The QB Nonsense Rankings (With Apologies to Mike Tanier)

In years past, one of our favorite writers, Mike Tanier, put together his Quarterback Nonsense Index, in which he evaluated the storylines that surrounded each team’s quarterback or QB situation and just how ridiculous the debates or narratives had become.

Tanier has not yet put one together this year, but fear not, my friends. I am going to attempt to put together my own version of Quarterback Nonsense, but I call mine the Quarterback Nonsense Rankings, because I need to make it look like I am doing things differently from the way Tanier does things, just in case he’s kept his own Index under wraps in preparation to unleash it upon everyone without a moment’s notice!

And while Tanier applies the best statistical science he can find to determine his rankings, I use my own version of statistical science (in other words, I just threw stuff together and hoped people agreed with it) to determine just how much Nonsense one has seen either generated or can expect to be generated. Among the factors I considered:

Number of Super Bowl Rings: Why, of course, this comes into play, why would you think it wouldn’t? And now that Peyton Manning has retired, everyone will be tripping over themselves to figure out which QB needs to get another ring, and fast, before we start calling his greatness into question.

Team Notoriety: Keep in mind that this is not about which teams are coming off the most playoff success, but about which teams always seem to make the headlines, thus one can’t help but put the quarterback situation into the spotlight.

Quarterback Controversy Propensity: A team with its QB situation settled is going to generate less Nonsense than one in which the situation hasn’t been settled, or at least people believe hasn’t been settled because it wasn’t the QB they thought would start. Bonus points if one of those QBs happens to be a recent first-round pick.

Fat New Contract: This one was lifted from Tanier, because every quarterback who has just had a big bag of cash dropped into his lap shall always be the focus of punditry babble. Corollary to this criteria would be Quarterback In Contract Negotiations.

Outspokenness: It doesn’t matter what social issue a quarterback takes up; all that matters is it provides a topic du jour for the media to generate views and clicks.

Nonsense Potential: There are factors that didn’t really get talked about during the offseason, but are lying in wait for pundits to latch onto and start throwing about if things don’t go the way the punditry expects them to.

There are other factors that come into play, all which happen to be my own variant of Tanier’s scientific criteria. And I suspect that if Tanier does unleash his Index upon the world, I’m sure there will be a difference of opinion somewhere. But without further ado, let’s get to my half-reared attempt to steal ideas from pay tribute to Mike Tanier and get to the Quarterback Nonsense Rankings.

32. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee: You would think that a former first-round draft pick, especially one drafted in 2015, would be generating a lot of Quarterback Nonsense, but this is the Titans we are talking about. Everybody is expecting the Titans to rebuild this season and most of the offseason talk generated a “ho-hum” (exception: their move down from the No. 1 overall pick and, to an extent, their move back up the first round ). There may be the occasional debate about Mariota’s long-term future, but otherwise, the Titans will generate a shrug of the shoulders.

31. Alex Smith, Kansas City: Out of all the playoff contenders this season, Smith will generate the least amount of Nonsense simply because people have grown tired of the “is Alex Smith an elite QB or not” debate. We have come to the point that Alex Smith will almost never take a shot down the field, to the point that if he does attempt such a pass, people will pay attention for all of three seconds before moving on.

30. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: There was a time when Big Ben was surrounded by Quarterback Nonsense but that seems like a long time ago. Roethlisberger is the perfect example of how Nonsense can be high for a top QB one season and low the next. We’re even used to the idea that Roethlisberger will miss a game or two because of injuries, so pundits just assume it will happen and don’t bother to bring it up. Even the Super Bowl rings won’t be a concern, because he has two of them and nobody is interested in comparing him to Tom Brady.

29. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay: There was plenty of Quarterback Nonsense surrounding the first overall pick in the 2015 draft when he came out of college, but it’s cooled off quite a bit. About the only Nonsense that is ripe for the pickings is that the Bucs fired head coach Lovie Smith simply to make sure they could promote offensive coordinator Dick Koetter to head coach and not lose him to another team. But check back later in the season, because the Nonsense will surely grow if Winston doesn’t take the expected jump to “elite QB” status.

