Published August 16, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, Pa – Lip service is the name of the game when looking at the so-called quarterback competitions around the NFL.
Five teams are supposedly still "looking" for their Week 1 signal-callers as the preseason progresses, but the reality of the situation is far different.
Decisions have already been made in places like Philadelphia, Cleveland and north Jersey, but coaches who have bought in to a superfluous "competitive advantage" argument are keeping the waters as muddy as possible in hopes of gaining an edge for Week 1.
If you are truly entering Week 3 of the preseason without a definitive starter at the game's most critical position, you might as well raise the white flag on the season because the one adage which has always held true in football is the theory that if you think you have two quarterbacks, you probably don't have any capable of playing at a high level.
With that in mind let's examine the five teams still "weighing" their decisions.
Two of them -- The Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns -- saw winners emerge on Thursday even if their coaches refused to admit it.
A week after taking the lead in his quarterback duel with second-year pro Nick Foles, veteran Michael Vick put the stamp on his case to be Philadelphia's opening day signal caller with another strong performance against Carolina, completing 9-of-10 passes for 105 yards in the Eagles' 14-9 victory over the Panthers.
Foles, who got the start under center against the Panthers, finished 6-of-8 for 53 yards with a 7-yard rushing TD but threw a killer of an interception in the end zone and also was shaky handling a few shotgun snaps.
"I thought Mike, you know, put another good game together but we're going to evaluate everything," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "I thought besides the throwaway that Nick couldn't get out of the end zone, he did a nice job too. I think we have two quarterbacks that can play in an NFL game, so we'll continue to look at it. But you feel better about that situation."
Vick's stellar effort against Carolina came less than a week after he did the most with what Kelly called "his turn in the rotation," first tossing a 22- yard strike to Jason Avant before hitting DeSeam Jackson in stride for a 47- yard scoring pass two plays later in his first series against New England.
Vick wrapped up his night against the Pats 4-of-5 for 94 yards and the score with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Foles finished 5-of-6 for 43 yards, largely against the Pats' second-team defense.
"We're going to make the decision," Kelly assured. "I think they're doing a great job of making it difficult, because they're both playing at a high level right now. So I look at that as a positive. We've got two guys that can play football in this league. But we're going to have to make a decision. We're not going to sit there and rotate them on every play. So we'll see."
We already have seen, Vick is the guy.
Over in Cleveland the QB controversy between Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell has been nothing more than a manufactured competition by new Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, probably to light a fire under Weeden after the Oklahoma State product's uneven rookie season.
"There's a point where I will name a starting quarterback," Chudzinski said earlier in the week. "I am not ready to do it yet."
Weeden has taken all the first-team reps in training camp, started both preseason games and even turned it on a bit during Cleveland's 24-6 thumping of Detroit on Thursday, completing 8-of-12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Left tackle Joe Thomas isn't buying what Chudzinski is selling and neither are we -- Weeden is the starter in the Forest City.
"Brandon's taking all the first-team reps, so take it for what that is," the All-Pro told the Akron Beacon Journal. "I don't know. I'm not evaluating the quarterbacks. But, I mean, I've got eyes just like everybody else does, and Brandon's taken all the first reps."
The Jets probably would have liked to see more of a competition as the embattled Mark Sanchez gets ready to start his second straight preseason game against Jacksonville on Friday.
Rookie Geno Smith was expected to push Sanchez, but suffered an ankle injury during New York's 26-17 preseason opening loss at Detroit and reportedly had an extremely bad week in practice leading up to the Jags game.
"(Geno Smith is) nicked up just a little bit," Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said earlier this week. "He's done very well up until that point, (Mark Sanchez) has played at a pretty high level fairly consistently. (We are) still working on playing at a high level throughout the game."
Sanchez did throw an interception which was returned for a touchdown on his first series against the Lions, but settled down from there and went 10-for-13 with 125 yards and a score for the Jets.
"I felt good throughout the duration of camp. I thought I threw the ball well. I was accurate," said Sanchez. "I did my best to take care of the ball and move the team down the field. I thought we did that really well in spurts. I thought we got a little more consistent as things went on. We just have to keep improving."
At this stage, Sanchez is lapping Smith, who simply isn't ready to be an NFL starter at this stage of his development. Call this one a win for Sanchez by default.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, might have the last truly open competition as Chad Henne may have closed the gap on Blaine Gabbert during Jacksonville's preseason opener, a 27-3 drubbing at the hands of Miami.
The Jaguars mustered just 289 total yards and committed four turnovers in head coach Gus Bradley's preseason debut but Henne, an ex-Dolphin, outperformed Gabbert, hitting on 8-of-11 passes for 87 yards and leading the team to its lone scoring drive, a 16-play, 75-yard march capped by Josh Scobee's 23-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Gabbert, managed a mere 19 yards on a 5-of-10 success rate while working the entire opening quarter. Jacksonville punted on his first three possessions at the helm, with the final one ending in an interception.
Gabbert is expected to start against the Jets but the former first-round pick is probably down to his last mulligan.
Consider this advantage Gabbert but Henne has the rail and is closing fast.
Finally, in Buffalo, the Bills wanted Kevin Kolb to play placeholder for their 2013 first-round pick E.J. Manuel, but the oft-injured Kolb's freak knee sprain has put the Florida State product on the fast track.
Manuel passed his first NFL test, starting and completing 16-of-21 passes for 107 yards as Buffalo crushed the Colts, 44-20, in Indy. He was tentative at times and like most young quarterbacks checked down an awful lot, but showed the playmaking ability which has the fans in western New York excited.
"I think there's a lot of room for improvement," Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "I think when you look at E.J., he was very excited and I thought his demeanor was great out there."
Bills first-year coach Doug Marrone announced Wednesday, however, that Kolb will get his chance and will start at quarterback against Minnesota on Friday.
"One thing I hope everyone understands is not to read in to this because we were very, very happy with E.J.'s performance in the first game," Marrone said. "Matter of fact, what we were looking at is probably if Kevin was healthy he was probably going to start the first game and EJ start this game. Again, they're in a competition and we just switched it."
Kolb's sample size in Philadelphia and Arizona is large enough to comfortably say he's not going to be the answer in Buffalo or anywhere else. So, the only question here is how quickly does Marrone want to throw his first-year quarterback to the wolves.
Unfortunately for Manuel, the success of 2012 rookies Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson has changed the thought process regarding young quarterbacks around the league and it's likely Manuel will be asked to sink or swim sooner rather than later.