Let's sidestep the Mike Leach vs. Mike Sherman, Tech vs. A&M by proxy through Graham Harrell and Stephen McGee kerfluffle and examine the wisdom of selecting a mid-round quarterback.
The Cowboys' pick of McGee, at a time when they have a solid veteran, suggests to me that the organization is maturing in its draft outlook, that it's taking a longer view, rather than reflexively grabbing players to fill immediate needs.
Quarterback is the game's most needed position. Look at the price the Chiefs paid for Matt Cassell and the much heftier check the Bears wrote to obtain Jay Cutler. Given the heavy demand and meager supply, it's surprising that more teams with sure starters don't invest in quarterback development.
Two teams in recent years have made a habit of drafting quarterbacks, whether they needed them or not. Both reaped handsome rewards.
Let's look at the 1990s Ron Wolf-led Packers. Wolf sent the franchise on its way back to prominence when he sent a 1992 first round pick to Atlanta for a second year backup named Brett Favre. Favre quickly established himself as a top-tier QB but that did not stop Wolf from drafting a quarterback almost every year of his tenure as Packers GM.
Look at this list of prospects:
- '93 -- Mark Brunell, 5th round;
- '95 -- Jay Barker, 5th round;
- '96 -- Kyle Wachholtz, 7th round;
- '98 -- Matt Hasselbeck, 6th round;
- '99 -- Aaron Brooks, 4th round;
Wolf never went more than three seasons without drafting a quarterback. Not all of them hit, but that's not the point. Green Bay always had a young quarterback in waiting in case Favre went down. Because he proved to be one of the most durable quarterbacks in league history, Wolf could trade his prospects and enjoy a handsome return on his initial investment. Consider:
- Brunell cost the Packers a 5th round pick and was traded for a 3rd and a 5th.
- Brooks cost a 4th and was dealt in a package for linebacker K.D Williams and a 3rd round pick
- Hasselbeck was a 6th rounder and was used to help the Packers move up from 17th to 10th in the draft. The points assigned to Hasselbeck add up to a low 2nd round pick.
This decade, the Patriots have adopted the Wolf formula and have struck it rich. Bill Belichick took over a team that had an established vet in Drew Bledsoe, but has picked QBs in five of his ten years running the team.
As with Green Bay, not all Belichick's QBs developed. Rohan Davey and Cliff Kingsbury were busts. But the hits were enormous. 6th round pick Tom Brady's instant superstar play let New England trade the aging Bledsoe for a 1st round pick. 7th rounder Cassell brought the 34th pick this year and could have brought more had the Patriots wanted to accept a first rounder.
If McGee develops, Dallas will have two quarterback assets, in a league where many teams have none. Regardless of whether he hits or busts, the Cowboys should not hesitate to draft another quarterback two years down the line and every second or third year thereafter.
Because you never know when you'll need a quarterback. In 1979 the Cowboys' 3rd round pick came on the clock and a quarterback topped their draft board. The team had Roger Staubach and were happy with backups Danny White and Glenn Carano. They passed on the QB prospect and took TE Doug Cosbie instead.
Cosbie had a solid career and retired with all the Cowboys' tight end records, but the team's quarterback depth quickly dissipated. Staubach surprised the team by retiring the following spring and Carano, a '77 2nd rounder, flamed out. White was quite good for several years, but never got his team to a Super Bowl.
And that quarterback the Cowboys passed up? He had a pretty good career too.
His name is Joe Montana.