Despite efforts to improve player safety in the NFL, injuries are a grim weekly reality.
While the health and safety of all players, regardless of the positions they play, is of paramount importance, fan attention is often drawn to quarterbacks by virtue of the influence they usually have on the outcome of games.
And it’s just not fan perception that keeping the quarterback heathy winds up taking on a proportionately larger import. The NFL itself concedes as much with the raft of rules it has instituted to protect quarterbacks from gratuitous punishment. In large part, that’s because the quarterback’s body is often in a vulnerable position as he releases the pass.
However, despite rules changes and vigorous enforcement of roughing penalties, it seems to have become increasingly hard for an NFL team’s starting quarterback to make it through a full season.
That fact is not lost on New York sportsbooks.
2022 Season Has Not Been Kind to QBs
The 2022 roll call of quarterbacks who have missed time -- and in some cases will require surgery to get their careers back on track – is alarmingly long.
Just for the current season, the list has included:
- MVP candidate Jalen Hurts (Eagles). Currently fourth at +1100 at FanDuel NY.
- Franchise QB Kyler Murray (Cardinals, requires surgery) and his replacement, Colt McCoy
- Veteran star Dak Prescott (Cowboys)
- Former MVP Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
- Last season’s winning Super Bowl QB, Matt Stafford (Rams)
- Tua Tagovailoa, multiple injuries (Dolphins)
- Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), who was replacing the injured season-starter Trey Lance
- Marcus Mariota (Falcons)
- Russell Wilson (Broncos)
- Justin Fields (Bears)
- Carson Wentz (Commanders)
- Mac Jones (Patriots)
- Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
- Mike White and Zach Wilson (Jets), who have taken turns starting and being injured
- Kenny Pickett (Steelers)
- Jameis Winston (Saints)
- Baker Mayfield (when with the Panthers)
The mayhem surrounding quarterbacks is so frequent that some injuries are barely noticed by casual fans, such as the one Miami quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered against the Jets earlier in the season when he was replaced by third-stringer Skylar Thompson. Bridgewater played the next week.
That list includes starting quarterbacks for 17 of the NFL’s 32 teams over the first 15 games as the league is in the home stretch of a 17-game season.
Odds of an NFL QB1 Playing a Full Season
Actually, it probably would be somewhat welcome news to say that 2022 has been an anomalous season, and that the litany of injured quarterbacks is an aberration. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
This season, so far, the odds of a starting QB getting through the entire regular-season schedule without missing a game due to injury stands at about 46.9%.
EmpireStakes.com utilized Pro-Football-Reference.com to analyze the last five NFL seasons (2018-2022 seasons) to figure out the percentage of teams that have had their QBs make it through the whole season. If a starting quarterback was benched or a switch was made, that was not included in the data.
Here are the results:
What the data revealed is that 2022 is just about in line with the experience of the five-season period from 2018 to 2022 with the percentage of starting quarterbacks making it wire-to-wire and not missing a game due to injury at 51.3%. That’s only slightly better this current season’s mark of 46.9%.
If it were a betting proposition, the moneyline odds of an NFL QB1 making it through the season is minus-105. As a side note, the NFL regular season was lengthened in 2021 from 16 to 17 games.
The Harrowing Case of Alex Smith
A quarterback who notably battled an injury that turned out to be life-threatening was Alex Smith. His leg injury in 2018 was so devasting and developed such serious complications, amputation was feared. His NFL team was the franchise now known as the Washington Commanders.
Smith’s recovery was so arduous, it was considered a near miracle that he recovered to be able to walk, let alone take a snap from center. In truth, the football world held its collective breath when Smith elected to do exactly that in 2020.
That season, Smith led Washington to the NFC East title. Due to a lingering bone bruise, Smith did not play in the postseason and retired in 2021. Still, his comeback is regarded as miraculous.
Smith was a mobile quarterback, and the debate goes on whether QBs are more vulnerable in the pocket, where they are often a stationary target, or in the open field while on the run. On Smith’s injury, he was sacked while dropping back for a pass against Houston.
Similarly, Joe Theismann, also playing for Washington and also known to be a nimble scrambler, suffered his notoriously gruesome leg injury in the pocket when sacked by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who caught the quarterback from behind while Theismann was trying to launch a flea-flicker pass. Theismann never saw it coming.
Years later, Theismann could joke about the play that ended his career.
Even when he plays golf with Taylor, Theismann said, “I don’t let him stand on my left side, my blind side. I always make sure he’s in front of me.’’
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