@651akathePaul new thread or naw?
Welcome to our second annual "Quarterback Tiers" project, with a voting panel of 35 league insiders (up from 26 last year). The process was straightforward: The coaches and evaluators I polled placed each of the 32 projected starters into one of five tiers, with Tier 1 reserved for the very best and Tier 5 reserved for the very worst.
While it's far from rigid, our NFL front office and coach voters typically categorized the tiers as follows:
• Tier 1 quarterbacks can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help.
• Tier 2 QBs are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.
• Tier 3 are quarterbacks who are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tougher to contend at the highest level.
• Tier 4 is typically reserved for unproven starters or those who might not be expected to last in the lineup all season. Voters used the fifth tier sparingly.
We gave the insiders anonymity so they could speak candidly. They did not disappoint. The 35th and final insider, a longtime defensive coordinator, could not believe it when I told him five of the previous 34 had left Andrew Luckoutside the top tier on their ballots. "Those five guys didn't play against him. He is a 1, I am telling you. He is f------ good. Nobody blocks anybody up front, and he is still good."
In the end, we averaged the tier rankings for each quarterback to produce a 1-32 ranking across four tiers (no starting QBs received enough Tier 5 votes to fall into the fifth tier). There was movement in the pecking order from our piece last year. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees slipped. Luck and Ben Roethlisbergersurged. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady held firm and were the only unanimous Tier 1 players. And perhaps surprisingly, Derek Carr holds an early lead onTeddy Bridgewater among the 2014 draftees.
There's a lot to digest, so we won't delay any longer. First, though, a big thank you to our panel: eight personnel directors, six general managers, four head coaches, five offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, three salary-cap managers, one ex-GM, two ex-head coaches, and one offensive assistant coach.
Tier 1 (6 QBs total)
Tier 1 (Click to show)
One D-coordinator on Rodgers: "I hate playing against him." Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Average rating: 1.0 | Change in rating: +3.7%
2014 Rank: T-1
Rodgers tied with Brady in the voting as a unanimous Tier 1 choice, but he gets top billing based on feedback from voters. A personnel director with NFC North experience called him "unequivocally" the best in the league. An offensive coach who studied every offensive snap for Green Bay and New England last season called Rodgers better than Brady by a noticeable notch.
"I hate playing against him," a defensive coordinator said.
There is a lot to like about Rodgers if you don't have to face him. He seems unflappable. He saves plays with his legs. He ranks as arguably the game's best back-shoulder fade thrower. He possesses superior vision when forced to move. And he knows where his receivers are going to be in a pinch. These are some of the qualities one veteran coach rattled off.
"From the time he decides to throw the ball to the time it comes off his hand is the quickest in the NFL by a lot," this coach said. "Tony Romo is also quick, but Rodgers throws spirals down the field that carry. Romo will do it and it will float. Rodgers doesn't even have to try. He is so explosively quick. He can hold the ball longer and he knows it."
It's no revelation seeing Rodgers atop a list of NFL quarterbacks, so I pressed this offensive coach for additional details.
"Andrew Luck has the best technique and Rodgers is a little more toesy [in his stance], but it makes no difference because Rodgers is so lightning quick and so accurate and confident of where the ball is going to go," he said. "There is an attention to detail there that Mike McCarthy coaches and gets everyone to understand the importance of. Rodgers cuts everything loose all the time because he knows where everyone is going to be. It does not feel like a defeat to him to run it or throw the 2-yard check-down. He throws it joyfully because he knows he is moving the offense. There is also never any drama, ever. That is another best part of him. He does not say much, but he is so focused and so passionate that he gets it done with his eyeballs."
One head coach on Brady: "His command is there. He still has the arm strength and accuracy." Elsa/Getty Images
Average rating: 1.0 | Change in rating: +3.7%
2014 Rank: T-1
None of the voters had reservations about placing Brady into the top tier as the quarterback's 38th birthday approaches, and likewise, none raised Deflategate as a factor in voting.
"Brady is still on another level because he just mentally dominates every game, every time," an offensive coach said.
Brady struggled early last season when his line faltered and his best receiving target, Rob Gronkowski, was still rounding into form following injury. But he didn't let a brutal outing against Kansas City in Week 4 define his season.
"K.C. knocked the s--- out of him and you could see he got frustrated in that game," a personnel director said. "He came back the next week against Cincinnati and was unbelievable. I was like, 'Holy s---, this guy is unreal.' He is still a 1. He is doing it with very average weapons other than Gronk."
Another personnel director said he thought Peyton Manning might have suffered a meltdown by now if forced to go through as many weapons as Brady has over the years. This director hailed Brady for functioning at a high level with Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and even undrafted free agents at receiver.
"If anybody is a 1, he is a 1," the director said. "I do not know if we could name all the guys who have started at the skill positions for them over the past three years. I'd probably leave out three guys."
The Patriots have had 25 different players start at running back, wide receiver or tight end since 2012, counting playoffs. That ties for the fifth-highest total in the league and is above the 20.9 average. The number is 15 for Manning's Denver Broncos, the second-lowest figure in the NFL (Philadelphia, 14). Brady has had 12 different wide receivers start over that span, the second-highest figure in the league (Jacksonville, 14). Denver has had six, tied for the league low.
"He is still a 1," a head coach said. "His command is there. He still has the arm strength and accuracy. He never was a great move guy, but he still makes a play or two with his feet as needed."
One personnel director on Luck: "He is one of the great pressure performers in our league." Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports
Average rating: 1.14 | Change in rating: +23.8%
2014 Rank: 5
Luck went from a disputed Tier 1 QB one year ago to a resounding choice after again carrying a weak roster to the postseason.
"Luck didn't get a 1 from everybody?" a GM asked. He was incredulous. "You want to talk about a guy who makes the team? He is Michael Jordan. Their defense sucks. Every game, he has to outscore everybody. He is the epitome of a 1. If I was to draft tomorrow any player in the NFL, it would be Andrew Luck one, Aaron Rodgers two."
The five voters who placed Luck in the second tier cited a few reasons. Some thought Luck needed to do a better job protecting the football. Others pointed to Luck's underwhelming resume in the postseason. Luck also benefits from playing in a weak division. (One defensive coordinator's response: "Those five guys didn't play against him.")
