Former league MVP Rich Gannon breaks down the quarterback situations of every NFL team. This is the seventh 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, so 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 AFC South, 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 South | NFC West | NFC East | NFC North | AFC East | AFC North
Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence)
Ranking: Middle Tier, Trending Up
Lawrence’s 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 4,113 yards, 25 TDs, 8 INTs
Right now, Trevor Lawrence is second-tier, but man, he is trending up.
I thought Doug Pederson was going to be a good coach for Lawrence, and the team would start out slow with a new system but play well in the second half of the season. That’s exactly what happened.
Jacksonville cut down on the mistakes and went from the NFL’s worst record last season to an AFC South title this season in Lawrence’s second consecutive season learning a new system. I liked him coming out of school. He played in a great environment at Clemson and played well in big games. He can make all the throws and make plays with his legs, something some people overlook.
I like that he went through the Urban Meyer mess last season. That adversity helped him. Lawrence stuck it out and played all 17 games in 2021 and weathered the storm with all the nonsense he went through. He showed he is a physically and mentally tough guy.
Tennessee Titans (Ryan Tannehill/Malik Willis)
Ranking: Middle Tier, Trending Down
Tannehill’s 2022 Stats: 12 starts, 2,536 yards, 13 TDs, 6 INTs
Willis’ 2022 Stats: 3 starts, 276 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs
The Titans’ quarterback situation falls in the middle tier but is trending down. Ryan Tannehill played in only 12 games and played poorly in a lot of them. He went 6-6 as a starter.
Trading A.J. Brown, a true star receiver, to the Eagles hurt. Then, the Titians’ injuries impacted Tannehill. He can be efficient when the team is playing well around him. If they fall behind, and he has to throw a bunch, he gets exposed a bit.
He’s sort of a tweener with some of the toughness and intangibles you like. He’s a great competitor, but he will never be a top-tier thrower. In some situations, he has too much to overcome. Tennessee has to get better around him
Then there’s the fact they got Malik Willis in the draft last April. I don’t know who is identifying and drafting at that position, but Willis wasn’t ready to play when Tannehill was hurt, and Tennessee didn’t have a veteran backup. The Titans even got a guy off a practice squad, Joshua Dobbs, and he started the game at Jacksonville with a shot at getting into the playoffs. What does that say about their situation?
>> Read: Ranking 2022 Rookie Quarterbacks
Indianapolis Colts (Matt Ryan/Sam Ehlinger)
Ranking: Bottom Tier, Trending Down
Ryan’s 2022 Stats: 12 starts, 3,057 yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs
Ehlinger’s 2022 Stats: 3 starts, 537 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs
If a team is looking for a quick fix at quarterback, here’s proof it doesn’t always work out. I thought Matt Ryan had some game left, and it would be good for the Colts to acquire him. If the Colts could have run the ball and had a good offensive line and a strong defense, I thought they could’ve won some more games.
But that didn’t happen … and it was a train wreck.
Ryan got benched at two points in the season. And he struggled when he played. He threw 13 interceptions and fumbled 15 times.
They tried Sam Ehlinger, and that wasn’t the answer. Nick Foles got some starts, and that wasn’t the answer.
Now, they have the fourth overall draft pick. This is a team still recovering from the Andrew Luck hangover. They brought in Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Ryan – what are they doing internally to develop a quarterback? Who is our play caller, or quarterback coach? What’s our process?
This team is bottom tier and trending down.
Houston Texans (Davis Mills)
Ranking: Bottom Tier
Mills’ 2022 Stats: 15 starts, 3,118 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs
The coaching situation took a turn for the worse when Bill O’Brien left in 2020. Their coaching moves since O’Brien left haven’t worked out. You can’t have the general manager and coach not in the same area code on philosophy and team building.
I don’t think Davis Mills is a long-term solution. You probably thought he’d be a developmental player, and he wound up the starter. He’s not a guy I would completely give up on. After looking under the hood for the last two years, I am not sure that is a fair evaluation of Mills. But he doesn’t have the skill set of the top-tier guys.
Houston definitely will be in the quarterback business with the No. 2 pick.
>> Read: The 33rd Team’s Latest Mock Draft
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.