Commitment is complicated. This is true in relationships, but also in football, and nowhere is it more true or more complicated in football than at the quarterback position. Some teams are afraid of commitment (hey there, L.A. Rams!). Others commit because they are afraid of being alone (why do you think Miami spent seven years with Ryan Tannehill?). Some mean well but commit while wearing beer goggles (this is how the Giants drafted Daniel Jones).
Any commitment works if both sides are on the same page. Let’s look at every NFL team and categorize them based on the commitment level of their relationship and then assess whether they are picking up what the other is putting down.
You vs. the Guy You’re Not Supposed to Worry About
Tennessee Titans and Marcus Mariota (and Ryan Tannehill)
Marcus Mariota is a nice guy. He is always the designated driver. He puts away folding chairs away after meetings. He says “butt” instead of “ass.” But he has no edge (27-28 as a starter). With Mariota entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, the Titans’ eyes have started to wander. In March, the team traded for Miami’s Ryan Tannehill—an older, dreamier quarterback who spent seven years in Miami doing God knows what. The team has insisted Tannehill is not competing with Mariota and that he has no reason to feel threatened. To quote The Daily’s Michael Barbaro, “hm.”
On the same page? Hard no.
New York Jets and Sam Darnold
Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen
Are these relationships perfect? No. But each team is finally with someone who makes them feel special. Lord knows the Jets and Bills deserve that. They both traded up to get their quarterback in the first round last year, and nobody has seen either of them this happy in years.
On the same page? Puppy love is the best love.
Arizona Cardinals and Kyler Murray
Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson
Two teams that went and found a younger man while they were still committed to a different one. Lamar reignited embers inside of Baltimore that had long been extinguished. Joe Flacco is predictable. Lamar is spontaneous. While Joe is past his prime (32nd in pass yards per attempt in 2017), Lamar is just getting started (Heisman Trophy winner in 2016, set the NFL record for carries by a QB in 2018). With Joe, it is always about his arm, but Lamar knows how to use those legs.
The Cardinals were sloppier. Their interest in a younger man was the league’s worst-kept secret. Even their denials lacked passion. Now all of those old social media posts are just awkward—at least Josh Rosen deleted his pictures with the team, though he kept this one with Murray.
Both of these teams seem truly happy with their new partners, but they’ll definitely have to tweak that How did you guys meet? story.
On the same page? Both homewreckers are happily ever after.
Still Posting Happy Instagrams but Privately Having Doubts
Chicago Bears and Mitchell Trubisky
Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff
Both of these teams risked it all to trade up and get their man in the draft but now are hesitating to commit. The Rams chose Goff over Carson Wentz, but the Eagles have given Wentz a ring in the form of a $128 million extension this offseason. The Rams say they’ll sign Goff to a deal too, but words are cheap. The deals they already gave Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and Brandin Cooks are not. Another year without a deal and Goff will become the perennial bridesmaid. Hell, even fellow Class of 2016 member Dak Prescott is likely about to get a big contract extension before Goff, and he was a fourth-rounder. Tick tock.
The Rams have commitment doubt, but the Bears may have commitment issues. They traded up to take Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. On one hand, you know you’re not supposed to compare yourself with other couples. But your other hand is holding your phone and scrolling through Instagram looking at the men you could have had—Mahomes is the league MVP and on the cover of Madden. Watson’s abbreviated rookie year was one of the best ever. And then there’s Mitchell, bless his heart, still working on half-field reads. Perhaps you’ve made a mistake.
On the same page? The Rams and Goff, yes. The Bears and Big Mitch, probably not.
Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes
Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson
Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield
Love at first sight. These are the couples everybody knew was going to get married as soon as they started dating. The only question is when they are locking it down long-term—likely the summer of 2020 for Pat and Deshaun, and the summer of 2021 for Baker. But the timing is a formality. Everyone knows they are soulmates. Everyone also knows these will be some expensive marriages.
On the same page? Wholeheartedly.
Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been saying he’s going to give Dak a long-term deal, and Cowboys beat writers believe it could happen as soon as this month. Unlike the above trio of Mahomes, Watson, and Mayfield, not everyone is sure they’re right for each other. Some people think they’re rushing into it. Others think they needed to separate more than a year ago. The Cowboys get bored easily, and there’s concern Dak could lose his luster once they get to know each other a little better.