"It is almost like we are giving him the benefit of the doubt just in terms of numbers, but he has won games," another GM said. "Yes, he is in an easy division, but he won, even as a rookie. They would not win without him."
Some quarterbacks with winning records benefit from top-flight defenses and/or strong running games. Luck has won even with the Colts being especially weak in those complementary phases.
"I don't know who didn't give Luck a 1, but he is better than all of them," a head coach said. "He is as smart as Peyton, he is as accurate as Brady, he is tougher than Ben and he is as athletic as RG III."
Even those who thought Luck deserved a second-tier vote at this point felt as though he would ascend into the top tier before long.
"Luck is one of the great pressure performers in our league," a personnel director said. "He might have spells where accuracy is not great, but when the chips are on the line, he performs. For a young quarterback to survive some of the hits he has taken behind that line, not everyone would have done that. He is strong. He has an even head, which you have to have to be special at that position. I'd be surprised if soon we're not talking about him in same breath we talk about Aaron."
One head coach on Roethlisberger: "The productivity is unbelievable. He is clearly a 1 to me." Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Average rating: 1.37 | Change in rating: +25.7%
2014 Rank: 7
Roethlisberger ascended into the top tier after ranking with Philip Rivers atop the second tier one year ago. His ability to carry the Steelers without support from a strong defense raised Big Ben's profile for some. A head coach said he thought Roethlisberger would have belonged in the top tier for most of his career if the Steelers had run a more wide-open offense earlier in his career.
"He throws to win games by himself and he can do it every week," an offensive coach said. "He could throw for 350 every week. I did not give him his due until I really saw this past year, with the average defense and only one top receiver, getting it done every week and keeping his interceptions down."
An evaluator with coaching experience who saw Roethlisberger play live twice last season moved him into the top tier on his ballot.
"He is back to standing there, shrugging off the blitz, sliding over, making the pass, over and over," this evaluator said. "He threw for over 600 yards with six touchdowns against Baltimore. When you can do that against what has been a good defense historically, that is a 1, and I don't want to play him."
Roethlisberger has topped 630 dropbacks in each of the past two regular seasons, while averaging 37.3 pass attempts per game, up from 29.6 per game previously in his career. Roethlisberger also has the playing strength and arm to carry the offense in poor weather.
"Ben can beat you in any part of the country," a head coach said. "Who was in a more productive offense last year? The productivity is unbelievable. He is clearly a 1 to me."
A defensive coordinator placed Roethlisberger among the 2s because he thought consistency over time was an issue.
"I could see why people would say he is a 1," this coordinator said. "On some days, I could see it. I would see him spending more time in the 2 category, and that is why I put him there."
One D-coordinator on Manning: "He is still smart and that will never change, but you have to get the ball there, too." Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports
5. Peyton Manning | Denver Broncos
Average rating: 1.43 | Change in rating: -37.6%
2014 Rank: T-1
Some of the voters who placed Manning in the top tier did so reluctantly because they questioned whether he could still carry an offense for a full season given what they saw as obviously diminished throwing ability.
"I'm going to give him the lowest 1 that there is," one voter said.
A GM who placed Manning in the top tier added this disclaimer: "I can see people saying he is a 2. The arm strength is such an issue. It is all about how you play in January, in the cold weather and big games."
A head coach who placed Manning in the second tier said he no longer thought Manning could lead a team to a championship without getting considerably more help than he has needed in the past. Still, voters expressed amazement over Manning's ability to play at such a high level in recent seasons after enduring a career-threatening neck injury. And he still received enough votes to remain in this category.
"Until they lose and don't go to the playoffs, he is a 1," a defensive coach said, "because he is the one winning all the games. He has gotta be a 1. He is one of those guys, too, that the people around him play at a much higher level because of him."
One defensive coordinator pointed to Manning's 2014 stat line -- 4,727 yards passing with 39 touchdowns and a 101.5 passer rating -- while asking what more a quarterback needed to do for voters to place him in the top tier. One counter: Manning's late-season struggles. He had 10 interceptions over the final eight regular-season games, tied for third-most in the NFL.
"I think he is a clear 2," another defensive coordinator said. "It's arm strength, mobility, everything. He is still smart and that will never change, but you have to get the ball there, too."
One offensive coordinator on Brees: "He is just losing his juice. Things have to be perfect for him to be himself." AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Average rating: 1.49 | Change in rating: -43.1%
2014 Rank: T-1
Brees nearly fell out of the top tier even though his 71.6 Total QBR score in 2014 was the third-highest mark of his nine-year tenure with the Saints. Some thought he deserved another year as a 1 because the team's struggles last season had more to do with a diminished supporting cast on both sides of the ball.
"Brees was one of the hardest," an offensive coordinator said. "He doesn't throw as well. His lower body is not as good. He's been nicked up a little bit. He is just losing his juice. Things have to be perfect for him to be himself."
The consensus was that Brees had fallen off and that he was sliding into the second tier if he hadn't quite reached it at this point. His drop from a 1.04 average rating among voters in 2014 to a 1.49 average this year marked a 43.1-percent decline, the largest for any of the 27 returning starters.
Voters acknowledged the diminished weaponry around Brees. A coach who studied the Saints this offseason said it was striking to see Brees "hung out to dry" playing for a team that no longer had as many opportunities to shift into its four-minute offense while protecting leads.
"Physically, he is a 2, but I think you have to give him a 1 because he can carry a team," a head coach said, still thinking through his decision. "He may dip into the 2s this year. When guys get older and start getting hit, especially guys with vision problems, they start playing a lot faster, almost too fast, and panic shows up. I saw some of that in Drew last season."
By the end of the conversation, the head coach had talked himself out of putting Brees in the top tier. "I'll tell you what," he said, "give him a 2 because I think he has just kind of come out of the 1 category."
Tier 2 (8 QBs total)
Tier 2 (Click to show)
One head coach on Rivers: "I have never seen a guy make up for a lack of arm strength as well as him." AP Photo/Ben Margot
Average rating: 1.66 | Change in rating: +6.3%
2014 Rank: 6
Rivers placed solidly into the top of the second tier, but voters wouldn't argue strongly against including him in that top group. In Rivers, they see a supreme competitor who does a fantastic job compensating for physical limitations that might keep him from projecting into the top tier, especially at this stage.
