A week after the draft, I am still reflecting on what I feel was the biggest mistake in the draft. That was the Lions taking Matthew Stafford with the first pick. This mistake is made repeatedly and yet teams keep doing it. GMs feel that they need that Franchise quarterback with the cannon arm.
The problem is that the QB can't do it all by himself. It takes a good team around him for him to have a chance to be successful. If a QB is taken that high than the team in all likelihood isn't very good. More importantly the line isn't very good. Then your franchise QB becomes an incredible bust.
It really isn't hard to figure this out but for whatever reason GMs can't. So they continue the trend of drafting these QBs and very rarely is it a happy ending.
In order for this young QB to be the great QB you expect, it has to be done one or two ways. Either you sit on the bench for a year or two behind a veteran and build the rest of the team. This way the kid can learn from the veteran, learn the playbook, and gain the respect of his teammates before ever stepping foot on the field.
The other way is to build a Strong running game and have a great defense. Ryan, Flacco, and Rothleisberger all played right away under these conditions. They weren't asked to do much except not kill them with mistakes. It was as if they had training wheels on.
Looking at this years two QBs, Sanchez may be able to play with training wheels. Stafford however doesn't have a good enough team around him and will all likelihood be forced in before he is ready.
That is one reason why not to go for the franchise QB with the big arm that high. The other reason is that you don't need one. You read correctly, you don't need one.
Football is won in the trenches. The teams that win are the ones who can block and tackle. That is the foundation of your team.
Sure the big bomb is exciting to watch, but it is not what wins games. The reality is that the long deep pass is a low percentage play. It not only requires a big arm but a receiver with Olympic speed who can catch. It also requires great protection.The defensive back has to be beaten as well.
If any of those elements are missing the best you can hope for is an incompletion. However, more disastrous things (fumble, sack, interception) could happen.
A team with a great defense and a solid running game will go farther than a team with a franchise quarterback any day. That is unless of course that franchise quarterback has a running game and a great defense.
Don't get me wrong, the quarterback is an important position. The Bears couldn't finish the deal against the Colts because of their quarterback. Rex Grossman killed them with turnovers that year.
It is amazing that the defense was able to get that team as far as they did. I get annoyed when I hear that Rex Grossman led a team to the Super Bowl. No he didn't. The defense did.
Now the Bears are a perfect example of the mistakes teams make. They played Rex Grossman over Kyle Orton because he had the big arm. They thought he could become a franchise QB. Orton on the other hand wasn't spectacular but he manages the game. That means he makes good decisions and doesn't kill you with turnovers.
That is why Orton eventuallly won the job before being traded to Denver. It will be interesting to see how Jay Cutler will work out there. He is another QB who makes the big play, but I am not sure he manages the game. I do think he is way better than Grossman though. It will be fun to watch.
Now let's look at some of the other teams that have had success without the franchise quarterback. The Ravens won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. The Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Tom Brady before he was Tom Brady.
The Steelers were a game away from the Super Bowl with Rothliesberger as a rookie. The Buccaneers won with Brad Johnson.
All of these guys were good game managers who didn't turn it over and could complete the safe passes. What were many of the great QBs doing during the Super Bowl? They were watching it.
Today there really is only two franchise QBs (Manning and Brady) in the league. Certainly guys like Eli Manning, McNabb, Romo, and Rothliesberger are close. However, that leaves many teams who don't have that franchise QB.
This brings me to the situation in Cleveland. They have a decision to make. My guess is that they ultimately go with Brady Quinn over Derek Anderson. The reason is that both may or may not be franchise QBs.
However, with Anderson it is clearly a boom or bust situation because of inconsistencies and turnovers.
With Quinn even if he doesn't become the franchise QB, he will at least manage the game well and limit the turnovers. It has been proven that teams can win with that.
In closing, every year the draft focuses on who will be the next great quarterback. 70% of these guys fail. The team that takes them ends up setting their organization further back instead of going forward. That is the sad reality.
Unfortunately for Lions fans, they will likely have another few miserable years. The likely reality is that drafting Stafford will only keep him from developing into a great QB somewhere else. The only good thing for Stafford is that at least he will make a ton of money to get his butt kicked behind that line.