode was supposed to happen last summer, but the Packers got wise and traded Favre to the Jets instead, fearing the Vikings would win the NFC North. Well, they did, but with Gus "No Longer with Us" Frerotte and Jackson and leading man Adrian Peterson. There is no question that Favre knows this offense, especially one run by good buddy Darrell Bevell, maybe the only offensive assistant he liked on Mike Sherman's staff. If Favre's right arm is fine once again (remember, he was 8-3 with the Jets and every New Yorker was talking Super Bowl), the Vikings might have something cooking. But if Favre fails to show up in Mankato for camp, or if his body once again betrays him, this whole scenario could blow up this team and Childress with it. Yes, Favre is dying to hand off to Peterson, knowing how much a stud running back will make his play-action passes such sure completions. A great runner is every quarterback's dream. But what if No. 4 fails to deliver? It could be a bloody mess, considering the millions spent on backup Sage Rosenfels and the time spent on developing Jackson, who played his best football last December. Prediction: Favre fails but T-Jack bails out Childress. Jon Gruden was one of the game's best offensive minds and his arrival in Tampa Bay gave that defensive-minded organization its lone Super Bowl victory. But Gruden could never produce a quarterback for the future and now the Bucs, led by 33-year-old rookie head coach Raheem Morris, have fostered a true quarterback controversy. Morris has embraced the entire deal, referring to it as a "national quarterback situation," knowing that TV talking heads can't get enough of what's happening in Tampa. Heck, the Bucs recently dumped Brian Griese, a Gruden favorite, in a numbers crunch. Morris fell in love with quarterback Josh Freeman when he coached at Kansas State in 2006 and that's why he took him in the first round. Freeman was supposed to be a developmental guy this season, but he has performed so well in mini camps that the Bucs' brain trust (Morris, GM Mark Dominik and Doug Williams) want to revisit Freeman's status early in camp. Luke McCown was supposed to be the starter ($7.5 million over two years) and Byron Leftwich the backup. But everyone knows that ex-Giant Derrick Ward will be featured and new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski wants to run. Prediction: McCown starts, but Freeman is playing by October with Kellen Winslow helping him succeed. Fans may have been surprised that Buffalo made the list, but it's because of all the pressure on Trent Edwards. This is what happens when you sign Terrell Owens and take the heat off a very good receiver in Lee Evans. The fans in upstate New York now expect to win while forgetting that Edwards lost his blindside protector in Jason Peters and will be minus all-purpose back Marshawn Lynch for the first three games of the season. That's a recipe for failure for a third-year quarterback earning just $460,000 and wanting a new deal with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick earning a whole lot more. Back in 2002, the Bills had two 1,200-yard receivers in Peerless Price and Eric Moulds, but they had a proven gunslinger in Drew Bledsoe at the controls. Yes, Fred Jackson might be able to replace Lynch in September, but won't Edwards be running for his life on Sundays? Prediction: Edwards survives, but T.O. doesn't make Buffalo a winner. The worst news to come out of Oakland this month was confident Jeff Garcia talking about being the Raiders' starter this season. This was the last thing that Al Davis wanted to hear from Garcia, considering Al's reputation is at stake with JaMarcus Russell. What's worse is that Garcia may be right and, if that happens, Russell could go into the tank. For his entire career, Russell's work habits and lack of production have been questioned. Lane Kiffin wanted McCown, remember? Garcia, 39, will out-work and out-study Russell; he's a consummate pro. But on the flip side, Garcia can't stay healthy for a full season and he was ducking the pressure, both real and imagined, last year with the Bucs. Plus, his style of playing — running around in the pocket — is just the opposite of Russell's. Prediction: Russell starts the season, but Garcia never shuts up! With the Indians out of the pennant race, Cleveland fans have their hearts set on a daily training-camp battle between Brady "The Hometown Kid" Quinn vs. Derek Anderson, who actually had the Browns a game away from the playoffs in 2007. This could be the most bizarre battle of the summer when considering new coach Eric Mangini was attempting to trade Quinn -- there were no serious takers -- in the off-season. What compounds this competition is that Anderson, who possesses a stronger arm, has never been the greatest of practice quarterbacks. He's a so-called gamer, going 10-5 in 2007. Quinn was 1-2 last season before being injured. This entire competition could backfire on Mangini and first-year offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was Brett Favre's quarterback coach last season with the Jets. While sharing the practice snaps, neither Anderson, the favorite, nor Quinn will get enough work to make the Browns a winner this season. Prediction: Anderson implodes and Quinn starts opening day.
Tagged: Bills, Bears, Browns, Lions, Packers, Raiders, Vikings, Jets, Eagles, Buccaneers, Redskins, Brian Griese, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, Sage Rosenfels, Adrian Peterson, Byron Leftwich, Kellen Winslow, Lee Evans, Derrick Ward, Luke McCown, Jason Peters, Derek Anderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson, Fred Jackson, Trent Edwards, JaMarcus Russell, Marshawn Lynch, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman

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