"He's got everything, but he does not have the big-time arm, and I have not given anyone a 1 who did not have a real arm," a head coach said. "I have never seen a guy make up for a lack of arm strength as well as him. There are balls he has thrown so early that look so bad and you're like, 'What?' The linebacker is here and the receiver is here and he throws this f------ duck all the way over here and you are like, 'Are you kidding?' He has had some anticipation throws like none other."
An offensive coordinator who placed Rivers into the top tier compared him favorably to Brady and Manning, noting that all of them can play below a top-tier level if their supporting casts fall off enough. Should a player in the top tier be able to overcome those things? Only to a point, voters tended to agree.
"I don't think Philip can win the game on his own all the time," an offensive coordinator said. "Drew still can. I do not think they have a lot of supporting cast around him. He can create some things."
A head coach said there are times when Rivers tries too hard, to the point that opponents "have in the back of their minds the idea he will force something at some point and give you an opportunity." A defensive coordinator described Rivers as one who "teeters" between the first and second tier.
"I love him," a personnel director said. "He is no doubt a 2. Last year, I would have said he was a 1. I would have taken him over Peyton a year ago. He just could not overcome all the problems they had this past year. Playing behind a crap line, all the injuries, no weapons. He scares you when you play him. I could stick him at a 1 level. A year ago, I would do it unequivocally."
One offensive coordinator on Wilson: "He is up there with Aaron and Luck because of his uniqueness and all the s--- he can do." AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Average rating: 1.71 | Change in rating: +23.2%
2014 Rank: T-8
Last year, more than one-third of voters placed Wilson in the third tier, questioning whether he could carry a pass-oriented offense week after week, as the better quarterbacks have been able to do. Only one voter placed Wilson in the third tier this time, as other voters acknowledged the role Wilson played in the Seahawks reaching back-to-back Super Bowls. In total, 11 of 35 voters said Wilson was a 1, up from three of 26 voters one year ago.
"At the end of the day, the won-lost record of your quarterback and the leadership goes hand-in-hand," a former GM said. "He has been in the last two Super Bowls. You can say all you want about the defense, but the Bills had a good defense the last two years. What did it get them? Wilson has that late-game magic."
Why did one coordinator leave Wilson in the third tier?
"Because I think he needs Marshawn Lynch and the defense [to be great] to do what he has done," the coordinator replied. That same coordinator said his college scouting report on Wilson read like a report would read for a top-tier prospect, but he gave a lower grade overall based on concerns over Wilson's height. An offensive coach said "the bubble is going to burst" for Wilson if the day comes when the team needs him to throw the ball frequently.
"He is not a 1," a head coach said. "He cannot win the whole thing. Is that why they are not paying him? I think you could make an argument to put him down as a 3, but I would say he is a 2. The running back and the tight end can help him. If you can make the game one-dimensional for him where he has to be a total pocket passer, it gets tough. Green Bay had four interceptions on him [in the NFC Championship]."
Another head coach called Wilson a 1 in Seattle's current system, but a 2 in any other. A defensive coordinator who placed Wilson in the top tier said he thought Wilson could succeed as primarily a pocket passer. He called Wilson a winner and a player able to make every throw needed. He also thought throwing from the pocket consistently wasn't necessarily a requirement.
"They do not make him sit in the pocket and win games, but his combination of smarts, poise and athletic ability makes him a 2," a GM said. "I think he is a good 2. I do not see him taking over games from a throwing standpoint. He is in the right place because of the defense and run game, which plays to his strengths."
An offensive coordinator who has worked with traditional pocket passers placed Wilson in the top tier without reservation. Rodgers, Brady, Luck, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Romo, Joe Flacco and both Mannings were also 1s on this coordinator's ballot.
"If they were throwing it like New Orleans, he'd have as many yards as Brees," this coordinator said. "He beats you doing the things he does. He is a 1, and he is up there with Aaron and Luck because of his uniqueness and all the s--- he can do."
One personnel director on Romo: "Unequivocally, he is a top 6-7 quarterback." Rob Carr/Getty Images
Average rating: 1.83 | Change in rating: +18%
2014 Rank: T-8
Romo produced like a top-tier quarterback last season when the Cowboys supported him with a dominant ground game, averaging 31.5 dropbacks per game, down from 40.9 over the past two seasons combined. The new approach put less pressure on Romo to make riskier throws.
"Last year's formula was outstanding for him and I'm wondering why they have not done that forever," an offensive coordinator said. "I do not care how sexy he looks throwing, he is a 2 to me because I know if it ends up in his hands, it is 50-50 [whether] he is going to make the big mistake."
The numbers don't necessarily support Romo being unreliable in crunch time. In fact, since 2011, Romo ranks second to Brees in Total QBR among 11 qualifying quarterbacks during fourth quarters and overtimes with the score tied or his team trailing by no more than eight points. His .500 winning percentage in those games (16-16 record) is best in the league over that span among those 11 quarterbacks.
"Solid 2 all day long," an offensive coach said. "Last year, he played like a 1 because they ran it and kept it out of his hands. That helped him and his interceptions went under 10. Romo, Flacco and [Matt] Ryan are just such solid 2s, but it seems to me Romo has done more."
Three defensive coordinators placed Romo in the top tier, as did one head coach, one offensive coordinator, a salary-cap manager and a director of analytics.
"Unequivocally, he is a top 6-7 quarterback," a personnel director said. "What they did offensively was perfect for him this past year where they had a strong run game and they could create space for people. Romo can find people and make all the throws. He had only one year where he threw a ton of picks. He has thrown picks at inopportune times, but it is not like Jay Cutler where he's in the 14-15 range per season. Romo can make a play to win the game."
A GM placed Romo in the second tier based on some of the mistakes Romo has made, but he also thought the Cowboys would be lost without him, as they were against Arizona last season.
"You never really want to put it on his shoulders game in and game out," a personnel director said. "They have done that in the past and it did not work out as well. When you give him the tools and add some run game and protection, he is much better."
One head coach on Flacco: "To me he is like Eli. He can go win the game." Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports
Average rating: 1.94 | Change in rating: +15.8%
2014 Rank: 12
Some question Flacco for the same reason they question Wilson. Both have played for teams with strong defenses and ground games, making their jobs easier. A GM who placed Flacco in the second tier said he could make a case for him as a 3, noting nearly identical career stat lines for Flacco and Andy Dalton in winning percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. Their career Total QBR scores are also right around 53, just ahead of Ryan Tannehill.
