The quarterback position is widely seen as the most important position in the National Football League, and is often directly related to overall team success. That being said, the pressure on quarterbacks to win right and perform is tremendous, as they often carry the bulk of the blame if the team doesn’t succeed. Quarterbacks, much like coaches, are only given a few years to prove their worth before a team is ready to move on to the next guy that can help them win. These are the five quarterbacks with the most pressure to succeed next season, or they may see themselves elsewhere sooner than expected.
Andy Dalton - Cincinnati Bengals
For the record, I am a huge Dalton fan. I think he possesses all the right tools to be an effective pocket quarterback in the NFL and with the weapons he has that shouldn’t be a problem. Yet it seems to be for Dalton. He has lead the Bengals to the playoffs three times with three first round losses. He also holds a one to six touchdown to interception ratio in the playoffs. “The Red Rifle” as Bengals fans call him, hasn’t been able to show up in the big games and lead them anywhere in the postseason. He has been more than serviceable in the regular season especially in the tough AFC North, but if he can’t take them to the top, the Bengals will have to look elsewhere sooner rather than later especially before they potentially have to give him a mega contract just to stick around.
Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford was the last of the grossly overpaid number one draft selections under the former collective bargaining agreement. During his time in St. Louis, Bradford has often been marred by injury or has largely under performed, as shown by his 18-30-1 regular season record as a starter. Bradford must take his game the highest level this season, especially considering his seventeen million plus cap hit on the Rams salary this season. You can guarantee if Bradford can’t show that he can make this team competitive this season he won’t be back at the expensive price tag he is used to…if at all. He isn’t coach Jeff Fisher’s guy, and he won’t lay his job on the line to keep him on the team after this season if this team doesn’t make significant strides or if Bradford struggles to stay healthy again. All eyes will be on him this year.
Matt Schaub – Oakland Raiders
I know that Schaub isn’t expected to be at the helm of this team for the long term, but I did expect him to be on as the starter for at least the season if not two while mentoring rookie quarterback David Carr. However news out of Oakland is that they feel Carr can challenge Schaub for the starting job sooner than expected and that he has been performing incredibly well at the off season programs. This is bad news for Schaub who hasn’t even been able to take a single regular season snap for the Raiders yet. Before last season, Schaub had always been a rather accurate passer who made good decisions, and for the first time since his rookie season threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Schaub is a solid quarterback, he just had one particularly bad season that has managed to mark everything he has done in the league. It will take his absolute best efforts to stick on to the Raiders after this season.
Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles
Foles had a breakout season last year, putting up an impressive 27:2 touchdown to interception ratio while leading the Eagles from worst to first in the NFC East. However, that is his only mark of success so far, after not having a stellar rookie season. Foles has not had a contract extension, and in Philly the demand to win is a constant one. If Foles struggles to keep the success rolling this season, it would not shock me to see Chip and company move on and find their man in the upcoming draft that will be especially deep at the quarterback position. He needs to stay as accurate as last season and continue to play well against the division. I personally love Foles and think he will be able to prove his worth to the team this season, but if he doesn’t he certainly isn’t safe to stay.
Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins signal caller has been under some serious pressure and scrutiny during his first two seasons, on and off the field. He has dealt with it all amicably, and continues to go about his business. However after last seasons locker room fiasco, and the Dolphins continued struggles to make the playoffs, the whole team seems to find themselves on a one year trial. While clearly the roster will not be gutted if the team struggles this year, no one necessarily should feel a strong sense of job security heading into the season. That goes most for coach Joe Philbin, and Tannehill. The coach and quarterback are always the bearers of blame and if this duo can’t make it work this season it could spell the end of another era in Miami. Many Miami fans I have spoke with believes Tannehill has what it takes to make the strides to make this team a contender. Those strides must be made this season, or we could see a whole new regime coming soon.
There are many other quarterbacks under pressure to perform this year such as Robert Griffin, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford and more, but these five guys are under the most pressure to keep their respective starting job after the 2014 season concludes. If any of these players struggle they do not have massive contracts or any real long term devotion tying them to their respective teams. They all must step up this season and prove themselves as worthy NFL starting quarterbacks or else they will likely find themselves looking for new jobs after this season.