Heading into the 2014 season, there are three NFL quarterbacks who are coming off surgery that will be incredibly important for their respective clubs. One is an established veteran, one is looking for his first big contract, and another is looking to escape the moniker of “BUST”.
Looking for his big contract: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Surgery: Left ankle
The former #1 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft took a big step forward in his development as an NFL quarterback last season. Known mostly for his athletic ability, Newton set personal bests for touchdown passes (24) and completion percentage (61.7%) while leading the Carolina Panthers to their first playoff birth since 2008. The Panthers defense deserves a ton of credit as well, but Newton significantly improved in one specific category that may have put them over the top. Turnovers. In 2012, Newton turned the ball over 19 times, as opposed to only 15 in 2013. The four turnover differential may not sound like a lot, but the Panthers played 6 close games, going 5-1 in those decided by 4 points or less. That’s the difference between sitting at home or going to the playoffs.
With all of Newton’s progress, comes the reality that Cam had off season surgery in March on his troublesome left ankle. Newton underwent a procedure to stabilize the lateral ankle, that requires about four months of rehab. Newton’s problem was that the ligaments in his ankle were too loose. There was speculation that with so many minor sprains over the year, the ligaments got too loose causing the discomfort. Don’t worry Panthers fans, the most you’ll see of backup Derek Anderson should be in the preseason.
How important is Cam to the 2014 Panthers? Pretty important, but not as critical as you may think right off the bat. The Panthers sported the number two defense in the NFL last year. They also ran the ball 30 times per game, which was 7th most in the league. Combine that with only 29.6 passing attempts per game, the Panthers are as balanced as they get. When you are in control of the ball for an average of 31:46 per game (4th in the NFL), you don’t have to rely on a playmaking QB as much. One last thing to remember…Newton ran less in 2013 than in his previous two seasons.
Established Veteran: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Surgery: Herniated Disc
No matter what this guy does in 2014, it’s going to be terrible. So lets just move on to the next guy. I’m kidding. There isn’t a more polarizing quarterback that takes more of a beating than Tony Romo. He might be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history to not win a SB when his career is over, but that’s a debate for another time. Romo had a fantastic 2013 season. With missing the last game of the season due to needing back surgery, Romo was still 5th in the league in TD passes (31) and only turned the ball over 10 times (zero fumbles lost).
During a season in which the Cowboys coaching staff did mind-boggling, self-sabotaging, in-game things, it was Romo who saved the Cowboys playoff lives during week 16 with an incredible comeback win against the Redskins, all while destroying his back to the point of no return. Romo’s back injury put the Cowboys playoff hopes into the hands of backup QB Kyle Orton week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles. While Orton did play very well, a late game interception ended those dreams.
With the capable backup in Orton now gone, the Cowboys would have to turn to Brandon Weeden if Romo is unable to go at any point in 2014. Weeden never lived up to his 1st round pick status in Cleveland, but maybe the backup role in Dallas will actually help him? The only three teams that were more pass heavy than the Cowboys in 2013 were the Falcons, Browns and Dolphins. If Romo is in there, it’s one thing. He’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the history of the sport. But, if you ask a backup to execute the Cowboys offense, you are asking for a disaster. To go along with the chemistry with the rest of the offense, Romo’s ability to extend plays and fit balls in the tightest of spots, is second to none. The biggest problem with Romo missing time would be the lack of a defense to pick the Cowboys up. The Boys’ defense last year was the 3rd worst in the history of the NFL. And by the way, they cut all-pro DE DeMarcus Ware, stud MLB Sean Lee is out for the season, and now 2nd round draft pick DE Demarcus Lawrence, has a broken ankle. Romo HAS TO STAY HEALTHY for this team to have any chance at all of competing.
Looking to escape the moniker of “BUST”: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Surgery: Torn ACL
The last of the #1 overall draft picks from the previous CBA, Sam Bradford was handed a 6 year, $78 million contract by the St. Louis Rams, including a $17,975,000 signing bonus, $50,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $13,000,000, in 2010. The knock on Bradford has been that he has yet to lead the Rams to a winning season in 4 years, and that he needs to justify that monster contract. There were even some rumblings around the draft that the Rams were entertaining the thought of taking QB early in the draft. Over the years, Bradford has been labeled “soft” (he missed six games in 2011 with a high ankle sprain) and nothing more than a game manager. There are all sorts of stats and what not that can back up the “game manager” moniker, but before we get into Bradford’s 2013 injury, what do you think these numbers are…1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 6, 10, 13, 16, 31? Those were the distances of Bradford’s 14 TD passes last year before he blew out his ACL against the Panthers in week 7. There’s where the game manager moniker comes from. Once a gunslinger at Oklahoma, Bradford has become more like “Captain Checkdown”. Averaging only 6.44 Yards Per Attempt, Bradford had the third lowest YPA in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.
Now to the injury. I watched Bradford get run out of bounds live, and didn’t think that his injury was going to be that bad. It honestly just looked like he was dragged down a bit awkwardly and that he probably just sprained and ankle or something. But all of the camera angles that we were seeing were from the near sideline. Then came the camera from the far sideline…
You see that Bradford’s left knee buckles and it just doesn’t look right. Torn ACL. The word coming out of Rams camp is that Bradford’s knee is good to go. Although he is wearing a brace on the surgically repaired knee, he is under no restrictions. So, if Bradford’s knee became a problem again, how important would his loss be? The Rams are in an interesting position in 2014. They play in arguably the toughest division in football, and are considered the weakest team in the NFC West. But last year, the defense made some great strides, found a #1 RB in Zac Stacey, and finally figured out how to use WR Tavon Austin. Even with Bradford missing the second half of the season, the Rams still managed to run the ball on 44% of their plays. With their new-found running back in Stacey, the Rams could play a more ball control type of game, and let their defense make plays for them.
After looking at each team’s scenario, I think I would have to go with Tony Romo here. Cam Newton is such an electric player, but on a team with a Super Bowl caliber defense, the Panthers could rely heavily on the ground game. As far as the Rams go, they were only 1 game under .500 when Bradford went down last season. The Dallas Cowboys just can’t afford to have to lean on that defense. It’s going to be horrifically bad.
Which QB Coming Off Of Surgery Is Most Important To His Team In 2014
- Tony Romo
- Sam Bradford
- Cam Newton