A personnel director placed Flacco in the third tier, saying that Flacco has played his best games at the right times, and that he considered it more anomaly than a sign of Flacco possessing some sort of clutch gene.
"That Super Bowl run had to do with his defense and Torrey Smith having a heckuva year making catches down the field, and Anquan Boldin making tough catches," this director said. "They had the right combination of people around him. That is important for him. I don't see him as a guy who carries the team. I do not think he has the short accuracy. He has downfield arm strength, a big arm but not a great arm. I don't think personality-wise he is the leader of your team."
A different personnel director called Flacco a strong 2, adding that Flacco is not good enough to transcend a system.
"Gary Kubiak's offense was absolutely perfect for him -- strong run game, play-action throws, big windows, space in the pocket for him," this director said. "This will be interesting with Marc Trestman taking over as coordinator. At the end of the day, Marc wants to throw the ball first and then run second. I know Marc is saying the right things, but that is interesting and we need to keep an eye on it."
A defensive coordinator -- who ranked as the second-easiest grader overall by average rating -- placed Flacco in the top tier with nine others, pointing to arm strength and how well Flacco played last season. The vast majority put Flacco in the second tier.
"Joe is a 2," a head coach said. "He can't do it all, but he can do enough, and he doesn't do it every week. To me he is like Eli. He can go win the game."
One ex-GM on Ryan: "He does not have a chance. Guys are in his face right away." AP Photo/Tom Lynn
Average rating: 2.03 | Change in rating: +9.1%
2014 Rank: T-8
Ryan commanded more second-tier votes than any other quarterback with 28 -- one more than Flacco. Some voters thought Ryan had the tools to move into the top tier while conceding it should have happened by now.
"To me, Matt is a poor man's Tom Brady, without the success," a head coach said. "I felt Matt was competitive, but I think he was coddled a little bit. I do not think he needed to be. He is not that kind of guy. I think he is a real guy, a guy's guy. I think if he had gone to a blue-collar place, it could have been different. I think he's a 2 who could be a 1. Tom has a stronger arm, but I'm thinking about a guy who is not great getting out of the pocket but is instinctive enough, productive enough, cerebral as hell, gets it, good locker room presence, all that."
More than one voter listed Ryan among the quarterbacks a team could build around for the long term.
"He does a lot for that team," a defensive coordinator said. "They put a lot on his plate with the no-huddle. Their line the last couple of years has struggled. It is hard."
Three voters placed Ryan in the third tier.
"I say a 3 because once pressure gets to him, he struggles and turns the ball over," a personnel director said. "He needs to have balance to his game. He needs to have receivers, tight end and a run game to really maximize his play. Put him in the situation where he is the guy and he tends to struggle, even if he puts up big numbers."
A defensive coordinator called Ryan closer to a 2 than a 3 while questioning some of the decisions Ryan makes in trying to do too much. "He will play lights out and then all of a sudden, where did that come from?"
A former GM found the Falcons mystifying. He wondered how they had suffered two losing seasons despite getting upper-echelon quarterback play from a statistical standpoint.
"It is hard for me because it goes against everything I think, but when I watch his film, I think he is good," this ex-GM said. "He does not have a chance. Guys are in his face right away. Defensively, they can't get a pass-rush going. They are giving up points, they are one-dimensional and people tee off."
One personnel director on Manning: "Finally getting him weapons and guys with speed is really going to help him going forward. Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports
Average rating: 2.17 | Change in rating: +2.7%
2014 Rank: T-8
Manning received 10 votes in the third tier, matching the total for the 11 quarterbacks listed ahead of him in the rankings. He was still solidly in the second tier, with some league insiders saying he was trending up at age 34.
"He had the drop-off in 2013, but I thought he really started to come on last year," a personnel director said. "Finally getting him weapons and guys with speed is really going to help him going forward. He is now throwing timing routes that he had not done before in his career. I like him. He has a poise about him. I do not think he is a 1. He has played like 1 in the playoffs at times. I'd be surprised if he did not have a good year this year."
A defensive coordinator with NFC East experience said he thought Manning had not changed much over the years. He said perceptions about Manning as an up-and-down player had more to do with changes to the defense and running game. Still, an offensive coordinator called Manning "an interception machine." Manning does have a league-high 185 interceptions since his 2004 rookie season. That includes a league-high 159 since Jay Cutler entered the league in 2006 (Cutler has 130, the third-highest total since then).
"I've seen him play some bad football," a head coach said. "Based on this scale, to keep it consistent, I think you have to give him a 2. The guy can go win a championship, but if we are talking quarterback evaluation, a 1 can go win it for you every week. Eli has been a 1 the right time of year."
A personnel director also drew the Cutler comparison, saying a team asking Manning to carry its offense with a pass-happy approach would get "more Cutler than consistent play" and that, like other players in the second and third tiers, Manning needs a combination of running game and defense to succeed. There is no shame in that, but it's what separates the best from the good enough.
One offensive coach on Stafford: "Stafford could be like Aaron Rodgers if he had the burning passion and if he had Mike McCarthy from Day 1." AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Average rating: 2.17 | Change in rating: +8.9%
2014 Rank: 13
Stafford was the lowest-rated player to command a top-tier vote, but there were also eight third-tier grades from voters frustrated by the lingering gap between Stafford's physical gifts and his on-field performance. The two voters to give Stafford a 1 ranked first and seventh among easiest graders overall.
"No doubt, he is a 2 and I love him, but something is missing," a different offensive coach said. "Stafford could be like Aaron Rodgers if he had the burning passion and if he had Mike McCarthy from Day 1, because he is talented like that and quick with the ball. But you look at the look on Stafford's face before the game and then look at Rodgers' face or Big Ben's face or Luck's or especially Drew Brees' face or Philip Rivers' face. Holy s---, you look at Matthew Stafford's eyes and it's like gym class. It's like, 'I hope we win, I think we are pretty good' as opposed to, 'I am going to rip your throat out.' It is always the want-to and passion and desire that separates guys. Stafford should be there with Big Ben. Rivers is OK physically, but does it all by heart and leadership."
A GM touched on the same theme.
