In the 2011 football season fans learned a lot of things. We learned what can happen when a team keeps their star quarterback healthy (Detroit), we learned what can happen when a team does not have any decent back-ups (Chicago), and we learned what happens when a team does not plan for anyone being injured (Indianapolis). While 2011 was the 'Year of the Quarterback' it could have similarly been dubbed the 'Year of the injured Quarterback'. Many teams felt the sting of quarterback injuries throughout the season, and for every Drew Brees throwing for Madden-like numbers, there was a Kerry Collins being forced to start with little to no preparation for the offense they needed to run. Here is a list of the 5 most devastating quarterback injuries of the season*
*Note, by devastating I do not necessarily mean for the quarterback himself, but also for the team.
5) Jason Campbell
Jason Campbell was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the first round of the 2005 Draft. Since then Campbell has shown his potential as an NFL quarterback. 2011 looked like it would be the best season of his career, that is until Week 6 when Campbell broke his collarbone. Campbell initially was slated to return as soon as six weeks later, but after the Raiders obtained Carson Palmer, Campbell was listed as out for the remainder of the season.
When will he return to the field? Campbell just signed as a Free Agent with the Chicago Bears, this will be for the backup position behind Jay Cutler - someone else that makes this list - so we might not see Campbell play at all in 2012, or we might see a lot of him, if Cutler gets sacked in 2012 as often as in 2011. The Raiders were 4-2 before Campbell went down, and 4-6 without Campbell in 2011.
4) Matt Schaub
Schaub seemed to find his footing playing with the Houston Texans, they won their franchise-first division title in 2011, and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. In Week 10 Schaub suffered a foot injury in the second half of a 37-9 victory at Tampa Bay. The Texans seemed to be able to recover with a bye week before their next game, and then Matt Leinart was also lost for the season, making rookie T.J. Yates the starter.
When will he return to the field? All indications point to Schaub being the Texans' starter for the 2012 season, while Yates was passable while starting for the Texans in Schaub's absence, it was also clear that at this point in his career Yates is not yet ready to challenge Schaub for the starting role. A healthy season for Schaub could make the Texans a dangerous team in the AFC in 2012, without Schaub the Texans were 4-4, including a playoff win against Cincinnati, and a playoff loss to Baltimore. Houston went on a four-game winning streak in 2011, and that was without stud Andre Johnson, and if Schaub and Johnson stay healthy in 2012, look for Houston to make a push in the playoffs.
3) Sam Bradford
This was a devastating injury to the St. Louis Rams, in a season in which they faced multiple injury problems. Bradford had a breakout rookie season for the Rams, guiding them to a 7-9 record, and expectations were high for Bradford and the Rams in 2011. Bradford never really got any momentum going in 2011 with nagging injuries affecting his play all season. The worst of which was an ankle injury sustained in Week 12 that kept him out the rest of the season.
When will he return to the field? Sam Bradford will be the starting quarterback for the Rams in 2012. Anyone doubting that would be crazy. If the Rams want to keep Bradford on the right side of the injury list, they need to surround him with a decent offensive line that can protect Bradford from hitting the ground as often as he has in his first 2 NFL seasons.
2) Jay Cutler
It was easy to name this as the second most devastating quarterback injury of 2012, heck for a minute I wanted to name it as the most devastating. Before people think that is the dumbest thing to say, consider this - with Cutler the Chicago Bears were 7-3, tied for 2nd in the NFC North, and making it look like that division would supply three teams to the playoffs this season. Without Cutler the Bears were 1-5, finishing 3rd in the NFC North, missing the playoffs, and looking forward to nothing but the end of the season. Jay Cutler's thumb injury sustained in a win against the San Diego Chargers was coupled with losing Matt Forte, receiver Devin Hester, and when everything was compounded it became obvious that without Cutler the Bears had almost no chance at winning any of their games.
When will he return to the field? Cutler is slated to be the Bears' starter to begin the 2012 season, and this time around Bears management decided to get a better backup than Caleb Hanie (no offense Hanie) by signing Free Agent Jason Campbell. With Forte returning, the Bears are poised to make another run for the most difficult division in the NFL in 2012
1) Peyton Manning
The only injury that can be more devastating to a team than one midseason to ruin a playoff run, is one preseason that ruins an entire franchise. Manning did not play a snap all season after going through his 4th neck surgery within a span of less than three years. The Indianapolis Colts finished 2011 with a 2-14 record without Manning, in 2010 the Colts were 10-7 after losing a playoff game. Not to say that Manning was the only change between the 2010 Colts and the 2011 Colts, but the Colts' offense was never able to impress anyone.
Kerry Collins was given the starting gig within two weeks of their season opener, Dan Orlovsky has won two starts in seven years as an NFL quarterback, Curtis Painter was inserted as their quarterback and he looked like he was in over his head whenever he was on the field. The Colts were devastated by Manning's neck injury mostly because of their inability to provide a mediocre, much less good, backup quarterback. The Colts finished the season 2-14 without Peyton Manning playing a single game
When will he return to the field? Manning is going to at least be on the sidelines for someone in 2012 it seems. Jim Irsay declined to sign Manning's $28M signing bonus, thus making Manning an unrestricted Free Agent. Manning has stated that he wants to stay in the AFC, and that wherever he goes he wants to have sole control of the offense, so he can run it the way he wants to.