I had an interesting Twitter exchange with a local writer for the Mile High Sports. The Denver Broncos are playing the New Orleans Saints and the question came up, “Why Denver bypassed drafting Drew Brees in ‘01, then passed again in ‘06?” With many now penciling in Brees as a sure first ballot Hall of Famer, all the pundits are asking their respective clubs “What gives?”
Brees and the Broncos
Brees is the undisputed face of the franchise, perhaps more revered than even Archie himself. By now the story has been told ad nauseam regarding his slide out of the first round, his mediocrity in San Diego, a severe shoulder injury, the Chargers allowing him to leave for the “Crescent City”, and the subsequent rise to Super Bowl Champion and NFL superstardom.
Hovering around 6 feet, Brees lacks prototypical “parameters”. Many coaches will draw the line at 6’2” or 6’3” feeling the difficulty of seeing over the pocket is just too debilitating to their offensive scheme. The reporter felt that Brees’ movement outside of the pocket, and savvy poise within, would have made a perfect fit in Mike Shanahan’s system. Perhaps. Certainly it was something that we discussed throughout the months, weeks, and days leading up to the ’01 NFL Draft. But there are multiple pieces to the “fit” puzzle that have to be taken into consideration.
Brian Griese and Denver ’00
The Broncos were a postseason club coming off the ‘00 season. Brian Griese was Shanahan’s handpicked prospect in ‘98 NFL Draft. After his best season to date, Griese appeared to be reaching his potential under the tutelage of Gary Kubiak. Most projected Brees a 1st round choice but he began to slide as the selections progressed. Where does a 1st round QB fit on a team with a rising young star? Size, existing depth, salary cap, or whatever the reasons, Brees wasn’t selected until first pick of the 2nd round (Yes, Denver passed). Hindsight is 20/20.
The BIG PICTURE
A club’s Head Coach or General Manager must take in the BIG PICTURE of the current situation; cash & cap allocated, current starter status, future development of backups, team chemistry, and myriad of other factors that influence the most important position on the field. The reporter argued the Jake Plummer/Jay Cutler scenario in ‘06. My point exactly! Though the plan was to sit Cutler ala Aaron Rogers in Green Bay, emotions got the best of the coaching staff and they created their own controversy.
Seventeen clubs since ’08 have found starting QB’s through the NFL Draft (14 1st RD). First round QB’s bring a financial and developmental commitment, along with a stigma that sticks should the player “bust”. Does it make it right to pass on an upgrade? No. But Head Coaches and General Managers are human and succumb to their own emotional decision making as well.
The Class of 2013
The Top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft projects as follows;
|TEAM||STARTING QB||YEAR ACQUIRED|
|Cleveland Browns||Brandon Weeden||D12 1/22|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Matt Cassel||FA09|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Blaine Gabbert||D11 1/10|
|Carolina Panthers||Cam Newton||D11 1/1|
|Oakland Raiders||Carson Palmer||T11 (1st ’12, 2nd ’13)|
|New Orleans Saints||Drew Brees||FA06|
|Detroit Lions||Matthew Stafford||D09 1/1|
|Washington Redskins||Robert Griffin III||D12 1/2|
|Tennessee Titans||Jake Locker||D11 1/8|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Josh Freeman||D09 1/17|
Of the next 10 teams, 4 have drafted starters since ‘10, 4 have established veterans, 2 might have question marks; New York Jets, Buffalo Bills.
A dozen are playoff contenders and face the exact situation Denver did in ‘00 & ‘06. At first glance only the Arizona Cardinals might be looking, and that after signing Kevin Kolb only a season ago.
The obvious choice – Kansas City, but GM Scott Pioli insisted on Cassel in his rebuilding effort of the Chiefs. That would be mistake #2, yet he’s already been given a coaching “mulligan”. Maybe Oakland? They gave up a 1st round pick in ‘12 and a 2nd round in ‘13, though GM Reggie McKenzie doesn’t own that trade. Whoever Joe Banner picks as GM might jettison Weeden, but that’s reflective of what I feel is wrong with NFL front office management already.
Where does this season’s college class of QB’s fall in the 2013 NFL Draft? Perhaps not as voluminous as ‘12 & ‘11. But remember the current dynamics that faced teams that passed on future superstars coming from the QB Class of 2013.
Where’s the fit NOW? @Ted_Sundquist