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Highly drafted quarterbacks rarely transform bad franchises

Posted by Michael David Smith on December 26, 2020, 6:30 AM EST

Those who think the Jets killed the future of their franchise by winning on Sunday and giving the Jaguars the lead in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes may want to look at how great teams are built. It’s hardly ever by losing enough to earn the first overall pick, and using that pick on a franchise quarterback.

In fact, of the NFL’s eight current division leaders, none drafted their quarterback first overall. None even drafted their quarterback in the Top 5.

Four current division leaders used a first-round pick on a quarterback, but none followed the “tanking” model to get him: The Chiefs were a playoff when they traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes. The Bills were a playoff team when they traded up to draft Josh Allen. The Packers were a playoff team when they drafted Aaron Rodgers. The Steelers were a 6-10 team but had been in the playoffs the two years before that when they drafted Ben Roethlisberger No. 11 overall.

The other four division leaders did not draft their starting quarterback in the first round: The Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round. The Saints signed Drew Brees as a free agent. Washington traded for Alex Smith after the Chiefs decided to move on from him. The Titans traded for Ryan Tannehill after the Dolphins decided to move on from him.

But while the NFL’s best teams didn’t get their quarterbacks at the top of the draft, what about the teams that do have a Top 5 draft pick quarterback? Some of them may make the playoffs this year, but overall the results are more bad than good: The teams that have a quarterback picked in the Top 5 on their roster (the Browns, Dolphins, Bengals, Jets, Rams, Cardinals, Bears, Lions, Eagles and Falcons) have a combined record of 60-78-2 this season.

Bad franchises are often bad for reasons that no one player can change, and sometimes quarterbacks who look like great prospects either languish on bad teams or prove not to be so great. There’s no guarantee that Lawrence can transform a franchise.

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5 responses to “Highly drafted quarterbacks rarely transform bad franchises”

  1. xofdallas says:

December 26, 2020 at 7:11 am

Truer words have never been spoken. Bad teams tend to have bad o-lines and a mediocre receiving corps. Most of them lack continuity in front office management and/or coaching staffs, leading to lack of continuity in plays and play-calling. And what does it matter that a quarterback can routinely post 20 points in a game if the defense routinely gives up 30?

Other things enter into it. Is the quarterback getting good coaching? Is the o-line so porous that all a novice quarterback is going to learn is bad habits? Or face severe, chronic or nagging injury?

If the coach and gm have a chance (depends on ownership), I’d build the o-line and receiving corps, as well as the defense, and then go after a good qb, either by draft-and-learn for a bit or by trade. Some quarterbacks seem to be able to come up to speed quickly these days, but most (including Mahomes, Brady and Rodgers) learned a lot from the bench.

There are no quick fixes, and owners who think differently seem to help mire their teams in mediocrity for years, if not decades.



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  1. dabears70 says:

December 26, 2020 at 7:13 am

All you have to do is look at the Cleveland Browns for the last 15 plus years. Always picking very high, and taking QBs that never worked out until Mayfield came along.



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  1. ebpatton says:

December 26, 2020 at 7:22 am

Andrew Luck was a “can’t-miss” prospect. Then no offensive line happened. No guarantees it will work out for Trevor in New York OR Jacksonville, dysfunctional franchises both.



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  1. mjposner says:

December 26, 2020 at 7:23 am

But Eagles won SB after drafting Carson Wentz, and the Rams made the SB after drafting Jared Goff. A top pick can take you there, but does not guarantee long term success.



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  1. arcross12042004scorp15 says:

December 26, 2020 at 7:23 am

The Bills took a lot of heat for trading the draft pick KC used to get Patrick Mahomes. If you follow the draft picks they received they used them to draft Pro Bowl CB Tre White, Pro Bowl LB Treamaine Edmunds, LT Dion Dawkins and used draft capital to get Josh Allen. Mahomes is a great player, but the trade worked out well for both teams.



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1 Like

As a huge proponent of the tanking movements we’ve had this season, I agree with the whole “One player won’t transform your franchise” thing. That said, and I’ll say this again, you DO NOT win with a bunch of mediocre talent at positions of need. You win in this league by having blue chip talent and top of the league caliber guys. It’s impossible to have an '04 Pistons type of championship team in this league, especially nowadays. This rebuild needs to be more than a 1 year retool for that reason. We badly lack top of the line talent that can take over and win games for us.

