The 2018 quarterback carousel may have been an unsuccessful episode of turd polishing. When the offseason began, Kirk Cousins looked like a quarterback with wasted upside in Washington, Case Keenum was fresh off an NFC championship appearance and Alex Smith was the rocket man in Kansas City’s superpower offense.
Aside from the Minnesota Vikings, who won the Cousins sweepstakes, the teams that acquired a veteran quarterback have had little success in acclimating that quarterback to their system.
Here’s a check-up on the results from this offseason’s quarterback movement.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: Cousins is the only success story in the bunch, even if Cousins’ Vikings are just 2-2-1. Cousins has been ridiculously good statistically, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for 1,688 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. The Vikings’ loss to the Buffalo Bills remains a head-scratcher, but Minnesota otherwise appears poised to finish as one of the NFC’s best, in part due to Cousins’ strong play.
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos: What a mess in Denver. They were supposed to be a quarterback away. But their problems seem to go well beyond Keenum, even if he hasn’t been particularly good. He’s completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,365 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. But even when Keenum plays well, like he did last week with 377 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, Denver finds a way to lose.
Alex Smith, Washington Redskins: Smith’s breakout season in 2017 wasn’t a product of a sudden “aha!” moment. It was a product of Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ system. The Redskins have not been able to replicate that success. Smith has regressed to his typical vanilla-ice-cream, shrug-emoji brand that we’ve seen in his 12 seasons before 2017. With four touchdowns and two interceptions in four games in 2018, Smith is fine. His regression has surely been a disappointment in Washington, even if it wasn’t a big surprise to the rest of the NFL. At 2-2, the Redskins are atop the NFC East, but they won’t be for long.
Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen was always going to win this job. Even Bradford seemed resigned to that reality this offseason. Bradford has been an overpaid backup for years. He’s oft-injured, and when he isn’t hurt, his play doesn’t fit the picture of the veteran who was once a No. 1 overall pick. He’s been no different in Arizona in the NFL’s worst offense.
A.J. McCarron, Buffalo Bills: The next big thing? McCarron seemed like a player whose story had the potential to follow Jimmy Garoppolo’s storyline. Once allowed to move to a different team, he would excel as a starter. McCarron, however, was waiting in the wings behind Andy Dalton, who should be a bit easier to supplant than Tom Brady. Perhaps that should have been proof enough to deduce that McCarron isn’t quite at Garroppolo’s level. But apparently, McCarron isn’t even better than Nathan Peterman. Yes, the Nathan Peterman, who owns some of the worst quarterbacking stats in recent memory. McCarron lost the quarterback battle to Peterman. McCarron also made the mistake of joining one of the NFL’s worst offenses in Buffalo.
Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns: It’s never a good sign for a veteran when his team drafts a quarterback No. 1 overall. The Browns traded for Taylor, but when Baker Mayfield joined Cleveland, Taylor didn’t stand much of a chance, at least not long term. As soon as Taylor wasn’t healthy enough to play, Mayfield took over and hasn’t relinquished control of the job. Taylor’s only hope of starting is a trade. The more Mayfield succeeds, the more Taylor’s stats appear damning (48.8 completion percentage, 462 passing yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions).
Teddy Bridgewater, New York Jets: Bridgewater’s comeback is still in the making — if it ever pans out. The Minnesota Vikings’ 2014 first-round pick blew out his knee in gruesome fashion, returned to football last season with the Vikings and entered free agency in 2018. The Jets gave him a spin during training camp and preseason, but figured he held more value on the trade market than he did on their roster. They dealt him to the New Orleans Saints with Drew Brees and dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill. It’s not a bad situation — Bridgewater is getting paid well to do very little. That said, Bridgewater isn’t particularly close to becoming a starter.