by Bert Bartlett
As the draft nears, it’s obvious the NFL is in a terrific bear market at its most promoted, glamorized, idolized, and lucrative position. This off season’s free agency epitomized agents who think too much of their clients, and desperate front offices and coaches willing to believe them. Personnel eyes for talent are myopic, or a lack of supply has forced their hands. For quarterbacks, it’s a major league Seller’s Market.
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee Robert Griffin III ruined his by stupidly staying in a playoff game several years ago. Kirk Cousins inherited the job and the Redskins finally made the playoffs last season and Coach Jay Gruden held onto his job. The Skins were out of the tourney early, Cousins obviously no match up for an Aaron Rodgers in a shoot out with a season on the line.
This Very Average QB demanded elite type annual salary, $20 MM ($1.25 MM per game) these days, though elites will likely push this to the $25 – $30 MM range in the near future. We’re still not so sure back up Colt McCoy isn’t the best QB on that roster, with the most upside, at a fraction of the cost. But Cousins was able to hold up the front office for them to keep him, Cowboys vs. Indians. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently holding the Jets similar contract hostage in New York after the team had a good year at least as much as him.
Chicago has been stuck with Jay Cutler after re-signing him to a gargantuan guaranteed contract a few seasons ago. Head Coach John Fox did improve the crappy Bear defense, but this forever Man With The Golden Arm has to battle annually to avoid more interceptions than touchdowns, and ward off accusations of a being a leaderless punk. ‘Da Bears spent another post season in front of fire and hearth.
To his credit, he does have a pair of rings (miraculous), but Eli Manning is the ultimate Mr. See Saw. As in, will only rise as high and sink as low as his roster takes him. Which is flat on the ground with this bunch of Gmen. Coach Tom Coughlin defeated icon Bill Belichick with a pair of trophies at stake. When let go, Eli said the team let Coughlin down. That’s not really true. The weak sister squad assembled by GM Jerry Reese couldn’t do anything about it, and Reese is lucky to still have a job.
Out of Eli’s draft class, Philip Rivers in San Diego remains a fiery, capable slinger. But Mr. Turnover When It Counts, and a measly defense, continue to keep the Chargers ensconced in the far west of potential land. Matthew Tough Guy Stafford is resilient, given the beating he has taken in Motown. But Stafford has never met an interception he didn’t like, the Lions remain the Lions, and now the great receiver Calvin Johnson is retired. In Atlanta, Matty Ice Cold Ryan has had more excuses for his fallen potential and mediocrity than President Obama has for his nauseating, tiresome administration.
Tony Mr. Fantasy Romo can’t stay on the field in his mid – 30’s in Dallas. When healthy, this stat machine does put up numbers, but not in playoff wins, if a pair in a dozen or so seasons. He is perfect for Jerry Jones’ Wizard of Oz marketing of the Cowboys. Their back-up, Brandon Goose Egg Weeden looked proficient, including some nice throws in a loss to the Saints here in prime time in the fall, but could not win a game, so was punted to Houston, where he did get off the schneid.
Texan Head Coach Bill O’Brien handled his lack of able signal calling with a lame brained, sorry round of musical chairs. First it was the young Oversleeper Ryan Mallett, who will now get a second shot to wake up as a back-up in Baltimore. Then The Wuss Brian Hoyer, who went back on his heels and threw a pick if a defender breathed within 10 yards of him. Cigarette smoke might have put him in the hospital. This guy was an embarrassment. Cowards of the game don’t usually get to this league; Hoyer slipped through the cracks. Goose Egg Breeden got a shot, then veteran back-up T.J. Yates returned for his second stint, and got hurt. The Texans wasted another season of their stud performing defense. All along O’Brien and his staff were buffoons, still not knowing who they liked, or why. He did just have the sense to cut loose of The Wuss.
This year O’Brien has no excuses; Peyton Manning’s well groomed understudy Brock Feelings Osweiler is flying in. Feelings was insulted that Manning was allowed to finish the year in a Super Bowl run, and also at the Broncos’ $18 MM per annum or thereabouts offer, paving the way for his departure.
Mark Broadway Jose Sanchez is listed at 6’2 but plays shorter, has a mediocre arm, and is way into bust territory as a past #1 draft choice, now on his third team. His most famous play as a Jet was not in an AFC Championship (the defense got them there) butt burying his nose into the derriere of a teammate in trying to get his own fumble, when nobody laid a paw on him. The image was that Broadway Jose closed a club in Manhattan en route to the stadium that morning. John Elway got him to replace Feelings Osweiler in Denver, and will regret it. Sanchez kisses the sky every morning for having a contract, and his $13 MM annual salary in particular.
Sanchez had been back-up to another top draft bust in Philly, Sam Last Man Standing Bradford, who in his first contract got the last of the big guaranteed deals for rookies, $50 MM guaranteed, originally with the Rams. Then Eagle Coach Chip Kelley mistakenly brought Bradford in to try and upgrade over a respectable Nick Foles, though Foles was subsequently benched for a scrub journeyman, No Case For Keenan, after going to Bradford’s former team. Though not a trade of the two, this was a Zero Sum Game.
