More than ever, the NFL is a pass-first league. As evidenced by the contracts we’ve seen quarterbacks receive recently, it really is all about that position.
A brilliant performance could lead to continual success. Meanwhile, struggles under center tend to create major struggles.
Heading into the 2019 NFL season, there are a number of quarterbacks under pressure to succeed. Whether it’s about their previous struggles or their contracts, here’s a look at eight of them.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay brought in offensive-minded head coach Bruce Arians for a reason. He’s going to build that side of the ball around the former No. 1 pick in hopes of resurrecting a now-fledgling career. It’s not going to be easy. Winston was a turnover machine in Tampa Bay last year — committing 19 turnovers while being benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick multiple times. Even with the Buccaneers having picked up the final year of his rookie deal, Winston is slated to become a free agent following the 2019 campaign. The time is now for him to prove his worth as a starter in the NFL.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Being a starting quarterback in the nation’s largest media market brings a certain level of pressure in the first place. Remaining under center when most fans would have rather moved on from you years ago magnifies this even further. Now that his Giants can’t be considered anywhere near contenders, the twilight of Manning’s career will be more about whether rookie first-round pick Daniel Jones can beat him out. Even then, there’s pressure for the two-time Super Bowl champ to succeed. Whether it’s battling for a starting job in New York or elsewhere following the 2019 season, Manning doesn’t want to go out on bad terms. It’s an unfortunate reality for the veteran.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were looking for a potential replacement for Carr during the 2019 NFL Draft. This didn’t sit too well with the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Heading into next season, the narrative in Oakland will surround Carr’s oftentimes questionable relationship with head coach Jon Gruden. It’s also going to be interesting to see if the team captain can keep everything together in a locker room that now includes divisive figures such as Richie Incognito, Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict. Should he struggle from both an on-field and leadership standpoint, we would not be surprised if 2019 were Carr’s final season with the Raiders.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Much like Jameis Winston with the Buccaneers, Mariota has a lot to prove. Is he the long-term solution in Tennessee? The former No. 2 pick is entering a contract year after two consecutive miserable seasons. Mariota averaged less than 2,900 passing yards per year with 24 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions in 28 starts since the start of the 2017 campaign. Statistically, those are not even top-20 numbers. This Titans team is built to contend for a playoff spot. The time is now for Mariota to stop acting as a deterrent to team-wide success. It’s that simple.
Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
A total of $88 million over four seasons after starting nine regular-season games the past three years. That’s what a weak free-agent quarterback market, combined with postseason success, gets you in today’s NFL. Is Foles an upgrade over Blake Bortles in Duval? That goes without saying. But his body of work in two other NFL cities outside of Philadelphia leads to some questions about his contract. Foles threw 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while posting a 5-7 record as a starter with the then-St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. Production similar to this would lead to him being considered a major free-agent bust.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Has Prescott been a good quarterback over the course of his three-year career? That depends on two factors. Do you value actual game tape or stats more? What we do know is that the former mid-round pick might very well be playing for a huge pay day this coming season. Prescott, 25, could be looking at $30-plus million annually if he performs well and leads a contending Cowboys team deep into the playoffs. More inconsistency like we’ve seen over the past two years could force Dallas into thinking twice about handing out that type of deal. The pressure is certainly on Prescott from a financial perspective.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Whether it’s fair or not, Garoppolo is facing a ton of pressure heading into the 2019 season. That’s what comes with signing a five-year, $137.5 million contract after starting seven career regular-season games. The torn ACL he suffered Week 3 last season adds to this even more. Built like a prototypical quarterback and having seen some success in limited action (5-0 as 49ers starter in 2017), Garoppolo must now live up to his end of the bargain. He has a talented supporting cast and one of the most innovative offensive minds in football, head coach Kyle Shanahan. There are no excuses. Stay healthy and play like a Pro Bowler. It’s that simple.
Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos
Broncos general manager John Elway has rightfully received criticism for his handling of the quarterback position since Peyton Manning’s regression and ultimate retirement. Acquiring Flacco for a mid-round pick doesn’t warrant further criticism. He’s set to count $18.5 million against the cap in 2019. It’s pretty much a one-year tryout for the former Super Bowl winner. It’s also the 34-year-old Flacco’s final opportunity to prove that he still has it. Averaging 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions over the past four seasons, the pressure is squarely on Flacco to succeed in 2019. If not, it might soon be Drew Lock time in the Mile High City.