Mar 4, 2024; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Devin Brown speaks to media at the start of spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Devin Brown, Will Howard ready for QB competition at Ohio State

Ohio State’s Devin Brown had a strong message Monday for people who think he’s intimidated by a tough quarterback room this spring.

Bottom line: He isn’t transferring.

“I’ve said it through and through. I’m a Buckeye, and I’m here to compete, no matter what,” he told reporters in Columbus, Ohio, the day before spring practices begin.

“Honestly,” he continued, “I think people are cowards. I think people have this thought in their own heads that I’m gonna leave and I’m a quitter, but that’s never been me. These people live wherever, in their mom’s basement, saying stuff about me and they don’t know (expletive). Excuse my language, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know why I am. They don’t know who I’ve been, and that’s always who I’ve been.”

Brown, a redshirt sophomore, lost the starting job to Kyle McCord before the 2023 season, but when McCord announced his transfer at the end of the regular season, Brown was given the starting assignment in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri.

But Brown left the game in the second quarter of the 14-3 loss with an ankle injury, with freshman Lincoln Kienholz taking over.

Since then, the Buckeyes have brought Kansas State graduate transfer Will Howard and 2024 blue-chip recruits Julian Sayin and Air Noland in to compete with Brown and Kienholz. They will be trying to impress head coach Ryan Day and Chip Kelly, the new offensive coordinator.

Howard, who started 27 games at Kansas State, has one year of eligibility left. And he sounded confident when he addressed reporters Monday.

“I didn’t come here to be nervous or to be timid or anything like that,” Howard said. “I’m ready to go, and the fact of the matter is you know it might not all be perfect. I might make a few mistakes but that’s how I’m going to learn and that’s how we’re going to learn as a team.

“Nothing’s too big for me. Nothing’s too big for this team. Spring ball, it’s going to be a lot of learning across the board but I’m excited for that. I want to embrace that.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day watches during the second quarter of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against the Missouri Tigers at AT&T Stadium.

Ohio State awaiting final word on Bill O’Brien status

Ohio State coach Ryan Day hired Bill O’Brien as his offensive coordinator this offseason, entrusting him to call plays for the Buckeyes in the 2024 season.

And Day is proceeding with that plan until he hears otherwise.

O’Brien, the former head coach of the Houston Texans and Penn State, is a top contender for the recently opened head-coaching job at Boston College, interviewing earlier this week. Day told reporters O’Brien was on campus in Columbus and at work on Wednesday.

He said he had “no update” about O’Brien’s future with the program, although ESPN reported Boston College is expected to name a head coach this week. Day has a Plan B should O’Brien, his hand-picked choice to relieve him of play-calling duties, depart.

“It isn’t just one of those situations where you take out one guy and put another guy in there and move on,” Day said. “It doesn’t work that way. But yes, we talked to different people for that position, and we have contingency plans in place. Hopefully, we don’t have to go down that road, though.”

Day also addressed a problem most college coaches would love to have entering spring practice: a glut of quarterbacks.

Following the transfer of last year’s starter, Kyle McCord,” Day said he anticipates a “fierce competition” at the position.

The Buckeyes have in their quarterback room Will Howard, an experienced transfer from Kansas State; returnees Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz; and Julian Sayin and Air Noland, incoming freshmen ranked as the No. 3 and No. 7 quarterbacks, respectively, in the 2024 class by 247Sports.

The youngsters will try to push the veteran Howard.

“Will came here to play football, so I hope that’s his mentality, and I hope all the guys have that mentality,” Day said. “He’s got to learn the offense and get going.”

–Field Level Media

Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Trenton Bourguet (16) grimaces after an ankle injury that forced him to leave the game against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the first half at Mountain America Stadium in Tempe on Sept. 16, 2023.

Arizona State battling injuries at quarterback with USC next

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham might need to pull a quarterback or two out of his hat before the Sun Devils take on nationally ranked Southern California next weekend.

Freshman starter Jaden Rashada didn’t dress in Saturday’s 29-0 home loss to Fresno State and is expected to be out four to six weeks with a lingering unspecifed injury, Dillingham said.

The starter against Fresno State, Trenton Bourguet, departed the game in the first quarter with an apparent left leg injury and resurfaced later with crutches and a walking boot on his left foot. He will have an MRI, Dillingham said.

Then, the backup’s backup, Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne, sustained a “muscular injury” to a leg and had to come out. He was 5-for-13 passing for 52 yards and lost the ball four times — twice on interceptions, twice on fumbles.

The leading passer on the day was Jacob Conover, the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster. The fourth-string sophomore was 6-for-16 passing for 89 yards, and he threw two more interceptions, giving Fresno State five on the day.

