There can’t be 32 good quarterbacks. The NFL isn’t Lake Wobegon, where all the quarterbacks are above average. There are going to be some bad ones.
And yet even as I acknowledge there are always going to be some bad quarterbacks, I found myself asking on Sunday afternoon: Do they have to be this bad?
Do they have to be as bad as Blake Bortles, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble as the Jaguars were blown out by the Titans? Do they have to be as bad as Mike Glennon, who also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble as the Bears were blown out by the Buccaneers? Do they have to be bad as Brian Hoyer, who threw 27 passes and couldn’t even get to 100 passing yards as the 49ers were kept out of the end zone for the second straight week in a loss to the Seahawks? Do they have to be as bad as Carson Palmer, who is 37 years old but looked 137 years old?
Palmer was so bad that when Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked at halftime what was wrong with his team, he answered in one word: “Quarterback.” The Cardinals actually managed to win, thanks to a bad interception thrown by the opposing quarterback, Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was bad, too, but he has an excuse: He’s only been a Colt for two weeks. Indianapolis acquired him in a desperate attempt to atone for their terrible mistake of heading into the season with Scott Tolzien as their starting quarterback. Tolzien was benched during an awful loss in Week One, and Brissett has been better, though not exactly good.
There are, of course, good quarterbacks in the NFL. Tom Brady had 447 yards, most ever for a 40-year-old quarterback, against a bad Saints secondary yesterday. Alex Smith turned in his second straight solid game as the Chiefs improved to 2-0. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are coming on two and a half years after they were the first and second picks in the 2015 NFL draft.
But even some of the good quarterbacks aren’t playing well. Cam Newton hasn’t been himself this season. Sam Bradford was good in the Vikings’ opener, but he’s made of glass so of course he got hurt and the Vikings were stuck with the terrible Case Keenum in yesterday’s loss to the Steelers. Tyrod Taylor has been around long enough that he ought to at least know how to run a two-minute drill, but he didn’t look like it as he wasted time while the Bills’ last-minute rally fell short.
We’ve become so conditioned by the video-game numbers that the great quarterbacks put up that NFL football feels boring when quarterbacks aren’t playing well. It’s a quarterback-driven league, and too many quarterbacks are driving their teams into the ditch.
Here are my other observations from Sunday’s NFL action:
Jason Kelce told his teammates to get inside his brother’s head. For the first time on Sunday, the Kelce brothers (Philadelphia’s Jason and Kansas City’s Travis) faced each other in the NFL. Before the game, Jason told CSN Philadelphia that he told his teammate, “Any kind of trash talk gets inside my brother’s head. . . . The one thing you can try and do is get in his head and sometimes he’ll beat himself.” Sure enough, Travis got flagged for taunting during the game. It was a good scouting report Jason gave his teammates — and ridiculous that Travis, who also drew a personal foul penalty and a flag last week, can’t control himself. Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the league — he later scored the game-winning touchdown — but the way he acts on the field is unacceptable.
DirecTV needs to get its act together. Many of the NFL’s most passionate fans are DirecTV subscribers solely for the 17 NFL Sundays when they can get Sunday Ticket, the DirecTV-exclusive service that provides access to every NFL game. And yet Sunday Ticket is riddled with technical difficulties. Yesterday much of America was unable to see DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel for what DirecTV was calling only a “known issue.” I’ve been a subscriber for many years, and I’ve had problems with everything from games being mistakenly blacked out to my entire DirecTV signal being interrupted. Sunday Ticket is invaluable — when it works. Which isn’t often enough.
Tony Romo is a great addition to Sunday afternoons. As the color commentator on the No. 1 CBS team, Romo is rapidly becoming one of my favorite things about spending Sunday afternoons in front of the television. His ability to see how the play will develop before the ball is snapped is remarkable. He called the Saints’ touchdown pass to Brandon Coleman just before it happened on Sunday, and he routinely pointed out the types of things fans would love to hear if they had a chance to watch a game with a recently retired quarterback. Romo the announcer is the real deal.
Dean Blandino, not so much. I’m still waiting to see what Blandino adds to the FOX broadcasts that Mike Pereira wasn’t already providing. When FOX hired Pereira, it was a tremendous service to viewers at home, who could find out the intricacies of the rulebook in real time as a referee reviewed a replay. But when CBS hired Mike Carey to do the same job he struggled, and so far Blandino seems to be veering toward Carey territory. Blandino looks uncomfortable on camera and isn’t as quick as Pereira in interpreting a replay and explaining it to the audience. He’s been disappointing.
The Saints’ defense is terrible. Still. In 2015, the Saints allowed an NFL-record 45 touchdown passes. Through two games this year, the Saints are on pace to break that record and allow 48 touchdown passes. It’s stunning how consistently awful the Saints’ defense has been. They have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees, but he can’t do it alone.