Scout NFL Roundtable: QB Disaster Recovery

Donovan McNabb (AP)

If the starting quarterback for your team was sidelined by injury for the season after the first game of the season, would your team still have a good chance at making it into the playoffs? That's the question we posed to our Scout NFL team experts. Find out what fifteen of them had to say about it in this exclusive Scout.com feature!

Chuck Hixson , WarNest.com
Philadelphia Eagles

Donovan McNabb's on track to return as the starting quarterback, but the fact that he has gone down with major injuries in each of the last two seasons is a concern. Plan B would be fan favorite A.J. Feeley. 

Back in 2002, Feeley was the third-string quarterback, but he took over for the final five games of the season when both McNabb and Koy Detmer went down with injuries. He played well enough to lead the Birds to a 4-1 record in those games. Feeley is a competent backup, but odds are that he won't become the next Jeff Garcia. Kelly Holcomb and rookie Kevin Kolb would be next in line. 

Holcomb at least has some NFL experience and set a Bills franchise record with a 67.4 completion percentage in 2005. Kolb was an unpopular draft pick in Philadelphia, but the Eagles think that with time he'll develop well. But if Feeley, Holcomb or Kolb have to take over, the Eagles will absolutely have to rely on the ground game that they discovered last year with Brian Westbrook to make it into the playoffs.

Jim Wexell, SteelCityInsider.com
Pittsburgh Steelers

Charlie Batch
(Getty Images)
I think we all know that Charlie Batch can play, but the bigger question is: How much would he have to play?

Batch could win a Super Bowl if Ben Roethlisberger went down, and by that I mean the Super Bowl game itself. But Batch has been a China doll throughout his career. If he were forced to play for an extended period, his risk of injury -- based on his history -- would be high.

The third-teamer, Brian St. Pierre, is out of practice-squad eligibility, but he did show some confidence this spring. My guess is he'd prove competent enough to get the club past any weaklings on the schedule.

Aaron Wilson, RavensInsider.com
Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens' prospects would be reduced dramatically for the postseason if anything happens to Steve McNair. While Kyle Boller, a first-round bust, knows the system and performed adequately when called upon twice last season, he is still prone to erratic decisions and gets flustered if his primary or secondary read are covered. He also tends to trip often while dropping back from center. Trust me, it would be problematic if McNair goes down and the Cincinnati Bengals would likely claim the AFC North crown.

Roy Philpott, TheRanchReport.com
Dallas Cowboys

Brad Johnson
(Getty Images)
Should the unthinkable occur to Tony Romo, the Cowboys would call on veteran Brad Johnson to lead the offense in 2007. While clearly at the end of his career, Johnson's experience would prove valuable to a unit that would still have enough weapons to still make the playoffs. Veteran wide receivers Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn aren't getting any younger, but both still have gas left in the tank.

The running game should also be solid with Marion Barber and Julius Jones. Keep in mind that Dallas has a new offensive coordinator this year in Jason Garrett. Garrett told TheRanchReport.com earlier this year that the power running game will be an essential part of the offense. "A power running game,'' Garrett said, "is one of the basics.''

Sure, losing Romo would hurt. His ability to move around in the pocket to buy extra time would disappear with Johnson as the starter. However, Johnson has won a Super Bowl and knows how to manage the game. That's all the Cowboys would ask him to do in a scenario where Romo was lost for the season.

Jerry Langton, ColtPower.com
Indianapolis Colts

The Colts without Peyton Manning? That's a concept so strange it's almost incomprehensible. While it's commonplace to give props to other Colts like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, the truth is that few (if any) teams have ever been so obviously built around the talents of just one man. And it's been a smart decision -- Manning has rewarded the Colts with nine outstanding seasons and has missed a grand total of one play due to injury. 