With the Rams hosting in Los Angeles again, they just mortgaged their future to obtain the top pick in this year’s draft, to take a shaky QB from a lesser college program, whomever it is. The City of Angels is not going to take kindly to lousy play under center, and fans will bolt for the beach by halftime. There are probably less risky and more proven throwing prospects in Canada. The starless Rams are commencing an L.A. renaissance on the wrong feet. .
Refuse and litter are blowing all over the pro gridiron. As illustrated, in many instanc3es, yesterday’s gold is today’s trash. This off season, Colin Next Best Thing Kaepernick had the luxury in considering staying with the 49’ers or possibly take Manning’s place in Denver. A bidding war for this once promising and crashed quarterback felt worse than America ponying up $260 BB in cash and unfrozen assets to tempest Iran, in an already ill fated Mid East nuclear deal last summer. And rather than who offered him the most money, Next Best Thing needs to go somewhere he can possibly remain on a, any roster. New San Francisco Coach Kelley may be his savior, of sorts, if only because of no other choices at hand.
Pathetically, over in Cleveland, where Republicans will clash and possibly crash first, the damaged goods RG III is being brought over from Washington to replace the greatest nickname in all of sports, Johnny Football. In his few years in the league, the only place he has starred is Las Vegas. It’s arguable if he should even be in the league for an array of legal problems, conduct policy violations and addiction issues. But in this wasteland, he may very well be starting for somebody in September.
The league is not without hope for ascending young QB’s who have not developed debilitating habits. Derek Carr in Oakland has the Raiders relevant again, as does Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota. We’ll get a bottom line in a year or so about Blake Bortles and his nubile Jacksonville Jaguars. Jameis Famous For The Wrong Reasons Winston passed his debut with flying colors in Tampa. Rook Marcus Mariota flashed ability before getting hurt in Nashville.
There are five elite QB’s in the NFL. Brady, Rogers, Rothlisberger, Cam Newton has arrived, and Brees. And then there’s everybody else. Russell Wilson is certainly right there in games and a ring won but isn’t a pure enough thrower to dominate with his arm. Joe Flacco was knocking on the door, throws a magnificent deep ball, but is standing still. Alex Smith is as efficient as they come but the Chiefs haven’t gotten over the hump. In Cincy, Andy Dalton still needs to show he won’t melt like mozzarella in the microwave when the bright lights come on.
Drew was dangling to stay in this exclusive club for the first month or so last season. It looked like the question going forward was not his looming contract but whether he should be sent by the Saints somewhere for value by the trading deadline in October. Saints fans were in denial about it, but a reason for Brees’ slow start is that Jimmy Graham wasn’t back there, preoccupying and towering over defensive backfields. Nobody was open. And thence came the sacks. Thankfully for Saints fans, Brees appears mostly himself, again on a cruise control of efficiency and accuracy, and appears healthy for 37. Draft pick Garrett Grayson is a mystery of potential because he didn’t get any live snaps. Pre-season doesn’t count.
Today’s musical chair of QB’s cannot be blamed on lack of prep schooling. The Manning Passing Academy in Thibodeaux, La. is but one of hundreds of summer camps around the country parents dole out for their high school kids that fill up early every year. Colleges have had satellite camps for prospects, and make laughable arguments for them under the auspices of amateurism. Texas leads the states with big time 7 on 7 grade school touch football passing leagues and is a hotbed of development and recruiting activity.
At the college and pro level, individual off season QB consultants book clients at a brisk pace and top dollar for those trying to refine their games, and address weaknesses, such as footwork. The opportunity to become a elite quarterback in Division I college and in the pros is at an all time high, and probably 8.5 out of 10 couples in this country would prefer their boys to become a Tom Brady than POTUS. Plenty of kids that show precocious talent are force fed special diets, and are aggressively pointed in directions more desired by their parents.
We are going to ascribe this bear market to cyclical and lack of draw in the litter. It doesn’t help the position’s cause when head coaches are scared to give new, even if obscure and unproven prospects a shot, having to filter their choices through the GM, owner, and brace for the media. A retread is a “safer” choice.
There is parity amongst NFL teams but currently not much at QB. In prior decades there have been plenty of good hurlers on lesser teams that consistently showed up and did their thing, with Any Given Sunday upset capability. Am going way back in history here, the 1960’s and 70’s, but names like John Hadl and Dan Fouts of the Chargers, Sonny Jurgensen of the Redskins, and Jim Hart of the Cardinals come to mind; they have had equivalent successors in quality over the years.
One would think with all the mediocrity taking snaps, the landscape would be primed for a trendy return to the ground game. But because there are so many flimsy defenses with rules stacked against them, that will be spotty. And when today’s coaches talk about a committing to the run game, plenty are whistling Dixie, particularly when their teams get down by double digits in a given contest. And young offensive coordinators simply haven’t been around long enough to genuinely know when that means, which is a lack of skullduggery in the playbook, and foremost, an unyielding attitude, necessary pre-requisites. When executed in a pristine manner, Ground & Pound can be a beautiful thing.
One thing’s for certain, when it comes to the QB position for the NFL’s 2016 season, Souls of The Saints isn’t buying into any inevitable hype. None whatsoever.
RIP, Saints with Faith, Hokie Gajan, Will Smith