It’s an all too common story in the NFL. Hotshot college QB gets drafted in the first round, has no help on a bad team, and is out of the league in five years, judged a failure. Were the scouts wrong? Sure, scouts are often wrong, or something happens to a quarterback between the time they are drafted and the time they leave the league: injuries, drug problems, gambling problems(Schlichter). Or sometimes they are just a head case(Ryan Leaf).
But other times they just toil for a few years with a bad team and the team just… cuts them. Sometimes the QB in question isn’t even 25 yet. Then they draft a new QB, who also usually fails, unless the team got a lot better in the interim. Meanwhile, a playoff team has lost their star QB to an injury, and a 7th round choice takes over and succeeds wonderfully. Then that 7th rounder gets a big contract with another team and looks like a 7th rounder again.
So here are my questions:
What goes into the decision to decide a QB is a lost cause even though he clearly doesn’t have any help and using a 1st round pick on another QB just puts another kid in an impossible situation? Do the scouts weigh in on whether he can play and just needs support, or does the front office just decide it’s time to make a change for other reasons(like fans turning on the QB or a new coach deciding he wants HIS favorite guy to run the offense)?
When a low-regarded backup QB succeeds with a playoff caliber team, does the front office ask the scouts if the guy is ACTUALLY better than when they scouted him in college, or do they just sign him because he has great stats and assume he’ll help their team too?
When a highly regarded, still very young 1st rounder gets cut by his original team, what goes into the decision by another team to pick him up? Seems like almost all of those young QBs do get signed by someone else, and some even go on to be very good QBs. Others end up being career backups, and others just get cut again. What separates a Vinny Testaverde or Jim Plunkett from a Matt Leinart or Brady Quinn? The college experience and the physical tools all seem to be at a very high level.
Has a playoff caliber team ever lost a quarterback and the backup NOT done well? Seems like any NFL-caliber QB can succeed on a team where receivers get open, linemen give him good protection, and there’s a running game to take pressure off the passing game. The only examples I can think of are the Colts when they lost Manning and the Dolphins when Scott Mitchell replaced Marino. But those seem to be exceptions that prove the rule, since Manning and Marino were capable of carrying a whole offense on their backs and their loss rendered the offense punchless. Whereas if you replace Jim Kelly with Frank Reich or Bob Griese with Earl Morrall, the dropoff is far less noticeable.