Who and What is a Franchise Quarterback?

brady marcus
Franchise Quarterback” is a term all NFL football fans are familiar with. We’ve probably all had multiple arguments with family, friends, or random people on social media, about who exactly is, and isn’t part of this elite group. What exactly is a franchise quarterback anyways? I think the answer to this varies so much from person to person that any discussion about the matter is certain to get heated.

So, before I go through all 32 starters in the NFL right now (as of week 14, 2018) and call them a franchise QBs or not, I must first give you my definition. In this case, I need to provide you with multiple definitions actually.

Before I even get into it here is the mandatory disclaimer… This is only my opinion, and how I define quarterbacks in my mind. I tend to stay away from most franchise quarterback discussions, and those I do engage in I make sure to explain my definitions the best I can.

I actually put NFL Quarterbacks in 4 different categories. These categories are very much based on how the individual influences the team’s long, medium, and short term plans. It helps me keep my opinion straight in my mind, and slot these guys where I think they should be. I broke down these categories on the most recent episode of FDS NFL if you want to listen to that, but I will double click on them here.

These are the 4 categories that I can slot any NFL QB into:

Franchise Hopeful

These QBs were acquired by their current teams to be their Franchise QBs. That acquisition is most commonly via the draft, but there are rare occasions when they could be a free agent signing (Kirk Cousins) or acquired via trade (Jimmy Garoppolo). The team’s short and medium term plans are completely dedicated to finding out if these guys are in fact their franchise quarterback.

Franchise Quarterback

The team is now sure… Not only the current contract for this QB are in mind, but the next one is too. All moves revolve around this guy, as he is fit(as far as the team is concerned) to bring the fan base a Super Bowl. Short, medium, and long term goals are based on this quarterback and the entire team revolves around them.

Franchise Has-Been

This is a franchise QB who is close enough to the end that the long term plan is no longer about them. They are still somewhere between great and good enough, but they are at an age that the team is actively planning for a successor. Tom Brady is the damn land lord in this spot, and is basically taking the place over. He won’t leave… The Patriots have planned his successor and have traded him away… Brady is difficult to slot here but I do, and hopefully the definition helps you understand why.

Just a Guy

This is where everyone else lands. I am pretty sure I stole the term “Just a Guy” from some podcast that I cannot remember, but I can’t think of a better description for now. These guys are the best option for their teams at the time, but the short term plan isn’t even about them. This is a game to game dedication, just trying to win one. Guys from all 3 other categories can eventually fall here, and some quarterbacks will just live here from “day-1” to “day-done”.

Ok… so now that I’ve made that clear, I am going to try to slot all 32 current starting quarterbacks into one of these 4 categories. Again, this is my opinion and I totally respect yours if it is different. If you do disagree though, please read my category descriptions, and my explanation for each player. If you still hate it… I get it.

Total Count:

Franchise Hopeful: 10
Franchise Quarterback: 10
Franchise Has-Been: 5
Just a Guy: 7

AFC East

Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen
Franchise Hopeful: Picks were traded to draft this guy high in the 1st round. He is the immediate future and hopefully the next Jim Kelly in Buffalo.

Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill
Just a Guy: A Franchise Hopeful that just never panned out for a multitude of reasons.

New England Patriots – Tom Brady
Franchise Has-Been: As I mentioned above, Tom is both a Franchise Has-Been and Franchise Will-Be. He won’t leave this category. Both Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo have been traded away and another successor will be brought in soon.

New York Jets – Sam Darnold
Franchise Hopeful:
The second pick in the 2018 draft, there isn’t much else to say here.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson
Franchise Hopeful: The Ravens jumped into the 1st round in 2018 to get this guy. Who knows if the current coaching staff was on board with that, but the next one will be.

Cincinnati Bengals – Jeff Driskel
Just a Guy: Shouldn’t even be playing in regular season games right now. An injury has given him an opportunity.

Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield
Franchise Hopeful: #1 pick in the draft. This is the future of the Cleveland Browns and perhaps even the NFL. He won’t be in this category for long.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger
Franchise Has-Been: Hanging around… Has teased retirement about 80 times. One of these days he will actually do it.