28. Ryan Tannehill, Miami: A former first-round pick who still hasn’t taken his team to the playoffs should generate a lot of Nonsense talk, especially when there’s a new head coach (Adam Gase) who is thought to be a QB guru who gets the most out of every passer he meets. But it seems the pundits are more concerned about others this season and are only likely to come back to Tannehill if even Gase can’t get him to “the next level.”

27. Jay Cutler, Chicago: Ah, here’s another guy who has generated lots of Quarterback Nonsense in the past and some of you might be waiting for the first chance to poke fun at an interception or pouty face on his part. But as with other QBs who rank low on this list, we have grown used to who Cutler is and how he plays, so there really isn’t that much more Nonsense that can be generated. But who knows: If Cutler gets injured and Brian Hoyer has a Josh McCown-with-Chicago type of season, the Quarterback Nonsense fires will light up!

26. Russell Wilson, Seattle: The Quarterback Nonsense hasn’t really gotten that high yet for the Seahawks but there is potential looming for a lot of Nonsense to come out of the woodwork. After back-to-back Super Bowls, Wilson is now faced with answering the question of “can he get the Seahawks back to the Promised Land?” And there are a few other questions that may come up, ranging from how he does in the post-Marshawn Lynch era to whether or not he’ll get Jimmy Graham involved in the offense. But those questions are rather dormant… for now, anyway. After all, Wilson only has one ring.

25. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: Like the Seahawks, the Packers don’t have that much Quarterback Nonsense to worry about for now, but the potential is looming. On one hand, Jordy Nelson is back in the lineup and the Packers offense should be humming along, but then again, the Packers just cut Josh Sitton and will start an inexperienced player at left guard, plus who knows if Eddie Lacy is back in shape or not. And then there’s the question of whether or not Rodgers can get himself another ring – after all, with Peyton Manning retired, there has to be somebody who takes up the mantle of “he’s only got one ring, he’s not really that great!”

24. Eli Manning, New York Giants: Manning has pretty much settled into a position in which there isn’t much to generate any Quarterback Nonsense than what he has previously, that being whether or not he is an elite QB. He no longer has bragging rights over his older brother Peyton in terms of which Manning brother has more rings, but that alone is not enough to vault him further up the Quarterback Nonsense rankings. Perhaps there will be more buzz if Ben McAdoo doesn’t work out as head coach, but that’s about it.

23. Phillip Rivers, San Diego: Rivers is somewhat similar to Manning, except without the Super Bowl rings. He is in a position to generate more Quarterback Nonsense this season, though, because the expectations are that he will get the Chargers back to the playoffs now that everyone is healthy. So it’s possible more eyes will focus on him if the Chargers continue to struggle. But even then, it might get lost in the shuffle amid all the talk about whether or not the Chargers’ bid for a new stadium in San Diego will succeed.

22. Matt Ryan, Atlanta: Ryan should be a prime target for Quarterback Nonsense, given that the Falcons had a hot start in 2015 but cooled considerably in the second half and missed the playoffs. Of course, Ryan had some built-in excuses, ranging from the lack of a pass rush to the decline of Roddy White to Devonta Freeman disappearing in the second half of the season. But even if his play continues to decline, there will be others who generate more Nonsense and thus Ryan might be lucky enough to get lost in the shuffle.

21. Joe Flacco, Baltimore: It used to be that the pundits would talk about how Flacco may not look like much in the regular season, but just wait until the playoffs, because that’s when his play matters the most and he delivers! Alas, the Ravens struggled last season and Flacco didn’t finish the regular season because of injuries. Expectations are lowered for the Ravens, because all eyes are on other playoff contenders, but there is the chance some pundits will be keeping an eye on Flacco’s recovery from injury and preparing the hot takes about whether or not he can ever regain his past form, whatever they thought it happened to be.

20. Matthew Stafford, Detroit: The book has been written about what Stafford is all about and nobody expects his ceiling to get any higher. But there is some prime Nonsense waiting to be cultivated, and that’s whatever Stafford will do with Calvin Johnson now enjoying retirement. The talk might not be heating up that much right now, but just wait until the regular season because you know some pundits are getting ready to pounce.

19. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo: Taylor flew under the radar for the 2015 season and, while there was some chatter about whether or not the Bills would extend him while others were getting megabucks, the Quarterback Nonsense remained minimal. Now that Taylor has received an extension, even though it’s one that the Bills could get out of after just one season, Quarterback Nonsense will be cranked up by those who don’t understand how NFL contracts work, all because they only want to focus on wins and stats.

18. Derek Carr, Oakland: And here we have the first of the quarterbacks taken fairly high in the 2014 NFL draft, one who happens to be taking center behind a team that many are expecting to reach the playoffs after a long drought. That should put Carr up higher in terms of generating potential Quarterback Nonsense that surrounds every QB who doesn’t take “the next step” as quickly as pundits would like. But Carr might catch a break if people pay more attention to Mark Davis and his flirtations with Las Vegas.

17. Robert Griffin III, Cleveland: RG3 has been the subject of large helpings of Quarterback Nonsense in the past, but now enters in a season in which where he will ultimately fall remains up in the air. This is largely because he has joined the Browns, who everyone expects will experience another season of playing for a top five draft pick, because of course they do. But with quarterback guru Hue Jackson in Cleveland, there will be eyes on whether or not RG3 might experience a career revival. Stay tuned for more Quarterback Nonsense developments, because you never know when RG3 will rise up to the top again!

16. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville: The Jaguars are a sexy pick among some people (yours truly included) to sneak into the playoffs this year. But that can only mean one thing: Quarterback Nonsense will be on the way if the Jaguars fail to deliver. After all, Bortles was the highest drafted QB in 2014, put up big numbers that made him a favorite among fantasy football experts and is surrounded by a lot of young talent that is just waiting to break through. A missed trip to the playoffs, even if it comes with a winning record in which the Jaguars just happened to lose enough tiebreakers, will start raising the questions about whether or not Bortles is the answer. And the Nonsense will definitely reach new heights if Bortles struggles and Gus Bradley becomes the first midseason firing.

15. Carson Palmer, Arizona: There hasn’t been that much said during the offseason about Palmer, but the fact is, when he took the field for the playoffs, he was awful. Just awful. The Cardinals avoided a lot of Quarterback Nonsense, though, because the attention was devoted to the defense, such as the trade for Chandler Jones and the extension given to Tyrann Mathieu. However, those playoff struggles are lingering in the back of everyone’s minds, even if we deny that this is the case. So if the Cardinals stumble out of the gates thanks to poor play from Palmer (remember, he’s not getting any younger), the Quarterback Nonsense will trigger and people may wonder if Drew Stanton can do more than just provide dancing for our entertainment or if Bruce Arians has kept Matt Barkley on speed dial.

14. Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati: We know that Marvin Lewis will always be near the top of Coaching Nonsense lists for obvious reasons, but that is a list for another day. (No, I’m not planning to write it, sorry.) But the Bengals are in a prime position for Quarterback Nonsense to rise, because so many changes happened in the offseason. QB guru Hue Jackson moved on to Cleveland, so what happens if Dalton regresses without Jackson to guide him? The Bengals let both of their secondary receivers depart and are now hoping Brandon LaFell and rookie Tyler Boyd can fill the void. And it just so happens we were that close to McCarron winning a playoff game, so we wait with baited breath to see that narrative unleashed! With all this said, if Dalton plays well to start the season, the Nonsense will subside. But if he struggles, we might be facing a Nonsense situation worthy of the top 10.

13. Kirk Cousins, Washington: Cousins had what some would call his breakout season in 2015 and all he got was a lousy franchise tag. However, he was quick to sign the tag and there has been little word of any talks about a long-term deal, apparently because Washington is trying to figure out if they really have a franchise QB on their hands. But with every game Cousins plays, and every game he wins, you can bet the pundits will be asking just how much more money he can squeeze out of Dan Snyder. If he looks like the career backup everyone thought he was going to be before Jay Gruden came along, people will talk more about what Washington is going to do about its QB situation. Most of all, if Cousins flops and RG3 experiences a career revival, there will be no end of the Quarterback Nonsense in sight. So many possibilities, you like that?!

