With the continuous debates/arguments regarding Alex Smith, the drafting of Aaron Murray and the hope some have pinned on Tyler Bray it led me to doing some research on franchise quarterbacks and what is involved in finding one.
I think we can all agree that the quarterback position is the most important position on the football field. Even if you don't think so the NFL does, it is shown in the salaries and the league rules that have been created over the years to help protect them from being injured.
Before we delve into the heart of finding a franchise quarterback (shown as FQB from here on) let's define what a FQB is. Not an easy thing to do as it is a term that is thrown around freely by fans, media and coaches. Some would say a FQB is one at the top of his profession. If that is the case then each year there are 32 FQB's because a starter in the NFL is at the top of his profession, so there must be more to it that that. We could use stats to try and define a FQB or even use win-loss records. As coach Bill Belicheck once said "stats are for losers".
Bleacher Report correspondent Sam Snyder narrowed it down to four criteria in 2009: consistency, talent, leadership/maturity, and football IQ. What is a Franchise Quarterback Exactly?
Now that we have made the attempt at defining what an FQB is let's move onto the task of how to find one. Since I'm not a scout, coach, GM or even a player and am just an avid NFL and die hard Chiefs fan, Let's see what those in the profession have to say about it.
Paraag Marathe, Chief Operating Officer of the San Francisco 49ers says "The quarterback position is such a difficult position to evaluate because it’s part physical talent and part cerebral talent,". "The standard deviation in physical skill set is so small at the NFL level. Physically, by the time they get to the NFL, players have been weeded out physically ten times over–starting at Pee wee, and high school, in Division III, Division II, Division I, being a starter versus a redshirt player, getting drafted in the first round or the seventh round, But, mentally there’s a bigger gap. That’s the difference between a successful quarterback and an unsuccessful quarterback."
This could be why teams find it so hard to make a good decision when drafting a quarterback. You just can't predict success on talent alone.
Joe Banner the former CEO requested the study which according to reports determined that Teddy Bridgewater was the best QB in this years draft. This could have been a smoke screen since they passed up Teddy and selected the polarizing Johnny "Football" Manziel preferred by some homeless guy. Homeless guy says draft Manziel
Some interesting quotes in this article. When do you quit on a Franchise QB?
"You really need the perfect [situation] if you're going to succeed as a [franchise] quarterback," said David Carr, who is now a backup with the New York Giants. "You need a good offensive line, weapons around you and a play caller who knows what you do well. If you have success early, you get time. If you don't, then your time is limited."
"I've talked to guys like Steve Young, Troy Aikman, John Elway and Brett Favre about this,"said ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer. "They may not have realized it at the time but institutional support is what allowed them to develop. They made mistakes. They had their flaws. They had labels put on them. But in the end, everything in the organization was built around them succeeding.... You can have the most talented quarterback in the world. If you bring him into a dysfunctional situation, he's going to fail."
Don Shula, winner of 347 games and only had 2 losing season in his 36 year career. As the Dolphins coach he coached in 5 Super Bowls winning two of them and the only coach to ever have an undefeated season in 1972.
"I’m not an expert on quarterbacks." "If it works you go with it. If it doesn’t you gotta keep searching. That’s what I’ve always tried to do."
"Fortunately we had some great, great players come through our organization and they’ve been real impact players, and that’s what I’ve always looked for."
"Everything has to work," Shula says. "The supporting cast has to be good. The offensive line has to be good. The defense has to be able to get the ball for the offense. It takes a lot of teamwork."
As we can see it takes more than just talent, it takes the mental makeup and and a good team to make a FBQ. You don't just go out and find one.
When is the best time to draft a QB that will hopefully become that FBQ that every team wants? If you said the first round you would be correct.
As the table on Draft History shows since 1967 there have only been 8 Super Bowls where at least one of the starting QB's wasn't a first round pick.
Football Outsiders have done a nice article on QB's and where they were drafted for the past 20 years. It shows are some decent QB's found in later rounds but the majority of the good ones are still first round picks.
Tom Brady is probably the most widely known QB taken late in the draft (6th rd) and is a rarity in the NFL becoming one of the best since he was drafted.
Much of the FBQ success isn't just his own talent, much of it is from the coaching staff and team built around them. Almost every good QB over the history of the game has had consistency in good coaching, good offensive system and a good O-line.
Tom Brady – Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning – Tony Dungy for most of his career, Joe Montana had Bill Walsh and George Seifert as did Steve Young, Dan Marino – Don Shula, Brett Favre – Mike Holgrem, John (Horseface) Elway had Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan, Aaron Rodgers has had Mike McCarthy known as a great offensive mind.
That consistency in well designed offensive systems with great leadership is what has made a huge difference in those player's and teams success.
Hopefully you have made it this far and are now asking me "How does this apply to the KC Chiefs?".
The Chiefs have been in QB Purgatory. If you ask me this applies to the Chiefs quite appropriately.
"The area a team resides in when it has a quarterback who is good enough to win them games but doesn’t have that upper echelon of talent to be able to lift his team to Super Bowl contention level. It’s not really QB heaven (Rodgers/Brady/Brees/Manning) and it’s not really QB hell (Henne/Gabbert). It’s right in the middle, hence QB purgatory."
Meet Matt Cassel. The most recent Chiefs QB fitting this category.
Most teams are in this same place. Those that seem to find a way out are the teams that find themselves in QB hell and draft a QB in the first round and then develop a team around him. Well the Chiefs hit QB hell in 2012 and had an opportunity to draft a No. 1 QB with the first overall pick last year. Since it was probably the worst year to have that pick with no clear FQB to pick we went with Eric Fisher our future (hopefully Hall of Fame) left tackle and getting Alex Smith in trade. I for one am holding out hope that Alex will become the FQB for the Chiefs.
I know may of you have your doubts and understandably so. But if you look at Alex's history you will see that he hasn't had one of the main requirements for him to be a FQB like Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning among others. Consistency at coach and system. He finally had that in SF under Jim Harbaugh until they drafted Kaepernick who has more upside and athletic ability than Smith. Alex started to prove that consistency makes a difference as he became a winner and has shown the traits of being able to win games and make plays without just relying on his team alone. I see the same thing happening in KC with Andy Reid and the system he has brought to our beloved Chiefs.
I like to look and think outside of the box. I agree with what is written here and that the Chiefs have found an Alternate Route to getting to the Super Bowl. They have their 1st round drafted QB and are in the process of building a team around him. Andy Reid is a proven head coach with an offensive system that has proven to win games and take a team deep into the playoffs.
I'm glad our new regime hasn't reached in the draft trying to get a FQB when there wasn't one available hoping to just get lucky. Because finding a FQB is just that. It is pure luck that you find a talent with the right mindset and mental fortitude to fit into a system and become a winning QB. To many teams have done exactly that and reached with picks like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder.
I feel this is why Andy Reid and John Dorsey have placed their eggs in the Alex Smith basket and see him as a FQB. I hope they work out a longer term deal (without mortgaging the future) with Alex and he proves that he is more than capable with the right system, team around him and coaching he can take us to the promised land and get one of these.
A special thanks goes out to Upamtn for his input, positive attitude and help he provided for this post.