"Stafford is ahead of Andy Dalton and Alex Smith because he is more gifted, but there is an element where he is either about to become a 2 or he can fall into the Cutler category, not because of intangibles necessarily but because there is something missing. Even at Georgia, [in 2008] they had Stafford, they had Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green. They were ranked No. 1 in the nation, and they finished with three losses. To me, that just defines things. You are in college football, you are a franchise QB, you have a really good college running back, an up-and-coming receiver and for whatever reason you could not lead your team to be ahead at the end of the big games."
The perception is that Stafford must discipline himself to be great. A personnel director said he'd rather have Flacco or Ryan.
"Stafford has a little of what Cutler has got," this director said. "He has mechanical things. He will throw it up for grabs. He is a 2. I don't know if he has internally what Flacco and Ryan have in terms of the will to be special. I see those guys working on their mechanics, which is huge for guys like Peyton and Brady. Stafford's mechanics have not changed."
One head coach on Newton: "To me, his is a maturation issue. He is a 2 who should be a 1." AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Average rating: 2.49 | Change in rating: +3.5%
2014 Rank: 16
Newton moved solidly into the bottom of the second tier after getting a slight majority of third-tier votes one year ago. As one GM said: "I feel a little better on him, but you still have to manage him. There are more solid 2s."
Newton gets lumped in with Colin Kaepernick and Wilson because all three are young players with dual-threat ability, but multiple voters drew comparisons to Roethlisberger as well.
"Cam has everything to be a 1 because he can carry a football team, but there is a hole there and he needs to fill it," a head coach said. "He is a young Roethlisberger as far as looking at the guy. He is different. He is big, he can make any throw, he can create problems and pick up an offense and carry it. To me, his is a maturation issue. He is a 2 who should be a 1."
Another head coach called Newton a 3 who becomes a 2 through his running. A personnel director who also made a comparison to Roethlisberger thought Newton measured up more from a size standpoint while falling short in terms of poise in the pocket.
"I like him, and I like the plan of what they are doing," this director said. "They have gotten big targets for him because he has some accuracy issues. That really helps. Eventually in this league, you have to win from the pocket. That to me is what keeps him from ever being a 1."
Why couldn't Newton develop in that area?
"I do not think he can process the passing game fast enough to throw it to win every week," an offensive coach said. "If the defense is not good enough, a team needs more passing to win."
The Panthers have ranked between 13th and 15th in Total QBR every season since Newton arrived in 2011. Their record has fluctuated with their defensive performance, peaking at 12-4 in 2013 when Carolina ranked third in defensive expected points added (EPA). The defense ranked between 19th and 31st in every other season with Newton, and Carolina finished below .500 each time.
"Cam is inaccurate, and he makes a lot of mistakes. But for some reason he moves the ball, and figures out ways to get them in the end zone," an offensive coordinator said. "I really think his size and the way he can run with the ball really causes a lot of problems for the defense."
Tier 3 (10 QBs total)
Tier 3 (Click to show)
One personnel director said of Palmer: "I give Arizona credit. They saw something I did not. His arm has more life to it than I thought." Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Average rating: 2.69 | Change in rating: +13.8%
2014 Rank: T-21
Palmer has an 11-2 record in his last 13 starts and ranks ninth among qualifying quarterbacks in Total QBR (67.8) over that span, which dates to Week 11 of the 2013 season. So it's not a huge surprise that some of the voters said they would've been inclined to make him a 2, if not for the fact that Palmer is coming off a torn ACL at age 35.
"He plays well as a stationary dropback QB," a personnel director said. "He can find his receivers. If he is comfortable in the system, he can make all the throws, finding his first, second and maybe his third read. He is a system guy now."
A head coach said he thought Palmer was more of a backup at this point based on an inability to move. That was an outlier view, however. Thirteen voters placed Palmer into the second tier. Those placing Palmer lower pointed to injury problems.
"At one point, I'd have told you he is a 3," another director said. "I am saying he is a high 2. Coming out of Oakland I thought his arm was dying. I give Arizona credit. They saw something I did not. His arm has more life to it than I thought."
One head coach said of Smith: "He has everything else, but his arm talent, his instincts to throw the ball with anticipation [are lacking]." AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Average rating: 2.77 | Change in rating: +6.4%
2014 Rank: 18
There are different types of 3s. Smith is the type voters view more favorably because he generally will not lose the game, and he's a good teammate. However, voters do not think he has played a leading role in his 25-13-1 record as a starter over the past three seasons. Smith is seventh in winning percentage and 19th in Total QBR over that span, rankings that line up very closely with those for Andy Dalton, another quarterback in the third tier.
"At one time, I would have had Alex as a 2, but he has to be a 3 because of his arm talent," a head coach said. "He has everything else, but his arm talent, his instincts to throw the ball with anticipation [are lacking]. I think it is a product of playing in so many systems. When he was young, I thought he had a chance."
A GM who placed Smith in the third tier said he thought the Chiefs couldn't win a championship with him behind center.
"To me, a 2 has to have a good cast around him," the GM said. "A 3 is not going to win a championship even though he has a good cast around him. But he is good enough to be a starter."
A personnel director disagreed, saying he thought a team such as the Lovie Smith-era Chicago Bears -- loaded on defense, dynamic on special teams -- would have won a Super Bowl if Smith had been its quarterback. The 2006 Bears reached the Super Bowl with a 13-3 record even though Rex Grossman posted a 39.3 QBR, by far the lowest for a Super Bowl team in the QBR era (since 2006). Smith's QBR over the past three seasons stands at 53.1, higher than the regular-season figures for three recent Super Bowl champs (2007 Giants, 2008 Steelers 2012 Ravens). But those teams all had quarterbacks currently in the second tier -- guys some voters feel have the physical attributes of a first-tier QB.
"I don't know how you can give a QB who hasn't thrown a TD pass to a wide receiver in more than a year anything above a 4," a salary-cap manager said.
One GM said of Tannehill: "His biggest issue is his lack of natural arm strength." Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Average rating: 2.86 | Change in rating: +13.9%
2014 Rank: 23
Voters moved Tannehill more solidly into the third tier, with most suggesting a 2 would be his ceiling. Tannehill has made statistical gains every year even though the Dolphins have struggled to build a capable offensive line, running game and receiving corps around him. The defense also fell apart late last season. Even with those mitigating factors, some voters wanted to see more from Tannehill.
