Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield, and Mitchell Trubisky must perform better… soon
Compared to other positions, the quarterback position has a unique dynamic. When a team succeeds, a quarterback frequently receives excessive praise, and when a team loses, he frequently receives excessive criticism.
Typically, fans prefer the backup quarterback. Without a starter of the Pro Bowl type in front of him, there won’t be much of a fight to get the second-stringer to play.
Early in the season, quarterbacks are typically not benched by head coaches. A change typically takes some time to take effect. These three quarterbacks might soon lose their starting positions if their performances don’t improve.
Steelers’ Mitchell Trubisky
Ben Roethlisberger, who retired after 18 seasons with the Steelers, was replaced by Trubisky, who was given a two-year, $14.285 million contract with incentives that could be worth up to $26.785 million. Pittsburgh’s decision to choose Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall choice in this year’s NFL Draft served as a warning to Trubisky that he wasn’t the team’s long-term quarterback solution.
Trubisky’s offensive struggles have plagued Pittsburgh’s offense. Trubisky has come under fire for his hesitation to lob the ball down the field. His league-worst pass attempt average is 5.5 yards. With a 60.2 completion % and a 29th-place 77.7 passer rating, Trubisky is also ranked 26th in the NFL.
For the offense’s issues, Matt Canada, the offensive coordinator, has also received criticism. The Steelers have only scored four offensive touchdowns in three games, ranking 31st in the league with 272.7 yards per game.
In his 15 years as the head coach of the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has never experienced a losing season. Given the 1-2 start and the forthcoming schedule, extending the record to 16 seasons might not be simple. The Steelers play the Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Eagles in that order after the Jets on Sunday. Realistically, after that run and before their bye week, the Steelers might be 1-7 or 2-6. If the offense remains uninspired after the bye, Tomlin switching to Pickett wouldn’t be unexpected.
Panthers Baker Mayfield
Although the Browns had already selected Mayfield’s fully guaranteed $18.858 million, fifth-year option, his poor 2021, which included playing the majority of the season with a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, forced them to look at other quarterback alternatives. The Browns suddenly traded Deshaun Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Texans in March for the top overall pick in 2018, 2022, 2023, and 2024, along with a 2022 fourth-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, and 2024 fourth-round pick.
The Panthers acquired Mayfield from the Browns for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, which will become a fourth-round pick if he plays at least 70% of Carolina’s offensive snaps this year. The Browns held onto Mayfield until the middle of July before trading him to the Panthers. Cleveland had to absorb $10.5 million in pre-trade pay conversion costs, and Mayfield had to forgo some guaranteed compensation. With the opportunity to recoup the money through challenging incentives, Mayfield decreased his remaining paycheck by $3.5 million, from $8.358 million to $4.858 million. Mayfield is guaranteed to earn $15.358 million this year between the two teams.
Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in 2018, and Mayfield competed for the starting quarterback job during the preseason as Mayfield picked up the Carolina scheme on the fly. As the Panthers are currently 1-2, Mayfield’s early results haven’t been promising. Mayfield ranks 31st in the NFL with a 51.9 completion percentage. Additionally, he has a poor quarterback rating (25th) and passing yards (29th).
Throughout his career, Mayfield has struggled with consistency. He was a strong contender for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018. The second half of the 2020 season saw Mayfield play the finest football of his NFL career after bouncing back from a sophomore slump in 2019. This helped the Browns qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2002. In 2021, despite playing through an injury, he deteriorated.
Given his uncertain future with the Panthers, head coach Matt Rhule may have a low tolerance for substandard quarterback performance. As the head coach of Carolina, he had an 11–25 record. Due to a left ankle sprain, Darnold was placed on injured reserve at the beginning of the year. After Week 4, he can come back. If Mayfield doesn’t start performing like he did in 2020 and the defeats keep piling up, Rhule may be forced to start using Darnold after he is off from injured reserve.
Saints’ Jameis Winston
The Saints’ backup plan after failing to catch Watson was to turn to Winston. He signed a $28 million, two-year deal with the Saints, with $21 million in guarantees. The deal is worth up to $39 million due to incentives and salary increases.
Prior to sustaining a season-ending left knee injury in a Week 8 victory over his former team in 2021, Winston had considerably reduced the turnovers that plagued him throughout his five years with the Buccaneers (2015-19). In his seven games last year, Winston only threw three interceptions.
Winston is still competing despite having four fractures in his back, but his decision-making appears to have declined. In three games, he has already thrown five interceptions. Given that Winston has access to considerably better weapons than in 2021, New Orleans’ nearly nonexistent offense in the opening half of its three games this season is as troubling. The 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas, is back in play after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. With the eleventh overall pick in the 2022 Draft, the Saints traded up to choose Chris Olave. After the Browns released him, Jarvis Landry accepted a modest one-year, $3 million contract that could have been worth up to $6 million in incentives.
In the first half of games, the Saints have scored a total of 10 points while averaging just 129 yards and 4.5 yards per play. 38 of the Saints’ 51 points have come in the fourth quarter, and New Orleans is averaging 13.7 points, 244 yards, and 7.3 yards per play in the second half. The Saints, who are predicted to compete with the Buccaneers for the NFC South crown, have a 1-2 record in large part due to their lethargic offense.
Andy Dalton, the Saints’ seasoned backup, is available. The 12-year veteran is a starter with a 77-69-2 record. Dalton has a one-year, $3 million contract with potential incentives of up to $6 million. With four interceptions, Winston is tied for the league lead. Being among the league leaders continues to not guarantee job security.