.. And with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft the Oakland
Raiders select ...
... Blake Bortles???
With all due respect to Brother Damien I wouldn't "pull the trigger" on Bortles in the "five spot" with Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews or even Aaron Donald still on the board. Don't get me wrong I won't be in jump-off-a-bridge mode if the Raiders do select a quarterback in the first round, it's just not my preference.
What's more, I think way too much is made of the need to draft a top prospect in the first round in hopes of finding the ever-elusive "franchise quarterback."
I don't even like the term "franchise quarterback" because it has become little more than a tired cliché often applied to quarterbacks who haven't earned it, and even more often prospectively applied to quarterbacks who never will.
Remember the year Al Davis got pummeled for passing over Matt Leinart in the draft?
That was the year Davis really liked Vince Young, but Young was off the board when the Raiders picked.
You're starting to get my point.
Both Young and Leinart were top prospects coming out of college. They were Bortles before Bortles - first-round talents with all the makings, the experts opined, of "franchise quarterbacks."
Or not ...
I read an ESPN piece recently that offered the following statistical insight: "... Seven of the past nine Super Bowls have been won by teams starting a first-round pick at quarterback."
You want to know what number jumped out at me? It wasn't "seven," it was "nine."
Why nine, I wondered. If you're going to go nine why not just go 10? That's a nice round number why not just use it and call it a day?
Here's why. If you use it your premise begins to unravel because (much as it pains me to say it) sixth-round pick Tom Brady was under center for the Patriots when they took home the Lombardi Trophy 10 Super Bowls ago.
So, "seven out of nine," suddenly slips to "seven out of 10."
But, wait. Brady has three Super Bowl rings, including one he doesn't deserve because of the rule-that-shall-not-be-named.
Yes, he does. But, as any Raiders fan can tell you the Brad Johnson-led Buccaneers did a number on the Silver and Black in the "Bipolar Bowl" between Brady's first two wins in what has become the world's biggest game and his last one. Johnson is the modern day equivalent of an undrafted free agent. He was picked in the ninth round (when there was a ninth round), bounced around the league and eventually landed with the Bucs.
One for Johnson, three for Brady and just that quickly we go from "seven out of nine" to "seven out of 13." Barely half.
But "13" is a whole lot like "nine" in my eyes. So let's add two more, make it 15 and see what that tells us. Well one of those two Super Bowls was won by a real undrafted free agent, Kurt Warner.
Number 15 (14 if you go chronologically) was actually won by a first-round pick, though Trent Dilfer will never be mistaken for a "franchise quarterback" and he wasn't playing for the team that drafted him (the Buccaneers) when he got his Super Bowl ring with the Ravens.
So, eight out of the last 15 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks were drafted in the first round, though one of them (Dilfer) was a prospect who didn't pan out for the team that drafted him. Still, barely half.
Sample size not big enough?
Let's toss in the last 15 Super Bowl losing quarterbacks, because, let's face it, you've got to play pretty darn well, and win consistently, just to get there don't you?
Thing is, these numbers are slightly worse. Only seven of the last 15 Super Bowl losing quarterbacks were first round picks - Steve McNair, Kerry Collins, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Rex Grossman and Peyton Manning twice (once with the Colts who drafted him and once last year with the Broncos who didn't).
The rest of the list includes second-rounder Colin Kaepernick, a fourth-rounder, our own Rich Gannon, three sixth-rounders, Brady twice and Matt Hasselback, and three undrafted free agents, Warner twice and Jake Delhomme.
So, of the 30 quarterbacks who started the last 15 Super Bowls, 15 were first-round picks and 15 were drafted in the second round or (in most cases) lower, or not at all.
Only once in the past 15 years have two first-rounders met in the Super Bowl. That would be when the Roethlisberger-led Steelers lost to Rodgers and the Packers in 2008. It's worth noting that neither was a top-10 pick.
Roethlisberger was the 11th player drafted in 2004 and Rodgers was the 24th overall selection in 2005. I guess that's one way of saying they were more Derek Carr than Blake Bortles, but I digress.
Back to "seven out of nine." I actually considered that maybe the statistic cited in the ESPN article is the "new normal" and reaching back a few more years only obscured that reality.
After further review I've concluded it doesn't, and not just because the quarterback who won last year's Super Bowl (Russell Wilson) was drafted in the third round, or the quarterback he beat (Manning) wasn't drafted by the team (the Broncos) that he was playing for.
