I was catching up on the latest podcast of Talking Cowboys from the mothership, and towards the end the group got into a discussion of whether the Dallas Cowboys should consider drafting a quarterback. It is an old argument, but also a very valid question. The specific name mentioned was Aaron Murray, the injured Georgia QB who had his pro day this week. He did quite well and is telling everyone he has no physical limitations. He's become a very intriguing mid-round option from many teams.
Ed Cahill talked about how he had taken Murray in the fourth round of a mock draft, and Mickey Spagnola proceeded to explain why that was not a good idea. He basically took the view that the fourth round was too high to take a quarterback who was not even going to have a chance to see the field his first couple of years. Basically, he gave the impression that the only realistic way to find a franchise quarterback, whether for right away or for the future, was to get one in the first round. Taking one later was always a long shot, and despite the success of Russell Wilson, it was unlikely a team was really going to succeed going that route.
The other people on the panel nodded their heads sagely at Mickey's wisdom. I, on the other hand, was rather saddened by the fact that I was not watching it live, so I had no chance to try and contact the show to tell them just how wrong Mickey was.
I think the Cowboys should be drafting quarterbacks and are way overdue. Yes, the last one they took was the disappointing Stephen McGee, but when you are taking them in the later rounds, you are playing a numbers game. The Green Bay Packers have done this for years, which was mentioned in the program, and while seven of the eight quarterbacks they have taken in the past nine years (if I recall the numbers correctly) have not worked out, the other was Aaron Rodgers.
You have to go through a lot of bodies to find someone who can become that franchise player unless you are using first-round picks. Your odds of success are much higher in the first round, but there are two problems with considering that the only way to find your signal caller.
First, you need to be early in the first round. And that means you have to do one of two things: You have to be willing to mortgage your future and give up a boatload of current and future picks to trade into those top few spots in the draft. Of course, if you blow your evaluation, or don't surround that superstar with enough talent, you do like Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins did, and give away the gold-plated gift the St. Louis Rams have this year.
The other way to do it is to just suck one season and "earn" one of those lottery picks yourself.
Nobody really wants to get to those handful of top picks you need to select that superstar quarterback coming out of college. But there is no other way to have a chance at the guaranteed, can't miss quarterback who will lead you to Superbowl glory for years to come.
However, that leaves out that one little detail: That guaranteed, can't miss quarterback sometimes turns out to be Jamarcus Russell. Or Tim Couch. Or Ryan Leaf.
And too often, you have a year like 2014. There are three quarterbacks expected to go in the first round, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel. There are two others that may also make it into the first, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Now, pretend for a moment you are the GM of an NFL franchise that really needs a quarterback, like the Cleveland Browns, the Oakland Raiders, or the Minnesota Vikings. Tell me which one of those five names you are prepared to bet your job on as the answer for your team.
The simple fact this year is that there is no sure thing. All the available candidates have some flaws There are holes in their games, unknowns about how they will adapt to NFL offenses, and questions about how they physically fit the game.
This is a problem that may just get worse from now on, as the college game with spread offenses and running quarterbacks seems to be diverging from the NFL style. Attempts to bring the style of play that works for many NCAA programs have seen limited success. The injury to Robert Griffin III shows the problem. Being a running threat as a quarterback is something a 20-year-old can do for a couple of seasons in college, but it is not going to be a good strategy for someone who wants to have a 10-year career in the pros.
If you wind up with a top pick because you were so bad the year before, and then you get a flop, you now have extended your misery.
While the cost of a mid-round pick for a quarterback that is no sure thing may seem steep, it is still a better approach. It may require trying again in a year or two if you fail to find what you are looking for, but it at least offers the chance of finding a replacement for your current starter. And it can work. Wilson is an example. Tom Brady is another. Colin Kaepernick was a second-rounder. And I seem to remember something about a guy named Tony Romo not even being drafted.
I won't even go into the "I" word here, but we all know there could be a worst case scenario where the need for a quarterback could become a lot more immediate.
So I fully disagree with Mr. Spagnola. I would say go for a quarterback, and I think Aaron Murray would be a great option in the fourth round. If he is gone earlier (and he may well be), I would hope the team looks to find someone else, probably a bit later. Dallas needs to start tying to groom a replacement for Romo. Maybe Brandon Weeden would become that, but frankly I don't want all my eggs in that particular basket. I'm not sure I want one in that basket, but I suppose we are there already.
It's time to play the numbers game. Draft a developmental QB late, or grab one as a UDFA, and see what blooms. If they don't, rinse and repeat. It may come down to having to draft early after a really bad season, but the Cowboys shouldn't just sit on their hands and wait for that to happen.