October 25, 2021

The Squared Root: XFL QB Rankings

We are ten days away from the start of the XFL season! The XFL has methodically planning the league for success for almost two years. Back in October of 2019, the XFL assigned their first eight starting quarterbacks to their teams. Since October, we’ve seen three more quarterbacks assigned to teams and one of the original eight traded. With the league on the cusp of it’s inaugural weekend, at least this version of the XFL, I’ve decided to breakdown my rankings for the current eight starting quarterbacks.

1. Landry JonesDallas Renegades – The first announced signing to the XFL, it was pretty widely speculated that Jones would reunite with his college head coach, who was the first announced head coach of the XFL, Bob Stoops in Dallas. When the quarterbacks were revealed, about 100% of the people were proven right. What makes this situation unique is that Jones may not be the best overall quarterback in the league. Why do you have ranked number one, Michael? Thank you for asking! I have him ranked first overall because of his situation; he landed with his old college coach from Oklahoma and that gives him a direct advantage heading into the 2020 season. Landry Jones’ college career was prolific under Stoops and being able to reunite with the coach that elevated you in college puts Jones above the rest of the league. There’s some speculation if Jones will be ready for the opener having suffered a knee injury in camp, but he says he’s going to do everything he can to step out onto the field on Sunday, February 9th. If he doesn’t start week one, the Renegades will turn to former AAF starting QB Philip Nelson(San Diego Fleet).

2. Cardale Jones, D.C. Defenders – No relation to the aforementioned Landry Jones, Cardale Jones potentially could be the best overall QB in the league. He possesses a unique skillset combined with size and arm strength. Cardale is a former National Champion when he miraculously led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a National Title including a victory over the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide in the inaugural college football playoff series. Cardale spent some time in the NFL but never quite duplicated his college success. Instead, he finds himself in a great spot with the Defenders and head coach Pep Hamilton. Hamilton has extensive work with quarterbacks at all levels of professional and college football. Cardale needs to work on pocket presence but working exclusively with Hamilton, it’s a skill that can definitely be learned. Jones is surrounded by a supporting cast and roster that looks like it could contend for the XFL Championship come April.

3. Josh JohnsonLos Angeles Wildcats – The only quarterback to make this list that was assigned to a team at a later date, Josh Johnson was actually in negotiations originally with the XFL. He held out, hoping to land a job in the NFL, and found himself with the Detroit Lions. The Lions ended up cutting him and he wasn’t practice squad eligible, so he turned back to the XFL. After the injury to Matthew Stafford, the Lions came calling and the XFL declined their request for release Johnson from his XFL contract. So, Johnson became a member of the Wildcats. The originally assigned QB, Luis Perez, now had some serious competition and several people automatically penciled in Johnson as the starter. Fast forward to January, the Wildcats traded Perez to the New York Guardians and people were made out to be smart, again. The Wildcats starting QB situation drastically improved. Johnson was the first overall pick in the now defunct AAF’s protect or pick QB draft and then never played a down for them as he signed with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, were he had moderate success and even won a couple games. Johnson is most experienced QB in the XFL at this point and could become a difference maker for LA during the season.

4. Brandon SilversSeattle Dragons – We saw Silvers in limited fashion in the AAF for the Memphis Express. After Mettenberger and Hackenburg, neither of whom are in the XFL in any capacity, weren’t able to achieve success, the Express turned to signing Johnny Manziel. Brandon Silvers was going to be the starter for at least one week, before everyone assumed Manziel would take the reigns. Those people weren’t proven to be as smart as they thought they were, as Silvers led the Express to one of their few victories(before the league folded) and he ended up starting the last week, as well. Silvers showcased a high football IQ, good field awareness and excellent vision, he possesses a strong arm, but most impressive is his accuracy. More importantly, Silvers lands in Seattle, where former NFL quarterback, NFL head coach and successful QB coach Jim Zorn heads the helm. Zorn’s work with Silvers is going to be important in the development of Silvers. In my opinion, Silvers is the one XFL QB that has the biggest star making potential and his ceiling is the highest.

5. Aaron MurrayTampa Bay Vipers – The prolific SEC passer and record setter, Murray didn’t quite achieve the same kind of success at the NFL level. Murray started for the Atlanta Legends of the now defunct Alliance of American Football and the results were a mixed bag. While a lot of the complications with the Atlanta offense can’t be completely blamed on him, there was a good chunk of missed plays and throws made by Murray during the eight game season. Murray gets another chance in a spring league to prove that he’s as talented as his SEC days suggested and for this audition – he has a significantly more stable situation. The Legends had coaching issues abundant, mainly on offense, and a head coaching change late in the preseason. Murray joins the Vipers with head coach Marc Treastman, an offensive minded head coach who has worked with several successful quarterbacks from the NFL to the CFL. While the verdict is still unknown on Murray, he has the supporting cast around him in Tampa Bay to give him a chance to return to the stardom we expected after college. He has the right skill set and tools to make him successful, he just needs to put it altogether at the professional level.