Don't get me wrong, Wilson and Manning are both fine examples (for vastly different reasons) of what I'm talking about, but they are merely Exhibits A and B based on a review of the 12 quarterbacks who took their teams to the
playoffs just last year.
If you think the vast majority of them were first-round picks, think again, because only half of them were and of that six only two - Andrew Luck and Cam Newtown - (three if you count Philip Rivers) were actually drafted by the teams they were playing for. And both (all three if you count Rivers) were the first overall selections in the years they were drafted.
Let's count Rivers because, let's face it, San Diego sucked enough to take him with the first overall pick if they hadn't decided to do that whole we'll-take-Eli-and-swap-him-for-Philip thing in 2004 (and because it's always fun to take a gratuitous swipe at the still trophy-less-after-all-these-years-Chargers).
Counting Rivers only three of last year's 12 playoff quarterbacks (including two chosen first overall in the last three years) were playing for the teams that ACTUALLY drafted them to be their "quarterbacks of the future."
So what of the rest?
Let's start with the three other first-rounders.
We all know Manning's story (Peyton's not Eli's). He was drafted with the first overall pick by Indianapolis in 1998. He played a lot of years for the Colts, and won a Super Bowl along the way. Then he was released by the Colts and signed by the Broncos in 2012 and instantly became their "franchise quarterback."
Manning's release had a lot to do with the size of his contract a neck injury that forced him to miss the 2011 season, Luck's availability and the fact that the Colts owned the top pick and the rights to the league's next can't-miss-quarterback. They pulled the trigger and Luck did not disappoint earning them a spot in the playoffs last year. (Note to readers: Blake Bortles is NOT Andrew Luck! If he was I'd say draft him with the fifth pick. But, if he was he wouldn't be there to draft and, to be fair, maybe he won't be).
Which brings me to Alex Smith. Smith was the first overall pick in 2005 and went to the 49ers, who preferred him to Rodgers that year. However, his time in San Francisco was cut short by the emergence Kaepernick, a younger, cheaper, second-round talent. Smith signed with the Chiefs, who didn't draft him, but put him to good use earning a playoff berth last year. One teams trash ...
Then there's Rodgers - a late first round pick - who eventually forced future Hall of Famer Brett Favre to find work elsewhere. Favre did and was a solid quarterback for much of his post-Packers career. Not a long-term solution, but a plug-and-play "franchise quarterback" by anyone's estimation.
On to the second round and Drew Brees.
Brees just missed being a first-rounder, but he isn't playing for the team that took him at the top of the second round of the 2001 NFL draft. Brees never won a Super Bowl in five seasons with the Chargers (poor Dolts!) but he has since joining the Saints who didn't draft the man who has been their "franchise quarterback" since 2006.
The other two second-rounders in the pack are Kaepernick (who we've already discussed) and Andy Dalton (who we haven't). Suffice it to say that both young quarterbacks allowed their respective franchises to painlessly part ways with their more pricey predecessors. Thanks to Kaepernick, Smith was shown the door in San Francisco and Dalton took the edge off the loss ofCarson Palmer, who went from sitting on his couch in Cincinnati to starting in Oakland and now starting in Arizona.
The remaining two playoff quarterbacks from last year were both third-rounders and one - Wilson - won it all. 'Nuff said!
The other was the Eagles' Nick Foles. Foles took over for another first overall pick - Michael Vick - in Philadelphia last season. It's worth noting that Vick wasn't drafted by the Eagles, though he did take them to the playoffs twice. Now he is a Jet and is a solid preseason away from relegating New York's latest "quarterback of the future," (so long Mark Sanchez!) Geno Smith, to clipboard duty until further notice.
That's life in the quarterback carousel that is the modern day NFL - a league where it really isn't that hard to find what might pass for a "franchise quarterback" even if he's one you didn't draft.
Don't get me wrong I hope the Raiders do draft a quarterback next month and I hope they don't wait until the seventh round to do it. I'm just not sold that Bortles, Manziel, or Bridgewater are soooo much better than the "second-tier" signal callers that we should waste a top-five pick on what amounts to a developmental player.
That isn't to say that any, or all of them, might not have great careers. They might, though this doesn't feel like that kind of quarterback class. There is no Peyton Manning here. No John Elway. Not even an Andrew Luck.
There is only talk of "potential" and "upside," debate about "hand-size" and "height." And then there's the mathematical reality that there's at least an even chance that there is a quarterback who will be picked in the second-, third-, or fourth rounds that turns out to be at least as good, if not considerably better, than any of the "big three."
I'd draft him.
I just wish I knew who he was.