Quarterback performance often dictates success in the NFL. A bad one can crush the hopes of any team. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the NFL with 3,808 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa paces the league with a 112 passer rating, while Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith has completed 72.7% of his passes, No. 1 in the NFL. Suffice it to say, these teams — all of which are in the playoff picture — are not viewing quarterback as a problem position.
But it got us thinking … with Week 14 underway in the NFL, which teams need to most aggressively pursue a quarterback in 2023?
Here’s what USA TODAY Sports’ NFL experts think:
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New York teams
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The answer is New York — Jets, Giants, doesn’t matter … take your pick.
Both teams are currently on course to make the playoffs, which means they’ll need to be aggressive in addressing their lingering quarterback issues in 2023 – when they’re currently scheduled to pick 22nd (Jets) and 23rd (Giants) in the draft due to their strong records. The Jets’ confidence in Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick of the 2021 draft, has obviously wavered given he’s been parked at No. 3 on the depth chart even as an otherwise upper-tier roster drives toward postseason. Maybe Wilson gets another opportunity to establish himself as the franchise passer Joe Douglas once envisioned … but the Jets will need a backup plan – Jimmy Garoppolo? Jordan Love? Cooper Rush? … Tom … Brady? – given that current starter Mike White isn’t signed beyond this season.
The Giants are in a similar predicament. Daniel Jones, their first-round pick in 2019, is playing decently but is also headed for free agency after the club’s new regime opted to decline his fifth-year option for 2023. Could Jones, an athletic but inconsistent player with a 19-29-1 career record, be back? Sure. The Giants could also look at stopgaps like Garoppolo, Rush or Geno Smith (who’s played for both New York franchises). But as good as the Jets are and good as Giants might be and could quickly get with nearly $60 million in projected cap space next year, who could blame either franchise for making an inquiry about, say, Aaron Rodgers or making an aggressive play for Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Alabama’s Bryce Young in next year’s draft. Either way, standing pat doesn’t seem like the answer. — Nate Davis
Surely, there are at least a half-dozen “correct” answers here. But for the sake of debate, I’ll roll with the Indianapolis Colts – the franchise that has never quite found its way at quarterback since the sudden retirement of Capt. Andrew Luck in 2019. Philip Rivers was a great get in 2020, but in the grand scheme, he was just a tease. A few months ago, there was hope that they could plug in Matt Ryan. What a disaster that’s been. Carson Wentz. Jacoby Brissett. Young QB Sam Ehlinger. Nothing’s worked. With one of the NFL’s best running backs, a promising (but not always consistent) O-line and the makings of a decent defense (the videotape from that debacle at Dallas should be burned), the same logic applies: Get a decent quarterback in the mix and they should at least be in the playoff mix again. Of course, the Colts will likely be aggressively pursuing a new coach, too, so it will be quite the fresh start. But hey, it could be worse. The Colts still have a better hand than the Houston Texans. — Jarrett Bell
The Houston Texans are at the preliminary stages of a rebuild, case and point their league-worst 1-10-1 record. Houston has holes all over its roster, but the most glaring hole is at quarterback. Davis Mills has thrown 11 interceptions, which is tied for the second most in the NFL despite only appearing in 10 games. He’s proved that he’s not the answer in H-Town. The Texans need a quarterback they can build around and generate excitement for their fans.
The positive news is that the Texans are the favorite to get the No. 1 overall pick. They almost certainly will select a QB at the top of the draft. — Tyler Dragon
I’d say the Jets but Zach Wilson will enter just the third season of his rookie deal, carrying a $20.7 million hit in 2023, per Spotrac. It’s fiscally irresponsible for New York to move on right now, though that time may soon be nearing. I’m going to say it’s the Tennessee Titans and let me start with one huge caveat.
Ryan Tannehill, despite his middling rate of production, is quite efficient and manages the Tennessee offense well, especially in the red zone.
Tennessee is quite well rounded and doesn’t have too many holes, though receiver is certainly the most pressing. Still, the Titans have an out on Tannehill’s contract and could save $17.8 million against the cap by trading or cutting him before June 1, 2023. The only way the Titans should do this, however, is if they’re absolutely certain they can land an upgrade because getting one makes them a legitimate Super Bowl contender. — Lorenzo Reyes
New England Patriots
A little off the beaten path with this answer, but is Mac Jones capable of helping Bill Belichick get back to the mountaintop? Maybe a better question is whether Belichick can reach deep enough into his coaching bag to get a quarterback as limited as Jones there.
Perhaps a disgruntled quarterback (hello, Aaron Rodgers-Belichick pairing) could make his way to New England. Giving up on Jones ahead of Year 3 would be hasty, but Belichick, 70, may not value patience as much as he once did. And the Patriots will go into the offseason with the fourth most cap space, according to Spotrac.
New England will always have some semblance of a running game under Belichick. If he can bring in another quarterback, he’ll have a balanced enough attack on offense to compete with other high-powered attacks in the AFC East. — Chris Bumbaca
Story Credit: usatoday.com