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NFL QB Index: Ranking all 32 teams' primary starting quarterbacks at the end of the 2023 regular season

NOTE: This week's rankings feature each team's most prominent starting quarterback, based solely on play from the 2023 regular season.

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 6

2023 stats: 16 games | 67.2 pct | 3,678 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 24 pass TD | 7 INT | 821 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 11 fumbles

Before another person takes up 90 seconds of your life with an MVP pitch for Jackson, let’s face reality: Jackson’s season-long performance wasn’t perfect. In fact, much of it wasn’t MVP-caliber. He didn’t enter my top five QBs until Week 15. But his finish has been so incredible, it’s difficult to point to any other quarterback (Dak Prescott, perhaps) having a better year in total than Jackson, an elite player with rare talents that powered Baltimore’s run to the AFC’s top seed. No one in the NFL wants to play Baltimore right now, and it’s primarily because it would mean dealing with Jackson. We’ll find out in a few weeks whether he earned MVP honors – possibly just days before his team plays in the Super Bowl.

Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 8

2023 stats: 17 games | 69.5 pct | 4,516 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 36 pass TD | 9 INT | 242 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 4 fumbles

If we eliminate two games from Dallas’ schedule (Week 5 at San Francisco and Week 15 at Buffalo), Prescott is your runaway MVP. He’s been fantastic for the vast majority of the season, powering a Dallas offense that has evolved from one that relied heavily on CeeDee Lamb to a unit that can spread it all over the field and succeed. A year after leading the NFL in interceptions, Prescott has cut down on risky plays while using his mobility to navigate the pocket and rip rockets to open targets. He finished third in passing yards (4,516), posted a 36:9 TD-INT ratio, and even recorded his highest rushing total (242 yards) since 2019. He’s been in complete command of Mike McCarthy’s offense, which is what made their face plant in Orchard Park so stunning. I believe that evening in Western New York could cost him the MVP -- especially when you juxtapose his Week 15 showing with Lamar Jackson's undeniably strong close to the season. But individual awards won’t matter if Prescott performs in the playoffs like he did for most of 2023.

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Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 6

2023 stats: 17 games | 66.5 pct | 4,306 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 29 pass TD | 18 INT | 524 rush yds | 15 rush TD | 7 fumbles

Bills fans who have been in my mentions since the midpoint of the season have been lying to themselves about Allen’s overall ranking. He has not been one of the two best QBs overall. But there’s beauty in Allen’s 2023 season: Although he wasn’t playing all that well while dealing with some bumps and bruises, he persisted, and now the Bills are riding a hot streak into the playoffs. Allen became a bit of a turnover machine during Buffalo’s rough patch, and it won’t be easy to shake the 18 interceptions listed next to his name. But he’s been able to overcome many of his miscues by relying on his unique brand of football, throwing for 4,306 yards -- even while Stefon Diggs battles through his quietest statistical season since 2019 -- while adding another 524 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. He’s still just as much of a nightmare to face as ever.

Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 15

2023 stats: 15 games | 62.6 pct | 3,965 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 24 pass TD | 11 INT | 65 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles

Few of us had the Rams headed for the postseason when this year began, yet here they are. A healthy Stafford, seemingly pushing every ability to its fullest potential, has truly been a delight to watch play football in 2023. Few quarterbacks, if any, threw the ball better and more consistently this season than the 35-year-old -- even if the numbers don't quite show it. And that's fine. Those of us who have watched the tape know.

Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · Year 4

2023 stats: 17 games | 69.3 pct | 4,624 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 29 pass TD | 14 INT | 74 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 13 fumbles

I suspect TuAnon is ready to tar and feather me for ranking their guy here, but I’m standing by my decision and dealing with the fallout that comes. Tagovailoa put up crazy yardage totals in 2023 -- MVP-level numbers -- leading the league with 4,624 passing yards. But I can’t get over the fact he faltered in some huge games, especially against defenses that knew how to throw a wrench into Miami’s machine. His under-pressure numbers were significantly worse than when he wasn't pressured (54.1 completion percentage versus 73.5, plus a 25.3-point drop in passer rating), and in these matchups, he failed to elevate the Dolphins. He also had a -- cover your ears, Dolphins fans -- turnover problem, regardless of matchup, which is a big no-no when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks. When Tua's dealing, it’s a beautiful thing, and he dealt a lot in 2023. I just need to see him do it in a high-stakes situation to be convinced.

