WARNING: This is a post is about to engage in a severe form of nitpicking of two quality analysts of football – one whom I know and respect greatly. I only know the true intention of one of the two statements below about NFL quarterback prospects and that one came with Doug’s response after originally posting this peice – and it wasn’t what I was thinking. Even before posting this addendum, I had a feeling these quotes didn’t match the thoughts of the speakers.
What was more important to me about these quotes wasn’t the thoughts behind the speakers, but the general attitude I’m seeing in other contexts. Attitudes that – regardless of the intent of these quotes – sound dismissive. And it’s the conclusions these statements appear to make that are as dead wrong as Marion Crane opting for the secluded Bates Motel rather than continuing to drive on a rainy night
If you’re looking for the next Russell Wilson this year, ask yourself this: How long did it take to find the “next Drew Brees?”
-Doug Farrar, Via Twitter (See note at end of post)
Russell Wilson, you’re not going to find Russell Wilsons every year. You’re not going to find Russell Wilsons every 20 years, 5-10 ½ quarterbacks that can play at the level, you’re just not going to find. We haven’t had them before. So if you count them, forget one hand. One finger, two fingers. I mean you don’t need more than a couple of fingers to figure that out.
So at the end of the day, don’t try to find that guy. He’s not there.
– Mel Kiper
I know Doug. He’s a terrific football analyst. He’s also right about looking for Russell Wilson in the respect that there’s a microscopic likelihood of finding a player of Wilson’s overall excellence this year. I just think his statement about how long it took to find Brees represents a thought among some to not to even look.
That’s how it sounds when you read Kiper’s comment. He begins with the same statement. Then he pulls the lever for the quote machine allegedly hidden somewhere in that coif [Suggestion to any marketing managers affiliated with ESPN: the next network commercial should have a “bald Kiper.” Make it happen. You’re welcome.] and he has dismissed any attempt out of hand. Next thing you know Drew Brees wasn’t drafted in 2001 and Doug Flutie wasn’t drafted in 1985.
Flutie doesn’t belong on this list, you say? Why not? No team gave him a long-term shot. They dismissed him because he was short. Brees and Wilson have proven it’s a mistake:
I’d keep watching the NFL and see quarterbacks whom I knew I was much better than. I didn’t ever feel I got a fair shot before. The game had changed down here. The success Steve Young had. Mark Brunell. Kordell. Steve McNair. You don’t think Brett Favre plays the way I do? All those guys paved the way for me to come back. In my heart, I’ve always known I could play in this league.
– Doug Flutie
The Curry Kirkpatrick article with this quote also provides a good one from the late John Butler, the former Bills GM who also drafted Drew Brees in San Diego:
Last year, Doug would come to me with dismay on his face,” says Bruce Smith, the Bills’ equally grizzled future-Fame defender. “He didn’t think he would get his shot. But I told him to hang in, it would come. I have to root for us old guys, you know. Now, I guess he figures, ‘What have I got to do?’ If it were me … I don’t know what I’d do. But he has to keep working to prove himself every day.”
So size never hasn’t mattered. Especially when he has disappeared. “With Doug, I guess some of it was out of sight, out of mind,” says Buffalo GM John Butler, almost sheepishly. “People search in vain for a guy like this to run your team, and he’s sitting up there in Canada all along. I guess we should all be ashamed. The league was cheated out of his greatness for eight years.
Let’s not forget Charlie Ward at Florida State, either. Many of my older and savvy readers will say that Ward probably wasn’t good enough to play in the NFL and I have also had my doubts over the years. But the only thing we can really say for sure about Ward is that no one gave him a real chance to prove it.
And at least among some in tight football circles, there aren’t open minds about quarterbacks under six-foot after Russell Wilson broke the rookie touchdown record and nearly overcame a bad half of Seattle football to reach the NFC Championship Game. That’s the real issue.
You don’t dismiss Russell Wilson and Drew Brees as generational anomalies, because it’s not just about short quarterbacks. It’s about quarterbacks who aren’t deemed worthy of a first-round pick and given a two- or three-year shot to be the franchise.
These players are considered generational anomalies in NFL terms for a variety of reasons:
- Russell Wilson – 3rd round/too short, 2012
- Tony Romo – UDFA, 2003
- Drew Brees – 2nd round/too short, 2001
- Tom Brady – 6th round, 2000
- Marc Bulger – 6th round, 2000
- Matt Hasselbeck, 6th round, 1998
- Kurt Warner – UDFA, 1994
- Jeff Garcia – UDFA/too short/too light/small school, 1994
- Brett Favre – 2nd round (his coach said it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre in a game) 1991
- Rich Gannon – 4th round, 1987
This list isn’t filled with great quarterbacks by any means, but all of them were good starters for a period of time. Some were MVPs and Super Bowl Champions. All of these players have made a Pro Bowl at least once and earned it.
They have also have led their teams to the playoffs. Only Romo, Wilson, and Garcia haven’t led their team to a Super Bowl. That’s 10 quarterbacks since 1987 – 5 in the past 12 years – for a league that has been dismissive of picks not earning the “franchise” selection.
Imagine if media, draft analysts, and most of all, NFL organizations were more open-minded about the idea of “looking” for potential every year rather than dismissing the possibility out of hand. The list would be a lot bigger.
I’m not saying greatness comes along every year at the quarterback position, but there’s a lot of ego behind the decision to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback and that influences the dismissive tone that’s even reflected in the media who interact with NFL organizations and get sucked into the same notion.
This is why when I hear the phrase, If you’re looking for the next Russell Wilson…[forget it] it bothers me. It’s nitpicking, because I know neither Farrar nor Kiper are truly this dismissive. However, the language is a reflection of the culture they’re observing .
If you’re an NFL team or analyst and you’re not looking for the next unsung quarterback with potential to develop into a winning starter then you’re not doing your job.
Note: As mentioned early and late in this piece I imagined the intent of Farrar’s statement was not a dismissive one and if anything, I was nitpicking the tone of the comments. Farrar explains that he wished he had an opportunity to respond, considering the brief nature of Twitter and the limited space for analysis. Here is Farrar’s explanation:
“Wilson was that rarest of all prospects – maxed out in all possible attributes, but one (height) – and had discovered best ways to overcome that liability. In addition, [Wilson] was given the advantage of a perfect scheme fit in Seattle, who runs frequent two-back sets out of power zone with a west coast passing game. [This] fit Wilson perfectly from N.C. State (WCO) and Wisconsin (a two-back zone offense). Everyone who interviewed him said that at 6-foot-2, he would have been a top-5 pick. In a way, he was rarer than Brees, who needed time.to develop. What I meant by that little Twitter quote was that in a QB class with a bunch of questions and no outliers, people will look for the outlier. And they’re hosed as a result.”
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