Former league MVP Rich Gannon breaks down the quarterback situations of every NFL team. This is the eighth 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 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
Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes)
Ranking: Top of Upper Tier
Mahomes’ 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 5,250 yards, 41 TDs, 12 INTs
With a guy like Patrick Mahomes, you run out of superlatives. You can note all the statistics, but one worth emphasizing is what he has done in the division. He’s 27-3 against the AFC West. He almost never loses at home or on the road.
If the Chiefs’ defense has an off week or off month, with Mahomes it’s no problem. Injuries on the offensive line, it’s no problem. A running back goes down, all of it is no problem for Mahomes.
Andy Reid doesn’t get enough credit for being a phenomenal coach, and he has a lot of confidence in Mahomes. Reid is never afraid to give him the ball in critical situations. Reid knows you got to let a thoroughbred run.
Mahomes is a special player, and I love watching him play. He makes all the throws look easy. He attempts passes with great confidence in his arm talent and mobility. If I had to take one guy to start a franchise, I would take Mahomes. Like all the great ones, he thinks he can make every play. Plus, he has good leadership and the ability to elevate the people around him.
Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert)
Ranking: Top Tier, Trending Up
Herbert’s 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 4,739 yards, 25 TDs, 10 INTs
I called a lot of Justin Herbert’s games during his first year and knew right away he was a special player. The TDs were down a little bit this season, but he went a long time without receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and the offensive line struggled at times. For a while, it was him and running back Austin Ekeler.
This kid has it all. He sits in the pocket, won’t flinch under pressure and can create when does leave the pocket. He throws a pretty deep ball with consistent accuracy. He’s big, strong, physical, tough and athletic — he can run around like Josh Allen if he needs to. Herbert has a low heart rate late in games, which is key.
One thing to question: When you have a guy like Herbert, when it’s fourth-and-1 at your own 27, you don’t have to go for it. The coach should focus on not putting Herbert in bad positions.
Herbert is top-tier and trending up for sure.
Las Vegas Raiders (Derek Carr)
Ranking: Upper Part of Middle Tier
Carr’s 2022 Stats: 15 starts, 3,522 yards, 24 TDs, 14 INTs
I have always liked Derek Carr, who is in the middle tier but in the upper portion.
It was a disappointing year, obviously, and Carr has been through a lot of change in his career. You have to assume the Raiders decided he would not be back next season — that 6-11 record is hard for me to understand.
He hasn’t always had the best-supporting cast. Early in his career, he had no offensive line and didn’t have the receivers, so he’d get beat up by opposing defenses. He’s been through a lot. They lost a lot of big leads this year, but you can’t put that all on the quarterback.
He has a lot of arm talent, is smart, and is athletic enough to use his legs, but can be reluctant to do so, which has troubled coaches. There hasn’t been enough playmaking in his game, and it’s clearly not his first instinct.
The Raiders have work to do at quarterback.
Denver Broncos (Russell Wilson)
Ranking: Middle Tier
Wilson’s 2022 Stats: 15 starts, 3,524 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs
When we look at Russell Wilson’s body of work, there’s a lot to like there. He’s been the model of consistency for his whole career, and I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. But you’ve got to ask: why would a team who has this quarterback in his prime move on from him?
John Schneider is a great general manager, and Pete Carroll is a great coach, so why would the Seahawks decide to move on from Wilson, who has taken care of himself physically? Getting rid of him is a real indicator of underlying issues in Seattle.
This season, with an inexperienced head coach, clearly Wilson was a quarterback not comfortable in his environment and didn’t trust anything.
So he is in the middle tier, but typically he would have been in the top tier. We have a drop relatively quickly here, and it’s unusual. We don’t often see someone going from a top to a middle-of-the-pack quarterback in 12 months.
I think it has a lot to do with not necessarily on-the-field issues. I didn’t recognize this guy. I think his confidence was shaken. It has an impact on your performance and ability to trust, and it can spiral out of control as it did in Denver.
>> Read: Grading Every 2022 NFL Trade
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.