Comparing the North: Quarterbacks

It's amazing how far the NFC North teams have come with their quarterback situation in the last three years. Each team has a clear-cut starter, but depth is a different issue depending on the squad. We analyze.


Starter - Jay Cutler. Backups - Caleb Hanie, Dan LeFevour.

With a full year to work with his young receivers, Cutler should be better if he can accept the hard and often harsh coaching of new coordinator Mike Martz. If Cutler and his receivers can get a firm grasp on the new offense, the quarterback should flourish along with an offense that was a disappointment last year. No one was more of a disappointment than Cutler, the supposed franchise quarterback, who flung an NFL-worst 26 interceptions. But he remains a Pro Bowl talent because of his rocket arm, accuracy and knack for moving in the pocket and buying time. There isn't a pass route in anyone's playbook that Cutler can't throw with authority. But he has yet to prove himself as a leader or a winner. Cutler has not led a team to a winning season in the NFL or in college, and he is still seen as aloof and has a reputation as a finger-pointer. But he may have grown up some last season when those negative traits were seldom seen. Although there were many opportunities to blame an inexperienced group of wide receivers and a mediocre offensive line, Cutler did not throw anyone under the bus. It will be interesting to see how he works with Martz, who has orchestrated some of the most productive NFL offenses in recent years. But his tough coaching may alienate Cutler, and it remains to be seen if the Bears' quarterbacks room is big enough to house two massive egos. Backup Caleb Hanie has impressed with his athleticism and ability to make plays on the run, but most of that has been demonstrated in the preseason. LeFevour is a project with size and athleticism, but he lacks arm strength and experience in a pro-style offense, so he is a prime candidate for the practice squad.


Matthew Stafford. Backups - Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton.

The Lions haven't had a Pro Bowl quarterback since Greg Landry in 1971. Stafford's got a long way to go before he ends that drought, but he did enough in an injury-hampered rookie season to show why the Lions drafted him No. 1 overall. And for a change, there's no quarterback controversy and no quarterback quandary in Detroit. Now it's up to Stafford to utilize some new weapons in the passing game, cut down on the mistakes (20 interceptions in 10 games in ‘09) and start to take control of what is unquestionably his team. He'll be aided by a more amiable relationship with Hill, who'll provide some veteran insurance as a backup. Stanton is the clear-cut No. 3 and may be playing his final season in Detroit.


Starter — Aaron Rodgers. Backups — Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell.

Despite being sacked a league-high 50 times in 2009, Rodgers delivered a Pro Bowl-worthy season in getting the Packers back to the playoffs. He had career highs for passes (541), completions (350), passing yards (4,434) and touchdowns (30) as he connected on 64.7 percent of his throws with only seven interceptions for a gaudy passer rating of 103.2. Rodgers is a dual threat to pull the football down, compiling 316 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He took responsibility for some of the high frequency of sacks and spent extra time in the offseason on working to get rid of the ball sooner. Flynn is destined to be Rodgers' top backup for a third straight season. His time to shine invariably is in the preseason games, but Flynn has refined his passing skills to go with solid leadership to give the Packers faith he could lead the offense if needed. Harrell, a prolific college passer at Texas Tech, signed as a free agent in the offseason and may be no better than practice-squad material should Green Bay keep only two quarterbacks on the roster for the second straight season.


Starter — Brett Favre. Backups — Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, Joe Webb.

The Vikings continue to wait for Favre to say whether he will play a 20th NFL season in 2010, although the expectation of almost everyone is that he will be back. Favre, however, isn't expected to join the Vikings until mid-August after having offseason ankle surgery and that will create an interesting situation early in training camp. Jackson appears to be the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback but there appears a real possibility Webb could end up being behind him. Webb, a sixth-round pick out of Alabama-Birmingham in last April's draft, was supposed to be moved to wide receiver but impressed the Vikings' coaches so much with his arm they left him at quarterback. He got snaps ahead of Rosenfels in the June minicamp and the Vikings could look to showcase Rosenfels with the goal of dealing him to a team in need of quarterback help. The Vikings know getting Webb through to their practice squad wouldn't work because a team almost certainly would pick him up off waivers.

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