The quarterback position is without question the most important, most scrutinized, and most criticized position on the field and maybe even in all of sports. They are praised when the team wins and scolded when the team loses. No player on the field faces the kind of pressure the quarterback does, and because of their importance, when a team finds a franchise one, the payoff can be very rewarding. They key to getting the big bucks- big production. Have some of the best regressed or slacked off since the moment they have signed their contract? Let’s discuss:
Stafford signed a three year $53M contract extension right before the 2013 season began. $41.5M of it was guaranteed. The Lions have only reached the playoffs once (in 2011) since he’s been behind center. Granted, Stafford is one of only four QBs to pass more than 5,000 yards in a season, and has made the record books by tying Drew Brees for most games with at least 350 passing yards. He still hasn’t grasped the concept of finishing and still has issues with his decision making in crucial moments. It leads many to criticize what kind of production would he have if not for future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson catching his passes. Currently Stafford has an 11-7 (TDs to INTs) ratio with 2,216 passing yards. The numbers are there, but with the Lions sitting at 6-2 and leading the NFC North, Stafford must bring them to a playoff victory in order solidify earning that contract.
Ryan is the Atlanta Falcons franchise leader in passing yards and had made the playoffs every year. That is, every year until he signed his fat new contract for five years in 2013 for $103.75M with $42M guaranteed. The Falcons were first in the NFC South prior to that extension, going from 12-4 to 4-12 during the 2013 season. Currently they are sitting 2-6, leading on the lowly Buccaneers. Ryan has made some uncanny mistakes, even though his stat line reads a 15-8 (TDs to INTs) ratio with 2,306 passing yards. This is not what the Falcons organization envisioned after giving Ryan the goods.
What’s worse than not playing up to your contract? Not playing at all. Bradford was the last of the rookie class to receive a hefty contract before the new collective bargaining agreement came into play. In fact, he had the largest rookie contract in history, after being the number one pick in the 2010 draft (same class as Matthew Stafford), cashing in with six years $78M; $50M guaranteed. But in his five years in the league, Bradford has only played two full seasons and now he’s out yet again, battling an ACL injury he incurred in the pre-season. Rams are paying him a large amount of money to sit on the sidelines in St. Louis.
After winning the 2012 Super Bowl and posting one of the best post season stat lines in NFL history, the Ravens wasted no time locking down their franchise boy, with a $120.6M contract; $52M guaranteed. But the Ravens regressed immensely directly after. With trades, cuts, and retirements, the Ravens were not the same team. Lack of running game and no pass protection kept the Ravens out of the playoffs in 2013 and all eyes turned to Flacco. Now Baltimore sits at number one in the AFC North with a 5-3 record. Flacco has managed a 14-7 (TDs to INTs) ratio with 2,049 passing yards; however, it is fair to note that this season, Flacco has the return of a high level receiver in Steve Smith (much like he had in 2012 with Anquon Boldin). One has to wonder, without the addition of Smith, would Flacco have been able to return to respectability. The Ravens sure hope so.
When potential Hall of Famer, Brian Urlacher, make statements like: “Financially, he is one of the elite guys in the NFL. You look at his contract, he was paid like an elite quarterback, if I am not mistaken. He just hasn’t produced like an elite quarterback,” then one has to ask if maybe the Bears jumped in too deep. Cutler came to the Midwest in 2009 and hasn’t played a full season with them since. He’s only brought the Bears one playoff win in that time span; however, Chicago still gave him a seven year $126M contract with $54M guaranteed. That was in January of 2014. This season the Bears have not won a game at home, are 3-5, third in the NFC North, and even Cutlers teammates are fed up. Although Cutler has a 17-8 (TDs to INTs) ratio with 2,093 passing yards, Urlacher said it best when he stated, “If your quarterback can’t make plays in certain situations for you to win games, he’s not getting the job done.”
There was a look of surprise on everyone’s face once Jerry Jones announced he was giving Romo a contract extension for six more years worth $108M with $55M guaranteed. In eight years of leading the Cowboys, he has one playoff win to show for it and hasn’t made a post season since 2009. As much as people blame Romo for everything, he hasn’t been the only issue in Dallas. Offensive line woes and a suspect defense kept them out of the loop as well for awhile. And to his credit, he has had four consecutive seasons of 4,000+ yards. Currently the team is sitting 6-2, and in first place in the NFC East. His stat line isn’t too shabby either with a 15-7 (TDs to INTs) ratio and 1,998 passing yards, however with the way Demarco Murray has been running the ball, it’s perfectly understandable why Romo has reached 2000 yards yet. But Romo just underwent back surgery in the off-season and re-injured his back this past Sunday against the Redskins. Cowboy’s fans are tired of the excuses and they know, if there is a time for Romo to start earning that contract, the time is now.
Kaepernick took Alex Smith’s job first and then turned around and took a pay raise. A SERIOUS pay raise. After back-to-back NFC Championship appearances and a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers believed Kaepernick was worth all $126M in six years with $61M guaranteed. Kaepernick was 21-8 before he signed that contract, however he started this season uncharacteristically. He’s posted 1,719 passing yards and a 11-5 (TDs to INTs) ratio, but the team is only 4-3 and second in the NFC West. They started the season very slow offensively, and although they are starting to find their niche now, going 3-1 over their last five games, it was usually Kaepernick that got the offense going. San Fran will need him to keep up the momentum and to be consistent in order to feel like they made the right move in giving him a hefty payday.
Look, there are still several weeks left in the 2014 season and anything can happen. Of course football is the ultimate team sport and no one person does it alone, but when someone is paid the amount of the money these guys are paid, they are expected to out perform even when others on the team do not. It will be interesting to see who concludes their season up to the billing of what they were paid to do – win.