On the same page? With each other, probably. With everyone else, probably not.
Ride or Die
Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers
Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan
Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson
Philadelphia Eagles and Carson Wentz
Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck
Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton
These teams make their QBs feel special every day—or to be more accurate, every two weeks when the direct deposit hits. Their partners have each made Ryan, Rodgers, and Wilson the highest-paid player in NFL history by average annual salary within the last 15 months. Luck was the highest-paid player when he signed his deal in 2016, and Wentz signed a new deal this year, putting him just under Rodgers. Sometimes these couples fight in public or scold each other about how they spend vacation time, but when push comes to shove, they chose you. Their love is almost as strong as the love Russell Wilson and Ciara shared in bed after Wilson agreed to his record-setting contract.
The only question here is Newton, whose shoulder woes have derailed two consecutive Panthers seasons. Newton has two years left on his deal, and an extension could get tricky if he has another injury-plagued campaign.
On the same page? Yes, though Newton and the Panthers may not be soon.
Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger also just signed a new contract (for two years and $68 million), but at 37 years old, he is in a different class of QB than the players above. He led the league in pass attempts and passing yards last year, but the Steelers may be wise to lean on him less in 2019 if they intend for him to sign another deal.
On the same page? Probably.
Where Is This Going?
Cincinnati Bengals and Andy Dalton
Oakland Raiders and Derek Carr
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jameis Winston
After a lot of ups and downs together, both sides of all three couples know this is a make-or-break year for their relationship. This is most true for Cincinnati. Of Andy Dalton’s $17.7 million salary in 2020, $0 is guaranteed. Dalton has always been there. He’s missed just eight games in eight years, five of which were last year. But a guy who looked like a good partner when there were a lot of friends to hang out with—A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones Jr.—isn’t as fun to be around when it’s just him.
Oakland can also move on from Carr fairly painlessly next year, as it would cost less than $5 million. The team is moving to Las Vegas, a death knell for most relationships, and Carr is a bit too straight-laced for Sin City to begin with, weird music videos aside. To their credit, the team is trying one last-gasp attempt to make things work by bringing in Antonio Brown, but like a baby, AB may test their marriage, not save it.
Winston is also in the last year of his contract in Tampa, worth $20.9 million. They’ve brought in head coach Bruce Arians, who is perfectly suited to maximize Winston’s skill set. A productive year and they could double down on this partnership, but a bad one and they may mutually agree to part ways.
On the same page? Everyone knows this season may be the last.
Prefers an Experienced Man
Denver Broncos and Joe Flacco
For years the Broncos had a type: younger men with obvious physical assets but no idea how to apply them to the areas that matter. From Brock Osweiler to Paxton Lynch to Trevor Siemian to Case Keenum, these attempts ranged from cheap thrills to pure desperation. Now the Broncos have swung to the other side of the pendulum and traded for Joe Flacco, who is exactly their type, but older. He is more mature and more experienced than previous partners, he appreciates the finer things in life, and he might even teach you a thing or two. They also finally have what they’ve been missing: edge.
This grittier Dark Flacco has me shook to my core pic.twitter.com/LRbQbOEy3K— Old Fat Man (@IAmSpilly) July 15, 2019
We Met on Hinge
Jacksonville Jaguars and Nick Foles
Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins
Two teams with all the pieces in place to settle down—elite defenses, respected head coaches, and sharp front offices—that need a quarterback to complete them. Rather than going to the draft, where there’s a lot of young men who aren’t ready for that type of responsibility immediately out of college, or a trade between mutual friends (No, Bill Belichick, stop trying to set us up with Brian Hoyer!) these teams went to free agency with a specific pitch for a specific person. They both want the same thing and were willing to invest long-term in someone who had previously been someone else’s backup. It might not work, but what other option did they have?
On the same page? Completely.