12. Brock Osweiler, Houston: As a Bronco fan, I was really tempted to stick Osweiler in the top 10, because I’m bitter and all that. However, the Texans are not the high-profile team that others happen to be, and even with JJ Watt’s presence, most people expect the Texans to be that team that will get into the playoffs now and then but never be a serious threat to make a deep run. Additionally, there are other QB situations that will draw more attention for various reasons, thus keeping Osweiler out of the top 10 for the time being. But the Quarterback Nonsense factors are all in place and waiting to be triggered, starting with the massive contract given to a QB with just eight NFL starts, continuing with the fact that the Texans are loaded at receiver and have a prized free-agent signing at running back that they can’t possibly have a weak offense this time around, and finishing with the question of, if Osweiler struggles, whether the Texans really will try out Watt at quarterback!

11. Drew Brees, New Orleans: He is on the cusp of breaking into the top 10, but all of this depends on how soon he gets that contract extension he is seeking. The longer it takes for a new deal to be reached, the more Quarterback Nonsense will be generated about how the Saints can’t lose their franchise QB. But once it is signed, prepare for Nonsense in the form of the realization that Brees isn’t getting any younger and time is running out to get that elusive second Super Bowl ring. The more money he receives in an extension, the more Nonsense to be generated, because we must remember that the Nonsense talkers never pay attention to the finer points of any NFL contract. (UPDATE: Brees got his extension signed, but we’ll leave the rankings intact for now.)

And now we come to the top 10, the ones in which the most Quarterback Nonsense is sure to be generated.

10. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis: Last season, the smart bet to make was that the Colts would break through and reach the Super Bowl, all because Luck continued to bring the Colts to new heights. First it was a playoff trip as a rookie, then it was a trip to the conference championship (complete with banner proclaiming the Colts an AFC finalist!), so of course it had to be the time that Luck would take the Colts to the biggest game of them all!

However, things didn’t go so well for the Colts last season and, the next thing you know, Luck is taking a shot to the ribs against the Denver Broncos, one that sidelined him for the rest of the season. All the while, you heard the squabbles between Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano about whose job it was to address the offensive line.

Now comes 2016, in which Luck is not only healthy, but he has himself a shiny new contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid QBs in the NFL. The expectation is that the Colts will get back to the promised land, although expectations that they will reach the Super Bowl have been tempered. And this can only mean one thing, folks.

That’s right… we now have the PLAYOFF CHOKER narrative just waiting to be unleashed upon Luck! After all, Russell Wilson has two Super Bowl trips and a ring, Cam Newton has a Super Bowl trip and Brock Osweiler might be a backup, but he’s got a ring, by gawd! Oh, and because he’s a former No. 1 overall draft pick who plays for the Colts, just as Peyton Manning before him, and Manning got nothing but grief from the Patriot diehards (Brady’s better, LOL times infinity!), it’s only fitting that a prime Quarterback Nonsense factor be anointed upon Luck!

9. Carson Wentz and Chase Daniel, Philadelphia: The Quarterback Nonsense started early with the Eagles signing Sam Bradford to a two-year extension and it accelerated when they handed a three-year deal to Daniel, one that averaged $7M per year. And the talk was that Daniel was expected to compete alongside Bradford for the starting job, not to be the highest-paid clipboard holder in the NFL.

Then came the trade with Cleveland, in which the Eagles handed over a ton of picks to move up to No. 2 overall, and of course they selected Carson Wentz. And the trade for that pick led to Bradford suggesting he wanted out just mere weeks after signing that extension.

The offseason itself ensured there would be lots and lots of Quarterback Nonsense to surround the Eagles, to the point in which you would think the Eagles would land in the top three of this Ranking. But events unfolded that resulted in one less quarterback drawing attention to the Eagles and the revelation that the plan is to start Wentz once he is healthy.

The Bradford trade (which we will talk about more later on) wasn’t enough to get the Eagles out of the top 10, though. They still have to worry about Wentz’s health and there’s going to be a lot of chatter about how Philly is the only team with a 2016 first-round QB to announce it plans about when said QB will start. And we even have Daniel raising a fuss, because his chance to become something more than the highest-paid clipboard holder has apparently been denied.

