The solitary nature of the quarterback position -- only one person can play it at a time -- makes it natural to rank quarterbacks individually. But looking at each team's starter only provides part of the picture. So I decided to take a slightly different tack, looking at the most and least enviable quarterback situations -- that is, weighing the starter and the other QBs on the roster, taking into account stability, flexibility and both the immediate and long-term picture. Below, you'll see the six most enviable quarterback situations and the five least enviable quarterback situations in the NFL in 2019.
Before we jump in, a quick and interesting note: No quarterback born in Florida has ever been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That tidbit might also function as a hint about which teams dominate the list of least enviable quarterback situations below ...
THE MOST ENVIABLE QB SITUATIONS
1) Tennessee Titans
You might be surprised to see the Titans here, given that Mariota is heading into the fifth and final year of his rookie deal and still hasn't quite answered the question of whether or not he's a franchise quarterback. But this ranking is as much about the man behind Mariota as it is about the former No. 2 overall pick. Before we get into that, I have to say, I really like Mariota. He has tons of upside, excellent speed and top-notch athletic ability, and he's shown flashes of fulfilling his considerable potential. Ideally, the presence of Tannehill will help bring out the best in Mariota. But if Mariota should falter -- notably, he has yet to play a full 16-game season -- Tennessee could turn to the best backup quarterback in the NFL, a former first-round pick in his own right who showed in Miami he has what it takes to carry a team to the playoffs. (Though he missed the 2016 postseason with a torn ACL, Tannehill started 13 games for the Dolphins that season.) I can understand how some would find the uncertainty around Mariota off-putting. But the Titans are actually in the rare and quite enviable position of having two young, capable, starter-caliber options at the most important position in sports.
2) New England Patriots
Brady's presence alone would command a top-five ranking for New England no matter what, even taking into account the somewhat motley crew of receiving targets he'll be working with in 2019. The 42-year-old, who should be considered elite until proven otherwise, has more regular-season wins than any quarterback in NFL history (207). Hoyer is a capable backup who has had success as a starter. And I'm excited about the potential of Stidham, the fourth-round pick who has performed more like a first-rounder in the preseason, including his 14-for-19, 193-yard effort against the Titans. The rookie could quickly develop into Brady's heir apparent -- although Stidham would be far from the first one of those to have cropped up in Brady's career.
3) New Orleans Saints
It isn't too often that a free-agent quarterback will turn down an opportunity to become a starter with a new team in favor of returning to the spot where he was a backup in the previous year, but that's exactly what Bridgewater did this offseason, re-upping with the Saints rather than moving on to his hometown Miami Dolphins, calling it "the best opportunity ... to grow as a player." Whether or not Bridgewater is Brees' future replacement in New Orleans is uncertain, especially with Brees continuing to play at a high level at age 40 and Bridgewater set to become a free agent again in a year. But Bridgewater has a proven track record of winning in the NFL, even if he's mostly been relegated to clipboard duty since making his way back from a devastating knee injury suffered before the 2016 season. In 29 career starts (all but one of which came with the Vikings), Bridgewater has a 17-12 record with a 65 percent completion rate, a 29:22 TD-to-INT ratio and a respectable passer rating of 86.8. So if, for whatever reason, Bridgewater was pressed into action, the Saints wouldn't have to hit the panic button, preserving their chance to compete with a roster built to win now.
4) New York Giants
It's exceedingly difficult to land a quarterback of Jones' ability without sacrificing a king's ransom to move up for a high draft choice, but Gettleman seized the opportunity in front of him with the sixth overall pick. To me, this situation is looking similar to the Packers' transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, or the Chiefs' transition from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes. Jones isn't quite ready yet, as his latest effort -- which included two lost fumbles against the Bears -- showed. But that's OK, because Manning, who looked sharp against Chicago, has at least two years left in him, by my estimation. Meanwhile, Jones has also had moments of brilliance, demonstrating his athletic ability and showing off a level of accuracy that is probably better than what we were led to believe during his time at Duke. In fact, I think Jones is a little bit ahead of where Rodgers was at this point in his career. Whenever Jones does take the torch from Manning, I expect him to do big things -- and the many critics who dogged general manager Dave Gettleman for selecting Jones that high will owe him an apology.
5) Kansas City Chiefs
Like the Patriots, the Chiefs are here largely by virtue of the star power of the starter. Only one other quarterback in NFL history has ever accomplished what Mahomes did in 2018, throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 50-plus touchdowns in one season -- and Peyton Manning was well into his career when he did it. Mahomes, on the other hand, still has room to grow as he enters his third NFL season. It's not controversial to suggest there is a step down from Mahomes to, well, anyone else who might play quarterback for Kansas City, should Mahomes have to miss time. Even so, Henne is not chopped liver. If he had to fill in for Mahomes, I think he'd do alright, even though he's thrown just five passes as a reserve since he last started a game, in 2014. Keep an eye on the competition for the third-string spot between Shurmur, the son of Giants coach Pat Shurmur, and Litton, who has a chance to be something in the long run.
6) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts rebuffed trade offers for Brissett in the past, and the leg injury that has nagged Luck this preseason is proving the prudence of hanging on to the backup. In 2017, Luck missed the entire season while dealing with a shoulder issue, and Brissett acquitted himself relatively well in Luck's stead, throwing for 3,098 yards, 13 TDs and 7 picks, posting a passer rating of 81.7 and getting progressively better as the season wore on. Brissett might have the chance to showcase his skills again in 2019, depending on when Luck is ready to return. Obviously, the best-case scenario for Indianapolis is that Luck is healthy from wire to wire. But Brissett could probably start for at least 25 percent of NFL teams right now, and he should serve as a capable stopgap for Frank Reich and Co.
THE LEAST ENVIABLE QB SITUATIONS
1) Miami Dolphins
On paper, the Dolphins' roster looks like the NFL's worst. Rosen began his career in a similarly chaotic situation with the Cardinals as a rookie last season. Unfortunately, the odds of the 2018 10th overall pick succeeding in this environment in Miami, with one of the league's weakest offensive line situations, are slim. The early returns on the trade acquisition's South Beach tenure have been less than stellar, with coach Brian Flores publicly criticizing Rosen's body language and suggesting this week that Rosen might not be ready to start. As for Fitzpatrick, what you see is what you get. He'll bring a level of veteran competence to the job, and he did briefly light the league on fire last season in Tampa Bay. But he's also won just seven games over the past three seasons, with a 36:32 TD-to-INT ratio in that span.
2) Cincinnati Bengals
Just like with former coach Marvin Lewis, Bengals owner Mike Brown has remained steadfastly -- and, some would say, stubbornly -- in Dalton's corner, despite the quarterback's record as a starter over the past three seasons (18-24-1). It's fair to wonder if Dalton plateaued around 2015, when he last won double-digit games and posted a career-best passer rating of 106.2. I like Dalton and sincerely hope new coach Zac Taylor can jump-start his career, but I can't ignore that record. Driskel entered the preseason as Dalton's backup but might not make the final 53-man roster (as a quarterback, anyway), with rookie Finley enjoying a surprisingly strong preseason. The fourth-round pick has completed 75 percent of a team-high 44 pass attempts, logging a 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio and a 102.4 passer rating. Even so, I have my concerns about this situation.
3) Washington Redskins
Haskins has a bright long-term future -- the short term is the problem in Washington, as it has been since Smith went down with a devastating, career-threatening injury. Haskins is not ready to start, and McCoy's leg injury will keep him from competing for the top job, leaving Keenum as the last QB standing. Keenum does have one stellar year on his resume, but he's failed to recapture the magic of the Vikings' 2017 season, getting traded out of Denver and running behind McCoy until the latter's injury bumped Keenum to the front of the line. Frankly, the Redskins will have to lean on their running game and defense to have any chance of winning.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston and Mariota will always be linked together because of their status as the first and second players taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Neither players has solidified their status as the QB of the future for their team. But whereas the Titans smartly backed up Mariota with a proven alternative in Ryan Tannehill, the Buccaneers are going to rise or fall with Winston alone. I understand the logic behind wanting to see if new coach Bruce Arians can help Winston cut down on the sloppy turnovers and poor decision-making that have marred his career thus far, but if his inconsistency continues to be an issue in 2019, Arians can only turn to journeymen for help. (Yes, I'm aware that Griffin entered Week 3 of the preseason leading the league in preseason passing yards, with 531, but to show you how much that means on its own, consider the past five preseason passing champions: Zach Mettenberger in 2014, Landry Jones in 2015, Matt Barkley in 2016, Matt Simms in 2017 and Tyler Bray last year.)
5) Jacksonville Jaguars
There isn't any reason right now to believe Foles won't fulfill his promise as a franchise-stabilizer for a team that otherwise has pieces to compete, especially on defense. However, the fact remains that the MVP of Super Bowl LII hasn't completed a 16-game season as a starter in his seven NFL seasons, and he's started just nine games over the past three seasons. So there is an undeniable element of unpredictability at play here. That alone wouldn't necessarily drop the Jags into this category by itself. The troubling thing is the lack of a solid, dependable Plan B if the Foles gambit doesn't work out, given that neither Minshew (a sixth-round pick this year) nor McGough (a seventh-round pick by the Seahawks last year) has attempted a single meaningful pass in the NFL, and neither has inspired a ton of hope in their preseason appearances (Minshew has averaged 5.8 yards per pass, while McGough has completed just 5 of 17 throws so far).