Analysis

2023 NFL QB Stock Report: NFC North Quarterbacks Have Uncertain Future

Former league MVP Rich Gannon breaks down the quarterback situations of every NFL team. This is the fourth 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 MahomesJosh Allen or Joe Burrow.

Here’s a look at the NFC North, 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

Minnesota Vikings (Kirk Cousins)

Ranking: Lower Upper Tier

Cousins’ 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 4,547 yards, 29 touchdowns, 14 INTs

Kirk Cousins is similar to Dak Prescott, an upper-tier guy whose numbers over the last several seasons are fairly consistent. Obviously, you have to be concerned with a career-high number of interceptions (14) and the high number of sacks (46) in 2022. When Kirk is in a muddy, congested pocket, he will always struggle. He is not a Philip Rivers who would sit in there with 10 guys around him and not flinch. For Kirk, it’s a problem.

Yet he led the team to a 13-4 record and a division title and won 11 one-score games, the most in NFL history. He has played really well late in games. 

Also, in Minnesota, what is the alternative? I think Kirk is a guy who has talent. He trended upward this season. When the Vikings are protecting well and running the ball well, and if they have a good defense, he can get you wins.

Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers)

Ranking: Upper Tier

Rodgers’ 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 3,695 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 INTs

A good one for conversation, right? 

Of course, Aaron Rodgers is in the top tier. Look at his body of work, even as bad as things were this season. They dug themselves out of a 4-8 hole and had a chance to make the playoffs.

Look at how inexperienced they were at receiver; there’s no question in my mind that it impacted him. The offensive line problems also affected him. And when they were not able to run the ball, he struggled. 

The big plays evaporated with those young guys not understanding, say, the scramble drill. What happened to him is similar to what happened in Tampa: You become very frustrated because you’re used to performing at the highest level. And the smoke starts coming out of your helmet.

Of course, some of it is on Aaron; you can’t make all these excuses for him. But look at his movement skills and feet and arm talent; I don’t see any drop-off. For that reason, he’s in the upper tier, but he is not in the top five quarterbacks for the first time in forever. 

Could he come back next year and win 13 games? Yeah. I think physically; he still has it.

>> Read: Aaron Rodgers Talks About His Future

Jared Goff

Detroit Lions (Jared Goff)

Ranking: Upper Middle Tier

Goff’s 2022 Stats: 17 starts, 4,438 yards, 29 touchdowns, 7 INTs

It’s really impressive what Jared Goff has done. Even in 2021 with an inexperienced team and staff, he played well enough to give them a chance to win. This season, it started poorly, and then he played really well toward the end of the season. His touchdown/interception ratio (29/7) has been incredible, and he had a career-high in passing yards and TDs.

Even in the final game against the Packers in cold weather, I thought it wouldn’t go well when he missed those early throws. He didn’t flinch.

I think this guy has really taken the next step in his career.

Goff will never be able to manufacture plays with his legs, but he always had the arm talent, throws the deep ball well, and is willing to throw underneath. He played really smart football. 

I put Goff in the second tier, but he is in the upper stages of that tier and is trending upward.

Chicago Bears (Justin Fields)

Ranking: Bottom Tier

Fields’ 2022 Stats: 15 starts, 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns, 11 INTs

They’ve got a problem. It was not a good season, and if you are Matt Eberflus and the folks in Chicago, you are keeping your fingers crossed that Justin Fields can make the same leap as Jalen Hurts. This kid is very athletic but has to learn to function and process.

His anticipation is not very good. In his eyes, guys are almost always covered. Part of it is he doesn’t have the experience. If I were coaching him this spring, he would not be allowed to run with the football. In any period of practice, he has to do something other than run. Teach him how to sit in there and take the extra hit, learn protections and understand defenses, fronts and tendencies. 

He also took 55 sacks, the most in the league. He holds the ball, and the next thing you know, it is second-and-23, and the offensive coordinator doesn’t have a play for second-and-23. Sometimes the best play is to throw it away and live for another down. I would have him study Tom Brady.

They’ve got to build a better roster around him, and this is a critical offseason for Justin Fields with a capital C.

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.

>> Read: Should the Bears Replace Justin Fields? 

WATCH: Breaking Down Every Divisional Round QB

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