The Collegian
Thursday, February 22, 2024

Calling all quarterbacks

It happened during "Remember the Titans." It happened during the "Friday Night Lights" pilot. And now, it's happening to NFL teams across the country.

Back-up quarterbacks, and back-up back-up quarterbacks, are shedding the headphones and clipboards and actually getting some use out of their helmets. Whether it's due to injury, trades or not living up to their potential, many of the starting quarterbacks you know and love aren't starting anymore ... at least not for the same team.

As a general rule, the quarterback is the team leader and the one whose name comes up first when you're talking about any given team. It's not a coincidence that six of the past 10 Super Bowl MVP awards belong to quarterbacks.

But two weeks into the season, very few teams have confidence in one starting quarterback. The biggest blow of all is to the New England Patriots, whose 2007 NFL MVP Tom Brady is probably done for the season with a torn ACL.

The next man up is Matt Cassel, who started a game for the first time since high school during the Patriots' week-two win against the New York Jets. Some have brought up the fact that Tom Brady won his starting spot in a similar fashion, when Drew Bledsoe was injured at the start of the 2001 season.

According to Lynn Zinser's article last week in The New York Times, Belichick thought those people were "comparing apples to grapefruits," but "Belichick did not say whether Cassel was the apple or the grapefruit."

Though the Patriots' loss of Brady may be the change you'll hear most about, they are far from the only team making quarterback changes this season. Here is a look at some of the other teams making changes at the quarterback position.

Green Bay Packers: Maybe you've heard ... Brett Favre is no longer a Green Bay Packer. When he decided to renege on his retirement, the Packers chose to stick with Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback.

New York Jets: Last year, the Jets were 4-12 and the New York Giants won the Super Bowl ... you'd think everyone in New York would be talking about the Giants during the off-season. But then the Green Bay Packers traded Brett Favre to the Jets. Unless you've been living in a cave for the last few months, I'm pretty sure you've heard the rest.

Miami Dolphins: After a 1-15 season last year, the Dolphins seized the chance to bring in Chad Pennington as their starting quarterback after the Jets dropped him in favor of Brett Favre.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning's injured knee kept him sidelined during the preseason, but he did return to the starting lineup during the season-opening loss to the Chicago Bears. Back-up Jim Sorgi is the go-to guy if Manning's knee doesn't heal quickly enough, but the Colts were 1-4 during the preseason with him as quarterback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jeff Garcia suffered a number of injuries during the off-season and the latest is his ankle, injured during the team's 24-20 loss against the New Orleans Saints during week one. His injuries combined with the team's loss resulted in coach Jon Gruden's decision to start Brian Griese at quarterback for the team's second game, a 24-9 win against the Atlanta Falcons.

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Tennessee Titans: Because of injuries and reports that he was suicidal, Vince Young is no longer the Titans' starting quarterback. That job went to Kerry Collins, who led the team to a 24-7 win against the Cincinnati Bengals; Young was listed as an inactive third quarterback and didn't travel to Cincinnati last week.

Atlanta Falcons: Ever since Michael Vick's arrest, the Atlanta Falcons have been in need of a starting quarterback. Which is how just months after his graduation from Boston College, Matt Ryan is already a starting NFL quarterback. If that doesn't work out, Chris Redman, who started four games last season for the Falcons, would most likely take Ryan's spot.

Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Boller was once again going to have to fight to keep his starting spot, but a torn labrum most likely ended his season before the Ravens even played their first regular-season game. With Troy Smith's tonsil infection keeping him out of the first two games, rookie Joe Flacco has the starting spot by default.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith, who was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, has an injured right shoulder and is playing behind J.T. O'Sullivan, who has started both games for the 49ers this season.

Kansas City Chiefs: Brodie Croyle has a separated shoulder, which could end up keeping him out for four weeks. Damon Huard, who started 10 games to Croyle's six last season, started the first two games, but both wide receiver Marques Hagans and backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen played during Kansas City's 23-8 loss to Oakland last weekend when Huard suffered a head injury during the first quarter.

Arizona Cardinals: Leading the Cardinals to a 2-0 record, 37-year-old Kurt Warner has started in place of 25-year-old Matt Leinart, who missed the majority of the 2007 season with an injured collarbone.

Chicago Bears: Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton both signed one-year contracts for the Bears and were competing for the starting spot during training camp - so far, Orton has it.

Buffalo Bills: J.P. Losman, the Bills' on-again, off-again starter, seems to be off for now. Trent Edwards, now in his second year in the NFL, has led the Bills to wins against Seattle and Jacksonville.

Oakland Raiders: After Daunte Culpepper's retirement, coach Lane Kiffin chose JaMarcus Russell to replace him as starting quarterback. Russell started just one game during his rookie season last year and had a somewhat shaky start against Denver, but he and the Raiders played much better during their 23-8 win against Kansas City.

That's 15 of 32 NFL teams making significant changes this season at quarterback. This doesn't have to be a bad thing -- after all, Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass and Matt Saracen were back-up quarterbacks before they led the T.C. Williams Titans and the Dillon Panthers to state championships after injuries to Jerry "The Rev" Harris and Jason Street.

But those were high school teams, and only one of them is a true story. These are NFL teams, and though Tom Brady has led the Patriots to three Super Bowls since moving from back-up to starter, not everyone will have that same level of success.

All these changes are a lot to handle, particularly for such a high-profile position. I don't know about you, but I have a lot of questions as the season gets underway.

Who are the apples? Who are the grapefruits? Is it better to be an apple, or a grapefruit? Isn't the expression "apples and oranges"? Keep watching on Sundays and Mondays to find out.

Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at

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