The AFC West is a passers’ division, per common wisdom. “Common wisdom” is typically a cue to offer a countervailing opinion; in this instance it happens to be spot on. It therefore makes sense to begin my divisional position rankings with the quarterback situation. Please feel free to disagree with me forcefully in the comment section below.
1) Denver Broncos
As you may have heard, the Broncos currently employ a gentleman by the name of Peyton Manning. Manning is a better quarterback than you, he is a better quarterback than I, and according to this highly plausible analysis from stat wizard Chase Stuart, he is a better quarterback than anyone who has ever laced up the cleats and tied on a jockstrap in professional football – terms and conditions, needless to say, apply. There is no question that he is heads, shoulders, knees, and toes above any other quarterback in the AFC West.
After Manning , the strength of the depth chart falls off precipitously. Brock Osweiler is a largely untested, big-armed gunslinger whom the Broncos drafted two years ago. Zac Dysert is a completely untested, big-armed gunslinger whom the Broncos drafted one year ago. Bryn Renner is an untested . . .well, you may be sensing a theme here.
Renner has substituted a big arm for an exquisite name; his experience remains a total zero. That said, I would put the odds on him to surpass both Osweiler and Dysert in the depth chart two years hence. Osweiler and Dysert throw with the bellicosity of a Spartan and the beauty of a beast, whereas Renner possesses a far more refined spiral with vision to boot.
Also true, see paragraph number one above regarding Manning. Until he retires, goes into politics, and becomes a used-car dealer – ha ha, just kidding; he is not John Elway. Manning has twice the personality of Elway without a whit of the snake oil salesman about him. But the first two still apply- the Broncos will remain at the top of this and every quarterback ranking.
2) San Diego Chargers
Phillip Rivers has been confused for both a Hall of Famer and a middling to above-average starter. He is neither. What he is, however, is a highly productive, superbly accurate quarterback. He has the skill to be a top-eightish quarterback in the NFL for several years to come, especially with the receiving weapons management has provided him.
Check back three years from now. Unless the Chargers have found better options than Rams castoff Kellen Clemens and non-starter Brad Sorensen, things could get ugly. If those two remain the sole backups for Rivers, San Diego’s best hope, Charlie Whitehurst, fortunately has not yet embarked on his almost certain future career as an Herbal Essences model.
3) Oakland Raiders
Dear Kansas City fans: This is what irate comment board posts are for. I have something of a knack for angering the Arrowhead Faithful, and I’d hate to let them down now. Go bananas; go a whole Thanksgiving cornucopia of fruits.
I will get to the Chiefs’ QB situation in more depth below. Now we deal with the Raiders.
That conversation begins with Matt Schaub. Everyone and his or her mother – assuming said mother enjoys football, of course – knows that Schaub tossed four picks six last season. What they and their gridiron-loving mothers may not know is that that ignominious statistic barely puts Schaub in the top 20. He ranks behind such illustrious names as Jim Kelly, Joe Namath, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino – twice. The all-time leader in interceptions for touchdown is, ironically enough, Manning, who gave up six of them in 2001.
Putting last season aside then, Schaub has been a consistently solid presence. He may not be the top-10 quarterback that Dennis Allen claims, but you’d be hard-pressed to place him outside of the top half, even at the later stage of his career.
What truly gives the Raiders the edge of Kansas City, though, is depth. Derek Carr is rapidly ascendant by all accounts. Matt McGloin is located firmly in the back seat, but has actual starting experience, thus filling out one of the more imposing depth charts in the League. It is strange indeed to say that the Raiders are secure at quarterback for the foreseeable future, but here we find ourselves.
4) Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith and Schaub have a great deal in common. Both are savvy, experienced passers, who will not wow anyone with arm strength, but can pick apart a defense in the short and intermediate game. Smith, who fell out of favor just across the Bay, is probably a tad bit better than Schaub.
Nevertheless, where the Chiefs come up short is depth. Aaron Murray is a wild card coming off of an injury that has ended more than a few careers, Tyler Bray is a year older and year lesser. Bray came out of Tennessee as an excellent prospect whom almost certainly should have remained in the unpaid doldrums of the college ranks for an additional season to mature.
These two newbies will be challenged by Chase Daniel, Drew Brees’ backup for a handful of seasons in New Orleans. Sean Payton and the gang apparently did not see enough from Daniel to retain him over the likes of Ryan Griffin, UDFA-Tulane. Griffin was almost immediately relegated to the practice squad before being resigned as insurance.
The bottom line is that, should Schaub go down to injury or inadequacy, Raider Nation will be breathe easy with Carr waiting in the wings. Conversely, an Alex Smith injury would be a punch to the solar plexus of the Arrowhead Faithful.