Draft a QB if He Falls in Your Lap, Risk the Five Years Anyway


I would like to apologize to you Colt McCoy.

In my last post here I compared you to Charlie Frye, and doubted you’re the future quarterback Cleveland is so desperate for.

For the record, I love your game. I can’t wait to see what you do next year. But I still have my doubts.

And I hate having doubts. I want to know who the Browns’ quarterback of the future is, not feel OK about it. I want a blue-chip sure fire franchise horse, with a gun. I don’t want to start over every 2-4 years. I want to know when that cycle is over, and when the Browns are finally moving forward for good. I think we all do.

I like Colt, but we’ve only seen him start seven NFL games, and if a top tier QB falls to the Browns in the draft I think they should take him. Play the odds…

Colt McCoy was available in the 3rd round of the draft for a reason. Teams and scouts doubted he could be an elite quarterback in this league, specifically citing his lack of arm-strength. I worry Browns fans are overeager to anoint Colt as “the future” because we are so sick being horrible.

We want to see Colt McCoy as the silver-lining to this disaster season. Call it hope.

The guy was never supposed to play this year, but when injuries destroyed the season, at least we learned something about him. Colt has made an otherwise worthless Browns season worth something. Like we didn’t go through this again for nothing, we have something to look forward to.

So now we’re all on the band wagon. A cold winter looking towards horrible Cavs and Indians teams can do that to you. We talk about how all Colt needs is a new coaching staff, a deep threat wide receiver, a full year of training camp, etc.

And we also talk about trends in the NFL.

Clearly the fans’ biggest beef with Eric Mangini right now, and the perceived reason he will soon be unemployed, is that his offensive system is archaic. We can’t win scoring 17 points a game and partying like its 1959. The Browns need a modern offense, just like all the good teams have today. We need to put points on the board, throw deep, score touchdowns, score them fast.

I agree the Browns should follow that trend, and with that comes another trend:

  • The good teams now, have a blue-chip, strong armed quarterback, who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft, often as a very high pick.

If the Browns are drafting as low as 5th next year and as high as 12th, can they afford to pass on a guy like that if he is there? I am not saying trade up and mortgage the future. I am saying there’re around ten bad teams looking for a new quarterback, and if one of those first round talents falls in the Browns’ lap, they need to take him and worry about wide receivers and defensive ends later.

If the Browns are serious about developing an offense fit for the color television era, they need to pay attention to what everyone else in the league is doing.

Jimmy calm down. Colt is clearly a gamer and if you can play, it doesn’t matter when you were drafted.



AFC North
Look at the other quarterbacks in our division, all were taken in the first round: Carson Palmer (1st overall), Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall), and Joe Flacco (18th overall).

Now Palmer may be on the downside of his career and Flacco may have more to prove come playoff time, but there is no arguing these teams are miles ahead of the Browns. Yes even the Bengals, who won the division last year, and have suffered through only three losing seasons since Palmer was drafted in 2003. That’s three losing seasons the last eight years, compared to seven losing seasons the last eight years for the Browns.

OK but that’s only three teams in the Browns’ division, hardly a trend.

Well, those are the teams standing in the Browns’ way, but OK, let’s look at the 12 teams who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.


Playoff Teams
Nine of the 12 projected playoff teams drafted their quarterback in the first round. Drew Brees (2nd round), Tom Brady (6th round), and Matt Cassel (7th round, although he was acquired by his current team for a 2nd) are the outliers.

  • In the AFC playoffs you’ve got Peyton Manning (1st overall), Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall), Joe Flacco (18th overall), and Mark Sanchez (5th overall), then Brady and Cassel.
  • In the NFC you’ve got Matt Ryan (3rd overall), Michael Vick (1st overall), Jay Cutler (11th overall), Sam Bradford (1st overall), and Aaron Rodgers (24th overall), then Brees.

But Jimmy, the Giants and the Buccaneers haven’t been eliminated from the playoffs in the NFC yet.

That’s correct, and they’re both being lead by former first-rounders too: Eli Manning (1st overall), and Josh Freeman (17th overall).


Super Bowls This Decade
But who cares about the playoffs, the point is the Super Bowl, and there have been tons of undrafted QBs like Kurt Warner who have gone on to greatness. Why not Colt?

Not exactly tons but you’re right, 14 total quarterbacks have played in the past 10 Super Bowls, and 7 of them were not drafted in the first round.

