We’re living in a great age of quarterback play in the NFL, as the influx of young talent at the most important position in sports has led to much of the league having a settled starter under center.
However, it does not take too many bad performances for a quarterback’s job to be considered in jeopardy and there a clutch of signal-callers who have little room for error going into the 2019 season.
Here we look at three NFL quarterbacks who head into the campaign as the definitive starter but who could quickly find themselves on the bench if they do not deliver.
3. Marcus Mariota
Four years defined by injuries and largely uninspiring play have taken the shine off former second overall pick Mariota, who will test NFL free agency in 2020 if he does not produce enough to earn a contract offer from the Titans beforehand.
That would likely be pressure enough for Mariota, playing under his fifth different offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, after Matt LaFleur left for Green Bay, but he also has the added wrinkle of having a long-time starter ready to take his job in Ryan Tannehill.
The Titans parted with draft capital, albeit a sixth-round pick, to bring Tannehill to Tennessee, a move they would not have made if they did not believe he could step in for Mariota.
Mariota, therefore, needs to perform right off the bat to put the prospect of being benched to bed.
If he fails to do so, he could soon find himself watching Tannehill from the sideline with his chances of earning a contract from the Titans up in flames.
2. Joe Flacco
Having left one team where he was replaced by a rookie midway through the season, there is a strong possibility the same thing could happen to Flacco again in 2019.
On the surface, Flacco is landing in an ideal spot following his trade from the Ravens to the Broncos. Denver excelled at running the ball last season with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, has a talented receiving corps that should improve as Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton make strides, and used its first-round pick on an extremely athletic tight end in Noah Fant.
Flacco’s best years with the Ravens came when he had a dominant tight end to throw over the middle and down the seam. Fant gives him that and, with Denver still possessing one of the league’s better defences, everything appears set up for Flacco to succeed.
As a result, the scrutiny on him will be significant if he does not. Second-round pick Drew Lock looked a long way from NFL-ready in his final season at Missouri.
However, he is clearly the post-Flacco future in Denver and there will soon be calls for him to take over if Flacco does not make the most of his opportunity with the Broncos.
1. Eli Manning
There was uproar in New York when Ben McAdoo tried to bench Eli Manning back in 2017 but, going into 2019, Giants fans know his time as a starter is primed to come to an end.
They may not be happy about it, with many disapproving of the decision to take Duke quarterback Daniel Jones sixth overall, but that selection means a passing of the torch is on the horizon.
How quickly it happens depends on Manning. The Giants brass continues to insist Manning is still a capable starter despite another dismal season in 2018, but Jones’ status as a top-10 pick means the two-time Super Bowl champion’s leash is likely to be short.
There is little to be gained by throwing Jones into the fire as a rookie, but consistent failure has never been tolerated in New York and the Giants may be forced into proving they were right to make him the second quarterback off the board if Manning is unable to right the ship late in his career.