Analysis

Quarterback translator: Is Justin Fields truly the backup? Could Derek Carr prematurely retire?

As mandatory minicamps come to a close this week, much of the recent focus across the NFL has revolved around quarterbacks. No surprise there: QB is the most important position on the team. But have we really learned anything? Coaches have a way of using a lot of words to say nothing of substance, filling notebooks without providing clarity.

To that end, as a public service to hungering fan bases, I've decided to translate some of the recent comments. History will determine which one of us is telling the truth, or whether both of us are full of, well, let's call it hot air.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8

Situation: The Bears gave up on Mitchell Trubisky -- whom they traded up to draft No. 2 overall in 2017, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson -- then hit the reset button by signing Andy Dalton in free agency and trading up to get Justin Fields at No. 11 in this year's draft. Veteran Nick Foles also is on the roster.


Head coach Matt Nagy, during a recent appearance on The Cris Collinsworth Podcast: "Andy is our starter. Again, I can't predict anything. You know how it goes. There's so many things that can happen between today and that Week 1, but Andy is our starter and Justin's our No. 2. And we're going to stick to this plan."


Translation: "One of the key reasons we were able to sign Dalton was by telling him he would be the starter, so, to maintain credibility, I have to stick with that until at least the preseason. But once it's obvious to everyone that Justin deserves to start based on his performance on the field, the job is his." Really, this is how it should be. There's no reason to rush the inevitable. Let Fields earn the respect of his teammates and coaches with his on- and off-field abilities, and the switch becomes that much easier.

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8

Situation: Derek Carr is the starter, but he has an enticing backup in Marcus Mariota and an impulsive coach in Jon Gruden, who is rumored to have eyes for Aaron Rodgers, should the Green Bay Packers eventually part with the reigning MVP.


Derek Carr: "I'd probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else. I am a Raider for my entire life. I'm going to root for one team for the rest of my life -- it's the Raiders. So, I just feel that so strong in my heart I don't need a perfect situation ... to make things right. I'd rather go down with the ship, you know what I'm saying, if I have to."


Translation: "Packers, don't even consider trading Rodgers to Las Vegas because I ain't playing in Green Bay." OK, so perhaps Carr isn't that calculating. Perhaps he really means what he says about only playing for one team. After all, he legitimately considered ending his career before it started, to have a life in the ministry. But one thing I know about players: They say a lot of things in the heat of the moment, and Carr can be emotional at times, particularly in recent seasons when he has not received the same love from Raider Nation that he has shown toward them and the organization. I believe he wants to retire a Raider, but top-level players -- even Hall of Fame players -- rarely spend their entire careers with one team. The Larry Fitzgeralds of the football world are the exception, not the rule. Carr did leave himself some wiggle room by saying "probably," which is why I believe we will see him in another uniform one day.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 record: 12-4

Situation: It's Ben Roethlisberger and everyone else, which normally wouldn't be a concern -- except that Roethlisberger is 39 years old and coming off a season in which his yards per attempt were down almost a full yard from his previous career low for a full campaign, and 10 of his 14 interceptions (playoffs included) came over his final seven games, four of them losses.


Offensive coordinator Matt Canada: "I think in football, it is 11 men doing their job, but the quarterback is their focal point. We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it. Our job is putting every player in a position to make plays."


Translation: "We know Ben is not the player he once was, and he's extremely sensitive to criticism that his game and his arm strength have slipped since the 2019 elbow surgery, so we have to keep him engaged by consistently stressing that he's the fuel that makes the offense go, even though rookie running back Najee Harris will be the focal point." There is a reason Canada also told the media he had a directive from ownership, the front office and coach Mike Tomlin to run the football, and that's because Roethlisberger can no longer carry an offense by himself. He has enjoyed an exceptional career that figures to land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but if the veteran QB isn't real with himself that the offense no longer runs through him, it will be a long year for Canada and the Steelers.

Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers
2020 record: 5-11

Situation: The Panthers traded second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Jets for Sam Darnold, the former No. 3 overall pick. Then they picked up the fifth-year option on his contract while also trading incumbent starter Teddy Bridgewater to Denver.


Wide receiver Robby Anderson: "I saw, like, a new energy out of him, a glowing charisma that I didn't really see in New York. You know when a person, you can see a glow in them, their energy, an aura -- I can see that when I walked into the building and just being around him."


Translation: "Sam is ecstatic to be away from the dysfunction and lack of playmakers with the Jets and eager to make good on the abilities that led to him being a high draft pick." Anderson, of course, was Darnold's go-to deep threat in New York during the quarterback's first two NFL seasons. But the wideout just enjoyed his most prolific pro campaign -- catching a career-high 95 balls while posting his first 1,000-yard season -- in Year 1 with the Panthers. Carolina clearly hopes for the same kind of Charlotte breakthrough from Darnold.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 record: 1-15

Situation: The Jaguars have four quarterbacks on the roster, unless you include Tim Tebow (ducking for cover): Holdover Gardner Minshew, who was 1-7 as a starter last season; C.J. Beathard, a former San Francisco 49ers backup who was signed in free agency; Jake Luton, a sixth-round pick last year; and Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick this year.


Passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: "We certainly haven't named a starter. Our objective from Day 1 was to build the best quarterback room that we could. We knew what we had in Gardner. C.J. was a guy that we really looked at on field and we saw him make a lot of the plays and have some of the athleticism that we really, really like from our quarterbacks. Jake Luton was highly [thought] of last year; I know we really liked him in Seattle when he came out. And then, of course, you get a chance to add a Trevor Lawrence to the mix, you're going to do that. But we're not in a position where we're saying, 'Hey, [Nos.] 1, 2, 3, 4.' We're letting them all roll. Everybody's getting reps. We want this thing to be really competitive. Ultimately, when we name a starter, we'll name a starter."


Translation: "Lawrence will be our starter, but we don't have to announce it now, so we won't." You don't draft Lawrence first overall, build marketing campaigns around him, sell his presence as hope of better days after a 1-15 season, only to have him sit on the bench behind ... Gardner Minshew, C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton or Tim Tebow (sorry, ducking again).

Follow Jim Trotter on Twitter.

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