One would think that if you are put in charge of running a billion dollar business, you are probably pretty intelligent. 25 of the 32 NFL franchises are valued at $1B or more.
Tonight however is the annual test to that theory, the NFL Draft. The event that causes coaches and general managers all across the league to turn into amateur gambler on their first trip to Las Vegas.
Coaches, GM’s, CEO’s and Team Presidents scrap business models that they have been working on for months and some cases years, in a matter of seconds to make a bold, and in most cases a stupid impulse move.
To win in the NFL today, you need 3 things, a franchise quarterback, a strong offensive line and a dominant defense. You can probably be successful with just two of those three, but most serious Super Bowl contenders have all three.
It seems most teams are aware of this not-so-secret recipe for success in the NFL, yet year in and year out we see teams make awful mistakes on Draft Day as they try to build a champion in one day rather than over an extended period of time. Maybe this has to do with unrealistic expectations of a fan base or the impatience of ownership, but for whatever reason, this happens just as often as those awkward Man-Hugs that Roger Goodell will be giving out tonight.
Franchise Quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. For most teams they are a once in a generation luxury. For instance, this year there is no franchise QB’s in the draft. Yet teams are fighting for the rights to get Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Both are nice quarterbacks who were fantastic college players, but will probably be more likely to battle for starting spots throughout their careers than battle for Super Bowl titles.
Tampa Bay, and most likely Tennessee, will select these two quarterbacks with the first two picks in the draft instead of building a winning team with the other two ingredients needed for success in the NFL. Tennessee allowed the 6th most yards and 3rd most points in the NFL last year. Tampa allowed the 8th most yards and points last season. So maybe drafting a game-changer on defense is the best option for them. It certainly couldn’t hurt and we know that this draft has plenty of defensive stars in it. Or maybe they could address the offensive line. No team allowed their QB to get hit more than Tampa last year (124 times). Both Tennessee and Tampa finished in the bottom 7 in rushing yards and sacks allowed last season as well. It is pretty safe to say that both teams would certainly benefit from drafting a stud offensive lineman.
However, that is not how this NFL works on Draft Day. Draft Day is the day that general managers throw all common sense out the window. They ignore the fact that drafting Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota or the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning won’t matter if your offensive line couldn’t stop the local Pop Warner from planting him into the ground. They ignore the fact that their defenses gave up over 40 points in a game a combined 5 times (3 by TEN, 2 by TB) last season, while holding the opponent to single digits just once (Tampa).
Also the pressure and expectations put on these rookie quarterbacks is crazy. Rookie quarterbacks were never expected to walk in and start from day 1 until recently. Ben Roethlisberger had unprecedented success as a rookie and ever since it is believed that is the norm rather than the exception. Let’s remember, that even though Roethlisberger won his first 15 games as a starter his rookie year, he also was not the starter to begin the year. He only became the starter after an elbow injury to the original starter, Tommy Maddox.
So now, these teams are drafting quarterbacks at the top of the draft. Hoping they can be a franchise quarterback. Starting them from Day 1 and expecting immediate success despite playing behind an awful offensive line and the need to put up 30+ points a game because their defense can’t keep anyone out of the end zone.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to address other issues that your team has? There are probably numerous if you are drafting at the top of the draft.
All these teams are doing now is setting their “Franchise Quarterbacks” up for failure. My guess is that these same two teams will be drafting towards the top of the draft next year too.
EXTRA DRAFT RANT:
While I’m on my draft soap box… Why in the world would any team use a top 10 pick on a wide receiver? Yes Amari Cooper and Kevin White are legit playmakers, but with so many college programs using 3 and 4 and 5 wide receivers, they have become a dime a dozen in the NFL. Of the top 8 receivers in the NFL last year, only Julio Jones was a top 10 pick. You can make anyone into a super star at the wide receiver position with the style of offenses in the NFL today. Why waste a top pick on that position, when you can get the same results later in the draft?
Just another head scratcher that NFL GM’s do every draft.