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The Jaguars Need a Franchise Quarterback (Part 2)

Today we continue with the analysis of NFL franchise quarterbacks.  This is the second in a four-part series.  I have two more divisions left to cover in the AFC. 

For the newcomers, I'm reviewing two divisions in each column.  Beginning Thursday, I’ll move onto the NFC.

In case you missed it: click here to read part 1.

But for now, on with the show...

AFC South

Houston Texans: David Carr, the No. 1 overall selection in 2002, was the Texans quarterback for the expansion team’s first five years. In the last eight drafts, Houston has taken quarterbacks Drew Henson, Dave Ragone, B.J. Symons and Alex Brink. With the Texans, Ragone was the only one to start any games – two in 2003. Drew Henson will be remembered most for his year-long baseball career with the New York Yankees. Fortunately for the Texans faithful, Houston traded for former Atlanta backup Matt Schaub in March 2007. Schaub, who I consider a franchise quarterback, is the best QB the Texans have had. But, until Houston makes and wins in the playoffs, Schaub’s efforts will be long forgotten by the rest of the league.

Indianapolis Colts: Life cannot get any easier when you have Peyton Manning leading your football team. Drafting for quarterback becomes the absolute last priority. In his 12 NFL seasons, the 34-year-old Manning has never missed a regular-season start. That’s 192 games – not including the postseason. Along with his passing records, Manning is one of the best at avoiding the rush. He has never been sacked more than 29 times in a season. His four NFL MVP trophies and 10 Pro Bowl selections are merely the tip of the iceberg. You’ll be telling your great-grandchildren about No. 18 playing on Sundays. That is why the Colts have only had to draft backups – Curtis Painter [2009, sixth round] and Jim Sorgi [2004, sixth]. After playing in 16 games through six seasons, Sorgi moved onto New York to hold a clipboard next to another Manning. Painter, who completed eight passes in the final two 2009 regular-season games, is the new backup in Indy. All it takes is one hit to land a franchise quarterback.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Jacksonville chose Byron Leftwich in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. It was the first year of the Jack Del Rio era, and he had to put his stamp on it early. In Tom Coughlin’s last season – 2002 – he selected David Garrard as a possible successor to Mark Brunell. In four years on the First Coast, Leftwich struggled with injuries and high expectations. The raging Leftwich-Garrard saga ended – or began depending on who you ask – prior to the start of the 2007 regular season when Leftwich lost the starting job to Garrard. Since then, Leftwich has spent time with the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Currently, he seems to be the starter in Pittsburgh while Ben Roethlisberger sits out for at least four games. The 32-year-old Garrard, even though he has a playoff win, is not the long-term answer for Jacksonville. In three full seasons, Garrard has been sacked 105 times and hit more than that. Franchise quarterback is a major need in Jacksonville.

Tennessee Titans: When Steve McNair is your franchise quarterback from 1997 until 2005, adding another signal-caller is not a main concern. After Air McNair departed for the Baltimore Ravens, college superstar Vince Young was the fresh, new face. Young, who was chosen in the 2006 draft behind Mario Williams and Reggie Bush, started 28 games in 2006 and 2007. For most of 2008, he played second-fiddle to Kerry Collins. During 2009, Young started 10 games and led his team to a respectable 8-8 finish. The Titans drafted Jacksonville native Rusty Smith, out of Florida Atlantic, in this year’s sixth round. Smith is project-worthy while Vince Young looks to be the future.

Overall analysis: Houston and Indianapolis both have their franchise quarterbacks. At 28, Matt Schaub has yet to hit his prime. Peyton Manning could play until he’s 50. Jacksonville should upgrade in the 2011 draft. If Vince Young can keep his head on straight, Tennessee is fine.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: Since the 2003 draft, the Broncos have chosen Bradlee Van Pelt [2004, seventh round], Matt Mauck [2004, seventh], Jay Cutler [2006, first], Tom Brandstater [2009, sixth] and Tim Tebow [2010, first]. While with the Broncos, Van Pelt, Mauck and Brandstater never started an NFL game. In the past 10 years and prior to the arrival of Cutler, the Broncos relied on Brian Griese and Jake “The Snake” Plummer. After two full seasons in Denver, Cutler was essentially traded for incumbent starter Kyle Orton. Time will tell if head coach Josh McDaniels, who coached under Bill Belichick, if he made the smart decision in getting rid of Cutler. With regards to the quarterback position, the 2010 season is a crucial one for Denver. The 27-year-old Orton, Brady Quinn and Tebow will be vying for playing time. No matter the end result, I have a feeling Broncos fans won’t be pleased with Orton.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs were set at quarterback from 2001 to 2005 as Trent Green started every regular-season game during that span. When Green suffered a concussion in 2006, Damon Huard, who is not currently on an NFL roster, took over the starting role. After Kansas City, Green spent two lackluster seasons in Miami and St. Louis. With Green under center, the Chiefs only drafted Brodie Croyle [2006, third round]. Croyle, a former Alabama Crimson Tide star, has started nine games in four seasons. But, once head coach Herm Edwards departed, new management brought in Matt Cassel, one-time backup to Tom Brady. In 2009, Cassel started 15 games and went 4-11. It wouldn’t hurt if the Chiefs selected a quarterback for the future.

Oakland Raiders: It seems as though Oakland loves to go through quarterbacks like they do head coaches. From 1999 to 2002, Rich Gannon, now a CBS analyst, won 41 regular-season games and threw for 3,400 or more yards each year. Since that disappointing Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raiders have been in disarray. So, it’s surprising that Oakland has selected only two quarterbacks in the last eight drafts – Andrew Walter and JaMarcus Russell. Between Walter and Russell, they started 34 games during parts of seven seasons. After Gannon went down with a shoulder injury and missed nearly half the 2003 season, the Raiders have started Rick Mirer, Marques Tuiasosopo, Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Walter, Russell, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown, Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye. With the release of Russell, Oakland has turned its sights to Jason Campbell. He could be the answer, but, then again, I’m sure that statement was said for Collins, Brooks or McCown, too.

San Diego Chargers: Franchise quarterback Philip Rivers has started the last 64 regular-season games for the Chargers. It’s incredible to think that San Diego had Super Bowl champion Drew Brees as their quarterback for four years. The Chargers acquired Rivers and two draft picks when they traded their No. 1 overall pick in 2004, Eli Manning, to the New York Giants. After two consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons, Rivers, 28, is beginning to hit his prime. The other quarterbacks San Diego has drafted were Charlie Whitehurst – recently traded to the Seattle Seahawks – and Jonathan Crompton. In August of 2009, Rivers signed a six-year deal worth about $38 million guaranteed. The two-time Pro Bowl selection is in San Diego for awhile longer.

Overall analysis: The San Diego Chargers are the only AFC West team set at quarterback. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland all have their issues with a signal-caller. However, the next couple years could improve vastly for each team. The potential improvements of Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel and Jason Campbell will determine the future for the three organizations.

Thursday it is the NFC East and North.

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Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.

Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville and 103.7 FM at the Jacksonville Beaches at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard also hosts Inside the Game every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WBOB.

Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.

Follow Richard’s daily blog for The Jacksonville Observer and his Twitter account MillerOnSports.

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