Jared Goff
Detroit Lions · Year 8

2023 stats: 17 games | 67.3 pct | 4,575 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 30 pass TD | 12 INT | 21 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 6 fumbles

Goff’s 2023 season has been a joyous revelation for Lions fans, who watched their team win its division for the first time since I was an infant. Once viewed as a bridge quarterback to make the Rams' trade for Matthew Stafford work, Goff has shattered that take over the past two seasons. In addition to his impressive stat line this season, he helped propel Sam LaPorta to a fantastic rookie year. But for all of his success in 2023 -- and there was plenty of it -- a glaring vulnerability exists in Goff's game. When he’s protected, he can execute Ben Johnson’s offense as well as any top-tier quarterback, and is tough to stop. But when he’s thrown out of rhythm by pressure, it can get ugly. For most of this season, the former occurred, which is why the Lions are hosting a playoff game this weekend.

Brock Purdy
San Francisco 49ers · Year 2

2023 stats: 16 games | 69.4 pct | 4,280 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 31 pass TD | 11 INT | 144 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 6 fumbles

The last 21 months have been an incredible whirlwind for the polarizing Purdy, a quarterback who calmly executes Kyle Shanahan’s offense with poise and wisdom beyond his years, yet continues to be discounted due to his draft status and seeming lack of elite traits. He’s also knocked for being surrounded by elite talent, which is a hollow take, given he’s far from the only quarterback playing with a quality supporting cast. I'll admit that Purdy shocked me with how well he played early in the season, dominating the likes of two eventual playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Dallas) in the first five weeks of the season. The second-year signal-caller ran into some struggles during San Francisco’s three-game losing streak, forcing me to drop him in the QB Index for a time, but he’s since bounced back well enough to earn a solid place in the top 10. I wouldn’t vote for him for MVP, but he’s had a great year and continues to defy expectations.

C.J. Stroud
Houston Texans · Rookie

2023 stats: 15 games | 63.9 pct | 4,108 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 23 pass TD | 5 INT | 167 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 8 fumbles

When Stroud completed his pre-draft process, I felt as if the consensus opinion -- Bryce Young over Stroud -- was short-sighted. Stroud’s greatest strength (accuracy) typically makes for the smoothest transition to the NFL, given a quarterback land in a good situation. That’s exactly what happened for Stroud, who was selected by a team with a franchise left tackle and a coordinator willing to design his offense around his quarterback. The results have been stunning: 4,108 yards, a 23:5 TD-INT ratio, a 100.8 passer rating and a division title for the formerly cellar-dwelling Texans. Houston doesn't earn a playoff berth without Stroud, bottom line. He’s been remarkably poised and confident, relying on his talent and accuracy to put together one of the best rookie seasons by a quarterback since Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. He’s the clear front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he deserves some outside consideration for MVP. And he’s only just getting started.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 7

2023 stats: 16 games | 67.2 pct | 4,183 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 27 pass TD | 14 INT | 389 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles

If you asked the average NFL fan to describe Mahomes' 2023 season, my guess is they'd respond with "Disappointing." And yet, his overall numbers still rank among the league's best. The two-time MVP was let down by his teammates on multiple occasions over the course of he 17-game slate -- some in more high-profiled situations than others -- and yet he still threw for 4,183 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That’s a down year for Mahomes, an otherworldly talent who is still in the MVP conversation despite Kansas City’s struggles. If his receivers had caught the ball more consistently this season -- and if he hadn't pressed the Chiefs into a Christmas Day loss to the Raiders -- he’d rank higher.

Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · QB

2023 stats: 8 games | 69.5 pct | 2,331 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 18 pass TD | 5 INT | 25 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles

This season was shaping up to be one of the best of Cousins' career when it suddenly came to a halt due to a season-ending Achilles injury. Cousins was sharp and composed even while the rest of his teammates struggled during a rough start to the season, steadily keeping them afloat almost on his own. He was on pace to throw for more than 4,700 yards and shatter his career-high passing touchdown mark of 35 before he went down, and the tape was even better than the numbers. We’ll never know how it may have turned out, but we know one thing for sure: The Vikings undoubtedly need him in 2024.

Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers · Year 4

2023 stats: 17 games | 64.2 pct | 4,159 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 32 pass TD | 11 INT | 247 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 9 fumbles

If we gave an award for the most improved player over the course of a season, Love would win it in runaway fashion. He’s grown from a quarterback who self-destructed in key moments late in games to one who aggressively buries opponents with his athletic abilities and arm talent. His ascendance has been so rapid and so noticeable that some of his recent performances have been compared to those of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Love’s late-season hot streak propelled the Packers into the playoffs, while also putting his name firmly on the map as one of the bright stars of the future. He’s flinging back-foot touchdown passes, and scrambling and diving for touchdowns with zero fear. He’s simply a joy to watch. I think you have your permanent replacement for Rodgers, Packers fans.

Joe Flacco
Cleveland Browns

2023 stats: 5 games | 60.3 pct | 1,616 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 13 pass TD | 8 INT | 2 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles

Deciding which QB to pick for the Browns was the most complicated decision of this entire exercise. Deshaun Watson started the most games for Cleveland (six) this season, but he’s been out for so long (and wasn’t particularly effective even when he was available) that he’s become a mere memory in this 2023 tale. Flacco Fever is all the rage in Cleveland now, so we’ll proceed with the team’s starter entering the postseason. Seems only fair considering the Browns might have missed the playoffs entirely if not for the ageless wonder from Delaware. Since making his Browns debut in Week 13, Flacco leads the NFL with 323.2 passing yards per game. He also led the league in passing yards (1,616), passing touchdowns (13) and – because he’s seemingly playing without a care in the world – interceptions (eight) in December. Although he's likely not long for Cleveland, he’s made one hell of a comeback, so much so that he might win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Next up: His first playoff start in nine years.

Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2023 stats: 17 games | 65.4 pct | 3,858 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 23 pass TD | 15 INT | 605 rush yds | 15 rush TD | 9 fumbles

Philadelphia hasn’t played a complete game all season, and their late-season skid suggests they could be set for a quick postseason exit. As the quarterback, Hurts will instantly draw the most blame and criticism for the Eagles' struggles, but much of the team's problems hasn’t been his fault exclusively. He’s done some incredible things throughout the season. Those might be going overlooked, though, because he’s no longer driving a wildly successful offense. The 15 interceptions are a problem. His knee has caused issues with his mobility. And lately, he’s looked both indecisive and a little slow in the pocket. There’s no quick fix to what’s going on in Philadelphia, but Hurts hasn’t suddenly fallen off a cliff, folks.

Baker Mayfield
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 6

2023 stats: 17 games | 64.3 pct | 4,044 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 28 pass TD | 10 INT | 163 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 8 fumbles

Mayfield has enjoyed a career renaissance in Tampa this offseason, leading some Bucs fans to pencil in the former castaway QB as their starter for years to come. He played some of the best football of his six-year career in 2023, navigating a new offense with a new coordinator and clawing his way through the NFC South to a division title. He broke 4,000 passing yards for the first time and has partnered with OC Dave Canales so well that Canales is now attracting interest for head-coaching gigs. Mayfield's turnaround required him to eat some humble pie, but the 2018 No. 1 pick is better for it. The future is bright for him in the Sunshine State.

Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2023 stats: 16 games | 65.6 pct | 4,016 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 21 pass TD | 14 INT | 339 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 12 fumbles

Some advanced metrics and analysts might suggest Lawrence had a great season, but here's my take: good, but not good enough. The 2023 campaign was full of near misses for Lawrence, who threw for 4,016 yards and completed 65.6 percent of his passes, but could have been so much better had he succeeded on the margins. Close calls and unfortunate outcomes were sprinkled throughout his campaign; those don't show up in his final stat line, but they were visible on the tape. Folks will blame Jacksonville’s collapse on Lawrence’s health, as he battled knee, ankle and shoulder issues at various points during the season. But that he missed only one start, despite all of those ailments, says a lot about his toughness. I know there’s more potential in Lawrence than what we saw in 2023.

Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 4

2023 stats: 10 games | 66.8 pct | 2,309 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 15 pass TD | 6 INT | 88 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles

Burrow wasn't the same MVP-caliber player we've come to expect during the first month of the season, when a lingering calf injury sustained during training camp reduced the athletic quarterback with otherworldly arm talent into a statuesque, uncertain passer. As a result, the Bengals struggled. But as his health improved, so did Cincinnati's offense, with the team ripping off four straight wins, including games against the Seahawks, 49ers and the Bills. But Burrow was beset by injury again, with a torn ligament in his wrist ultimately ending his season in Week 11. Because of his injury issues, we’ll never know the true potential of the 2023 Bengals -- a sad reality that's true for the many NFL teams that lost their starting QBs this season.

Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 4

2023 stats: 13 games | 65.1 pct | 3,134 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 20 pass TD | 7 INT | 228 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 4 fumbles

Generally speaking, Herbert is a better quarterback than his 17th-place position on this list. But he had a middling 2023 season, struggling through two separate finger injuries, with the latter of the two – a fractured index finger – ending his season prematurely. When he was able to play, Herbert was uncharacteristically inconsistent in the accuracy department, and the Chargers’ offense never connected well enough to establish a rhythm. It was the worst campaign in an otherwise stellar start of a career for Herbert, who will return under a new regime in 2024. Hopefully, he can stay healthy this time around.

Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks · Year 11

2023 stats: 15 games | 64.7 pct | 3,624 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 20 pass TD | 9 INT | 155 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles

A fireworks show of a 2022 season saw Smith paid handsomely in the offseason. But after throwing for 4,282 yards and a 30-11 TD-INT ratio in 2022, Smith couldn’t replicate such production a year later. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great, often occupying the median range of the QB Index with a number of performances that were good enough but far from scintillating. We’ll fondly remember his performances in shootouts with Dallas and Detroit but point to games like Seattle’s Week 6 loss to Cincinnati as an example of what 2023 was for Smith.

Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Year 3

2023 stats: 13 games | 61.4 pct | 2,562 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 16 pass TD | 9 INT | 657 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 10 fumbles

2023 was quite a roller coaster for Fields and the Bears, who failed to protect him adequately early in the season and left him to fend for himself while receivers struggled to get open. The broadcast copies of these games depicted a quarterback hanging onto the football for too long and being forced to run for his life as his only chance of success, but it was more complicated than that. Fields quickly (and temporarily) shifted his narrative with a fantastic showing in a win over Washington in Week 5, tossing four touchdown passes and shredding one of the NFL’s worst defenses, but a dislocated right thumb interrupted his sudden good mojo. He returned in time to finish strong, leading the Bears to four wins in their final six games and delivering a strong counterargument to those who wanted to ship him out of town in 2024, but it remains to be seen whether that was enough to sell the Bears on keeping him. I know this: Fields is incredibly talented and will thrive in the right situation. I guarantee it. I just can’t promise that situation will be in Chicago.

Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos · Year 12

2023 stats: 15 games | 66.4 pct | 3,070 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 26 pass TD | 8 INT | 341 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 10 fumbles

A rough start sent everyone in the Mile High City into crisis-management mode. Wilson was taking fire from every direction, but clues of a prosperous future existed in the Broncos’ early-season defeats. He threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns in a shocking Week 2 loss to Washington, then found himself beneath a Miami Dolphins scoring avalanche in Week 3, but never wavered. When the Broncos suddenly turned things around, Wilson was the steady captain of the ship, guiding them to five straight wins, including four over eventual playoff teams. But when Denver encountered choppy waters, it sent the captain overboard, benching Wilson for Jarrett Stidham for the final two weeks and throwing Wilson’s future into uncertain territory. Look, Wilson wasn’t the star he once was in Seattle, not even close. There’s no guaranteeing he’ll ever find that version of himself again, as he rarely put together four quarters of quality football this season. But he wasn’t terrible, either. That argument likely won’t win over Denver this offseason, unfortunately.

Derek Carr
New Orleans Saints · Year 10

2023 stats: 17 games | 68.4 pct | 3,878 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 25 pass TD | 8 INT | 40 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles

This season couldn’t possibly fit Carr better. He spent most of it trying to find solid footing behind an offensive line that struggled to protect him and had just as much of a tough time connecting with top target Chris Olave during this stretch. The savior narrative that followed Carr to New Orleans was hanging on by a thread with a team that couldn’t decide on an identity until the final month of the season. Conveniently, that’s precisely when Carr and the Saints played their best football of the season, racking up four wins in their final five games. Carr threw for 1,117 yards and a 14-2 TD-INT ratio in that span, bringing in positive reinforcements to the debate over his long-term viability as Saints starter. Hey, even Dennis Allen kept his job. It’s all about what they can do in 2024, which brings limitless possibilities, but will probably produce similar results, at least at quarterback.

Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · Year 5

2023 stats: 8 games | 65.7 pct | 1,799 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 10 pass TD | 5 INT | 244 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 7 fumbles

The Cardinals were a surprisingly fun team to follow, not because they won a lot of games, but because of the vibes, man. Arizona knew it was going to struggle under center until Murray returned, which worked out well for Murray, who instantly provided a permanent boost in both production and potential for the Cardinals, a team that learned firsthand how difficult it is to replace a quarterback. Arizona was a significantly better team with Murray, who was facing a prove-it year and appears to have secured his future with Jonathan Gannon’s squad, all while winning just three of his eight starts.

Gardner Minshew
Indianapolis Colts · Year 5

2023 stats: 16 games | 62.2 pct | 3,305 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 15 pass TD | 9 INT | 100 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 8 fumbles

The incredible optimism that oozed from Anthony Richardson evaporated when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at the end of the season’s first month. In stepped Minshew, who held the keys to the offense for the rest of the season solely out of desperation. He did a very solid job as a veteran backup, nearly leading the Colts to the playoffs while completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That’s about where Minshew lives in the NFL at this point: a veteran backup who can keep a team competitive, but won’t singlehandedly win you a ton of games. That was fine for 2023. He’ll keep finding employment as a backup.

Sam Howell
Washington Commanders · Year 2

2023 stats: 17 games | 63.4 pct | 3,946 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 21 pass TD | 21 INT | 263 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 5 fumbles

I was stunned to see Ron Rivera hand the entire offensive operation to Howell, a quarterback who’d played in just one game prior to 2023. I criticized this decision as being too hopeful, and while that ultimately proved to be true, it certainly wasn’t that simple. Howell was rather excellent for a good portion of the season, making a ton of plays out of structure and seemingly cementing his place as Washington’s starter for the rest of the season, if not longer. Unfortunately for Howell, though, the turnover goblins didn’t forget to pay him a visit, plaguing him so much down the stretch that Rivera was ready to bench him for Jacoby Brissett. A hamstring injury suffered in practice kept Brissett from replacing Howell, though, buying the youngster two more starts. His stat line from those games: 36-of-55, 322 yards, two touchdowns and four soul-crushing interceptions. I still see the potential in Howell, but I’m not sure where he continues his career as a starter – or if such an avenue exists at this point.

Will Levis
Tennessee Titans · Rookie

2023 stats: 9 games | 58.4 pct | 1,808 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 8 pass TD | 4 INT | 57 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 7 fumbles

I’m riding with Levis because the since-fired Mike Vrabel told us everything we needed to know when he chose to proceed with the rookie over healthy veteran Ryan Tannehill in the back half of the 2023 season. Levis might not be the future, but he provided us with enough proof to think the Titans should give him another go in 2024. Levis is a gamer, a quarterback filled with competitive fire, grit and a stubbornness that drives his desire to prove his doubters (a group that included me) wrong. He has plenty of room for growth, but I was remarkably impressed by how unflappable he was in the face of pressure for much of 2023. Sure, in some instances, he and the Titans had little chance of success against defenses sending relentless blitzes at him, but that comeback win over Miami will linger in my memory for a while. The kid’s got guts; perhaps we’ll learn in 2024 whether he has the talent necessary to become a consistently productive quarterback.

Aidan O'Connell
Las Vegas Raiders · Rookie

2023 stats: 11 games | 62.1 pct | 2,218 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 12 pass TD | 7 INT | 11 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles

Well, I did not have “O’Connell promoted to permanent starter” on my 2023 bingo card, but sure enough, Antonio Pierce made it a reality shortly after replacing Josh McDaniels as interim coach. The decision proved to be a good one, as O’Connell gave the Raiders a better chance of success than Jimmy Garoppolo, completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards and a 12-7 TD-INT ratio. The Raiders were competitive with O’Connell, going .500 with him as the starter with a record of 5-5, and he handled the responsibility of being an NFL starter better than some other rookies (or second-year quarterbacks). Is he the long-term answer? Probably not. But the Raiders will cross that bridge when they get to it. They have bigger decisions to make in the meantime.

Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 2

2023 stats: 12 games | 62.0 pct | 2,070 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 6 pass TD | 4 INT | 54 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles

This was not the sophomore season most expected from Pickett. He’s not solely to blame – Matt Canada’s dreadful offense deserves a lot of it – but it’s telling that Mike Tomlin went with Mason Rudolph over Pickett in must-win games in the final month of the season. Pickett’s future isn’t over in Pittsburgh because the sample size is too small and the circumstances weren’t exactly ideal. But the pressure is officially on, which might include a camp battle for the starting job next summer. If he wins it, he’ll need to produce, because he’s just about out of excuses.