Arizona State turned the ball over eight times in all.

“This is football,” junior nickel back Jordan Clark said of the team’s injuries, per 247Sports. “That’s the risk whenever you put your helmet on and then strap your pads up. The mood around the team is just next man up. You got to play football. And if anybody’s mood isn’t that, that’ll get corrected.”

Before Saturday, the Sun Devils hadn’t been shut out in a home game since then-No. 2 USC beat them 50-0 in the 1988 season.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) warms up before the game between the Utah Utes and the Penn State Nittany Lions at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Draft record-setter: 11 QBs taken in first 150 picks

The Green Bay Packers’ selection of quarterback Sean Clifford from Penn State in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday was a record breaker.

NFL Network reported that this is first draft in history in which 11 quarterbacks were taken in the first 150 picks.

The Packers nabbed Clifford with pick 149.

The Minnesota Vikings went on to add Jaren Hall of BYU with the 164th pick, making him the 12th quarterback selected in the first five rounds.

The first 10 picks selected, and their draft number are:
No. 1: Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
No. 2: C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
No. 4: Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
No. 33: Will Levis, Tennessee Titans
No. 68 : Hendon Hooker, Detroit Lions
No. 127: Jake Haener, New Orleans Saints
No. 128: Stetson Bennett, Los Angeles Rams
No. 135: Aidan O’Connell, Las Vegas Raiders
No. 139: Clayton Tune, Arizona Cardinals
No. 140: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Cleveland Browns

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel talks with quarterback Skylar Thompson (19) between plays against the New York Jets during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa out, rookie Skylar Thompson to start

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out for the AFC wild-card game at Buffalo on Sunday.

Tagovailoa has not cleared concussion protocol and is prohibited from football activities. Head coach Mike McDaniel said Wednesday that Tagovailoa officially has been ruled out, and the Dolphins are preparing rookie Skylar Thompson to start against the Bills.

Tagovailoa is in the protocol for the third time this season after self-reporting symptoms following a Week 16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins broke a five-game losing streak and won a wild-card spot with a 9-8 record by virtue of their 11-6 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.

Thompsonm a seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft, was 20 of 31 for 152 passing yards in Week 18, drawing the starting assignment over Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was active last week but limited by an injury to the pinkie finger on his right hand.

Miami is fixed on the short-term, McDaniel said, which includes winning at Buffalo and getting Tagovailoa healthy. The first-year head coach didn’t want to discuss any long-term plans for the quarterback position, only saying the focus is on helping Tagovailoa “getting to full health as a human being.”

McDaniel said the Dolphins aren’t ruling out running back Raheem Mostert this week despite a broken thumb. Mostert leads the Dolphins with 891 rushing yards.

–Field Level Media

Dec 21, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (1) and Gardner Minshew (10) run out of the tunnel for warmups before the game against the Washington Football Team at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles to separate QBs as a COVID-19 precaution

Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and his backups will be kept apart at the team training facility to try to keep COVID-19 from wiping out the team’s quarterback corps.

The Eagles (8-7) sit in wild-card position entering the Week 17 game on Sunday against the host Washington Football Team (6-9).

“We’re going to definitely make even more adjustments than what we need to just keep everybody safe,” coach Nick Sirianni told the media Monday. “The quarterbacks will be in separate rooms. We’re going to be even more safe with them being in separate rooms.”

Gardner Minshew and Reid Sinnett are the Eagles’ other quarterbacks.

Washington coach Ron Rivera knows the feeling of having a COVID-infected quarterback room. When the Eagles beat Washington 27-17 on Dec. 21, Washington was in the throes of a COVID-19 crisis. Starter Taylor Heinicke and backup Kyle Allen both were on the reserve/COVID-19 list, forcing Rivera to turn to Garrett Gilbert, who hadn’t started a game in more than a year.

Saints rookie Ian Book also started Monday night’s loss to the Miami Dolphins as New Orleans’ experienced quarterbacks — Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian — tested positive for COVID-19.

“To win this game this week, we’re going to need all hands on deck,” Sirianni said. “And so what is the best course of action? Obviously I’m talking to our doctors and our trainers.”

The Eagles placed defensive end Derek Barnett, cornerback Andre Chachere and defensive end Tarron Jackson on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, bringing their total seven.

Philadelphia could clinch a wild-card spot with a win over Washington and some help. The Eagles close the season Jan. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys, who have clinched the NFC East title.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2020; Frisco, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones answers questions during a press conference at Ford Center at the Star. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jones: Broncos’ QB situation not worse than what Cowboys faced

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones likely raised a few eyebrows when comparing his team’s quarterback situation to that of the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos lost 31-3 on Sunday to the New Orleans Saints with practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback. Starter Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien and practice squad member Blake Bortles were forced to quarantine after they were ruled to have had close contact with quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for the virus last Thursday.