But the reality of today's salary-capped NFL means that the Colts don't have a lot of cash to spend on any other players at the position. They have skinny dart-thrower Jim Sorgi, who's been around for a few years and knows the offense. He's had a few opportunities to show his stuff when the season's already been put away, and he's been so-so in largely pressure-less situations. His competition for the No. 2 spot will come from free-agent John Navarre. He's a big lug with a cannon arm who was thrown to the wolves behind a pathetic Cardinals line in 2004 and 2005, and played with predictable results. In short, there are quarterbacks on the roster other than Manning, but, without him, the Colts aren't going anywhere.

John Crist, BearReport.com
Chicago Bears

Brian Griese
(Getty Images)
While a serious injury to Rex Grossman is precisely what some misinformed Bears fans want right now, general manager Jerry Angelo hedged his quarterback bet last offseason by signing veteran Brian Griese to be the primary backup.

Although clearly on the back nine of his career, Griese can still start for many NFL teams and originally came to Chicago thinking he could compete for the top spot on the depth chart. While he does not have the arm strength Grossman has, the former Pro-Bowler has lots of experience in the west coast offense and should be able to step in and get the job done. If the unthinkable happened and both Grossman and Griese went down, third-stringer Kyle Orton won 10 starts as a rookie in 2005 despite the team finishing 29th in the league in total offense.

The defending NFC Champions are built around a strong running game, tough defense, and superb special teams, so there is no real need for an air-it-out passing attack in the first place.

Brad Keller, CardinalInsider.com
Arizona Cardinals

He may be young and wet behind the ears, but the Cardinals' best shot at making the postseason rests on the left arm of Matt Leinart and not upon the shaking feet and darting eyes of backup Kurt Warner. While it's nice to think that Warner would step up in the event of an injury to Leinart and party like it was 1999 (or 2000, or 2001), the reality is that the former MVP has taken too many shots over the course of his career and now hears footsteps in a vacuum. Couple that with a new offense that is vertically oriented, requires the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer and that would require a lackluster offensive line to hold their blocks, and you have a mixture that goes together about as well as tequila and handguns. Much like last season, a change in quarterback means an end to all playoff hopes for Arizona.

Doug Farrar, Seahawks.net
Seattle Seahawks

Seneca Wallace
(Getty Images)
Seneca Wallace was 2-2 as a starter in 2006 when Matt Hasselbeck missed a month with a knee injury. Wallace is an extremely mobile player with a great deep ball, a decent short-to-medium game and a growing ability to run an offense. However, I'm not sure how well the 2007 Seahawks would fare if Wallace took most of the snaps from center. I know that Mike Holmgren would call the Sprint Right Option play ten times more often, but I'd be concerned about the team's inability to throw the full playbook at opposing defenses. 

It might work for a playoff berth in the relatively weak NFC West, though. The clincher would be the ability of the offensive line to run-block, because the Seahawks had better be in the NFL's top five in total rushing yards if there is no Hasselbeck. And Wallace would have to be accountable for quite a few of those yards.

Michael Lombardo, SDBoltReport.com
San Diego Chargers

If Philip Rivers is injured in week one, the Chargers will still make the playoffs. Back-up Billy Volek is an eight-year veteran who knows how to move an offense. In 2004, he threw for 2,486 yards and 18 touchdowns while playing in just 10 games for the Tennessee Titans. With terrific safety valves in LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, Volek would do just fine guiding the highest scoring team from a season ago.

The support Volek would get off the field is significant as well. In 2006, many veterans were privately upset when the team allowed Drew Brees to walk and handed the offense over to the unproven Philip Rivers. However, the team rallied around its quarterback and Rivers excelled as a result. Expect the same to happen if Volek is pressed into duty.

Jon Scott, PatriotsInsider.com
New England Patriots

Matt Cassel
(Getty Images)
There's little doubt - at least in any sane football fan's mind - that losing Tom Brady would be catastrophic to the Patriots' prospects for the season. Brady is the single focal point in the New England offense that makes the whole thing run. Without him in the lineup, which hasn't happened since the day he took over for Drew Bledsoe, it is hard to picture the Pats winning the division.

