Much of my recent mail questioned my choices for emerging quarterbacks in the NFL. With so many young arms out there, I could have written two columns on "Young Guns." Instead, I focused on Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich because they were the top two QBs picked in last year's draft.
Many of you took note of this and sent in alternate choices. With that in mind, let's start with your thoughts on young arms that are about to step into the starting spot and take it from there.
And remember, it shouldn't always be "Ask Cris." Feel free to include your own opinions on any of my recent columns and audio/video segments, and we'll try to print the best of them in future mailbags. And you get bonus points for including your hometown.
QUARTERBACKS IN NEW ROLES (May 18: "Turning over the reins")
In your "TAKING OVER THE REINS" article and in the "YOUNG GUNS" section why did you only talk about Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich? Another young gun taking over the reins is Rex Grossman with the Chicago Bears. He sat on the bench for 13 games before ever playing. He has less experience than Byron, or even Kyle Boller, but three games more than Carson. Don't you think he fits in your young gun category?
Mario D. Reyes
In your analysis of new starting quarterbacks, you mentioned Byron Leftwich and Carson Palmer, but what about Rex Grossman? He took a Bear team that was futile at times to some late-season victories last year and showed great promise. Do you think, as I do, that if he stays healthy, he could be as good as any of the quarterbacks you mentioned?
I have concerns about Rex Grossman and wouldn't put him in the same league as Palmer or Leftwich. I am concerned with his height and overall arm strength – but mostly with the players around him. Will the Bears be able to run the football and will a top-flight receiver emerge to help Grossman develop?
Those things keep him from the class of Leftwich, who I believe is going to be a rare talent. As for Palmer, we don't know yet. He has the talent, size and receiving corps around him in Cincinnati. I believe the upside for Palmer is a lot higher than for Grossman.
While I agree with most of what you are saying, in regards to Mark Brunell, Jeff Garcia and Carson Palmer, I feel somewhat differently in regards to Byron Leftwich. Granted, Leftwich is a highly accurate passer that is able to make all kinds of throws, which gives the Jaguars "big play" potential. However, I feel that he can only take the franchise as far as the money their front office properly invests (meaning free agency and the draft).
Well Tom, I think the talent presently surrounding Leftwich is pretty good. At the receiver spots, he has a solid veteran in Jimmy Smith who should have a few more years left and first-round draft pick Reggie Williams. And at running back, Leftwich and the Jacksonville Jaguars can rely on Fred Taylor. With those three guys, Leftwich has enough to propel him into the elite status.
You spoke of the young guns. You left one out, and it seems that the greatest success may come from David Carr. Granted, the Texans' offensive line may be problematic (it appears fixed at this time) but, the TEXANS are really geared up. What are your thoughts on CARR and the coming season?
John E. Ache
You are right, John. Carr definitely is a young, emerging quarterback. My concern with him surrounds the number of hits that he has taken. Look at the young quarterbacks who have taken a lot of hits early in their career. As they progress, those early knocks really wear on them.
Carr is a great talent, but the Houston Texans need to do something to protect him. Also, he needs to develop a number of different throws. He has a really strong arm but doesn't have the greatest touch in the world.
You wrote "Laveranues Coles had better get ready. He now has a top-flight QB – probably the best he has ever had." What? Have you forgotten that Coles played with Chad Pennington? I happen to think Brunell is a good quarterback, but he is no Pennington. Ask the Washington Redskins if they'd trade Brunell for Pennington.
Nothing against Brunell but no way is he better than Pennington. Mark has never posted numbers as good as Chad's 2002 season. Coles is a great player, but he benefited from playing with Pennington. I am not saying Pennington is the best QB out there, far from it (He is not the best YET!!). Just wanted to tell you how I felt. I read all your columns; keep up the great job.
A lot goes into a quarterback-receiver tandem. And for one main reason, I think Brunell will be better for Coles than Pennington was. Their strengths complement each other well. Coles excels when running deep routes down the field, and Brunell is excellent at throwing the deep ball. I am not saying Pennington is bad. But I believe Brunell and his deep ball will better suit Coles.
Why all the positives about the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback? In this day and age there are no elite QBs (Brady, Pennington or anywhere else). The play of the league has gone down quite a bit. Don't you agree?
