Every year there are NFL players on the hot seat, and often the most scrutinized, most pressure-laden position is quarterback.
In 2014, many youngsters find themselves in pressure situations, whether it’s to receive a big-money contract, to reassure their position with the organization, or just to maintain their jobs for another week.
Here are the five quarterbacks who enter 2014 already on the hot seat:
1. Sam Bradford — St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams had a chance to find a new quarterback with two first-round draft picks, but instead Jeff Fisher and Co. stood by Bradford. They better hope that decision doesn’t come back to haunt them.
Bradford is coming off ACL surgery that prematurely ended the former first-rounder’s 2013 campaign, one that through seven games was on track to his highest QB rating.
Bradford owns a 18-30-1 career record in four seasons as the Rams’ starter, but the fifth should be the determining factor as to whether the organization needs to mull other options. He’ll be counting on Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, and Jared Cook to all be better, plus get a boost out Zac Stacy in the backfield.
Of course, it won’t be easy playing against the NFC West, especially in a Brian Schottenheimer offense which not many quarterbacks have thrived in. But with his career in St. Louis on the line, Bradford will have to find a way to impress.
2. Jake Locker — Tennessee Titans
Locker has started 18 of a possible 32 games over his past two seasons with the Tennessee Titans, so in 2014 he’ll have to not only stay on the field but impress in the process.
Despite the injuries, Locker has showed glimpses of potential throughout his three NFL seasons. That potential, however, has only translated to a 8-11 career mark.
Ken Whisenhunt has been able to get the most out of his quarterbacks, and Locker — in what amounts to a contract season — will have to be a fast learner. Locker’s style resembles that of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, where Whisenhunt made his mark in the league. It will be boom or bust for Locker this season — if it’s a bust for Locker the Titans will have to start considering their other options.
3. Ryan Tannehill — Miami Dolphins
Entering his third year in the NFL, Tannehill needs to prove he’s the Miami Dolphins’ future under center.
Tannehill improved drastically from 2012 to 2013, completing more passes, throwing more touchdowns and, expectedly, more interceptions. And all reports out of Dolphins camp suggest he’ll have a better running game this year and should expect more out of his top wide receiver, Mike Wallace.
Bill Lazor’s offense allowed Nick Foles to enjoy a Pro Bowl season. This go-round, he needs to be more decisive, gain more confidence, and develop better chemistry with his receivers.
4. Matt Schaub — Oakland Raiders
Schaub’s 2013 season with the Houston Texans was one he hopes to forget. Schaub had his worst season since becoming Houston’s starter, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns (14:10) while leading the team to a 2-6 record and a 73.0 QB rating.
The Oakland Raiders drafted their quarterback of the future in Derek Carr during the 2014 NFL Draft, and during OTAs the rook reportedly was breathing down Schaub’s neck.
Schaub will have every opportunity to seize the starting job, but his recent play gives us little confidence he can hold onto it.
5. Andy Dalton — Cincinnati Bengals
It seems puzzling that a quarterback who has lifted his team to the postseason two years in a row is on the hot seat. But keep in mind Dalton has yet to earn a victory in the big dance yet.
Dalton needs to show progress in 2014 before the Cincinnati Bengals sign him to a big-time contract. At times he looks like a glorified game manager with little upside, but should have a chance to flourish in Hue Jackson’s offense.