Behind Brady on the depth chart are Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez and the venerable Vinny Testaverde (Testaverde remains a free agent). Cassel has all of one game of experience in the NFL, an almost-win against the Dolphins. It's possible he could string together a few wins, but beyond that is a huge question mark. Gutierrez may not make the final roster and Testaverde may be better suited to watching from the sideline at this point in his career.

Matthew Postins, BucsBlitz.com
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In Tampa Bay, the answer to this question depends on who the starting quarterback will be. The odds are it will be Jeff Garcia, though that's not official (but it will be at the start of training camp). 

If it's Garcia and and he's lost for the season after the first week of action, the hopes of this team will hinge on two things. First, is Chris Simms back to full strength, and are his fundamentals back in line? If so, he's capable of doing what he did in 2005. Second, has Bruce Gradkowski made enough progress in the offseason to capably take over for Garcia? Gradkowski and Garcia are similar quarterbacks, and a transition between the two would be much less seamless than flipping the offense for Simms.

All that said, if Garcia gets hurt, the Bucs are toast. Simms did not look like himself at minicamp, and I'm not that confident in Gradkowski's progress. Jon Gruden better hope Garcia stays healthy for 16 games.

Craig Massei, SFIllustrated.com
San Francisco 49ers

Trent Dilfer
(Getty Images)
Alex Smith became the first quarterback in the 49ers' 62-year history to take every snap in a season last year. But despite his durability and considerable progress in his sophomore season, some observers felt San Francisco's most consistent quarterback was watching from the bench, where 13-year veteran Trent Dilfer played the mentor's role with patience and aplomb. 

The 49ers' big expectations for a playoff push in 2007 are riding on Smith taking the next big step in his development. But the 49ers would still be in good shape with Dilfer. 

As he showed during the preseason last year and virtually daily in practice since his arrival, Dilfer is a poised leader who still has zip and accuracy on his passes, and he would be a capable caretaker quarterback on a team with a strong run game and improving defense. Dilfer started and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens – one of four NFL teams for which he has started – and certainly has the skill and experience to step in and lead a run to the postseason with a team that is determined to get there for the first time since 2002.

Denis Savage, SilverandBlack.com
Oakland Raiders

It would be a shock if the Oakland Raiders made the playoffs at all this year, making this question initially seem moot. But, this IS the NFL – a place where teams come from the doldrums and make the postseason on a yearly basis.

With that in mind, JaMarcus Russell would take the helm and expedite the rebuilding process. Russell has the athleticism and arm to be a top-flight quarterback in the NFL, and rookie quarterbacks have been known to guide their team to the playoffs (see Ben Roethlisberger). With a solid defensive football team, maybe their fight to make the playoffs isn't as far-fetched as it would originally seem.

Charlie Bernstein, JagNation.com
Jacksonville Jaguars

David Garrard
(Getty Images)
We actually went through this last season in Jacksonville, but the starting quarterback was injured after the sixth game, not the first one.  The Jaguars finished with the second-ranked defense in the NFL last season, and the third-ranked rushing attack, and all that yielded was an 8-8 season under the leadership of backup quarterback David Garrard.  

This season, the Jaguars appear to have more offensive talent, especially at wide receiver, and a much faster defense.  But it would likely be impossible for the team to make the playoffs if starting quarterback Byron Leftwich went down again. David Garrard is a solid backup for a week or two, but he can't go through his progressions, and the team becomes instantly one-dimensional. If Leftwich were to go down in week one, 6-10 would be the most likely result.

Todd Korth, PackerReport.com
Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of picking up for Brett Favre if the iron man is lost for the season after the first game. 

Rodgers, Green Bay's top pick in 2005, has spent the last two seasons behind Favre and the last two offseasons in Green Bay, attending Mike McCarthy's quarterbacks school.  He has a firm grip of the scheme and probably knows it better than Favre. Rodgers is ready to play, but that time won't come until Favre walks away from football, or is sidelined by an injury.


How do you think your team would fare if they lost their starter after the first week of action in 2007? Talk about it in your favorite team's fan forum!

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