Hinton completed 1 of 9 passes for 13 yards and two interceptions against the Saints.

“I don’t know that Denver had any more of a challenge than we’ve had with (Ben) DiNucci or with the young quarterbacks that we’ve had,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 FM the Fan in Dallas. “And, by the way, two or three of those (Broncos) quarterbacks will be back from the (reserve/COVID-19 list).”

The Cowboys have been forced to use a quarterback carousel after Dak Prescott sustained a season-ending ankle injury in a 37-34 victory against the New York Giants on Oct. 11. When backup Andy Dalton was forced out of two games because of a concussion and COVID-19, Dallas put Garrett Gilbert under center, as well as rookie seventh-round pick DiNucci, who completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards in a 23-9 loss to Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

Jones also took issue with the Broncos quarterbacks reportedly not wearing masks as required when they were together. Lock has since apologized for letting his guard down.

“Boy, we have been schooled in the NFL — the teams have been schooled (by COVID-19),” Jones said. “You had really better pay attention to your protocols. You better manage. Don’t just give it lip service.

“Don’t just roll your eyes back and say, ‘That happens to them. That doesn’t happen to me.’ … And I don’t mean to be trite about it, but that happens in football. Better be ready to have somebody come in there. All teams are advised that do logical things relative to separation, relative to having your players available when you got COVID challenge and do those things — because it could make a difference in scoring points or make a difference in how you defend somebody.

“That’s part of coaching. That’s part of managing the game.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) talks with quarterback Brett Rypien (4) in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos CEO: Team must take stronger virus precautions

Denver Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis called on players and staff to increase their vigilance amid the COVID-19 surge, days after his team was forced to play without an established quarterback because of the virus.

“As we enter the final month of this unprecedented season, we must do even more with the COVID-19 spike around the league and community,” said Ellis, who himself tested positive for the virus in early November. “I met with [general manager] John Elway and [coach] Vic Fangio virtually on Monday afternoon, and together we outlined what needs to be done to step it up.”

The Broncos lost 31-3 on Sunday to the New Orleans Saints with practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback. Starter Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien and practice squad member Blake Bortles were forced to quarantine after they were ruled to have had close contact with quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for the virus last Thursday, and were unavailable against the Saints.

The quarterbacks reportedly were not wearing masks as required when they were together, and Lock apologized for letting his guard down.

“We share the disappointment of our fans for the challenging and unique situation our team faced at the last minute this weekend,” Ellis said. “While it’s easy to point fingers, all of us must take responsibility and work together to prevent it from happening again.”

Multiple outlets reported that Lock, Rypien and Bortles were negative in the latest round of testing and can return to practice Wednesday.

Earlier, the NFL fined Fangio $100,000 and the Broncos $250,000 for failure to follow mask protocols on the sideline in September.

Despite his disappointment, Ellis said he recognized the challenges all team personnel have endured.

“I’m proud of the hard work and dedication of our staff to create a safe environment for everyone, led by our medical, facilities and compliance efforts.” Ellis said. “It’s especially important to recognize the discipline and sacrifices of the players – and their families – this year.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 13, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara (12) passes the ball during the spring football game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan QB spot open to competition this week

Michigan is evaluating “everything” before the Wolverines visit Rutgers on Saturday. That includes the starting quarterback position, head coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday.

On the heels of the program’s worst home loss since 1935, Michigan is taking a deep dive searching for answers to right the ship before the season is lost.

Harbaugh said he will evenly split reps with the first-team offense between quarterbacks in practice this week.

The Wolverines (1-3) face Rutgers and are just nine-point favorites after beating the Scarlet Knights 78-0 in 2016. Rutgers is 1-3 this season and 0-2 at home.

Quarterback Joe Milton threw interceptions on the Wolverines’ first two possessions and Wisconsin whipped Michigan 49-11. The Badgers rushed for more than 300 yards in the game.

Redshirt freshman Cade McNamara led Michigan on a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on his first possession in Saturday’s game and could start against Rutgers.

“That’s something we really have to look at. Did Joe understand the keys, where he was looking?” Harbaugh said. “Threw a ball, you know, right to another guy. … I think the first one, he was rolling out of the pocket, thought he threw a good ball. It was a contested catch, thought it should have been made, but it was tipped and they were very opportunistic and made the interception. The second one, threw it right to them. Didn’t have a lane, didn’t have a throw and made the throw anyway, and it got intercepted.”

