Here’s a jarring stat from ESPN’s Kevin Seifert:
21 of the 62 quarterbacks selected between 2010 and 2014 were waived before the start of their third seasons.
When the offseason started, perhaps the biggest question mark in the entire league was what the Cowboys were going to do with the fourth-overall pick. For the early part of the draft process, until the two big trades happened, just about every pundit was talking about the Cowboys taking a quarterback, whether it be Carson Wentz or Jared Goff. They even tried to trade back into the first to get Paxton Lynch on draft night. The truth was that the price for the position out-priced what the club was willing to do. They may have been willing to sit and pick one at four, but two teams felt it necessary to mortgage future picks to get their guy now. Then, Dallas decided they weren't willing to part with picks 34 and 67 past a certain point. The Broncos swooped in and landed their quarterback hopeful for an already Super Bowl-caliber team. C'est la vie.
Sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust, but life goes on. See, a lot of analysts would like you to believe that the Cowboys are desperate for a quarterback outside the Tony Romo-years and need one as soon as possible. There is a little truth in there, but it's not the whole story. Those folks are not content with Kellen Moore (neither am I) or Dak Prescott (jury's out). What they don't talk about is that fact that the Cowboys aren't the only team with an aging quarterback that hasn't found their true succession plan yet. Not every team drafts one seemingly every other year like the Patriots, though it's not a terrible idea.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, wrote a column detailing how the Patriots are the 'gold standard' for the theory of taking quarterbacks and that those with aging quarterbacks will eventually catch on. Maybe not:
The 24 quarterbacks drafted in the first and seconds rounds since 2011 signal the desperation felt throughout the league about the position -- unless you’re the Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, Chargers, Saints and Cardinals, who have mined the bargain bin for developmental quarterbacks despite having starting QBs with a median average age of 35.3. The Chargers haven’t drafted a quarterback higher than the fifth round since 2006.
Here's the rub in all that he's said above, though he goes on with some enlightening detail throughout, those six teams all have one thing in common: those are some of the league's top passers. None of those guys have shown true digression. All of them are still playing at a pretty high level - when healthy. There's the other caveat, outside of Eli Manning, the other quarterbacks in those six teams do get dinged up.
Still, when you have a starting franchise quarterback that is still producing at a high level such as these, it's hard to spend premium picks on quarterbacks like the Patriots did with Jimmy Garrapolo. The Patriots have been a very good team under Bill Belichick and about as close to a dynasty team in today's NFL as you are going to get. However, even though they have been competing for Super Bowls for a while, you cannot dismiss all the black marks that have come during that time.
Marks like Deflate Gate and Spy Gate can be mentioned but those are easy pickings. You could also bring forth an argument about their path to the AFC Championship most years was pretty clear as they've only missed the division title twice since their first title in 2001. Until 2014, New England's latest championship, they had been out of the winning Super Bowls business for a decade. They were beaten twice by the Tom Coughlin-led Giants, their first defeat in a season where they went 16-0 in the regular season. Radio guys like Colin Cowherd were wondering if it was all over for them until they made that game-winning interception for their fourth title in the Belichick-Brady era. That said, there is no argument as they've been a dominant force in the NFL for a while now. Perhaps one of the absolute best teams at acquiring talent, which has made it easier for them to take quarterbacks when they please.
I don't disagree with the premise of Fowler's column, I do have a bone to pick with the idea that New England somehow is the 'gold standard' for drafting quarterbacks specifically. For starters, they got Tom Brady with the 199th pick in the 2000 draft, not too far off from where the Cowboys found Romo in 2003. They have drafted Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett but who really knows what they are yet? I'm not down with the assumed. And Fowler is assuming, hey, it's New England, these guys are going to be good. Not exactly, since Brady has been the starter, the Patriots have taken eight quarterbacks. Those names are Brissett, Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett, Zac Robinson, Kevin O'Connell, Matt Cassel, Kliff Kingsbury and Rohan Davey. One of those guys has had marginal success (with the Chiefs) but none was considered to be a franchise guy or even a true quality starter in this league. We'll find out about Jimmy and Jacoby later.
If you really want to look for a team that is the 'gold standard', it's far more likely to be the Packers than the Patriots, but that's none of my business. Onward and upward.
Fowler points out that these teams are not pressing for passers because they likely don't want to develop a player that will play for another team. It's a harsh world in the NFL, but that's likely a reality:
"It’s like if you draft a quarterback too early, you might be training them for someone else," Savage said. "And when you already have the kind of financial commitment to one position, you figure your top quarterback is durable enough where you can spread the wealth in other areas."
"It’s probably as much the coaching emphasis as well -- we will put time and energy into a player who’s not going to see the field, essentially," Savage said. "It’s the win-now mentality."
That's probably pretty in-line with the majority of these teams' thinking. Phil Savage strikes me as a guy who knows what he's talking about though he did run the Browns for a while. Where Fowler and I agree is that we are in sort of an "Age of Ageless Quarterbacks". The position has become like what kickers were, guys that play possibly into their 40s without significant decline. It just depends on how you stack the roster around the most important player. 2015 was the year that saw the drastic decline of Peyton Manning, but it's not like he didn't have a long and illustrious career before that. Tom Brady's two-year extension has him playing until he's 42-years old. Drew Brees is currently looking to extend his playing time with the New Orleans Saints, he's 37.
What it comes down to is that it's extremely hard to look past your guy when you got a guy. There are tons of teams that would trade places with any of the teams mentioned in this column twice over. Think about all the teams that don't even have one quarterback and it gives you a perspective that we're sitting here arguing about our number two. The statistic that opened this column is damning of the position outlook around the league to say the very least.
You can't fault the Cowboys for trying as they really did try but at some point they saw what they had and weren't willing to part with more premium picks for a guy they really liked a lot but maybe didn't love. One thing is sure, the front office doesn't seem to think they settled for Dak Prescott. They actually like him even though the owner wanted a different toy from the shop and will see if they can make something out of him. The NFL is a copycat league, it's just very interesting that most of the conversation this offseason has been about the Cowboys, when lots of teams are in the same boat, in the same waters, taking the same risks in hopes to make the great catch.