Desmond Ridder
Atlanta Falcons · Year 2

2023 stats: 15 games | 64.2 pct | 2,836 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 12 pass TD | 12 INT | 193 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 12 fumbles

One cannot simply pin Arthur Smith’s firing on Ridder, but the second-year quarterback had a lot to do with it. Smith expected Ridder to grow as an entrenched starter, but what he instead received was an inconsistent quarterback who showed flashes of his potential, yet too often made crushing mistakes that doomed the Falcons. Smith’s patience with the second-year quarterback eventually ran out, prompting him to bench Ridder for Taylor Heinicke. When Heinicke predictably failed to provide the reliability Smith so desperately sought, the coach ping-ponged between players for the rest of the season, giving Ridder the exact opposite of what he needed: stability. Atlanta will be expected to seek another option at the position, and after yet another 7-10 season, it’s tough to blame them.

Daniel Jones
New York Giants · Year 5

2023 stats: 6 games | 67.5 pct | 909 pass yds | 5.7 ypa | 2 pass TD | 6 INT | 206 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 4 fumbles

Jones hasn’t played in months, and when he did play, it wasn’t pretty. New York failed to protect him, and his health betrayed him, costing him three starts before returning and suffering a season-ending injury. It’s tough to take away anything positive from Jones’ abbreviated 2023 campaign because the Giants’ offense was terrible early in the season. It felt as if he was playing with less than a full deck. We’ll always have that comeback win in Arizona, though, in which Jones threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns, ran for another score and looked like a quarterback a general manager might consider handing $40 million per year. He needs to be that guy in 2024.

Bailey Zappe
New England Patriots · Year 2

2023 stats: 10 games | 59.9 pct | 1,272 pass yds | 6.0 ypa | 6 pass TD | 9 INT | 83 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles

Significant change is on the horizon for the Patriots, who are parting ways with Bill Belichick after 24 seasons. The Patriots gave up Mac Jones project shortly after Thanksgiving and handed the keys to Zappe for the remainder of an otherwise lost season. Zappe had bright moments, like when he threw three first-half touchdown passes in an upset win over the Steelers in Week 14. He also had a lot of Sam Howell-like moments, turning the ball over in reckless fashion while trying to carry the Patriots out of the deep hole in which they were mired for most of 2023. Zappe isn’t a viable long-term starter, nor is Jones. With a new person in charge of personnel, expect the Patriots to look elsewhere in 2024.

Bryce Young
Carolina Panthers · Rookie

2023 stats: 16 games | 59.8 pct | 2,877 pass yds | 5.5 ypa | 11 pass TD | 10 INT | 253 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 11 fumbles

I knew it’d be tough sledding for Young in Charlotte this season, but I had no idea it would be this bad. Simply, the Panthers failed Young, from GM Scott Fitterer to Frank Reich on down. Carolina didn’t supply him with quality weapons outside of Adam Thielen, put him behind a very leaky offensive line, and didn’t design an offense capable of helping him out or playing to his strengths. Young looked overwhelmed for most of 2023, and when he tried to make an instinctive hero play, the negative results ended up burying him. He had one great day in his rookie season, completing 22 of 31 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown in a narrow win over Houston, and threw three touchdown passes in a loss to Detroit. Otherwise, it was pretty ugly. 

Zach Wilson
New York Jets · Year 3

2023 stats: 12 games | 60.1 pct | 2,271 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 8 pass TD | 7 INT | 211 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 11 fumbles

The Jets are expected to trade Wilson in the offseason, which tells you everything you need to know about how 2023 went for the former No. 2 overall pick. We had already known enough about Wilson when the Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers, and when that crumbled due to Rodgers’ Achilles injury, we were thrust into another prove-it year for Wilson. Spoiler alert: He failed. Wilson had some promising moments within games, but the total product was overwhelmingly bad, and a familiar outcome for a player the Jets hoped would improve via osmosis after spending a year around Rodgers. Predictably, that didn’t work, and the Jets’ hopes are once again pinned on Rodgers. I do hope Wilson finds another opportunity elsewhere, a la Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield, because he has some natural talent. He just needs time – a lot of time – to figure it out at the pro level.

The Air Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL quarterback performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

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