Former league MVP Rich Gannon breaks down the quarterback situations of every NFL team. This is the fifth 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.
Here’s a look at the AFC East, 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
Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen)
Rankings: Upper Tier
Allen’s 2022 Stats: 16 starts, 4,283 yards, 35 TDs, 14 INTs
Josh Allen is clearly in the upper echelon. Like Mahomes, Allen has the ability to put the team on his back. If the Bills can’t run it or fall behind or need a big play, no problem.
The issue is if he has an off day I don’t think they can overcome it.
Allen is big, strong, physical, athletic and accurate; the game has slowed down for him. This guy is a great player. He wants the football in big situations.
He’s had some red-zone picks and ugly turnovers — he has some Brett Favre in him and thinks he can make every play. But you can’t be critical of him because he will make a big play when you are ready to shake your head at his play. The positives far outweigh any flaws in a few decisions.
Allen is also a perfect quarterback for that city. He has some Jim Kelly in him. One constructive criticism: You don’t want to see him leaping players. Let’s be smart. Still, when he makes those plays, the whole stadium erupts.
Miami Dolphins (Tua Tagovailoa)
Ranking: Middle Tier
Tagovailoa’s 2022 Stats: 13 starts, 3,548 yards, 25 TDs, 8 INTs
There are some good things with Tua Tagovailoa. He’s in the middle tier and has gone through a lot already. There were questions after the first few years, and he’s had a lot of play callers. But he was 8-1 as a starter earlier this season with 19 TDs and just three interceptions. But the last four starts were not good as he had six TDs and five interceptions.
Tagovailoa will never overpower you with his arm talent, and he’s not instinctive with his legs. He’s had injuries going back to Alabama. They really have to be concerned with concussions after the two he suffered this season.
But his accuracy improved, and his confidence increased after it was down. He came out of the gates and played well. They paired Tyreek Hill with Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki. They built this group around Tagovailoa and his strengths. Coach Mike McDaniel did a good job of putting in concepts that Tagovailoa was good at. He can make the throws into the tight windows.
Still, he sometimes predetermines where he is going with the ball. All three of those interceptions against Green Bay came in zone coverage. You have to process when it is zone; there’s a lot of fundamental coaching that has to happen with him. When healthy, he’s trending upward.
New England Patriots (Mac Jones)
Ranking: Middle Tier, Trending Down
Jones’ 2022 Stats: 14 starts, 2,997 yards, 14 TDs, 11 INTs
Mac Jones lands in the middle tier. The decline in production has to be a concern. Nearly everything was down, and he took a lot more sacks.
I think he missed Josh McDaniels calling plays after he became the Raiders coach this season. New England was one of the best screen teams in 2021 but not this season. Taking an outstanding defensive coach, Matt Patricia, and making him an offensive coach is asking a lot, and I think Jones struggled.
When you evaluate quarterbacks, so much of what happens has to do with what is going on elsewhere. A lot of what happened had an impact on him.
Do I think the guy can play winning football? Yes. But he’s not one of the upper-level guys. He is a functional player who won’t carry the team on his shoulders, and the arrow pointed down this season.
New York Jets (Zach Wilson)
Ranking: Bottom Tier
Wilson’s 2022 Stats: 9 starts, 1,688 yards, 6 TDs, 7 INTs
The Jets are in the bottom tier, and they have real concerns about Zach Wilson.
He’s a guy that splashed some qualities you like at the position – big throws and athleticism, and swagger, which resonated with draft evaluators. What is concerning is what we saw from him as a rookie — the worst completion percentage in the league – and Year 2 took a turn for the worse.
I don’t know if it was the best decision to give him the keys right away as a rookie. Typically, we see big steps forward from quarterbacks in their second season under the same system, and we didn’t see that with Wilson. We saw some immaturity, too. He doesn’t understand the importance of being a CEO of a football team on the field.
There has to be a sense of urgency with this player in his third year. He needs to have a dose of reality. History is important. He needs to understand who people like Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez and Sam Darnold are, what their histories were, and why things ended the way they did. All three played before they were ready and didn’t understand the importance of decision-making and ball security.
>> Read: Three Trade Targets for Zach Wilson
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.