AFC South

Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson
Franchise Quarterback: He’s done enough this season that he’s officially broken through into the franchise category. At least in my books.

Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck
Franchise Quarterback: There is no justification or explanation needed here.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Cody Kessler
Just a Guy: The epitome of Just a Guy.

Tennessee titans – Marcus Mariota
Franchise Hopeful: This one is weird. Mariota should be a franchise QB by now, and some might argue that he is. I just don’t feel like he’s made it there yet for a lot of reasons outside of his control. Multiple changes to his offensive system and injuries have slowed this up enough that he’s remained a rather long term hopeful. Similar to Ryan Tannehill 2 years ago or so.

AFC West

Denver Broncos – Case Keenum
Franchise Hopeful: He was signed by the Broncos to hopefully be the answer for 2 or 3 years. It’s not looking good, and “Just a Guy” will probably be the label very soon.

Kansas City Chiefs – Pat Mahommes
Franchise Quarterback: He is the NFL MVP in my books at the ¾ mark in the season. There is no other place to put him.

LA Chargers – Phillip Rivers
Franchise Has-Been: Still playing at a high level, but his successor is always being planned.

Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr
Franchise Hopeful: Jon Gruden is pushing Carr through the door to Just a Guy as hard as he possibly can.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott
Franchise Hopeful: I am not sold yet. Some cowboys fans are, and I respect their opinions.

NY Giants – Eli Manning
Franchise Has-Been: It’s time to hang them up.

Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz
Franchise quarterback: This was looking touch and go for a while but I still have to put him here.

Washington Redskins – Mark Sanchez
Just a Guy: From Franchise Hopeful to Just a Guy. All it took was a butt-fumble and years of interceptions.

NFC North

Chicago Bears – Mitch Trubisky
Franchise Hopeful: The #2 pick from 2017 is almost finished proving his case.

Detroit Lions – Matt Stafford
Just a Guy: This one is complicated. He went from longtime Franchise Hopeful, to just clinging on to the edge of Franchise QB status. His grip was not strong enough and he’s fallen into a very high-end Just a Guy for me.

Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
Franchise Quarterback: ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz…. are we there yet?

Minnesota Vikings – Kirk Cousins
Franchise Quarterback: A rare occasion where a team signs and pays a guy like he’s already earned the status. And he has… for now.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
Franchise Quarterback: Still qualifies in my eyes, but I understand why some question it.

Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton
Franchise Quarterback: His seat at the table is getting shaky.

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
Franchise Has-Been: Near the end due to age, but still playing amazing.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston
Just a Guy: Long term Franchise Hopeful like his draft pal Marcus Mariota, but has managed to fall off the stage. Don’t be surprised if he gets signed as a Franchise hopeful again somewhere or earns the status back.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen
Franchise Hopeful: First round pick. This is where he sits for now.

LA Rams – Jared Goff
Franchise Quarterback: For a while it looked like he was quickly going to go from Hopeful to Just a Guy. This season he went in the other direction instead thanks to his supporting cast and coaching staff.

San Francisco 49ers – Nick Mullens
Just a Guy: Yeah, enough said.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson
Franchise Quarterback: Somehow, Russell has become underrated… I am not sure how that happened but since becoming the face of the team after the demise of the Legion of Boom, he has only gotten better.


    1. Here are your independent rulings on the fellas in your comment. Keep in mind, my opinions here are based on where we are Superbowl Weekend, not week 14.

      Andy Dalton – Just a Guy
      One of the best JAGs in the league.

      Blake Bortles – Just a Guy
      Can’t justify anything else. I think he will land somewhere and get a fresh start. Not sure what he will do with it.

      Alex Smith – Just a Guy
      A better JAG than Dalton, but we may never see him play agian.

      Jimmy Garoppolo – Franchise Hopeful
      I think he’s be considered a Franchise QB right now in my mind had he not gotten hurt.

      In reviewing my list above, I would make a couple changes now. Both Prescott and Mayfield would be moved into Franchise QB status, and Cousins would be dropped into the Hopeful ranks. Moving Trubisky up to franchise guy is also tempting, but going to pass on that for now.


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