Around the NFC North: Quarterback Edition
Ryan Sjoberg | @Ryan_Sjoberg
Positional comparisons within a division can give a good sense of where your squad stacks up compared to the teams they’ll be competing against for a division title. Throughout the next couple weeks, Packers Worldwide will be breaking down all positional groups within the NFC North and ranking them one through four based on the 2020 outlook for the position. The first installment of the series revolves around our favorite position in all of sports, the quarterback. The NFC North (Bears aside) is pretty set at the position, all that’s left to do is rank them. Is Rodgers still elite? Is Kirk Cousins better than Matt Stafford? Let’s find out.
#4: Whoever Starts for Chicago
Chicago has a quarterback controversy, and if you ask the team, they love their options. It’s basically a two-dog fight between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. Foles is fresh off signing a huge multi-year deal with the Jaguars only to get beat out by Gardner Minshew and shipped to Chicago. Can he be the guy to get the Bears over the hump? Not so fast. Everyone is aware of Foles’ great success within the Philadelphia Eagles organization. For starters, he won them a Super Bowl. Aside from that, he had a 27 TD to 2 INT ratio his first full season as a starter in 2013. Outside of the playoff run and first year starting however, Foles has been a mixed bag throughout his roller coaster career. If you take the 2013 season out of the equation for a bit, the numbers are startling as he then has thrown for 46 TD’s and 33 INT’s with a completion percentage below 60%. To be honest with you, I see Nick Foles as a very good backup quarterback. A guy you can count on to keep the ship sailing if your number one goes down. I’m not sure he is quite the franchise guy the Bears have been searching for since…well, forever.
Mitchell Trubisky was supposed to be that guy. Once upon a time GM Ryan Pace and the Bears actually traded up for Trubisky (when they didn’t have to) while passing on quarterbacks like DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Three years later, it’s quite impossible to not label that pick as a total failure. The team just declined Trubisky’s 5th year option and for good reason. Through three seasons, the Bears offense under Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky has been a failure. There is really no way around it. After a decent 2018 season, many in the area were anticipating Trubisky to take that next step. He didn’t. In fact, he got even worse. In 2019, the North Carolina Tar Heels product threw for just over 3,000 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Even worse? He looks no different than the QB we saw his rookie season. He still looks scared of pressure, drifts out of his throws and can’t throw left to save his life. The Bears being number four here was as easy a decision as I’ll have throughout the series.
#3: Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Ahhhhhh, Kirk Cousins. Perhaps the most polarizing quarterback in all of the National Football League. Some say he’s terrible, some say he’s top 5 (yikes). I will say, since joining the ranks of the NFC North, the Vikings QB has surprised me. He’s made big throws in big moments and led that offense to be a pretty productive bunch. The question is how much is the talent around him to thank for that? Throughout his two years in the North, Cousins has had the luxury of throwing to formidable duo Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, tight end Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook toting the rock behind him. What’s he to do this year with no Diggs? Will production still be there? I think it will. Kirk Cousins has solidified his spot amongst the top half of quarterbacks in the league and doesn’t get the credit he actually deserves. While Kirk’s yards and touchdowns declined last season, his efficiency went up. He was comfortable in Gary Kubiak’s offense and showed he was capable of leading the team. The big question when it comes to Cousins is which QB are you going to get this week? Is it going to be the care-free gunslinger who is having fun? Or is it going to be the tense quarterback who doesn’t like pressure and continues to short hop throws all game? It’s pretty easy to tell throughout the first series which QB you’re getting on that day. If Cousins can nail down the consistency and truly become the quarterback that can carry the team, the Vikings could be set up for success at the position for at least the next two-three years.
#2: Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
“THE PACKERS ARE WASTING AARON RODGERS PRIME!!!” Yeah, okay, now do Matthew Stafford and the Lions. In his 11 years as starting QB for Detroit, Stafford has amassed over 41,000 yards and 256 touchdowns. All that production has led the Lions to zero playoff victories, zero division titles and many top 10 draft picks. This is just a bad organization who doesn’t put talent around elite players (see Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson). Back to Stafford. The 11 year vet has a gunslinger mentality and is a little bit like Brett Favre in the sense that he can single-handedly win a game for his team AND he can single-handedly lose a game. Until his injury mid-season last year, Stafford was having his best season as a pro. Through eight games, he had 2,500 yards, 19 TDs and 5 INTs and he was firmly in MVP talks if the Lions could contend. Look for the Georgia Bulldog product to have a bounce-back from injury season, possibly vaulting the Lions to five or six wins because they are the Lions.
#1: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
There have been a lot of awful quarterback lists floating around the internet of late not including Aaron Rodgers as a TOP TEN quarterback. I understand he isn’t quite the same as he used to be, no longer top 3 in the league, but falling out of the top ten? That’s ridiculous. One could argue aside from his downfield throwing, AR12 is still the same QB he has always been: accurate, careful with the ball and putting his team in the best position possible to win. Though the past two seasons have been considered ‘down’ seasons for Rodgers, he has still thrown for a combined 8,400 yards, 51 TDs, and 6 (SIX!!!!) interceptions. The only people complaining about Rodgers play are jealous Viking fans, Bears fans (who don’t know what good quarterback play looks like) and entitled Packer fans who have been watching nearly 30 years of pristine quarterback play. I expect at least two more elite years in Green Bay out of Rodgers before he can feel Jordan Love on his heels.
At the end of the day, this division still fears Aaron Rodgers more than any other QB mentioned on the list. Until one of the others candidates prove they can truly overtake him and sustain personal success with team success, he will stay there. Anyone saying otherwise may need to see a doctor.