Wookie Quarterbacks Struggling

Nearly every year in the NFL, the lousy pro football teams from the year before line-up at the draft table and salivate about taking the top quarterback picks coming out of college.

Going back years ago to 1970, I remember my hometown quarterback Terry Bradshaw came out of Shreveport and Louisiana Tech to surprise the nation as the overall number one draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Terry retired years later with four Super Bowl rings and landed in the NFL Hall of Fame.  Pittsburgh was wise enough to surround their talented quarterback with a terrific offensive line and a multitude of future NFL Hall-of Famers.

The resurrection of the Pittsburgh Steelers from lovable losers to Super Bowl champs was a terrific story, but it simply doesn’t happen very often.

In 2002, there was a gifted “can’t miss” college quarterback prospect by the name of David Carr who was setting NCAA records galore at Fresno State.  Like Terry Bradshaw, David Carr was the number one overall draft pick of the Houston Texans.   Unlike Terry Bradshaw, David Carr’s NFL career was best known for being sacked – early and often.

In his first year with the fledgling Houston Texans, David Carr would end up getting crushed and sacked an NFL record 76 times.  Instead of winning Super Bowl rings, David Carr found himself running for his life in nearly every game.  He would be sacked 49 times in 2004 and 68 times in 2005.

In fact, during his first 84 games as an NFL quarterback, Carr was clobbered 261 times behind the line of scrimmage.  That’s well over three sacks per game.  Naturally, David Carr suffered knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, back, and head injuries.  The Texans’ team training room should be named in honor of David Carr since he was in there so often.

When you are a talented college quarterback and drafted with the #1 overall pick, there is a chance that you may succeed in the NFL, but there is a greater chance that you won’t be walking into the NFL Hall of Fame at the end of your football career (unless you come as a visitor).

There is a good reason that those teams are picking first in the NFL draft.  The teams who are picking first were the worst teams in the league the previous year.  Those teams usually have many deficiencies in addition to quarterback.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Terry Bradshaw in 1970, the Steelers had won just six games – in the past three seasons combined!  Bradshaw was fortunate that the Steelers drafting decisions and coaching skills improved vastly during his stay in Steel City.

For young David Carr, the opposite occurred.  The Houston Texans were a brand new NFL franchise in 2002.  With a team comprised of cast-offs from the other NFL teams and a lot of rookies, Carr was doomed from the start.

It didn’t help that the Houston Texans’ miserable management team (which was understandably slightly inept at the beginning) continued to deteriorate into the comically inept organization which they remain in 2021.  Joining the trio of Cleveland, Detroit, and Jacksonville, the Texans haven’t even come close to participating in a single Super Bowl.

Choosing a quarterback with the first overall pick in the NFL draft is risky with no guarantee of success.  In just the last ten seasons, six of the overall number one draft picks have been quarterbacks.  Let’s look at how many Super Bowls these talented signal callers have played in:

2011 – Cam Newton (Auburn) – Played in one Super Bowl (2016 – lost to Denver)

2015 – Jameis Winston (Florida State) – None

2016 – Jared Goff (California) – None

2018 – Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) – None

2019 – Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) – None

2020 – Joe Burrow (LSU) – None

In 2021, this year’s number one overall pick was…yes, another quarterback!

In fact, five of the top fifteen picks in the 2021 NFL draft were quarterbacks.  As we just covered, the teams picking early are the teams which finished the previous season with the worst records.  They obviously believe that they need quarterbacks, but most teams have additional needs to fill to become a success in the long run.

Ah, yes, but a highly visible smiling new quarterback can give the fans of a pro football franchise a new glimmer of hope.

And sell season tickets, too!

Those ticket buyers will fantasize about their new young leader becoming the next Super Bowl winner such as former overall #1 picks like Terry Bradshaw, John Elway and Peyton Manning.  Yes, your team’s new “can’t miss” quarterback just might be just what your favorite team needs to finally play in the NFL’s big season finale!

As Saturday morning college football TV kick-off show coach Lee Corso likes to say, “Not so fast!

 After Week #3 of the NFL season, let’s review how the 2021 first round class of quarterbacks is faring:

#1 – Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) to Jacksonville (0-3) – Passer rating 60.3 (#32 overall)

#2 – Zach Wilson (BYU) – New York Jets (0-3) – Passer rating 51.6 (#33 overall)

#3 – Trey Lance (N. Dakota State) – San Francisco (2-1) – One pass attempted  N/A

#11 – Justin Fields (Ohio State) – Chicago (1-2) – Passer rating 39.1 (#34 overall)

#15 – Mac Jones (Alabama) – New England (1-2) – Passer rating 79.1 (#29 overall)

If an NBA basketball team selects the best overall player in the draft, that player is 20% of a team’s five-man line-up.  It’s possible to make an improvement by the contributions of a talented rookie.

This isn’t the case in the NFL.  Though the quarterback is a key player for a football team’s offense, there are 21 other players needed to field the team’s starting offense and defense.  As former #1 pick David Carr will tell you, being hit several times every game by 250-300 pound players can change a confident college gunslinger into a paranoid NFL quarterback with a trigger finger and a perpetual swivel on his neck.

Let’s not throw in the towel just yet on this young underperforming group of NFL rookies too quickly.

These young players were taken (without any say so by the player) by some of the NFL’s worst teams.  It is always possible that some of the team’s other pressing needs will be addressed in future drafts.  Perhaps there is a chance that we may see one of these talented quarterbacks develop along into the type of team worthy of playing in a future Super Bowl down the road.

Sadly, the odds will be against it.

When a perpetually lousy NFL franchise with a track record of mediocrity selects a quarterback with its top draft pick, the best chance for some of these “Star” players to reach a Super Bowl will be by moving along and signing a new contract to play with a more competitive franchise when his rookie contract ends in four years.

That is assuming that your favorite “Wookie” quarterback- can still walk upright and throw a football well enough by then.  May The Force be with him!