An NFL Winter Of Discontent

If all you do is read headlines, you would conclude that at least 75% of the NFL teams are fed up with their QBs and want to make a change.  Indeed, there have been three major QB moves already this offseason with reports that – just maybe – franchise QBs in Houston and in Seattle and in Pittsburgh could be moved on or moved out.  Shakespeare had Richard III say in a soliloquy:

“Now is the winter of our discontent…”

You might just begin to think that this winter, NFL teams as a whole have become discontented with their QBs.  If you buy into that view of the NFL, you might want to credit or blame Tom Brady and the Bucs for creating this environment.  The Bucs just won the Super Bowl and that is the Prime Directive [Hat tip to Starfleet] for every owner, player, coach and GM involved with the NFL. Look at how the Bucs went from “after thoughts” to “champions” and you might conclude:

  • The Bucs had drafted well in terms of solid players for the previous 3 or 4 seasons – – except at QB where they had an erratic performer.
  • The Bucs added a proven QB to replace their erratic one on a short-term deal.
  • The Bucs also went out and built offensive weapons that fit their new proven QB and put them around him on short-term deals.
  • Abracadabra …  Also-rans are magically transformed into champions.

Various folks can modify or embellish that simplistic scenario, but the key elements remain.  And since the NFL is a copycat league, there are lots of owners and GMs and coaches who are saying to themselves, “Why can’t we do that?”  Moreover, there are some very talented QBs who look at that scenario from the perspective of Tom Brady as the QB and ask themselves, “Why hasn’t my team done that with me?”

Let all that fester for a while and you have the potential for an NFL winter of discontent with its QBs…

The headline this morning that caught my eye relative to this issue is that – supposedly – the Seahawks want 3 first round picks in exchange for Russell Wilson.  That comes on the heels of rumors that it would take an offer of 5 first round picks to get the Texans to listen to an offer for Deshaun Watson and the reality that Matthew Stafford commanded a price of 3 draft picks (not all in the first round) plus Jared Goff.

Last year, there were two major QB moves in the offseason – – Brady to the Bucs and Rivers to the Colts, but neither of those moves involved a trade.  And there is the essence of the difference for this offseason.  There will be free agent QBs looking for new venues for their services, but all that drama is overshadowed by the rumors of trades involving top shelf players and draft picks.

I have written before about the inflated value of NFL draft picks and I stand by that position.  In this NFL winter of discontent with QBs, the NFL Draft has 5 QB draft candidates that the scouts and reporters have made out to be – potentially – the next coming of John Unitas.  They are:

  1. Justin Fields
  2. Mac Jones
  3. Trey Lance
  4. Trevor Lawrence
  5. Zach Wilson

I said all these players are “potentially” the next coming of John Unitas – – and the key word there is “potentially”.  After Carson Wentz was traded, it struck me that the two players taken overall #1 and overall #2 in the 2016 Draft had just been jettisoned by the teams that took them so early in the Draft.  Wentz is the old greybeard here; he is all of 28 years old; I wondered how other “top-rated” QBs from 2016 had fared.

I found one other first round QB from the 2016 Draft; that was Paxton Lynch, and he is no longer with the Broncos who took him later in that first round; in fact, it has been a while since he was with the team.

That took me down a rabbit hole; I decided to find out how the first round QB picks from 2015 had done and then 2014 and then…  I had to go back a while to find a lot of productive picks as you can see here:

  • First round QBs 2015:  Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.  Neither is still with the team that took them.
  • First round QBs 2014:  Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater.  None remain with the team that took them.  Bortles and Manziel were sub-standard; Bridgewater is good-not-great.
  • First round QBs 2013:  EJ Manuel.  No comment necessary…
  • First round QBs 2012:  Andrew Luck, RG3, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden.  Luck was excellent but retired early; all the others have moved on to other teams or to other professions.
  • First round QBs 2011:  Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder,  Newton had plenty of success; the others not so much.  None remain with the team that drafted them.
  • First round QBs 2010:  Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow.  No comment necessary …
  • First round QBs 2009:  Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman.  Stafford was just traded; the others were moved on by the teams that drafted them long ago.
  • First round QBs  2008:  Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco.  Bingo!!!  Finally, we have a first round QB who has been with the team that took him for a long time as the centerpiece of that team.  Kudos to the Falcons…

First round picks used on QBs appear to me to have been more like fool’s gold for that stretch of time.  There were 24 QBs taken in those drafts in the first round; I would say only 5 of them panned out:

  1. Flacco (Ravens) – – the did win a Super Bowl with him at QB…
  2. Luck (Colts) – – short career plagued by injury but played very well in Indy…
  3. Newton (Panthers) – – took the Panthers to a Super Bowl and was MVP…
  4. Ryan (Falcons) – – took the Falcons to a Super Bowl…
  5. Stafford (Lions) – – hey, he survived 12 years with the Lions…

You do not get into the Hall of Fame with a .208 batting average.  Moreover, at that rate, only 1 of the projected elite QBs in this year’s draft will be a long-term asset to the team that takes him.  Bonne chance…

The uncertainty of the NFL Draft marketplace reminds me of an observation by Al Capp the creator of Li’l Abner:

“Abstract art is a product of the untalented sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “An NFL Winter Of Discontent”

  1. Kudos to the Falcons for now. My Falcon fanatic son says he hears the love affair with Matt Ryan is cooling a bit. I wonder what they are planning to do with that 1st round pick. Rumors are they want Justin Fields at #3 and you cannot have him sitting on the bench for long. Ryan would be serious upgrade for a number of teams.

    1. Doug:

      The Falcons and Ryan have had a dozen years of productive time. IF the team decides to draft a young QB “for the future”, they still git it right when they drafted Ryan.

      And, you are right that Ryan would be a serious upgrade for lots of teams in 2021…

  2. I would also note Tannehill led the league in passer rating two years ago and was top 5 this year after he got out of Miami and Adam Gase … could be coaching sometimes (Extra point to Stafford) . He does have a run based team though

    1. Ed:

      I think the presence of Derrick Henry has a whole lot to do with the “late blossoming” of Ryan Tannehill…

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