The bottom 10: Worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL today

By Jesse Reed
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s nearly impossible to win consistently without a top-tier starting quarterback on the roster, and there are plenty of NFL teams lacking that element. That’s what we’re focused on here today.

Among the bottom 10 starting quarterbacks in the league, we’re including some players who have the potential to one day become stars. However, at this point in their careers they have significant issues that must be addressed before they can climb out of these rankings.

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

While Darnold did show promise in his rookie season, he also had a rough time with turnovers. In 13 games, he threw 15 interceptions and fumbled five times, posting a pedestrian quarterback rating of 77.6. If the Jets can protect him up front and if some playmakers step up, then Darnold can take a big step forward in his development this coming season. But for now, he’s still a huge work in progress, despite the excitement from Jets fans about his play late last year.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

This former No. 2 overall pick is entering a critical season that could make or break his career. After a promising 2016 season in which he threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, Mariota has regressed in a big way the past two seasons. From 2017-18, he threw just 24 touchdowns with 23 interceptions. Even worse, Mariota has been plagued by injuries, missing at least one game every year since coming out of Oregon in 2015.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

In an era when we’re seeing quarterbacks completing over 70% of their passes, Dalton’s career average of 62.3% stands out. The past two years, he’s been well under that, failing to even reach 60% in 2017. For a quarterback with an average arm, Dalton’s inability to consistently connect with his receivers keeps Cincinnati’s offense from taking flight on a regular basis. Even worse, Dalton has averaged just 23.5 touchdowns per year, which is a paltry mark in today’s NFL for a longtime starter.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

One of the most exciting young talents in the NFL today, Jackson has remarkable raw talent. If the second-year signal caller can figure out a way to turn himself into a dominant pure passer, then he could one day end up with a bust in Canton. Unfortunately, at this time, Jackson remains a huge project for the Ravens. His lack of consistent accuracy last year was a problem, and his penchant for fumbling the ball away was downright alarming. We look forward to watching Jackson evolve in the future. For now, he’s likely to struggle once more in 2019.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like his 2015 draft mate, Marcus Mariota, Winston also is facing a make-or-break 2019 season. The former No. 1 overall pick has struggled with consistency throughout his first four years as a pro and is extremely turnover prone. He’s thrown 58 interceptions and has fumbled 38 times, 18 of which were recovered by opposing defenses. When Winston is on his game, he’s phenomenal. It just so happens those moments have been few and far between so far in his career.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

A tremendously gifted young athlete with one of the biggest arms the NFL has seen in a while, Allen might one day become an elite quarterback. That’s a huge stretch right now, though, because one thing Allen doesn’t possess happens to be a key element for all elite passers — accuracy. This second-year gunslinger can hit open receivers, but oftentimes he overshoots them by quite a bit slinging the ball downfield. As a result, he completed just 52.8 percent of his passes last year — a startlingly bad number by any measure.

Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos

It’s crystal clear that Drew Lock isn’t ready to be a starter in the NFL yet, but the Broncos may not be dynamic on offense with Flacco under center, either. The reports coming out of training camp have been positive, however that echoes what we heard about Flacco in 2018 — before he was replaced by Lamar Jackson. What we know is Flacco hasn’t been elite since taking the Ravens to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. Since then, he’s thrown 110 touchdowns and 92 interceptions while earning a record of 42-41.

Eli Manning, New York Giants

At the age of 38, Manning has been on a decline since having a phenomenal 2015 campaign in which he threw 35 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. In the three seasons since, the veteran has tossed an average of 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The past two years have particularly shown regression while leading the Giants to a record of 8-23. Even worse, some of those losses were aided by poor throws at the worst possible time from Manning.

Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins

Whether it’s Fitzpatrick or Rosen under center for Miami this year, it’s a safe bet that the offense will feature plenty of mishaps from its quarterback. Last year in Tampa Bay, Fitzpatrick had some atrocious interception-filled performances. Rosen had a miserable rookie season in Arizona, and his first preseason game in 2019 was more of the same. Despite what head coach Brian Flores has said about tanking, it appears Tua Tagovailoa really may be headed to South Beach in 2020.

Case Keenum, Colt McCoy or Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins

Here’s how hopeless things are in our nation’s capital at the quarterback position: Colt McCoy was listed as the starter in the team’s first preseason depth chart — the same quarterback who has just 29 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his eight-year career. Keenum is coming off a rough campaign in Dallas, and it seems like he’s not made any significant improvements this summer. Haskins has talent to be sure, yet his rough preseason debut showed the rookie has a long way to go before he’s ready to lead a franchise.