David L. Critides
While the league is definitely going through a transition at the quarterback position, I wouldn't say there isn't an elite quarterback out there. After all, Brett Favre still is playing for the Green Bay Packers.
Over the last 15 years, the NFL has seen a major transformation at quarterback. And with the retirements of John Elway, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Troy Aikman all within three years of one another, it is going to take some time. The young guys are developing and eventually will establish themselves as stars like we were used to seeing.
NEW COACHES AT MINICAMPS (May 10: "Minicamps go beyond hello")
How can Dennis Green win with Arizona and their below-average talent when he couldn't do it in Minnesota with their superior talent? Will it really be different in Arizona?
I am a long time AZ native, now living in Las Vegas. I have always rooted for the Cards, through thick and thin, good years and the bad years ... okay more bad years than good.
Considering your past experience with coach Green, do you think he can turn around the Cards into a competitive team with a winning record?
Las Vegas, Nev.
I believe Green will turn around the Arizona Cardinals and make them competitive. These days, it is much easier to make team into a winner. He should be able to attract free agents to Arizona.
But Arizona's main problem has been its philosophy throughout the organization. If he can change that philosophy, it will go a long way toward making the franchise competitive year in and year out.
Do you think the Baltimore Ravens will be all right at QB, or do they need to pick up a veteran?
I like the way Boller started playing last season before getting injured. He has a lot of talent and athleticism and can elude a lot of pressure in the pocket.
Brian Billick is a great offensive mind, and I believe he is halfway toward achieving the offensive success that he had in Minnesota. He already has developed a great running game, and Baltimore's passing game soon will follow suit. Boller is a big part of that as his QB of the future.
Everyone makes a huge deal out of Terrell Owens landing with the Philadelphia Eagles. I am an Owens fan, but I still don't see Philly winning a Super Bowl. I think the trend of having one big-play receiver only hinders your team. Just look at the Patriots. Who's going to be Philly's other weapon ?
The Eagles have two other weapons. Brian Westbrook is one of the most exciting players in the NFL. If you couple his talent with Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, the Eagles have enough. Also, I think Correll Buckhalter will develop into a very good running back this season now that he will see the majority of the carries.
I talked to McNabb recently and he is excited to have a receiver that can dominate the game. With Owens, the coaches now can plan their offense around him, which will free up their other impact players. It's not just Owens' hands that make the offense dangerous. It is the other options that he provides to the offense.
How do you feel the Chicago Bears will be this year under Lovie Smith? I believe they made some major adjustments in the offseason, but I am still concerned about their offense. This is something this team has been missing for a long time.
I think the defense will be better. They have a good nucleus there to build around. Smith brings a lot of new enthusiasm and fresh ideas. I always thought he would be a successful coach.
On offense, the Bears need to step up their running game because they play outdoors. A dominant running game is the perfect complement to their defense. Those are the two areas that they need to address. To have a good defense, they need an offense that makes first downs and stays on the field. A good running game will keep the defense fresh and allow Smith and the Bears to develop a defensive identity.
That said, the Bears remain the third-best team in the NFC North, behind the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.
What do you think about the Arizona Cardinals trying to get one of these veteran QBs that are available. It could be like 1998 when coach Green and your Vikings had a veteran QB to go along with good receivers.
I would never compare this year's Cardinals to our team in 1998. Those young guys will be very good professionals, but it would be very difficult to duplicate the numbers we put up even if they had a veteran quarterback. They don't have Robert Smith at running back or three all-pro offensive linemen.
All those things considered, no, I don't think they should do it. They are better off sticking with Josh McCown. He still is very young and coach Green described him as a more athletic Brad Johnson. If that is the case, McCown is in a perfect situation to grow with a good young offense.
Which of the four quarterbacks drafted in the first round is most likely to win a Super Bowl first?
That is a tough question. The problem I see with all four is with their competition. I will take a long shot and say that Ben Roethlisberger has the best shot because the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the AFC North. I don't see J.P. Losman and the Buffalo Bills beating out the New England Patriots or the Miami Dolphins any time soon. And I don't see Eli Manning and the New York Giants dominating the NFC East with all those top-flight coaches. And the San Diego Chargers is a long way from the Super Bowl.
I will take a flyer on Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh eventually will win another Super Bowl because the franchise does things the right way.
When are you coming out of retirement?
When the NFL can pay me as much as Yahoo! Sports can pay me, I'll come out of retirement.