Expectations in the NFL are sky high--especially for quarterbacks. Quarterbacks in the NFL tend to receive all the praise when their team is doing well but also all the reprimand when the team falls short. Here's a list of four QBs under the most pressure to perform in 2014:
1. Tony Romo: Let's start with the obvious. It seems like Tony Romo is on the 'Needs To Perform' list every season. After yet another 8-8 finish and another January without football in Dallas, Romo is taking the bulk of the blame. His stat line wasn't horrible this past season, in fact it was one of the best in the league with 3,800 yards, 31 touchdowns, and only ten interceptions; but in typical Romo fashion these interceptions came at the worst times possible. Cowboy fans may still be hurting from the game-sealing interception he threw late in the fourth quarter in Week 17 of 2012 against the Washington Redskins. That one interception cost the Cowboys the game, the division, and a playoff berth. Although Romo only threw ten interceptions this past season, two of them were late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or win the game (Week Five vs. Denver Broncos and Week 15 vs. Green Bay Packers). The urgency for Romo to start winning is only amplified by his six year $108,000,000 contract extension signed before the 2013 season. Romo's cap hit in 2014 is over $11,000,000--in other words, the Cowboys cannot afford to keep missing the playoffs. Romo needs to start earning his very expensive keep.
2. Peyton Manning: Here's a name you probably weren't expecting to see: Peyton Manning is coming off the best single-season passing performance by a quarterback in NFL history setting records for both passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55). The only thing keeping last season from truly being the greatest of all time is the Super Bowl XLVIII (48) loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Manning is now 0-2 in his last two Super Bowl and the owner of an NFL record eight one-and-done playoff losses, a clear smudge on his impressive legacy. Although Manning receives a lot more blame than he deserves, expectations are very high for Manning in Denver. Broncos General Manager John Elway brought Manning in as a quick fix for the purpose of winning a Super Bowl, and every season is Super Bowl or bust for Manning and the Denver Broncos. Manning is not getting any younger: with retirement looming, Manning will need to give it his all if he wants to exit on a victory.
3. Matt Schaub: After a pitiful final season with the Houston Texans, Matt Schaub was fortunate enough to get a second chance with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are starting to get desperate--Oakland hasn't seen a winning season since the Super Bowl XXXVII (37) loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in the 2002 season. Ten years of mediocrity is a lot to correct in one season, but Schaub is up for the challenge. During Schaub's stint as starting quarterback for the Texans, he gradually turned the team around and led the young franchise to its first two playoff appearances ever in 2011 and 2012. Expectations in Oakland are high for Schaub. Fans there are passionate about their team and are tired of losing year after year. Schaub is basically playing for the future of his NFL career this season, and if he slips up Head Coach Dennis Allen will waste no time benching him for second round draft pick Derek Carr.
4. Brian Hoyer/Johnny Manziel: Johnny Manziel has single-handedly renewed interest in Cleveland Browns football, and he hasn't even taken a snap in the NFL yet. The Heisman Trophy winner has reached celebrity status, and it's all eyes on Manziel this season. However, not everyone in Cleveland has bought into the Manziel-mania: the Browns have made it clear that Brian Hoyer will retain the starting job he had before his ACL injury suffered this past season. Hoyer was 2-0 in his starts in Cleveland this past season, and Head Coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that the job is Hoyer's for the time being. However, Hoyer will need to play extremely well this season in order to remain the starter; you can bet that the first mistake he makes Cleveland fans will be begging for Johnny Football. This is a lot of pressure on Hoyer obviously, but even more pressure on Manziel. Manziel has basically been assigned the task of turning a team that has seen two winning seasons since 1995 into a playoff contender. That's a lot to ask of a rookie quarterback. Manziel may be up for the challenge, but if Hoyer continues to play well we may never know. Either way, don't expect the Browns to be the laughingstock of the NFL for much longer.