"He does not have any signature wins yet," an offensive coordinator said. "Who has Tannehill beat toward the end of the year?"
A personnel director who studied Tannehill closely coming out of college said he thought accuracy and pocket poise would always be issues. He feels the same way now.
"Look, he is not Mark Sanchez, but there are some similarities in Mike Tannenbaum giving Tannehill [a six-year, $96-million] deal and Tannenbaum giving Sanchez [a three-year, $40.5-million] deal," this director said. "They want to be ahead of the curve and I get it, but you need to be right. Tannehill is a great kid, he works, he does everything you want, but there was a little bit of panic in college, and there still is. I have not seen a game yet where it slowed down for him. Say what you want, he has a losing record."
A different director called Tannehill a 2 with the potential to reach the top tier based on athleticism and potential for positional growth after playing receiver in college. But he had concerns about Tannehill's deep-ball accuracy, adding that Tannehill could use a better running back. He also thought losing Charles Claywould hurt more than some anticipated.
"His biggest issue is his lack of natural arm strength, and because of that, you watch him on tape last year, Mike Wallace is wide open constantly and he just can't get the ball down the field," a GM said. "But being a smooth operator, he is a guy who is trending toward a 2. I do see the physical tools to be a 1."
One head coach on Kaepernick: "I never felt like he could beat you from the pocket." AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Average rating: 2.94 | Change in rating: -17.7%
2014 Rank: 14
Voters raised questions about Kaepernick's accuracy and ability as a pocket passer. They see the football equivalent of a pitcher with a little variety beyond a fastball. In general, the sentiment was that Kaepernick regressed last season as his fundamentals suffered and the 49ers failed to maximize his abilities.
"[Jim] Harbaugh allowed him to get exposed a little by trying to have him win, to be the centerpiece of the offense instead of what he does naturally -- running," a personnel director said. "He showed his arm strength, but also his inaccuracy as a thrower. That is not going to get better. He cannot be a 2 by being a dropback QB."
Kaepernick averaged 36.1 dropbacks per game in 2014, up from 31.4 in each of his previous two seasons as a starter. His completion rate actually improved from 2013, but his touchdown rate fell, his interception rate climbed and he took 52 sacks, more than any quarterback except for Blake Bortles (55). Last year, 14 of 26 voters placed Kaepernick in the second tier. Only five of 35 did this time.
"He has unique ability, but having played him more than once, I never felt like he could beat you from the pocket and I still feel that way," a head coach said.
Kaepernick has seen his QBR score as a starter fall in each of the last three seasons, from 71.8 to 68.6 to 55.9 last season.
"I'm probably a little low on Kaepernick, but he is not disciplined," said a head coach who placed Kaepernick in the fourth tier. "I have not seen him beat anybody from the pocket."
One personnel director on Dalton: "He is a win-with quarterback, not a win-because-of quarterback." Gregory Shamus/Getty Image
Average rating: 2.94 | Change in rating: +1.9%
2014 Rank: T-19
Thirty-one of 35 voters placed Dalton among the 3s, giving Dalton the most such votes. Most thought he could become a 2. None said he could become a 1.
"I like Dalton, but I've seen him enough times to know his receivers have to make plays for him," a personnel director said. "He has had good receivers making big catches. I saw him being so sporadic needing a win to go into the playoffs or being a wild-card team, and playing terrible. He was the reason they lost."
Dalton ranks 20th out of 29 qualifying players in Total QBR since entering the league in 2011. The Bengals have the NFL's sixth-best record (42-23-1) during that span. Ranking third in defensive EPA has helped them succeed with statistically average quarterback play.
"Dalton can play as a high 3 or a low 3," a different personnel director said. "He has to win with his head and his short accuracy and the pieces around him. They have given him good pieces around him. The injuries at wideout really hurt him [in the playoffs]. He cannot carry the load, but he is solid. He is a win-with quarterback, not a win-because-of quarterback."
One head coach on Carr: "Man, he can spin the ball." Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Average rating: 3.11 | Change in rating: N/A
2014 Rank: N/A
This relatively high ranking for an unestablished player reflects a fair amount of projection from voters excited about the potential they've seen to this point. Carr was statistically poor as a rookie, averaging a league-low 5.5 yards per pass attempt while ranking 28th out of 33 qualifiers in Total QBR.
"I think he is strong in the pocket, and just watching him, it feels like he is in command, knows where he is going with the ball and has plenty of arm strength," a personnel director said. "The lack of talent around him is pretty apparent. You get the offensive line and run game going, surround him with some better players and he makes a big jump."
An offensive coach said he thought Carr had the physical talent to be a 2, and that Carr could be a 1 if he has the right mental makeup.
"I saw a ton of college tape on him, he threw it 60 times a game and was almost Elway-like the way he banged 50-yard throws," a head coach said. "Man, he can spin the ball."
A different personnel director from a team that faced Carr last season said the QB needed to show more against the blitz. He was otherwise impressed with the way Carr controlled the game and saw the field. An opposing defensive coordinator said he loved Carr's demeanor and thought he was tough to rattle.
"He can spin it, he has good accuracy, he makes quick decisions," a different defensive coordinator said. "The people that like him but do not rank him higher, well, he has an awful supporting cast. No run game, awful receivers. They drafted some guys. They have a shot."
One head coach on Cutler: "I've never seen a guy get paid that much money and see that many people fired around him." AP Photo/Jim Mone
T-20. Jay Cutler | Chicago Bears
Average rating: 3.11 | Change in rating: -19.1%
2014 Rank: 17
With the exception of Robert Griffin III, no player in the survey produced stronger negative reactions than Cutler did.
"I've never seen a guy get paid that much money and see that many people fired around him," a head coach said. "It's incredible. It is never his fault. You could give him a 2, but I'd want him as a backup."
That coach was one of seven voters to place Cutler in the fourth tier. One voter placed him in the fifth tier, explaining that Cutler's presence on a team is damaging.
"We might already know everything on him, but there seems to be something about him where you go, 'Let's give him another shot,'" a GM said.
An evaluator who spent time with the Bears during Cutler's tenure with the team said he thought the organization lost sight of the fact that Cutler needs a strong defense and running game to succeed. Cutler might have top-tier physical talent, this evaluator said, but he will not harness it properly if forced to carry the offense the way top-tier quarterbacks do.
