In a recent Monday Night Football showdown, former NFL star Troy Aikman's exasperation was palpable as he witnessed the New York Jets' offence falter, with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson bearing the brunt of the criticism.
The game featured Wilson missing throws, underthrowing passes, and succumbing to eight sacks, concluding in a 27-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Aikman's frustration with the Jets' offensive struggles was evident in his pointed remarks, creating a moment that captured the ongoing quarterback woes in the NFL.
Wilson's performance was just one of many examples of quarterback futility in a season marked by inconsistent play from this crucial position. While talents like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson redefine elite quarterbacking, numerous NFL teams struggle to find baseline competence in their signal-callers.
This trend raises a pertinent question: Why are there so many subpar quarterbacks in the NFL?
1. The Draft Dilemma:
The NFL draft, the primary talent pipeline for quarterbacks, often leaves teams guessing. While Patrick Mahomes was a gem found as the 10th overall pick in 2017, high draft picks like Mitch Trubisky have failed to live up to expectations.
The 2021 draft further illustrated the unpredictability, with only Trevor Lawrence proving a sure bet among the top five quarterbacks selected. The erratic nature of quarterback selection continues to perplex NFL decision-makers.
2. The Cap Conundrum:
The NFL's intricate salary structure emphasizes spending on wide receiver and cornerback positions, leaving little room for backup quarterbacks. Consequently, many teams rely on unproven backups when injuries strike, exemplified by Clayton Tune and Tommy DeVito seeing meaningful snaps.
The recent trend of late-round rookies or veteran castoffs occupying starting roles reflects the reluctance to allocate substantial resources to backup quarterbacks.
3. It's About the System:
Brock Purdy's transformation from an undrafted rookie to a top-tier passer in San Francisco highlights the significance of coaching and offensive systems in quarterback performance.
Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa flourished under the new coaching staff and offensive schemes. Teams seeking to unearth quarterback gems in the draft might fare better by building elite coaching teams and then identifying players to fit their systems.
4. The Complexity Conundrum:
Modern NFL offences have become increasingly complex, which may contribute to the scarcity of quarterbacks who can process intricate instructions, make pre-snap adjustments, and read defences effectively.
The league's rule changes favouring offence and quarterback protection contrast with quarterbacks' challenges on the field. Aikman's frustration underscores the belief that the game should be more quarterback-friendly, given the recent rule alterations.
In conclusion, the NFL's quarterback predicament remains a multifaceted puzzle. The draft's unpredictability, salary constraints, coaching influence, and the evolving nature of offensive systems all play a role in why the league grapples with an abundance of subpar quarterbacks.
As the season unfolds, teams will continue to search for solutions to this perennial challenge in the ever-evolving landscape of professional football.