Plumbing the NFC North Depths: Quarterbacks

May 23, 2012; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jason Campbell throws a pass during organized team activities at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Over the weekend we started looking at the division and wondering how the Bears tentatively compared with their division rival counterparts. So far we've gotten through the wide receivers, the tight ends, and the running backs and fullbacks, and this weekend we'll round out the offense and start in on the defensive side of the ball. But today, we'll get into the quarterback position.

Bears
2011:
Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Nathan Enderle
2012: Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell, Josh McCown, Nathan Enderle

We're all overly familiar with the veritable cluster of quarterback play in the vacuum between Cutler's (eventual) season-ending injury and McCown's (relative) resurgence. Make no mistake about it, Jay Cutler is the starting quarterback and Josh McCown has the inside track to make the roster as a third stringer (which is pretty much what he ended up being last year), but replacing Caleb Hanie with Jason Campbell straight up is a marked improvement. The Bears now roll three deep in quarterbacks with Opening Week starter experience, far deeper than going in to last year with Cutler / Hanie / Enderle as the depth chart. Campbell's career QB rating of 82.8 is nearly as good as Cutler's 84.5 over the same period of time, and McCown's 71.2 could be far worse for an emergency.

Vikings
2011:
Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels
2012: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels

The question could be asked if the Vikings really improved here. McNabb was benched and released with an 82.9 quarterback rating on the season. Ponder played well in flashes but at times looked hopelessly lost, like rookies are occasionally prone to, and Webb is a Tebow-lite that might be a better passer. They take out McNabb and give another chance to Sage Rosenfels, who is 34 years old this season and hasn't thrown a pass in three years. His career rating is 81.2, but in his last actual NFL passes in Houston has 21 touchdowns to 22 interceptions over 15 games (5 starts) and finished 2008 with 6 and 10, respectively.

Lions
2011:
Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Drew Stanton
2012: Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Kellen Moore

Let's be honest here, this is all Stafford and Hill. Stafford looked brilliant at times last year, but did have his low points (whether glove or wind aided). Stafford is also heavily aided by Calvin Johnson - how much does having Megatron influence the quality of quarterback play? That's not to say he didn't play well - his 97.2 rating is really good and 41 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at. Hill plays a decent backup - maybe the second best in the division with Matt Flynn gone and the Bears signing Jason Campbell - and Moore is just developmental at this time, shouldn't be counted on for anything.

Packers
2011:
Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
2012: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell, BJ Coleman

Rodgers is the man, let's not fool ourselves. But the depth here took a hit with Flynn leaving. Whether he turns into Matt Schaub or Caleb Hanie is yet to be seen, but Flynn played really well in his spot starts. Harrell has seen no action since coming into the league and Coleman is a draft pick, same boat. If Rodgers takes a hit and has to sit out a few games, can they survive on Harrell and Coleman and the strength of the receiving corps, or has Rodgers made the corps so plug-n-play?

Now to ranking them, and right away, the Vikings drop to four, once again. Ponder might be something, but Webb is a former gimmick and Rosenfels hasn't really been much throughout his career. At three, I'm going to take a bit of a turn here and put the Packers in terms of overall depth. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the division, no question, but behind him is exactly zero snaps of NFL experience, and we're looking at overall depth here, not just "who's the best quarterback in the division."

Then we get to number two, and I'm going to put the Lions here. This isn't an easy ranking - and really, there's a case for any of Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago to be three, two or one. But the reason I have the Bears ranked highest in the division here is overall depth. Jay Cutler isn't a slouch at all - he hasn't surpassed Rodgers, but given what he's had to work with, he's on par and passed Stafford (though one could say Stafford has to pass Cutler), so they're starting off in a good place with their starter. Also, behind Cutler you have 2,131 passing attempts in Campbell and another 1,113 in McCown. That's a lot of veteran quarterback play and experience behind Cutler. Compare to Shaun Hill, who performed well in 2008 and 2010 as a backup, with 941 attempts. I'd say Campbell could outplay Hill.

So there you have it, something that I've got the Bears ranked number one at in the division. Make no mistake, Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the division, but the Bears have so much more behind Cutler that should something happen to the first quarterbacks (or even the second) the Bears should still be in a better position than the other teams.

What do you think? Where do you have each team with regards to the quarterback position in the division?

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