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2023 NFL QB Stock Report: NFC South Teams in State of Flux

Former league MVP Rich Gannon breaks down the quarterback situations of every NFL team. This is the first of eight divisional breakdowns.

In the NFL, the search for that elite quarterback never ends. If you have one, life is great. And if you don’t, you quickly better find one — or soon enough you will be a coaching volunteer at the local high school. 

That is the reality of our profession. Teams are not getting rid of coaches when the quarterback play is stellar.

The process of finding the right quarterback includes identifying the player, recruiting and/or drafting the player, and once the player is in the program, developing the player. Few organizations do that well, and that is why we have this coaching carousel each year. 

Everyone is looking for their own Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Joe Burrow.

Here’s a look at the NFC West, with three tiers for the quarterback situation: top level, middle and bottom level. Within those tiers, some quarterbacks will be trending up or down or will be neutral.

Gannon's Other QB Rankings

>> NFC West | NFC East

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Tom Brady)

Ranking: Top Tier

Brady's 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 4,694 yards, 25 touchdowns, 9 INTs

At age 45 – yes, 45 – Brady led the Bucs to a division title. It was at 8-9, the first losing record of his career as a starter, and Tampa made a quick exit from the playoffs. But as a 45-year-old quarterback, what we are seeing from him is unparalleled. He is in the top tier but toward the middle of it now. 

Another component is his durability. This guy doesn’t miss starts. He is the master of his domain and understands everything. Rarely is he confounded by anything the defense does. He doesn’t take vicious hits, and he will not let you take him to the ground hard. 

No one has played like he has, for as long as he has, and no one has taken care of his body at that position like Brady has. 

Tampa’s receiver situation was bad at the beginning of the season, and the offensive line injuries compounded it. On top of that, they failed to run the ball consistently. And yet, they made the playoffs again.

Brady is not where he typically is — high in the top tier — but he’s still in the top tier. And, again, he got his team into the playoffs. 

New Orleans Saints (Jameis Winston/Andy Dalton)

Ranking: Bottom Tier

Dalton's 2022 Stats: 14 starts, 2,871 yards, 18 touchdowns, 9 INTs

Obviously, the injuries to Jameis Winston changed their plans, and I believe Andy Dalton is a solid backup quarterback at this point in his career. He’s a veteran who gives you a chance to win some games. 

Dennis Allen took over as coach for Sean Payton, and the bar is set high with the Saints, but they don’t have Drew Brees anymore. Life without Brees has been a lot harder for everybody in New Orleans. And the Michael Thomas injury didn’t help.

They need to ask themselves, "are we comfortable going with Dalton and Winston next season?" Without question, the conversation about the quarterback situation has begun, and the Saints don’t have a first-round draft pick in 2023. 

Desmond Ridder Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons (Marcus Mariota/Desmond Ridder)

Ranking: Bottom Tier

Ridder's 2022 Stats: 4 starts, 708 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 INTs

Building the team last season, the Falcons had to be thinking, "We drafted this quarterback, Desmond Ridder, and he is not ready to play." So they went and got a guy with experience, Marcus Mariota, that coach Arthur Smith had some history with when he was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Mariota is an athletic player, and maybe he could have made them competitive. 

But he held them back in the passing game. It was almost like one of these college offenses where you keep it simple for the quarterback. That didn’t work out. 

They did have a good opportunity later in the season to get Ridder some snaps. He’s a work in progress, so for now they are in the bottom tier. My sense is he is going to get an opportunity to compete for the job, and they have to be looking to upgrade the talent in that room. Kind of a neutral situation.

>> Read: How Ridder Can Boost Falcons' Offense

Carolina Panthers (Sam Darnold)

Ranking: Bottom Tier

Darnold's 2022 Stats: 6 starts, 1,143 yards, 7 touchdowns, 3 INTs

They end up firing coaches down there in Carolina because they can’t get it right in the quarterback room. First, they bring in Sam Darnold in 2021, and then Baker Mayfield last summer. Then Mayfield was released.

You can’t trade for a quarterback right before training camp and just roll him out there, like they did with Mayfield. That’s coaching malpractice. 

The knock on Darnold is he frustrates you. He can create and extend plays, but turnovers and poor decision-making have held him back. So they were very cautious with him and tried to manage him as best they could. 

Carolina has been trending down and needs to figure out more than just their quarterback situation. They need to address their coaching situation first. 

Rich Gannon played 18 seasons in the NFL and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2002 when he led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII. Follow him on Twitter at @RichGannon12.

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