We Hooked Up and Are Trying To Make It Work
San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo
When they first came together, it was like fireworks. There was so much passion in the air when Garoppolo was dealt to San Francisco at the 2017 trade deadline that it all became a blur. The chemistry and connection was addictive from the start (Garoppolo went 5-0 in his first five 49ers starts), and they were so caught up in the moment that the 49ers proposed on the spot (a deal that paid him $60 million over the first two years). Now they’re trying to piece together a relationship. Entering 2019, they still don’t really know each other—Garoppolo played just three games last year—and there’s still a chance he’s just a replacement-level quarterback, but sexier. Luckily, the 49ers made sure that ring was refundable. Absolute worst-case scenario, they can cut Jimmy loose next year and pay less than half of the $137.5 million on his contract. But it won’t come to that—probably.
On the same page? Jimmy, the real-life Vince from Entourage, would be blindsided if he got dumped.
Treated Them Better Than They’d Ever Been Treated Before
Detroit Lions and Matt Stafford
The Lions never knew what a good quarterback looked like until they met Matt. He got their pulse going (led the league in fourth-quarter comebacks twice), got along perfectly with Detroit’s closest friends (a flawless connection to Calvin Johnson), and put the team on his back (no, really. He played through a broken bone in his back last year). Detroit got a good one.
On the same page? Yes.
Till Death Do Us Part
New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees
Bad things keep happening to the nicest people. In January 2018, they were on the other side of the Minneapolis Miracle. This year the refs likely robbed them of a Super Bowl shot. Now Brees is in a contract year at 40 years old, but as long as the league’s all-time-leading passer can keep slinging, the Saints won’t be able to quit each other. He doesn’t have quite the arm he used to, and head coach Sean Payton has always been rumored to want to move to Dallas, but they have so much history together that it’s hard to imagine them splitting on bad terms.
On the same page? They understand every year might be their last.
The Couple Everyone Hates Because They’re Jealous
New England Patriots and Tom Brady
Fuck these people.
On the same page? Everyone wants them to end in the most bitter divorce of all time.
Seeing a Lot of Red Flags
Washington and Dwayne Haskins
Haskins can’t shake the feeling that he is constantly being compared with Washington’s ex. Washington hasn’t taken a QB in the first round since Robert Griffin III, and while that ended badly, the details have always been hazy. RGIII even had some advice for the team when you first got together, but he said it publicly, which implies they’re no longer on speaking terms.
You didn’t draft the young man for nothing. You did it because you believe in the young man. You did it because you need a Quarterback. Don’t give up on him prematurely. He is your investment. Give the kid time to prove himself. Congrats young gun!!! Enjoy every second of it!— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) April 26, 2019
Now the team is trying to do the opposite of everything they did with RGIII. Instead of drafting a fellow rookie to be your backup (Kirk Cousins), they’ve surrounded him with veterans on expiring contracts (Case Keenum and Colt McCoy). Rather than pressing him into action immediately, they keep preaching patience. It’s like the past mistakes hang over the present, and apparently there are a lot of past mistakes. Also, they’re a little too into dudes who play for Nick Saban. Something is up here.
On the same page? For now.
Clock Is Ticking
Los Angeles Chargers and Philip Rivers
Rivers is 37, the Chargers just saw their crosstown rival go to the Super Bowl, and their Super Bowl window is ticking like this.
(Rivers, who has nine children, does not have the same problem.)
On the same page? Yes.
Entering an Experimental Phase
Miami Dolphins and Josh Rosen (and Ryan Fitzpatrick)
The Dolphins gave up on a seven-year relationship and, at rock bottom in South Beach, things are going to get weird. They can’t pick between two brainiacs—one a rugged gunslinger who went to Harvard but thinks with his heart more than his brain, while the other is a young outspoken West Coast guy who was just cheated on and needs his confidence rebuilt. Unable to pick, the Dolphins might just roll with both and, uh, see where this thing goes.
On the same page? We’ll see.
New York Giants and Eli Manning (and Daniel Jones)
In March the Giants were classified as, “We’re Staying Together for the Kids but Starting to See Other People.” Now one of them is actively dating. Eli remains faithful, but the Giants’ future lies with Daniel Jones, a Duke grad from North Carolina who (from the little we know) has no standout traits except for one: He looks like a younger version of Eli Manning.
This isn’t moving on. It’s moving back.
On the same page? Lol.