8. Jared Goff and Case Keenum, Los Angeles: The NFL has waited for so long to get a team in LA and now has its wish granted. And how lucky for us, because the preseason demonstrated we are going to have a lot of Quarterback Nonsense to talk about!

First was the revelation that Jeff Fisher was going to name Keenum, the undrafted rookie free agent QB, the starter to open the season even before the Rams played a single preseason game. Pundits sit in shock, wondering if Fisher somehow thinks he has the next Tony Romo on his roster… and if he does, why that’s just waiting for Quarterback Nonsense to come! But more on that later.

Second, the Rams were already generating Quarterback Nonsense with their big move up the 2016 draft board for the right to select Goff with the No. 1 pick. Naming Keenum the starter flew right in the face of every football expert who believes you have to start a first-round quarterback right away, especially if you dealt a buttload of picks to acquire him.

Third, the word came that Goff was having so many issues with his play in the preseason, he has been demoted to third string (He couldn’t beat out Sean Mannion?! Who the hell is Sean Mannion, anyway?!), resulting in the entire Internet fandom to spit their drinks all over their monitors, tablets and smartphones. And then, once they have wiped down those screens, much of that fandom tripped over themselves to send out tweets and status updates about how Goff is already a bust before he has even taken one regular-season snap!

So, Roger Goodell, you wanted a team in LA, you got your team in LA. Now enjoy the piling of Quarterback Nonsense that came along with it!

7. Sam Bradford, Minnesota: Entering the season, the Vikings were primed to deal with minimal Quarterback Nonsense. Sure, there might be some questions as to whether or not Teddy Bridgewater could throw for 4,000 yards in a season, but that Nonsense is relegated to fantasy football drafts.

Then came Bridgewater’s season-ending knee injury. The Vikings, a team with playoff aspirations, enter desperation mode and dealt a first-round pick for Bradford, the quarterback who keeps landing megabucks and nets high draft picks in trade despite never having led a team into the playoffs or showing he is anything more than an average-to-good passer.

And so the Vikings vault higher up the Quarterback Nonsense Index, as all eyes turn to the passer who came at a high price and will be expected, this time, to get his first playoff trip. This could either be the season that ensures Bradford keeps getting megabucks for the rest of his career or it could be the season that finally convinces every NFL front office that Bradford simply does not fit the definition of “franchise QB.”

Meanwhile, we will have a Quarterback Nonsense Subplot: Will Teddy Bridgewater ever be the same again? And if the Vikings do make the playoffs, will Minnesota fans abandon Bridgewater and jump aboard the Sam Bradford bandwagon? Could we already have a quarterback controversy brewing for the 2017 season before the 2016 season even starts? WHAT WILL DREW MAGARY SAY?

6. The Four Quarterbacks of the Nonsense Apocalypse, New York Jets: The Jets have a knack for being the center of attention and Quarterback Nonsense is no exception. First they dragged out contract negotiations with Ryan Fitzpatrick all the way up until the start of training camp, to the point people wondered if Fitzpatrick would sign with another team and lead them to starting Geno Smith.

Then came the drafting of Christian Hackenburg in the second round, which caused the entire draft punditry to do double takes that were bigger even than the ones they gave when Tampa Bay traded up to draft kicker Roberto Aguayo in the same round. And despite rumors that the Jets were prepared to cut ties with Smith, they have kept him and fourth-string quarterback Bryce Petty on the roster. Apparently, Petty stuck around because the Jets need to start grooming their backup QB of the future, too (whaddya mean, that isn’t Hackenburg?).

Having four QBs on the roster is enough to ensure Nonsense comes your way, but when you are the Jets and you handle QB matters the way you did, it only ensures you maximum Quarterback Nonsense effect. Whether it’s the debate about “could the Jets have some midseason trade bait” to “if you have four quarterbacks, you don’t even know what a quarterback is,” there will be plenty of fodder for pundits to sink their teeth into.

