With Part 1 of this list over and done with, its time to take a look at the positive side of this football season. This season we have watched some young stars shine and one old vet salvage his career and reputation. Let’s see what Quarterbacks went above and beyond what most of us thought was possible and find out who cracked the Overachieving Quarterbacks List:
5. Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams)
Let me start off by saying that Sam Bradford didn’t have the most impressive numbers this year. He threw for 3,512 yards, 18 TDs, and 15 INTs. Again, these aren’t the most impressive QB numbers, but what is impressive is the situation that Bradford excelled in. He was the #1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. The pressure that comes with being the #1 Draft Pick is immense and being a QB who is supposed to “save” a franchise just makes the pressure that much more intense. Don’t believe me? Just ask JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith. Bradford was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, who went 1-15 the previous season. They were the laughing stock of the NFL and viewed by most people as an automatic win. Fast forward to this season: the Rams were 10 points away from making the playoffs, a year after winning only one game the season before. Bradford helped take the Rams from a 1-15 team to a 7-9 playoff contender, albeit in the miserable NFC West. And he did all this after losing his #1 receiver, Donnie Avery, in the second preseason game of the year and having mostly patch-work receivers to throw to. This was enough to land Sam Bradford on the #5 spot of Overachieving Quarterbacks. I see nothing but great things in this kid’s future. Hopefully the Rams go out and get some receivers to help him progress.
4. Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
Jay Cutler threw for less yards and less TDs this year than he did last year, so what is he doing on this list? He’s on this list for a couple of reasons. The first being that although he had less yards and TDs this season, he increased his QB Rating by almost 10 full points from 76.8 to 86.3. How did he pull that off? Well that brings me to reason #2. Cutler threw 10 less INTs this season than he did last year. That is a huge decline and if the Bears were going to be successful this year, and they were, that was a number that Cutler simply had to improve on. What’s more impressive? He did that while being sacked an astonishing 52 times! That’s 12 more times than the second most sacked QB. What else was an obstacle in Jay Cutler’s way? How about his WRs? Johnny Knox was his number 1 one target. Nuff said. So with the memory of a shaky previous season fresh in his mind, horrible protection from his offensive line, a weak receiving core, and a new offensive coordinator to learn from, Cutler was able to take the Bears from a 7-9 team that missed the playoffs to an 11-5 team that not only made the playoffs but secured a first-round bye by wrapping up the NFC’s 2 seed. For this Jay Cutler, you are an overachiever.
3. Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs)
After one year in Kansas City, Matt Cassel looked like he was proving everyone right: He was just a product of a Bill Belichick run offense. The Chiefs acquired Cassel in a trade with the New England Patriots along with Mike Vrabel for a 2nd-round pick. His first year in Kansas City was nothing like the year he had replacing an injured Tom Brady. He threw for less than 3,000 yards and threw as many TDs as he did INTs, 16. Hardly impressive. The Chiefs finished the season with a dismal 4-12 record and came in last place in the AFC West. Chiefs’ fans were used to the losing but with Head Coach Tom Haley, WR Dwayne Bowe, and QB Matt Cassel, that was all supposed to change. Patience would pay off because one year later the change did come. In 2010, the Chiefs would have a complete turnaround and finish the season with a 10-6 record, win the AFC West, and host a playoff game. Granted, the foundation of the Chiefs is their NFL-leading 164.2 rushing yards per game behind the dual threat of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, but Matt Cassel was the perfect compliment with solid, and more importantly safe, QB play. He threw for 3,116 yards but the number that jumps off the page is his TD to INT ratio. Cassel threw for a chunky 26 TDs and only a miniscule 7 INTs. When your running game is as good as Kansas City’s and your QB protects the ball as well as Cassel did, success is imminent, as proven this year by the Chiefs. Dwayne Bowe’s mental turnaround and Pro Bowl year certainly helped Cassel get acclimated in Kansas City. I won’t jump to conclusions after one year, but if the Chiefs keep up their solid all-around play, they may finally leave the cellar of the NFL and be regarded as a genuine threat and a team to be reckoned with.
2. Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Josh Freeman with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft, I thought to myself “Another 1st-round bust.” And I looked to be right after his rookie year, but as any smart sports fan knows, you can’t ever judge a player solely on his rookie year, especially a QB who gets thrust immediately into action. One of the biggest unmeasurables of any athlete is character. And Josh Freeman showed what he was made of this year by bouncing back after a really bad rookie outing. In 2010, Freeman threw for 1,596 more yards (3,451), 15 more TDs (25), and 12 less INTs (6) than his rookie year. The Bucs finished 3-13 and were dead last in the NFC South his rookie year. This year? They finished with a 10-6 record and were in the playoff hunt down to the last game of the season. Josh Freeman finished the season with the 6th best Passer Rating, tied for 10th in TDs, and only threw more INTs than Tom Brady for a QB who started every game this season. Impressive. Just when it looked like the Bucs were headed back to the days of the vomit-orange jerseys, Josh Freeman rights the ship and brings them back into contention.
And finally to round out the list of the 2010 Over/Underachieving NFL QBs, the number 1 Overachieving QB of 2010 is *another drumroll please*:
1. Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles)
So many things can be said about Eagles QB Michael Vick. Many people still see him as nothing more than a dog killer and refuse to forgive him. Others believe he has paid his debt to society by doing 19 months in prison and losing all of his wealth and popularity in the process. Whether you like him or not, there’s one thing you cannot take away from the man, he is talented. From the day he burst on to the scene at Virginia Tech to his dazzling days in Atlanta, Michael Vick has always been seen as the most exciting football player in the world and has an incredible penchant for making plays when there are absolutely none to be made. After failing to trade him, The Atlanta Falcons released Vick and wanted nothing to do with him after his jail sentence and suspension was served. This gave the Eagles the opportunity to pick him up as a free agent, not without community backlash of course. Vick was added to the Eagles roster with the intention of making him a backup QB, first to Donovan McNabb, who was later traded, then to Kevin Kolb. All was going according to plan until Kevin Kolb left the first game of the season with a concussion. Michael Vick came in to finish the game and it was all history after that. Vick was named starting QB for the rest of the season and achieved career highs in yards thrown (3,018), TDs (21), and QB rating, (100.2). Also he only threw 6 INTs and finished 35th in rushing yards and ran for 9 more TDs! He did all this even though he missed 3 games due to an injury and sat out the last game of the year. With this year, Michael Vick was named the NFC Pro Bowl starting QB and is in contention for league MVP. This man had his entire livelihood taken away, and for good reason, but bounced back like no one thought he could. After this season, Vick is a free agent and is set to make the big bucks again. Michael Vick, congratulations on being the NFL’s #1 Overachieving QB (if not player in general) of 2010!
That wraps up our Over/Underachieving NFL QBs of the Year list. Hope you enjoyed it!
-The Sport Scholar