  • Starting with the 2001 Super Bowl against the Ravens and Giants, those guys are: Brad Johnson (9th round), Kurt Warner (undrafted), Rich Gannon (4th round), Tom Brady (6th round), Jake Delhomme (undrafted), Matt Hasselbeck (6th round), and Drew Breese (2nd round).
  • Still, the other 7 of those 14 quarterbacks were selected in the first round, they are: Kerry Collins (5th overall), Trent Dilfer (6th overall), Donovan McNabb (3rd overall), Peyton Manning (1st overall), Rex Grossman (22nd overall), Eli Manning (1st overall), and Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall).

So odds-wise it’s still a healthy 50/50 bet. And the QBs drafted in the first round are 5-4 in their Super Bowl games. The guys who weren’t drafted in the first round are 5-6 this decade, with Brady accounting for over half those wins (3).

OK Jimbo, I gotta call shenanigans. I see names like Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, and Rex Grossman up there. Those guys played behind awesome defenses, so how can you count them?

Well that’s par for the course actually. Making the Super Bowl is hard, you need a QB and a great defense.

Only 4 of the 20 teams to make those 10 Super Bowls were not ranked in the top 10 in points allowed that year: Indianapolis Colts (2006), New York Giants (2007), Arizona Cardinals (2008), and the New Orleans Saints (2009).

If anything, that reinforces the idea that the NFL is trending towards offense and passing. Those four average defensive teams appeared in the four most recent Super Bowls, and three of them won it!


Draft History
Jimmy, your stats are starting to blow my mind, but isn’t it risky to take a quarterback in the first round? What if he’s a bust?

It’s a gamble, they all are, a necessary evil in the draft. But it’s not as risky as you might think.

Since 2001, 10 years and Super Bowls ago, 27 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round. Nine have been busts, nine have been awesome, and the other nine are somewhere in-between (or we don’t know yet).

So it’s basically only a 33% chance you get burned drafting a QB in the first round.

  • Your first round busts since 2001 are (obviously this is open to interpretation, let me know in the comments): David Carr (1st overall), Joey Harrington (3rd overall), Patrick Ramsey (32nd overall), Kyle Boller (19th overall), JP Lossman (22nd overall), Alex Smith (1st overall), Matt Leinart (10th overall), JaMarcus Russell (1st overall), and Brady Quinn (22nd overall).
  • Your first round success stories are: Michael Vick (1st overall), Carson Palmer (1st overall), Eli Manning (1st overall), Phillip Rivers (4th overall), Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall), Aaron Rogers (24th overall), Jay Cutler (11th overall), Matt Ryan (3rd overall), and Joe Flacco (18th overall).
  • And finally, the guys somewhere in-between are: Byron Leftwich (7th overall), Rex Grossman (22nd overall), Jason Campbell (25th overall), Vince Young (3rd overall), and guys taken the last two years we’re still waiting on, Matthew Stafford (1st overall), Mark Sanchez (5th overall), Josh Freeman (17th overall), Sam Bradford (1st overall), and Tim Tebow (25th overall).

Now you tell me, is it really that risky? Based on the last ten years, two out of three quarterbacks will at least be OK, not busts.

And look at the guys taken in the top 12 picks of the draft. As you can see there are 16 of them above, and only 4 were busts, meaning if you’re drafting where the Browns are next year, chances are even better you get your man.

Would you be willing to bet Colt McCoy is a Tom Brady-like exception to the trend, based on the quarterbacks in the Browns division, 12 possible playoffs teams this year, the past 20 Super Bowl teams, or the previous 27 quarterbacks taken in the first round, knowing if you wrong on Colt you set the Browns back again?

NFL experts will tell you missing on your quarterback costs you five years. I say, take Ryan Mallett if he falls in your lap and risk the five years anyway.

But if we take Mallett or Jake Locker or whoever, and Colt starts next year and plays really well, won’t we be caught in that same old Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn, Tim Couch/Kelly Holcomb nightmare all over again?

Maybe, but this time we have Mike Holmgren, and I bet the questions he is asking himself are:

How close are we to starting over anyway?

If the Browns are improving, how many more times are we drafting this high?

If I promised Randy Lerner five years, and I’ve got four left, do I put that all on Colt, knowing this chance might not come again? Or do I play the odds?