Quarterback Entrapment – An NFL problem – By: Justin Walters
Every NFL team has the dream of having Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, or Aaron Rodgers type quarterback. The chase for that guy has led to the Akili Smith’s, Ryan Leaf’s, and JaMarcus Russell’s of the world being drafted. The first group will lead championship contenders for a decade or more whereas the second group has set back franchises a decade or more. But what about the 3rd group. This is a large group that could probably be separated into 2 or 3 tiers. The first tier are the guys that you win with but not because of. This group is headlined by Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles and Alex Smith. These are guys that you have to watch closely because you can be tricked into thinking they may be elite because of their overall team success. They fit under the title of “game managers”. Smart QBs who take advantage of the talent around them or a QB friendly system to win games and put up impressive numbers in the process. These are quality players who are lacking in a few areas. They won’t hurt you but their flaws become exposed when the game is put exclusively on their shoulders. These are hardworking, reliable players who display winning intangibles. On the downside these intangibles will never be seen if they are not surrounded by top notch talent. Kind of like my 1997 Nissan Altima, not the prettiest but how can you argue with 200,000 miles?
A sub- part of that group is the “Yea but” group or “The gift and the curse” These are the guys that if you watched a highlight tape or the right game you would be convinced that he is an elite player. They are capable of carrying a team for a period of time but if forced to do it for too long that’s when the fireworks start. This group is headlined by Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Matthew Stafford. They can single handedly win a game for their team but at the same time can single handedly lose a game. These guys have all or most of the skills of your elites but the one “FLAW” comes in decision making. These guys can make “WOW” plays but then make “WOE” plays. Tony Romo alone is responsible for at least 10 broken items in my house. This season we are seeing how special of a talent a guy like Romo really is with less on his shoulders. I think the proper term for these guys is gun slingers. They just have a tendency to turn the gun on themselves at times. You just don’t run across talents like these guys that often.
Then there’s the “Potential” guys, this group features young players like Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford, Jake Locker and to a point RG3. These guys have shown at times that they can play well in this league but due to a number of issues inconsistency, injury, or a bad team they have yet to really break through as a legit starting QB. Their teams have invested a lot in them so it makes the decision whether to keep them or let them go a tough one.
This brings us to the title of our article “QB Entrapment”. In the new age NFL despite what people may say, you can win without an elite QB. As long as the team around him is strong enough to lift him up and carry him at points. The problem comes when it’s time to “Show him the Money”. You have found a guy who can run your system and manage the game to an extent that you feel comfortable. But now it’s decision time. If you have a guy from the elite group you pay him and just deal with it, because these are the QBs that are capable of carrying just about any group to the playoffs on a consistent basis and with a break or some solid front office moves can win Super Bowls. The Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf group knows it’s time to start over if everyone hasn’t been fired already. The other 3 groups are where it gets a little touchy. Most of these guys can have success with a roster like Seattle or San Francisco but problem is when he gets his money some of the talented players around him have to be let go. For instance former 2nd Rd pick Colin Kaepernick, a guy that fits somewhere between game manager and player with potential has led (using the term loosely) the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance and an NFC championship game in his 2 seasons as a starter all while struggling to read coverages and a heavy reliance on a strong running game. Now contract time comes up (they show him the money) and he signs a contract for 126 million dollars, Can he now magically read coverages and the team be reliant on him completing passes? Nope actually he is the same QB except now the 49ers will face decisions on what to do with workhorse RB Frank Gore (who the offense is really built around), Kap’s favorite targets #1 WR Michael Crabtree and one of the leagues best TEs Vernon Davis along with an Offensive lineman or two. The one thing we do know is that they all ain’t staying. The 49ers are a well run franchise and feel that they have set themselves up with the depth to move forward behind Kap and with a new cast next to him. Will that be enough? Only time will tell. Many teams face this and the fear of not having a QB. The pressure from fans to not let your starting QB walk away is a lot for a teams front office. Teams have proven that they will stick to the status quo, bringing back their starter as the 49ers have. I can’t say they are wrong, well actually I can. I will tell you my point of view for when I am given the GM job of the 33rd NFL franchise.
I mentioned earlier the 3 groups of QBs, because of supply and demand the “yea but” group featuring Romo, Stafford, Cutler, Manning has to get their money because they have proven that they can produce at a high level to an extent. It’s just up to the team to surround him with the right group of players where it doesn’t have to be fully dependent on him all of the time. To me where the argument comes is in the “Game Manager, time has proven you can win with these guys but time has not proven that you can with them on their 2nd contract especially if it’s over 100 million. So I keep him if the price is reasonable but I am not breaking the bank to keep them. I know the fans will hate you when you let their QB walk but not nearly as much as they will when the team is clawing for mediocrity behind the average QB that you tied your professional football existence to. Your other option is keeping your finely tuned machine intact and just finding a new driver to (game) manage the same cast to the same level or further. I guarantee the fans will love you and forget that QB ever played for your franchise if you continue having success. Going to take some guts, plus it’s hard to find your franchise QB picking 14th in the draft every year. Last but not least when it comes to the “Potential” guys remind them that they have accomplished nothing and if they mention anything near top QB money, Call security and immediately have them removed from the building . Some won’t be worth it even at the discount price. Like one of my old coaches told me “Potential ain’t Sh**!” I always hated that guy. But anyways the decision falls on the coaching staff and their feel for the player, Is he a hard worker? Can you see the improvements? Are you comfortable with him leading your team into the future?
In closing there are not 32 elite QBs in the NFL, but there may be 15-20 guys capable of playing for a team that can advance deep into the playoffs and a possible Super Bowl run with the right cast around him but when it comes down to who you pay the big bucks to LEAD you into the future that number drops even further. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your money in your pocket. All I can tell you is Let your conscience be your guide and trust your ability to scout and draft the right players for crying out loud.
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