6 NFL Quarterbacks Who Need to Come Through in 2013 (Or Else)
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) looks for a receiver during the first half of the preseason NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
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What do Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, and Philip Rivers have in common?
They need to come through this year.
While Tom Brady, the Mannings, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and even Joe Flacco have their eyes on the prize they’ve already earned, a half dozen quarterbacks should be more concerned with something less shiny but quite valuable.
Here’s a Pick 6 of quarterbacks who face job security challenges this season:
JAY CUTLER, BEARS — The poster child for quarterback inconsistency, Cutler is lights-out good when he is on, destructive to the offense when he isn’t. His fiery attitude can be inspirational, but also can backfire when he is reaming out teammates or losing focus and making bad decisions.
Chicago has to make a huge decision as Cutler, who also has been injury prone, plays out the final season of his contract. The Bears have been cubs when he isn’t behind center, but how much is he worth financially? To get top dollar, he needs to lead the team into the playoffs in a tough division.
JOSH FREEMAN, BUCCANEERS — Like Cutler, Freeman is playing out his contract, hoping to emulate Joe Flacco’s Super Bowl run and subsequent bank-busting deal. Unlike Cutler, Freeman has lots of help offensively, from a strong line to two high-quality receivers (Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams) to a top runner, Doug Martin. But the current coaching staff didn’t draft Freeman, who has been maddeningly erratic in his four pro seasons.
BRANDON WEEDEN, BROWNS — Weeden is operating under a new offense coordinated by Norv Turner. If Weeden doesn’t take the next step in his second pro season, and at age 30, Cleveland will look elsewhere for its franchise QB. Turner has a history of improving untested quarterbacks, and the Browns should have a strong running game to help Weeden find his footing.
CHRISTIAN PONDER, VIKINGS — This one is simple: If Ponder can do just enough to make Minnesota’s passing game a bit threatening, imagine what Adrian Peterson will accomplish? Who said 3,000 yards rushing?
Percy Harvin is gone, but the Vikings addressed their receiving corps by signing Greg Jennings away from Green Bay and adding first-round draftee Cordarrelle Patterson. They already have a quality tight end in Kyle Rudolph. So Ponder must become functional enough in his third season to allow Peterson to run even wilder. Otherwise, there likely will be a new QB in town in 2014.
MATT FLYNN, RAIDERS — Flynn thought he had a starting job last year when he left Green Bay, where he wasn’t going to beat out Aaron Rodgers, for Seattle. Then he couldn’t beat out rookie Russell Wilson with the Seahawks despite getting a big free agent contract to join them. Now he is in Oakland, with perhaps the weakest team in football. No one will have a tougher, uh, job succeeding in his job than the unproven Flynn.
PHILIP RIVERS, CHARGERS — Mike McCoy has proven his expertise as a coordinator in Denver, designing an offense that made Tim Tebow effective, then seamlessly working with Peyton Manning last year. Rivers can be superb when he has weapons around him, but the Chargers have had a talent drain in recent years. Like Cutler, Rivers also has struggled to make the right decisions and has become prone to turnovers.
But as one of the few playmakers in San Diego, Rivers needs to avoid forcing things the way he has in recent seasons.