6. Jordan Ta’amuSt. Louis BattleHawks – One of two relative unknowns on this list, Ta’amu surprised a lot of people when he was assigned by the XFL to the St. Louis franchise. With the city of St. Louis missing a professional football team after the Rams packed up and moved to Los Angeles, there was a lot of speculation that the BattleHawks would end up landing a higher profile quarterback with name recognition: they did not. Instead, they landed a true rookie in Ta’amu, out of Mississippi, and gave them a true chance to build a star in the XFL. The most intriguing part of Ta’amu’s assignment in St. Louis is that head coach Jonathan Hayes is a former NFL assistant(TE coach) with the Cincinnati Bengals making this marriage between head coach and quarterback between rookies. Hayes took his approach to the draft and off-season by comprising the most veteran-laden roster in the XFL. The star potential is there for Ta’amu, the opportunity for the XFL to build a true star is in St. Louis and this situation makes for the most exciting storyline to follow this season.

7. Phillip (PJ) Walker, Houston Roughnecks – The second of the relative unknowns on this list, PJ Walker might be at the biggest disadvantage of out of the eight week one starting quarterbacks. First, the Houston Roughnecks and head coach June Jones spent their first round pick in the inaugural draft on QB Connor Cook. Cook, is more of the pocket passer to Walker’s dual threat abilities. June Jones loves to run the air raid offensive system and he’s had success, major success, at the college level with it. Second, the Roughnecks still haven’t announced their starting quarterback as of this writing, which means the competition between Cook and Walker is closer than the other camp battles of the seven other teams. Walker’s skill set opens up a part of the game that Jones didn’t truly have at the college level as Jones had recruited more pocket passer type QBs to fit his system. With that said, it could be a double edged sword for Walker, while his skills definitely give him an advantage to make more plays; Cook fits what June Jones recruited in college significantly better. I fully expect Walker to start week one, but look for Walker to have a short leash. If Walker can’t make the plays that we expect from him or doesn’t fit Jones’ air raid system the way Jones wants, look for the Roughnecks to make a quick change at QB early in the season.

8. Matt McGloinNew York Guardians – Speaking of short leashes, Matt McGloin, the New York Guardians penciled in starter, has the most competition to deal with in camp. McGloin was the most surprising QB assigned mainly because he was: A) assigned to New York and with the culture and media there he doesn’t strike the appearance of someone who can grab the bull by the horns and B) he’s really just a mediocre and rather average quarterback compared to the other QBs available. McGloin struggled mightily in the NFL and his college career has faded into obscurity. Head coach Kevin Gilbride, the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl winning New York Giants with Eli Manning, has to see something the rest of don’t – which would make sense since he’s getting paid to coach in the XFL and we’re not. But at first glance, this looks like a nightmare for the Guardians heading into the season. The good news? They drafted Marquise Williams. Williams might be the best QB in camp and he had some success with the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders. Williams also had a very good career at UNC and his dual threat capabilities is an element that isn’t shared by McGloin. The Guardians also made a trade for the Los Angeles Wildcats initially assigned QB in Luis Perez. While Perez is raw and still needs to develop his overall skills, he had a very successful and impressive career at Texas A&M-Commerce. Heading into the season, McGloin might be on the shortest leash of all the eight quarterbacks.

Those are my rankings! The most interest thing to note here is the dynamic of the quarterback position with all eight teams. The structure of each roster has a dual threat-type quarterback on all eight rosters. With the XFL rules allowing multiple forward passes behind the line of scrimmage and the fast game play, there’s a legitimate chance that we could see multiple teams use a two QB system to try and create more offense – think Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints in the NFL. Quentin Flowers(Tampa Bay), BJ Daniels(Seattle) and Nick Fitzgerald(St. Louis) are all dual threat QBs that successful college careers and put some big numbers. Fitzgerald, a Mississippi State product, is the SEC all-time leading rusher for a QB.

XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said the league will be driven by QB position and the XFL has done everything possible to drive that point home! February 8th, 2PM Eastern time on ABC, we’ll see the Seattle Dragons take on the D.C. Defenders in the inaugural game which will gives us fans the first taste of what the XFL product wants to be!

Michael Washington-Weeks