"I do not think he is the monster everyone has made him out to be," the evaluator said. "He does have issues, but can you win with him? Yes. That is why he is a 3, not a 4. If you protect him and get him to get the ball out and have a really good run game, he can be [good enough]. But he will turn it over, and you have to overcome that."
One personnel director on Foles: "I don't know that he sees everything." AP Images/Michael Thomas
Average rating: 3.20 | Change in rating: -25%
2014 Rank: 15
Voters gave Foles the benefit of the doubt heading into 2014, but not after a down season. His average ranking fell 25 percent from 2.56 to 3.2, the fourth-largest percentage dip among the 27 returning starters. Some evaluators are interested to see how he fares away from Chip Kelly's offense.
"Truthfully, I think Foles is a 4," a personnel director said. "I think in that Chip Kelly system, once he figured it out, he operated it and did a great job early on. But I do not think he is talented [enough] where he will be that way year in and year out, or week in and week out. He is a little stiff in the pocket. I don't think he has great arm strength. He has pretty good accuracy. I don't know that he sees everything."
One coach lauded Foles for his toughness, good passing ability and functional mobility, but when he studied Foles against Jacksonville last season, he saw a quarterback who had trouble seeing wide-open receivers down the field.
"You wish he was your backup because he could go win some games for you, but I wouldn't want him to be my starter," a head coach said.
A personnel director called Foles a "solid 3" who should upgrade the situation in St. Louis.
One head coach on Bradford: "If he can stay healthy, he can be so accurate." AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Average rating: 3.23 | Change in rating: -3.6%
2014 Rank: T-21
Bradford fell a bit in the rankings based on his inability to stay healthy in recent seasons, making just seven of 32 potential starts since 2013.
"I thought he was a 2 coming out because I did not see the big arm," a head coach said. "No one could tell from his pro day because [agent] Tom Condon wouldn't let him throw any deep comebacks. He has the intangibles, but you have to give him a 3 or 4 just because he is always hurt. Frankly, you probably want him to be your backup, just for his availability."
A defensive coordinator said he thought Bradford could flourish playing in Philadelphia because the Eagles' play-action game could buy him time he did not have in St. Louis. This coordinator added that Bradford would be an upgrade from Foles and Sanchez in terms of accuracy, but with the injury concerns, he placed Bradford only in the third tier.
"There is no quarterback I loved more than him coming out," a different head coach said. "I am pulling for him. If he can stay healthy, he can be so accurate. Keep him as a 3 but only because of the injury factor."
One personnel director on Bridgewater: "He is one of those guys who is a jack of all trades, master of none." AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt
Average rating: 3.23 | Change in rating: N/A
2014 Rank: N/A
Bridgewater made it into the third tier after a 13-game rookie season featuring 14 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. That's not bad, but it's tough not to notice how much Bridgewater lagged behind Carr, his fellow 2014 rookie, in this survey.
"I think he is a 3 right now," a personnel director said. "He has a lot of confidence, some mobility, some little traits that you like. I just do not think he has a lot of a lot of those traits. He will flash 2, never be a 1 and settle in at being a 3, needing good people around him. He is one of those guys who is a jack of all trades, master of none."
A GM challenged anyone to find an area where Bridgewater projected as above average. Multiple voters thought Bridgewater would be a solid 3 playing withAdrian Peterson and under offensive coordinator Norv Turner. A personnel director who was one of five voters placing Bridgewater in the second tier cited the poise Bridgewater showed leading an offense without Peterson.
"I question his accuracy," a different director said. "Ten-plus yards down the field and in tight windows with the game on the line, I'm not sure. If you scheme it up and have a great run game with a top offensive coordinator, he is good. I don't know if he can ever put it on his back. You did not see it in college.
"I watched the Detroit game and he threw two picks that really cost them the game. He had to make a throw into a tight window. He does have poise. He makes pretty good decisions with the ball. He has some things you like and with the right offense and coordinator, you can win with him. He is very similar to the kid in Cincinnati, and that is OK. You get to 10 wins in this freaking league, you are making a lot of money."
Tier 4 (8 QBs total)
Tier 4 (Click to show)
One D-coordinator on Mariota: "He is athletic, smart, he studies, he's a leader, a good kid." AP Photo/Mark Zaleski
Average rating: 3.54 | Change in rating: N/A
2014 Rank: N/A
Voters typically place rookies into the fourth tier by default unless they're particularly excited about one. Mariota drew five votes in the second tier and eight in the third.
"What don't you like about him?" a defensive coordinator asked. "He is athletic, smart, he studies, he's a leader, a good kid."
An offensive coordinator who studied Mariota said he's confident the former Oregon star can process quickly, which is critical for development.
"He will be a little bit of a manager, not make too many mistakes," a personnel director predicted. "I think he is a 3 who can project to a 2, but he is going to a situation where they do not have a lot of talent around him."
Another director said he would have taken Mariota over Jameis Winston in part because he thinks Mariota will not create distractions.
"Does Mariota have some little flaws in his game? Absolutely," this director said. "Accuracy could be a little bit of an issue. But he will work his butt off, he is smart, really good athlete, has speed, and he will work at everything. There are lots of similarities with Alex Smith. There is too much going on with Winston. We are not living in the '70s anymore where the QB can get away with that s---."
One offensive coordinator on Winston: "He threw so many bad interceptions in college where everybody was wide open." Harry How/Getty Images
Average rating: 3.77 | Change in rating: N/A
2014 Rank: N/A
Winston matched Mariota with 20 votes in the fourth tier, but he got only one in the second tier. Four voters put him in the fifth, and one of those, an offensive coordinator, was betting Winston would be a bust.
"He threw so many bad interceptions in college where everybody is wide open," this coordinator said. "That is not scientific. He was just so inconsistent in college, turned it over all the time and was on the best team in college. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. That is my gut feeling. Not that I think Mariota is the cat's meow, but he will be accurate, precise, efficient. The other guy is gunslinger plus bad decision-making, and that equals bad."
A head coach said he thought Winston would get the turnover problems under control.
"I bet you he throws 15-20 picks this year," a personnel director said. "He is very talented, very smart and he sees it. Has to work at it and protect the football. They will help him. Whether they can protect him or not, I do not know. They will do everything they can by running the ball and scheming."