–Field Level Media

Quarterback trends

It is an inarguable fact that quarterback is the most important playing position on the field.  This year’s playoff participants reinforce that notion.  With the exception of the Cardinals, who were missing Carson Palmer due to injury, each of the 12 playoff teams had a quarterback that is solidly entrenched as a starter.
This article reviews current starting quarterbacks and determines where they came from, how soon they came starters and other relevant characteristics. The article also discusses trends that may affect a team trying to fill a need at the position.
As a first step, teams were grouped into categories based on my humble opinion of the ability of their starting quarterback. The following table reflects that categorization.
This table indicates that there are eight teams with quarterback issues. This includes the Bears (and Jay Cutler), a designation with which some might not agree. A more detailed summary of each team’s situation is on the final page of this article.
History tells us that the draft is the principal avenue for acquiring a quarterback. The current situation is no different with 22 of the 32 starters coming to their teams via the draft. If the draft day trade between the Chargers and the Giants is re-characterized as Manning and Rivers coming through the draft to their respective teams, which is in essence what happened, that number grows to 24 starters. Excluding that trade the remaining eight starters came to their current team as follows:

  • Three players (Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith) came via trade
    • Cutler was expensive and came to the Bears along with a 5th round choice for two 1st round selections, a 3rd round pick and Kyle Orton
    • Palmer was a bargain and came from the Raiders for a late round pick and an exchange of late round selections
    • Smith went from the 49ers for 2nd and 3rd round selections
  • One player (Tony Romo) was an undrafted free agent
  • Two players (Drew Brees and Peyton Manning) came to their team via the free agent route, being available largely due to injury
  • Two players (Brian Hoyer and Ryan Fitzpatrick) were journeymen free agents

Improving a team’s quarterback situation in 2015 through free agency seems unlikely. Only two current starters (Brian Hoyer and Jake Locker) are eligible for free agency, and neither is an established player. Ryan Mallett, the backup for the Texans, is a free agent and might have some potential but the Patriots traded him for a late round pick, which says something about his potential.
Historically, trades are unlikely. There have been rumors concerning Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford being on the trade market but neither plays for a team that has a viable backup quarterback. Trades usually occur when a team has an excess at the position but that does not look to be case for any team this year.
This leaves the draft as the most likely path to improvement. There are two draft trends that should be noted. The first is that there is an increased prevalence of first round draft choices as starters. In looking at current starters, 19 of the 32 were first round draft choices. This compares to 13 first round selections ten years ago in 2004.  It is only logical then that college players at the top of the draft boards will be in great demand. Are Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston worthy of an early draft shot? Maybe or maybe not, but they will be taken early. Is this good news for Brett Hundley?
Whether this is a trend or a blip is something worth following. The following table shows a breakdown by draft round for the past five years.

Most recent starters come from the first round and all have come from the first three rounds.
The second trend is that quarterbacks are starting earlier in their career. 19 of the current starters were starters as rookies compared to 13 in 2014. Some of the top “older” starters served apprenticeships before taking over but that seems to be a thing of the past. Here are some of those that learned by watching:

  • Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons
  • Philip Rivers spent two years behind Drew Brees
  • Carson Palmer sat behind Jon Kitna for a year before moving up
  • Tony Romo understudied Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde
  • Drew Brees waited his turn behind Doug Flutie

The following table shows more details about changes over the past 10 years:

The difference among the age groups is even clearer when 2014 is reviewed by age and number of years it took to gain the starting nod:

Only four of the 14 players that were 30 and over started as rookies. For the under 30 crowd, 15 out of 18 started as rookies. While a bias toward younger players starting as rookies is to be expected, this is a pretty large difference that borders on the astounding.
In addition to the eight teams who were previously identified as having quarterback problems, should any other teams be seeking quarterbacks due to an aging starter?  As can be seen in the preceding table, slightly less than half the starters are 30 years old or older.
The five oldest, with their ages as of September 1 2105 in parentheses, are Peyton Manning (39), Tom Brady (38), Drew Brees (35), Tony Romo (35) and Carson Palmer (35). Do the teams with older quarterbacks have a backup who is the long-term answer? I would categorize the backups as follows:

The potential starters are largely players who have not had the opportunity to show what they can do. So it is more a matter of uncertainty than being a proven starter-in-waiting. These backups are pre-2015 free agency and excludes backups for the Bills and the Bucs as they do not currently have one.
The bad news for teams looking for a quarterback is that there are unlikely to be solutions for all of them. They are left to hope their existing quarterback or a backup shows improvement or that a recycled free agent will do the job.

Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics