Quarterback is the most important position in football and maybe in all of team sports. A team having a good quarterback goes a long way towards achieving success. And with the rookie salary scale, it is now easier and less expensive for teams to quickly move on from a signal caller they drafted should said quarterback fail to produce. Here are the NFL quarterbacks under the most pressure in 2021, in no particular order.
NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat This Season
Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
Carson Wentz might be the quarterback under the most pressure in 2021. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft. And there were times he played really well while in Philly. But he dealt with some injuries and just couldn’t manage to be available and play at a high level consistently. He was then benched last season in favor of 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts. Wentz and his relationship with the Eagles never really recovered from that.
This off-season the Eagles traded Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts after Philip Rivers retired. This move reunites Wentz and Frank Reich, who were quarterback and offensive coordinator, respectively, in Philadelphia as Reich is now the head coach in Indy. While the Colts don’t necessarily need Wentz to be “the guy,” they need him to play well, remain healthy and minimize turnovers. There are many who have already given up on Wentz and if he fails to produce in Indy this season, after being able to leave Philly and reunite with Reich, it is almost impossible to see him getting another chance somewhere else.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
This isn’t really fair to Hurts, but the Eagles drafting the former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback and then benching Wentz in favor of the second-round pick is one of the main reasons Wentz wanted out of Philadelphia. Yes, the Eagles signed Joe Flacco this off-season, but his best years are behind him. Hurts is supposed to be QB1 in 2021 and beyond in Philadelphia. If Hurts struggles and the Eagles aren’t winning games and Wentz and the Colts are playing well, there will be a lot of unease in Philly. It’s not exactly fair to Hurts, but that is the reality of the situation. Plus, fans in Philadelphia aren’t exactly known for their patience.
Daniel Jones, New York Giants
The New York Giants drafted Daniel Jones sixth overall in 2019. In two seasons he has a record of 8-18 and he has thrown 35 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Jones has also fumbled 29 times in two seasons. Last season the former Duke quarterback regressed. In 2020, Jones’ sophomore campaign, he had more turnovers than touchdowns (16 interceptions/lost fumbles combined and 12 total touchdowns). He also threw for fewer yards (3,027 in 2019 and 2,943 in 2020) and 13 fewer touchdowns (24 in 2019 and 11 in 2020) last season.
Yes, there were other issues with the Giants offense (Saquon Barkley missed a lot of time due to injury, the offensive line was young and the receiver corps was lacking). But Jones simply did not play well in his second year in the league. This season will see Barkley return to action, the offensive line with another year under its belt, and the addition of Kenny Golladay. Jones should have the pieces to play well this season, but he has to make better decisions and take care of the football. If he fails to do so he may be out of a job.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the 2020 draft. In his rookie season he played in 10 games (nine starts) and threw for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. In those nine starts, the former Alabama quarterback went 6-3. Tagovailoa didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his rookie year, but he was coming off of a bad hip injury and the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the NFL off-season.
Those are legitimate reasons for Tagovailoa not being great in his first year in the NFL. But the Dolphins may be looking for a new quarterback next off-season if Tagovailoa doesn’t show real improvement in his second year. That is just how the NFL now works.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is the best quarterback in the NFC East, but he is coming off of a horrific ankle injury he suffered Week 5 last season. He also signed a four-year, $160 million contract this off-season which included a $66 million signing bonus and $126 million guaranteed. Last season the Cowboys went 6-10 and finished third in the division.
Prescott got his money so he’s not under pressure in that sense. And the Cowboys also won’t trade or cut him if he has a subpar 2021, but Cowboys fans have been and are restless. They want a true Super Bowl contender and Prescott needs to help provide that and prove he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and that he was worth the huge payday.
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
The New York Jets drafted Sam Darnold with the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. In three seasons with the Jets Darnold threw for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 39 interceptions, while completing 59.8 percent of his passes. This off-season the Jets traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick (226 overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft and second and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft.
There is pressure on Darnold to perform in Carolina because many people, and rightfully so, excuse the fact that he hasn’t quite lived up to being the third overall pick because the Jets have been absolutely abysmal in so many areas. The Jets inability to field anywhere near a competitive team around Darnold means he never really had a true chance to shine in the NFL. With a fresh start in Carolina, he now has an opportunity to start over and prove he was worth being the third overall pick. He needs to seize that opportunity.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson is talented, there is no doubt about that. He was named MVP in 2019, just his second season in the NFL, and his first full season as a full-time starter. But the Baltimore Ravens quarterback is 1-2 in the postseason and regressed in 2020. While it is a bit ridiculous to try to write a narrative for a player after only two or three playoff games, the story on Jackson after he started his playoff career 0-2 was that he couldn’t win in the postseason. He has now changed perception a bit with a win over the Tennessee Titans last season.
But the former Louisville Cardinal is entering his fourth NFL season so the Ravens are now faced with making some decisions regarding their quarterback. Will they sign him to a long-term contract? If so, what would that deal look like in terms of the number of years and guaranteed money? If the two sides fail to come to an agreement will the Ravens just pick up Jackson’s fifth-year option and then figure out the future afterwards?
It has been reported this off-season that the Ravens are going to have Jackson working from under center more often this season. If he can perform well consistently from under center and be more accurate with the football maybe he truly is the Ravens quarterback of the future and is capable of taking his team to a Super Bowl. But he needs to prove he can do that and that starts this season.
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Throughout his career, Matthew Stafford has put up impressive numbers, but those stats didn’t translate to overall success for the Detroit Lions. This off-season the Lions and Los Angeles Rams struck a deal that sent Jared Goff to Detroit and Stafford to the Rams.
Between the two, the Rams are the better team so now there won’t be any excuses for Stafford. Plus, the Rams had to include three valuable draft picks in the deal in order to get Stafford to Los Angeles. The Rams didn’t make that trade for Stafford and the team to be just mediocre; Stafford needs to play well and the team needs to have postseason success.
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
It is unfair to say rookie Justin Fields is already under pressure, especially since he isn’t even QB1 for the Chicago Bears yet. But the Bears traded up to take the former Ohio State quarterback with the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft. And Chicago has a playoff-caliber team, particularly on defense. They can be a serious contender right now with good quarterback play and the Bears hope Fields can provide that. In addition, though it is through no fault of Fields, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy both find themselves on the hot seat. While Andy Dalton has had a nice career, it is doubtful he will be the quarterback to take the Bears where they want to go. They need Fields to take over the starting job and be the quarterback for whom they have been searching.
This season (and maybe in subsequent years) fans will see which of these quarterbacks end up stepping up and performing.