It’s March, and I’m a Browns fan. That means it’s time to talk about the NFL draft. More specifically, it’s time to talk about quarterbacks.
I spotted my man @illustr8r echoing a line of thinking that I hear a lot from Cleveland sports pundits. The idea is “If you think Quarterback X is going to be good, be bold and take him.” Identify The Guy, and do whatever it takes to get him.
— Eric (@illstr8r) March 6, 2017
Sorry, but I don’t buy “The Guy is The Guy.” Why? Because even The Guy is not The Guy.
Who are we really talking about when we talk about The Guy? These days, the guy we’re most often imagining is Andrew Luck, because in every draft since the guy was taken (2012), we’ve heard this from the talking heads: There’s no Andrew Luck in this draft.
Maybe your team sucked last year. You got the #1 overall pick. Or you’ve traded down in seasons past, and have assets aplenty. Or both. You’re one of the 15 teams in the NFL who need a better quarterback, AND you’re one of the 6 that actually knows it. You’re ready to go get your Franchise Quarterback. But then, a stark reality dawns upon you as expert upon expert reports in as the college football season wears on:
There’s no Andrew Luck in this draft.
Yes, incredible as it seems, the NFL does not actually allow Andrew Luck to declare himself eligible for multiple NFL entry drafts.
Kidding aside, Luck is the gold standard for The Guy. Of course every team wants the opportunity to draft a quarterback with his credentials. But as we’ve seen, players of his ilk don’t come around every season.
But what is Andrew Luck? Has anyone bothered to notice that the guy everyone laments isn’t in any of the recent drafts has actually missed the playoffs the last 2 seasons? I know the defense is, “Well the Colts franchise is a joke.” He has no help. Perhaps. But this goes back to my original point: Even The Guy that you think is The Guy is not The Guy. Luck has certainly kept them from being an embarrassment, but even the best quarterback prospect in the last decade of drafts hasn’t been enough to reliably take his team to the playoffs.
Find Your Franchise Quarterback
“Never mind that,” you say. “You’re not going to go anywhere until you find a quarterback.” Living in Cleveland, this is a mantra I know very well.
(Aside: There’s also the counterpart to this, which goes something like, “No quarterback will do anything unless we have a line to protect him.” The folks who like that one ignore that we’ve had a Hall of Fame left tackle, a now four-time pro bowl center, and a right tackle who our front office didn’t think was worth a damn, but the Chiefs thought was worth something on the order of 33 million damns over 5 years.)
But I’d like to address the Find Your Franchise Quarterback camp a bit more directly by asking (and answering) the question, “What happens to teams when they try to “find their quarterback”?
We’ll grant the 3-year rule on judging draft picks. So this is decidedly NOT going to be about Carson Wentz and whether or not the Browns should have drafted him, whether or not he’s any good, or aren’t we a little concerned that Hue Jackson seemed to think Goff was better, and Wentz was SO GOOD and Goff played like two pounds of stuffed cabbage.
And to be fair it also won’t be about Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Although both teams today seem quite satisfied that they’ve “Found Their Quarterback,” if it’s too early to judge players as busts, it’s also too early to judge them as The Guy that will win them an NFL championship.
So let’s take a trip back in time and and see what happened to Guys that teams thought were The Guy.