And to think it’s only going to get higher the more games go by in which the Jets see their playoff hopes on the line and we all wonder if Fitzpatrick can come through in the clutch this time around!

5. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, Denver: Your defending Super Bowl champions quickly became a magnet for Quarterback Nonsense when they failed to extend Brock Osweiler and it only grew when they traded for Mark Sanchez, which immediately prompted the expected punch line. Then came the decision to move up to draft Paxton Lynch, with pundits wondering just how long it would be before Lynch would take the starting job.

Along came Siemian, who outperformed Sanchez in the preseason to the point that he won the starting job and prompted the Broncos to cut Sanchez so they wouldn’t have to send that draft pick they promised the Eagles. Now the Nonsense is really primed for 2016, in which you will hear the never ending debates ranging from “how soon before Lynch starts” to “Siemian is the future, better trade Lynch while you still can!”

Normally, such headlines would not warrant the Broncos being ranked higher than others with plenty of Quarterback Nonsense surrounding them. But when you are defending Super Bowl champions and everybody is expecting your vaunted defense to implode before your eyes all because two players left in free agency and no defense has ever mounted back-to-back seasons of dominance, all eyes turn to the quarterback situation. That’s especially true when the QB who departed is a future Hall of Famer, even if that QB was coming off his worst season of his NFL career.

And when it turns out a seventh-round pick from a college that, when it comes to football, is known only for ineptitude (although they had a fleeting moment of relevancy when players tried to organize as a union and took center stage in the NCAA amateurism debate), wins the starting job while the first-round pick sits on the bench, and the team’s idea of adding a veteran is to sign Austin Davis, a player who couldn’t even become the third-string guy on the Browns’ depth chart, the Quarterback Nonsense is sure to follow!

4. Dak Prescott and Tony Romo, Dallas: Romo has been a magnet for Quarterback Nonsense for some time now – in fact, either I or Tanier could write an entire column specifically devoted to Romo and Quarterback Nonsense, perhaps enough to divide it into two parts! The most recent Nonsense topic has been the question of whether or not Romo can stay healthy any longer. This Nonsense has only been accelerated with the latest injury, a back injury that is expected to sideline Romo for as much as 10 weeks.

This brings us to Prescott, who wasn’t the guy the Cowboys really wanted – they wanted Paxton Lynch, but the Broncos were the ones who moved up to get him before the Cowboys could. Prescott was reportedly the only other QB the Cowboys considered and they got him in the third round. Throughout the preseason, pundits spoke glowingly of Prescott’s play and the talk quickly began as to whether or not Dallas found the heir apparent to Romo.

Because of Romo’s injury, the Cowboys get to find out sooner than they may have wanted if Prescott can be the future. And if he is, be prepared for the “is it all over for Tony Romo?” talking point to dominate the punditry. But if the opposite happens and Prescott falls flat, the narrative will switch to “can Tony Romo save the Cowboys’ season?” And all the media shall be preparing their already-made hot takes, in which it’s either “Romo has risen from the ashes!” or “Romo is playing like 2015 Peyton Manning!” and there shall be no in between.

Ah, the Dallas Cowboys, they never fail to deliver a large serving of Quarterback Nonsense. That’s what makes them America’s Team!

3. Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco: During the offseason, we heard all the talk about whether or not the 49ers wanted to keep Kaepernick around, whether or not he would be traded, and once his full guarantees kicked in, whether or not the Niners would regret it. Then there was the talk about whether or not Gabbert would be the right guy to run Chip Kelly’s offense. Or whether or not Kelly might “rehab” Kaepernick and make him look the QB everybody thought he could be back when he played under Jim Harbaugh.

This was not enough to vault the Niners into this spot in the rankings, though. No, that came about when Kaepernick decided to sit down during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, which set off a storm of hot takes on social media, 24-7 sports networks and 24-7 news networks, the latter who mostly ignore sports until it involves some topic du jour that just might influence the outcome of our Presidential elections.