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Tanking does not get you better picks in the first round only. You get better picks in every round. You have your choice of more talent at more positions at better spots.

The difference between picking 5OA and 10, 5 spots per round. 35 spots total, if you kept every pick and stayed where you were. 35 additional players you could choose from if you so desired. Might make a difference some rounds, not others. But the choice is yours.

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The other portion of it…

Let’s look at the 2021 draft.

Trevor Lawrence by all accounts is the guy who will be taken No 1 OA.

The Jets, with their win against the Rams, are now not in a position to take him at No 2 OA. He’ll be gone.

If they kid lost that game and the rest of them, they’d have the choice. If they felt Darnold wasn’t the problem and needed help behind him, they could trade away the pick and reap the rewards of all the additional picks. They could get the help Darnold needs. The team needs to be competitive. Yes, they would need to make good use of the picks. But you have to have them.

As it stands, they can do none of it, they now sit at two, the choice for them made by winning a meaningless game in December.

Yes, they can trade 2OA, but the return is not what they would get. Nowhere near.

At this point in the year with this likely being a lame duck coaching staff with a lot of players also likely being moved out, I’d rather have a higher draft pick than a lower one. Sorry

If they win I won’t be all broken up but I do prefer a higher pick. Keep in mind this is positioning for picks in every round, not just the 1st.

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We were a half game from selecting Chase Young… One pick away from getting Josh Allen (DE)… It’s not just about the QB when you’re looking at a better draft position

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He is using an incredibly small sample size to make his point, and even then it’s the NFL’s playoff rules that make a few loopholes possible. Alex Smith shouldn’t even count, Washington is 6-8 and if they weren’t in the NFC East wouldn’t be sniffing the playoffs. In their stead would be Chicago, led by the #3 pick in the draft.

Tanking is stupid. Bad programs are Not suddenly going to become good programs. There is so much more that goes into twinning in the NFL then just the talent. It’s the culture, coaching, ownership and identity. There is a reason some of these elite programs keep winning after the talent changes. Tanking tells guys their efforts don’t matter. Why not actually take a page from the elite programs and give a damn.


Pre-planned, season-long tanks are extremely rare in the NFL.

Sitting players once you’re officially eliminated from the playoffs is the most common case. Putting injured players on IR so you can get an extended look at younger players. Those type of scenarios are the norm.

The typical time you will see almost deliberate bad game planning and execution… this week and next. At the very end of the season. And still, most teams will play it out hard.

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Yep, I was against winning in Green Bay that last game that netted-us the 8th pick instead of the the 6th or 7th, don’t remember exactly which pick we would have had but there were still good players to be had but Josh Allen was the player I wanted.

Allen was on the top of my board followed by Devin White… Missed out on both because we won a meaningless game. I’m all for tanking to improve in the future, short term pain for long term success.


Yeah, the Lions have done just such a masterful job at drafting & developing a winning culture the last 50 years. Just tank every year I guess. They have to get it right sometime. #Sarcasm

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So will it be tanking if the next regime decides to blow it all up and start over? Clear the cap. Clear the dead weight. Clear it all.

They would deliberately not be placing themselves in the best possible position to win games next year?

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Allen was atop my wish list, Devin I didn’t see as a fit for our defense.

I felt like White was a fit for any defense… Ed Oliver was the guy I didn’t want because I didn’t see him as a fit here. Hockenson is playing well, thank God, but hell if I wanted a TE @ 8

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But it was a meaningless game against Green Bay which is pretty damn high on the meaningless game scale.

You’re right, we should trade all our high picks for lower picks in the round because that’s where winning teams pick… It’ll change the culture
/Sarcasm :joy:

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So it was slightly a less meaningless game within the meaningless spectrum? On a scale of “no one cares” to “I’m not going to even watch”, where did that meaningless game rank?

Again, if drafting earlier wasn’t viewed as an advantage, they wouldn’t give the highest picks to the worst teams.

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So maybe we should just skip the draft then, if we’re not any good at it. While we’re at it, let’s give up on FA too, we haven’t been so great there either. And since we’re so bad at hiring head coaches, maybe go with a neverending stream of interim coaches.

We can’t simply stop trying to improve because it hasn’t worked before. That’s the most defeatist shit I’ve ever heard. There’s absolutely no reason we can’t get better.