One opposing head coach on Bortles: "I did not like how he threw the ball -- he looked lost." AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Average rating: 3.83 | Change in rating: N/A
2014 Rank: N/A
Bortles played sooner than anticipated and got very little support, making it tougher to evaluate him fairly. Voters were not particularly critical of Bortles, but that doesn't mean they were optimistic, either.
"I'm not feeling it," one offensive coach said, offering faint praise by calling Bortles an "ascending 4."
Bortles ranked 28th in completion rate last season (58.9 percent), despite completing 65 screens in 73 attempts. Only Cutler attempted more screen passes last season.
"I did not like how he threw the ball. He looked lost," an opposing head coach said.
A personnel director was among several voters who said they questioned Bortles' accuracy coming out of college.
"For the beating he was taking, he was pretty poised about it," this director said. "It will be interesting to see how the new coordinator helps him. I do not think they helped him at all last year. One of the hardest things when you take a quarterback is getting your staff, especially your playcaller and head coach, to determine how they're going to make him successful and then sticking to it."
One offensive coach on RG III: "He is done." AP Photo/Richard Lipski
Average rating: 3.91 | Change in rating: -30.5%
2014 Rank: T-19
One head coach wound up being the easiest grader overall -- and it wasn't even close -- placing 30 of the 32 quarterbacks in the top two tiers. The lone exceptions? Matt Cassel (Tier 3) and Griffin (Tier 4), which pretty much sums up where people around the league see Griffin at this stage of his career.
"Five, and there's no coming back," one offensive coach said. "He is done. The reason is, the injury slowed his legs, and his ego will not allow him to hit rock bottom and actually grind his way back up the right way."
Multiple voters hit on that theme.
"To get better in this league, you have to have a degree of humility," a personnel director said. "Griffin sees himself like Peyton, in that light. When he looks in the mirror, he is seeing things that everybody else is not seeing. That is why I was surprised when they gave him the fifth-year [option] and said it was an easy decision."
Griffin did receive a lone second-tier vote from a GM who took a longer-range view.
"I know how hard it is for a quarterback to go into a system for the first time," he said. "I go back to Brett Favre. He was a 1, but he goes to the Jets and he was probably a 2 or a 3. Then he went to a familiar system in Minnesota and was a 1 again. With Griffin, I'm taking into account the new offense, the new personality at head coach, coming off an injury. He showed his rookie year that he could be a 1. He is a young guy. I'm going to give him the benefit because of that."
One D-coordinator on McCown: "He was better than what he showed at times [last year]." Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports
Average rating: 3.94 | Change in rating: -12%
2014 Rank: 24
There aren't enough starting-caliber quarterbacks to go around, and it's getting tougher to find prospects with training in pro-style offenses. Those factors explain how McCown projects as a starter for the second consecutive offseason.
"We faced him last year, and I kind of like parts of his game," a defensive coordinator said. "He was better than what he showed at times. He has some mobility, he has a decent release, some of that stuff. I have respect for his game."
Another coordinator called McCown a very good athlete for his age (36).
"He needs a strong, strong cast around him to win," a personnel director said. "In Chicago, he was throwing to three giants and they were pretty good on the line, with a good run game."
One GM on Brian Hoyer: "They have to play a certain way and manage it with him." AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Average rating: 4.03 | Change in rating: +5.9%
2014 Rank: 29
Hoyer hasn't won the job yet, but voters considered him the favorite, making him the choice for the purposes of this project. One personnel director called Hoyer an overachiever, which is somewhat high praise for a guy who will be on his sixth team in as many seasons.
"He did a good job with what they asked him to do in Cleveland," a GM said. "He kept them in games, did not make big mistakes. They have to play a certain way and manage it with him."
An offensive coach said he'd take Hoyer over McCown based on how they functioned under pressure. One voter noted that when Green Bay lost Rodgers to injury in 2013, the Packers could have signed Hoyer, but they chose Seneca Wallace instead.
One offensive coach on Matt Cassel: "He just looked like he regressed." Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports
Average rating: 4.20 | Change in rating: +1.6%
2014 Rank: 28
Multiple voters could not believe an NFL team would sign Cassel to be a potential starter in 2015.
"Matt Moore is way better, and they made no play for him," one offensive coach said. "Cassel will not even be the starter up there. He is not accurate, has a long motion, a big overstride, a flat ball, and he just looked like he has regressed."
EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Simms are also on the roster.
Speaking of the competition: "Manuel has no instincts after the ball is snapped," a personnel director said. "He's a great kid, has some talent. But he could not decipher or make quick decisions in college, and I do not see him doing it now."
The Bills do have the makings of a top-five defense, and they made moves to upgrade their ground game. Those components can help a team win without a top quarterback, which the Bills proved last season (9-7 while ranking 30th in QBR at 36.5). They joined the 2009 Jets as the only other team out of 66 in the QBR era (since 2006) to exceed 8-8 with a QBR score at 37.0 or lower.
One director on Geno Smith: "He does not strike me with his actions or thought process as a starting quarterback." Al Bello/Getty Images
Average rating: 4.29 | Change in rating: +4.3%
2014 Rank: 32
Ryan Fitzpatrick could wind up starting for the Jets, but Smith is currently penciled in, and he's the more interesting study as a young player with some talent. There is not much excitement for Smith overall, but two of the higher-profile offensive coaches in the league accounted for two of the three highest votes for Smith.
"When I watch Geno play, where are the base plays?" one of these coaches said. "To make the quarterback successful, you do not run more exotic schemes. Geno has run an offense that is trying to win with scheme. I see a guy who has talent, but he has not been coached like a quarterback. I think you have to give him a 3 based on that."
The other offensive coach said the 2014 Jets "ran every play in the history of football" at the expense of those base plays a young quarterback needs to rely upon in a pinch. Both coaches used the word "incomplete" when describing Smith.
Others were harsher.
"Geno is a 5, and that is it," another coach said. "He cannot process fast enough. He is not a natural guy, sliding in the pocket and knowing when to run it. He has some legs to run, but no, he is trying to prove he is a pocket passer. Let's do something at the position before we start limiting ourselves for image."
A personnel director said he thought Smith was erratic in his public comments and in his play.
"You don't have to be like everyone else," this director said, "but he does not strike me with his actions or thought process as a starting quarterback."