In the National Football League, no position is celebrated or scrutinized more than the quarterback. With each passing year, the league has become more pass-heavy, making it vital to draft and/or train a good signal caller. In addition, the better a quarterback becomes, the greater the amount of pressure is put on him to keep winning.
Some organizations have done better to build around their franchise field generals than others, and we’ve seen these efforts pay off. But for some, the fans still wait to reap the rewards of their patience.
Today, we start looking at some of the quarterbacks facing substantial pressure in 2023, starting in the American Football Conference (AFC).
Quarterbacks in the AFC Under the Most Pressure
Aaron Rodgers: New York Jets
It’s safe to say that the New York Jets made significant amounts of noise this past offseason. With Aaron Rodgers moving east from his long-time home of Green Bay, the Jets may have a solution to their quarterback dilemma. Bouncing between Zach Wilson and Mike White did not bode well for New York, who finished 7-10 last season. Not to mention White is now a Miami Dolphin.
Rodgers is not the only Packers alumnus to fly to New York. Wide receivers and fellow teammates, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, will be calling MetLife Stadium home as well. The three now join an offense that boasts the likes of Garrett Wilson, Michael Carter, and Mecole Hardman.
Now, Rodgers has a deep arsenal of weapons to choose from and next-to-no excuses. The AFC East is one of the least forgiving divisions to play in. With Buffalo and Miami duking it out for the crown, Rodgers must prove why the Jets have taken a chance on him and not someone else.
Russell Wilson: Denver Broncos
On paper, Russell Wilson should not have had the terrible start to his Denver Broncos tenure as he did in 2022.
Not only did he record the lowest pass completion percentage of his career (60.8%), but he also recorded the lowest season passer rating (84.4 out of 158.3) of his career. With weapons such as Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, and a top-tier defensive squad, everything was in place for Wilson to succeed. Yet, the Broncos concluded their 2022 campaign with a 5-12 record.
Needless to say, head coach, Nathanial Hackett, was one and done with Denver. His replacement? Super Bowl-winning head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton. It’s “put up or shut up” time for Wilson, especially when you take into account the five-year, $245 Million contract he signed with Denver. Wilson must prove this coming season that he’s worth this hefty investment.
Jimmy Garoppolo: Las Vegas Raiders
With the departure of their franchise quarterback, Derek Carr, the Las Vegas Raiders needed a new face to their franchise. Enter Jimmy Garoppolo from the San Francisco 49ers. He and Raiders head coach, Josh McDaniels, do have some history together.
McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots and coached Garoppolo during the quarterback’s first four years in the league. Jimmy G will have plenty of weapons to work with; running back Josh Jacobs, wide receivers Davante Adams and Phillip Dorsett, and tight end Austin Hooper. But many are still unconvinced with the signing of Garoppolo. His laundry list of injuries has held him back from flourishing under center time and time again.
Both Garoppolo and McDaniels have a lot on their plates in Vegas. Not to mention the latter had a rocky start to his coaching tenure. If they can reignite the chemistry they started in Foxboro, MA, Garoppolo can catch a much-needed big break and silence his doubters.
Deshaun Watson: Cleveland Browns
When the Houston Texans drafted the Clemson product in 2017, Deshaun Watson hit the ground running almost immediately. He recorded a passer rating of over 100.0 in three of his four seasons as their starter. Throw in three Pro-Bowl Selections and Watson was the talk of the town.
But things between him and Houston turned sour in a hurry. His 2020 season was his best season, which included almost 4900 passing yards, a 70.2 pass completion percentage 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. But it was the year the Texans went 4-12. Then came 2021, when over 20 lawsuits were filed against Watson. Needless to say, both Watson and Houston agreed on a trade, sending the former to Cleveland as Baker Mayfield‘s successor.
Watson signed a five-year, $230 Million contract with the Browns. But he still had a lengthy suspension to serve. His 2022 return was shaky, to say the least. But it’s up to Watson to pick himself and get back into the fighting form he had as a Houston Texans. The AFC North is a hostile division, with Cincinnati and Baltimore leading the pack.
Check back next week as we cover the quarterbacks in the NFC facing the heat in 2023.
Main Image: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports