There have now been 19 NFL seasons with 32 teams. Some call this the 32-team era. I defined the “quarterback desert” as a bottom-four finish in team passer rating. I used passer rating because it has existed for the entirety of this era (QBR has not), and it’s the best transparent method for analyzing quarterback play.
The Broncos have had three such finishes during the 32-team era, but all three have been recent - 2015, 2017 and 2020. Here is a full listing of the desert-wandering teams during this era by year:
|Year||29th ranked PR||30th||31st||32nd|
|2002||Carolina Panthers||Houston Texans||Arizona Cardinals||Detroit Lions|
|2003||Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||Chicago Bears||Atlanta Falcons|
|2004||San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||Miami Dolphins||Chicago Bears|
|2005||Detroit Lions||New Orleans Saints||Chicago Bears||San Francisco 49ers|
|2006||Cleveland Browns||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Tennessee Titans||Oakland Raiders|
|2007||Oakland Raiders||Miami Dolphins||St. Louis Rams||San Francisco 49ers|
|2008||Detroit Lions||Cincinnati Bengals||St. Louis Rams||Cleveland Browns|
|2009||New York Jets||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Detroit Lions||Cleveland Browns|
|2010||Seattle Seahawks||Minnesota Vikings||Arizona Cardinals||Carolina Panthers|
|2011||Cleveland Browns||Indianapolis Colts||St. Louis Rams||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|2012||Cleveland Browns||New York Jets||Kansas City Chiefs||Arizona Cardinals|
|2013||Baltimore Ravens||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Giants||New York Jets|
|2014||New York Jets||Oakland Raiders||Cleveland Browns||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|2015||Indianapolis Colts||Dallas Cowboys||Denver Broncos||St. Louis Rams|
|2016||Carolina Panthers||Houston Texans||Los Angeles Rams||New York Jets|
|2017||Tennessee Titans||Arizona Cardinals||Denver Broncos||Cleveland Browns|
|2018||Washington Redskins||New York Jets||Arizona Cardinals||Buffalo Bills|
|2019||Cleveland Browns||Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||Carolina Panthers|
|2020||New York Giants||New York Jets||Philadelphia Eagles||Denver Broncos|
Only two franchises have not spent a single year in the desert during this era - the Patriots and the Chargers. The teams that have spent the most years in the desert are the Browns (eight seasons) and the Jets (seven seasons).
The full quantification is shown below.
|Team||Times in QB Desert (2002-2020)|
|New York Jets||7|
|San Francisco 49ers||3|
|New York Giants||2|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2|
|New Orleans Saints||1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1|
Ten teams have only spent one season in the desert while the Broncos are one of 11 who have spent three or more seasons in the desert. I was surprised that the Chiefs have only spent one season in the desert, but I had forgotten that they got some good QB play out of Trent Green and Alex Smith.
If you are one of those positive people, here is a list of the teams that have been in the “oasis” each year during this era (a top-4 finish in team passer rating).
|2002||New York Jets||Oakland Raiders||Kansas City Chiefs||Indianapolis Colts|
|2003||Tennessee Titans||Indianapolis Colts||Minnesota Vikings||Kansas City Chiefs|
|2004||Indianapolis Colts||San Francisco 49ers||San Diego Chargers||Philadelphia Eagles|
|2005||Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||Seattle Seahawks||New England Patriots|
|2006||Indianapolis Colts||Philadelphia Eagles||New Orleans Saints||Cincinnati Bengals|
|2007||New England Patriots||Pittsburgh Steelers||Dallas Cowboys||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|2008||San Diego Chargers||Miami Dolphins||Arizona Cardinals||New Orleans Saints|
|2009||Minnesota Vikings||New Orleans Saints||San Diego Chargers||Green Bay Packers|
|2010||New England Patriots||San Diego Chargers||Green Bay Packers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|2011||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||New England Patriots||Dallas Cowboys|
|2012||Green Bay Packers||Denver Broncos||Washington Redskins||San Francisco 49ers|
|2013||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||New Orleans Saints||Philadelphia Eagles|
|2014||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||Pittsburgh Steelers||Denver Broncos|
|2015||Seattle Seahawks||Cincinnati Bengals||Washington Redskins||New England Patriots|
|2016||Atlanta Falcons||New England Patriots||Dallas Cowboys||New Orleans Saints|
|2017||New Orleans Saints||New England Patriots||Kansas City Chiefs||Minnesota Vikings|
|2018||Kansas City Chiefs||New Orleans Saints||Seattle Seahawks||Atlanta Falcons|
|2019||New Orleans Saints||Baltimore Ravens||Tennessee Titans||Seattle Seahawks|
|2020||Green Bay Packers||Houston Texans||Buffalo Bills||Kansas City Chiefs|
The Broncos have spent three seasons in the oasis - 2012 through 2014 - all because of Peyton Manning. Manning’s team had an oasis year in eight of the 13 seasons he played during this era.
Twenty-six teams have spent at least one year in the oasis. The Saints have had the most with nine, but five other teams have five or more seasons of elite QB play (oasis years).
Twelve teams have three or more oasis seasons. The Broncos are the only NFL franchise with three or more desert AND oasis years during the 32-team era.
|Team||Years in Oasis|
|New Orleans Saints||9|
|New England Patriots||7|
|Green Bay Packers||6|
|San Diego Chargers||5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||5|
|San Francisco 49ers||2|
|New York Jets||1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1|
I’ll leave it for you as homework to find the six franchises that have zero seasons of elite QB play in the 32-team era.
It should surprise absolutely no one that the teams with the fewest years in the desert and the most years in the oasis are the teams with stable and elite players at quarterback. The Saints and the Patriots have had the same quarterback for almost every season during this era. The Chargers and Packers are not far behind. The only teams that have had a fair amount of turnover at QB during this era and have had five or more oasis years are the Colts and the Chiefs. The Colts moved from one first overall pick at QB to another.
The Chiefs got two of their five oasis years in the very beginning of this era (2002 and 2003) with Trent Green and got the other three recently from Patrick Mahomes. The one season that the Chiefs spent in the desert was 2012 with Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn as their starting quarterbacks.
The teams that have been in the oasis for three straight years are the Broncos, Colts, Saints, Chargers, Patriots and Packers. When do you think the Broncos will have another three straight years of great QB play?
The Broncos spent 2020, 2017 and 2015 in the "qb desert". When will we next have three years in the oasis like we did in 2012-2014?
This poll is closed
the next three seasons
in the next decade
in the next twenty seasons