The draft is once again creeping up on us. With the Cowboys’ season essentially ending on a back-breaking Tony Romo interception, much has been made throughout BTB over the future of the quarterback position in Dallas. Though it may be my own personal belief, it is not my aim to convince anyone that the Cowboys need to invest in a quarterback in the upcoming draft. My intent is to illustrate the fact that when the Cowboys do decide to search for the next signal caller, they must invest early round capital if they want to avoid another decade of mediocrity.
Of the 32 NFL teams, 24 of them currently list former 1st round draft picks atop their quarterback depth chart. Four other teams are currently led by 2nd or 3rd rounders. Only 4 current NFL starters were selected later than the 3rd round: Tony Romo, Ryan Fitzpatrick, John Skelton, and the aberration known as Tom Brady. Keep in mind that only Brady is in the playoffs, Skelton and Fitzpatrick are awful, and Tony Romo is…well, Tony Romo.
Looking at the last 10 drafts, I have run the numbers on every quarterback selected in round 4 or later. Before I delve into the abysmal statistics, I have taken the time to list each and every one of these middling, hapless, forgotten signal callers. It’s easier to wrap your mind around the complete failure of late round quarterbacks when you see the endless list of names in front of you in totality.
2004: Luke McCown 4/106, Craig Krenzel 5/148, Andy Hall 6/185, Josh Harris 6/187, Jim Sorgi 6/193, Jeff Smoker 6/201, John Navarre 7/202, Cody Pickett 7/217, Casey Bramlet 7/218, Matt Mauck 7/225, BJ Symons 7/248, Bradlee Van Pelt 7/250
Disclaimer: I understand that it’s somewhat unfair to judge the success of quarterbacks selected in the last few drafts, as their starting opportunities may be in their future. Also, I only went back 10 years due to nothing other than my own laziness. But glancing at the names all the way back into the 90's, the previous 10 years were no more prosperous for late round field generals.
Since 2003, there have been a total of 72 quarterbacks selected in rounds 4-7 of the NFL draft. Keep in mind when looking at the win/loss totals, that pro-football-reference.com awards “no decisions” in some cases, so the win/loss totals don’t always match up exactly with the number of games started.
Of the 72 quarterbacks selected in rounds 4-7 of the NFL draft since 2003:
43 have ZERO career starts to date.
52 have ZERO career wins to date.
Only 7 have more than 15 career starts.
Wrap your mind around that for a second. If averages pretty much hold true, when you draft a quarterback after the 3rd round, you only have about a 28% chance of them EVER STARTING A GAME FOR YOU. Furthermore only about 10% of them go on to start a season’s worth of games over the course of their entire career.
The combined record of this group is 148-262-1, in 411 starts.
Even this number is skewed, as 4 quarterbacks (Orton – 69, Anderson – 43, Cassel – 62, and Fitzpatrick – 67, oddly all from the 2005 class) account for 241 of the starts for this group. Remove those 4, and the combined record for the other 68 quarterbacks is 43-130-1.
4 quarterbacks in the group have winning records, each of whom ( Orton 35-34, Dixon 2-1, Krenzel 3-2, Henson 1-0) only a single game over .500.
Whenever the Cowboys do decide to draft Tony Romo’s successor, it must be done in the early rounds. What do we all say about the way that the front office has gone about building the offensive line? We say that they have only been half-ass trying because until Tyron Smith, they hadn’t spent any early round picks on the position. How could you think any differently about the most important position on the field?
Selecting a quarterback is not the time to try to outsmart the room. It’s time to do your homework, do more homework, and make a serious investment in a guy you believe in. Tony Romo was an aberration, and this team has been mediocre even with him. Scroll back up to that list of nobodies and tell me what the last 7 seasons would have been like with one of those scrubs leading the troops. Worse yet, do you want any of those types leading our beloved Cowboys through the next 7 seasons? Well, when your are looking for QB's in the late rounds of the draft, those are the guys you get.
Yes, of course, there is risk involved with early round picks. Plenty of first round quarterbacks turn out to be busts, but isn’t that true with any position? Every year your first round selection has the opportunity to set your organization back. Does whiffing on Bobby Carpenter hurt your team any worse than whiffing on a quarterback? It’s still a wasted first round pick regardless. There is no guarantee that by selecting a quarterback in the first 3 rounds you will find a savior; but it is virtually guaranteed that you will not find him any later than that.