When asked about whether luck plays a part in football Don Shula once famously remarked, “Sure, luck means a lot in football. Not having a good quarterback is bad luck.”
This has become increasingly evident in a league starved of good quarterback play. Just ask the Dolphins about their quarterbacks since Dan Marino retired.
The play of a team’s quarterback can make or break a good team. The Dallas Cowboys were struggling at the beginning of 2006 with the midland play of a venerable Drew Bledsoe. In stepped Tony Romo and the rest is cliché.
Eli was once the Manning known for meltdowns not touchdowns, let alone Super Bowl winning drives. His elevated play late in 2007 showed that the Giants were not wrong in making a controversial trade for his services. The Giants now have stability at a position that year in and out they had questioned before.
For every Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson there is a list much longer that is etched with names like Bradshaw, Namath, Montana, Young, Aikman, Elway, Favre, Brady, Roethlisberger and the Mannings. It takes a good quarterback to make a good team great.
The Dolphins have fielded some pretty good teams over the last decade. They’ve fielded some dogs too. If the 2002 or 2004 teams, with an unstoppable Ricky Williams, had a top-flight quarterback they would have not only made the playoffs, they may have won a couple. They also wouldn’t have tanked completely when he went on his now infamous sojourn.
Matt Ryan is the best quarterback to emerge from the college ranks in two years and he most likely will not be followed by anyone next year. Many are estimating that this year’s draft class of quarterbacks will be the last one with depth and high-end talent for another two.
Teams that need a quarterback will have to look hard and long at Ryan and decide if they want to be involved in a move to get him, like the Giants were with Eli.
At 6’5” and 220 pounds, Ryan is a prototypical NFL quarterback. He has the height to survey the field and the mass to stand tall in the pocket. Eli’s now famous play in the Super Bowl was a product of his size, being 6’4” and 224 pounds. He had the strength to break away from the collapsing pocket and out of the grasping hands of New England’s desperate defense.
The Dolphins haven’t had that kind of play in a long time. Last year they drafted a promising young quarterback in the second round. John Beck was a standout at Brigham Young and has several traits that could make him a success on the NFL level.
He has a very quick release, something Dolphins faithful have learned to revere in a quarterback (Dan Marino had the quickest release of any quarterback to play in the NFL).
At 6’2” and 216 pounds, Beck has good but not great size. He shows quick feet and the ability to scramble when the pocket collapses. His arm is strong and he can be accurate when he has time and confidence.
He also had a miserable series of starts at the end of last year.
The Dolphins don’t know what they have in him, though Parcells has alluded that Beck has “it” and also that GM Jeff Ireland thinks highly of him.
Meanwhile there’s Matt Ryan and the Dolphins No. 1 overall selection. The two quarterbacks that Ryan gets compared to are two of Parcells’ favorites: Drew Bledsoe and Ben Roethlisberger.
Ryan has the football first attitude and the vocal grittiness that Parcells likes in a quarterback. He’s a weight room guy and a motivator, which are both pluses with Parcells.
Parcells has said that Beck and someone, not Josh McCown who the Dolphins just signed as a backup, will be competing for the starting job. This is most likely a head game for teams like Atlanta and Baltimore who desperately need upgrades at quarterback. Parcells wants to trade out of the first spot. Spreading rumors about being interested in Ryan, he may get someone to bite.
If stuck there at No. 1, with no takers on a trade and doubts about the most important position on his team, why wouldn’t Parcells pick the best quarterback available?
One positive to drafting a quarterback is that they are always good trade bait. If Ryan was drafted and never able to beat out an emerging John Beck then there will almost certainly be a team that will believe that they can develop him. Think about how many times players like Joey Harrington and David Carr will be given second chances.
The Dolphins may very well draft him just to force a trade with one of the teams that desire his pedigree.
They also may draft him to solve South Beach’s riddle of the ages: Who shall be our quarterback?
Why They Shouldn’t
If the Dolphins don’t draft Matt Ryan it will be because they have reasonable confidence in how John Beck will develop. It’s either that or they think that they can find Beck’s competition in a later round, say Joe Flacco in round two or three.
Ryan is also a bit of a gunslinger, something Parcells does not find desirable. He turns the ball over too much by trying to force throws. In the NFL, Matt Ryan will have to learn to manage the game more and do less of the heavy lifting himself.
Plus, as mentioned in previous entries of this series, the Dolphins need to fill several holes and already have a young quarterback to develop. A trade might buy them two to three starters in this draft rather than just one.
Not to mention the “bust” factor is very high with quarterbacks. Especially when they’re drafted by a franchise in upheaval.
If Ryan busts and Beck is our guy then the Dolphins will have wasted the full value of their much-deserved No. 1 pick. The pick will deflate in value (from a trade standpoint) and Miami will have missed out on a game-changing player.
This year’s draft is one that they desperately need to get right. Matt Ryan may be too risky in the end. He could also just as easily be the answer to that riddle.
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