There have yet to be any reports of ESPN running a Kaepernick Sideline Cam just waiting to catch him in the act with his means of protest… but give it time, because it’s bound to happen sooner or later. And if ESPN doesn’t start such a sideline cam, you can bet that somebody is going to want to pay someone to videotape Kaepernick on the sidelines every game so pundits can pound their fists about Kaepernick’s lack of patriotism, all while never asking themselves why, if it’s so important to stand at attention for the national anthem, you would bother to ask somebody to film Kaepernick while the anthem is being played?

OK, so this Quarterback Nonsense is more about Kaepernick than it is about Gabbert, so perhaps we should have split these into two separate rankings. Regardless, you knew Quarterback Nonsense was going to follow a team coached by Chip Kelly. You just didn’t expect it would wind up as high as it has.

2. Tom Brady and Jimmy Garappolo, New England: What, you thought Deflategate was going to become a fading memory? Silly person, now comes Brady’s Path to Redemption! You can already see the usual Patriots Patriots (OK, that’s confusing, but it’s shorter and catchier than “pundits who trip over themselves to praise everything about the Patriots because Patriots, Brady, Belichick, Super Bowl dynasty, etc.”) piecing the columns together, talking about how Brady’s first game back from suspension is the first step on the road to proving the doubters wrong and that nobody need debate the PSI in a football to ask if Brady can still win games. It’ll be the most heartwarming story of the decade, amirite?

There are a few “what ifs” that come into play, though. What if Garappolo does throw for 350 yards and four touchdowns every game for the first four weeks and the Patriots go 4-0? What if Bill Belichick gets hounded about what this means for Brady when he returns from suspension? (Get ready for the Belichick video clips to go viral!) Or… what if the Patriots go 0-4 and Garappolo has a worse TD-to-INT ratio than Peyton Manning in 2015? What if the questions arise as to whether or not Brady can even dig the Patriots out of an 0-4 hole, one from which just one team (the 1992 Chargers) managed to overcome and get into the playoffs?

Most of all, what if Brady starts to look like 2015 Peyton Manning when he comes back from suspension? Or what if he takes one too many hits behind a subpar offensive line and starts getting up slower each time he gets knocked into the turf? Oh no, Brady might not be able to play until he is 50 years old, whatever shall we do?!

In other words, it’s time for the post-Deflategate era to kick in and there will be no shortage of Quarterback Nonsense and no shortage of Belichick grumbling about stupid questions regarding whether Garappolo will start Week 5 or delivering the line “we’re on to Cincinnati” just to annoy people who deliver their Quarterback Nonsense query.

1. Cam Newton, Carolina: Let’s face it, folks. Cam Newton is the one quarterback who can’t escape a massive helping of Quarterback Nonsense, even if he and the Panthers go 19-0 each season for the next 10 seasons. Because the one thing the media can’t get enough of is some “controversy” surrounding the Panthers’ QB.

If he takes a stand on a social issue, he gets ripped apart. If he declines to take a stand, he gets ripped apart. If he says “no comment,” he gets ripped apart. He can’t dance or sing or showboat or even give a football to a kid without a bunch of talking heads gathering around to debate what this says about Cam Newton and whether or not he cares about his image or the Panthers’ image or the NFL’s image or even America’s image.

It matters not whether the criticisms against Newton are legitimate or trivial. All that matters is the media has anointed Newton as the one QB for which they wait with baited breath for him to do something to talk about, and once they find it, off they go. He could forget to say “excuse me” when slipping past a reporter and the hot takes would be all over the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. He could donate his entire salary to any noteworthy cause you can think of and people will be out in droves accusing him of being a suck-up or ignoring some other noteworthy cause. And if he’s even asked something as simple as “do you like puppies or kittens,” whatever answer he gives will result in multiple memes from puppy and kitten lovers about how much they hate Cam Newton’s guts, all while Skip Bayless has a field day with them.


Other quarterbacks get ripped apart for specific things, but with Newton, there’s no one specific item that the media focuses on to rip him apart. They have made Newton their go-to guy for whatever topic du jour that must be debated. And that is why Newton tops the unofficial QB Nonsense Rankings for 2016… and if Mike Tanier disagrees with the ranking, I shall distract him from his arguments by pointing to Newton’s next touchdown celebration!

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.