Jacksonville Jaguars: Land a Franchise QB in 2011 (Part 4)
This is the last in a four-part series about the history of NFL teams drafting the quarterback position since 2003. The main objective is to show the Jacksonville Jaguars’ draft philosophy compared to other organizations. In the last eight drafts, the Jaguars have only selected 2003 first-rounder Byron Leftwich. Quarterback David Garrard is the present, but someone else, preferably a 2011 draft pick, is the future.
Atlanta Falcons: In the last 10 years, Atlanta has been solid at drafting for quarterback. By choosing Boston College signal-caller Matt Ryan in 2008, it seems like everyone has quickly forgotten about Michael Vick, 2001’s No. 1 overall selection. Having spoken to Ryan after the 2007 ACC title game, I could tell there was something special about him. His composure – on and off the field – stood out like a sore thumb. Before Ryan, the Falcons had drafted Georgia’s D.J. Shockley and Virginia’s Matt Schaub. Schaub, widely considered the best backup quarterback in the NFL for some years, is now starting for the Houston Texans at a Pro Bowl-caliber level. Matt Ryan, at only 25, could be the face of the league in two or three seasons.
Carolina Panthers: With the departure of long-time QB Jake Delhomme and a virtually unproven starter in Matt Moore, the Panthers used two picks in 2010 on second-rounder Jimmy Clausen and the lanky 6-foot-6 Tony Pike. Prior to bringing in Clausen and Pike via the draft, the last time Carolina used a selection on a quarterback was in 2002 for Randy Fasani, who started one game that season. Delhomme’s penchant for throwing interceptions had him packing his bags for Cleveland after the 2009 regular season. Moore, a starter in five games during 2009, will battle the pro-style-ready Clausen for the starting gig. In what could be head coach John Fox’s final season in Charlotte, the Panthers have one of the more interesting situations at quarterback.
New Orleans Saints: Throughout the first half of the 2000s, the Saints never really had a pressing need at quarterback. From 2000 to 2005, Aaron Brooks started 82 regular-season games. Brooks and wide receiver Joe Horn were the faces of this ball club. In March of 2006, the Saints, in what would be head coach Sean Payton’s first year, brought in former San Diego Charger Drew Brees. [If it hadn’t been for the Miami Dolphins feeling uncomfortable about the status of Brees’ surgically-repaired shoulder, Brees might have signed with Miami.] In four seasons with New Orleans, the 31-year-old Brees has brought the city a Super Bowl victory along with higher expectations. Since 2003, the Saints only drafted Sean Canfield [seventh round, 2010] and Adrian McPherson [fifth, 2005]. With Brees, the Saints can expect more 4,000-yard passing seasons and at least 25 touchdowns per year – and, maybe an NFL MVP award or two.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It has been harder than you’d think to replace former Bucs starter Brad Johnson. Out of seven NFL drafts, Tampa Bay chose four quarterbacks – Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Josh Johnson and Josh Freeman. After the Bucs’ four straight seasons of playoff football [1999 to 2002], they have been in the playoffs twice. If their quarterback play could have matched the top-level defense, then the Bucs would have consistently made the playoffs. Since Brad Johnson’s departure, Tampa Bay has turned to Simms, Gradkowski, Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia and, most recently, Freeman. Having started nine games in 2009, Freeman, 22, will be given the reins to the Bucs. No word on if Tampa Bay has contacted Steve Spurrier to quarterback. But, at 6-foot-6 and nearly 250 pounds, Freeman, if given ample opportunity, will be a force in the pocket.
Overall analysis: Atlanta has a franchise player in Matt Ryan. The Carolina Panthers are quietly hoping Jimmy Clausen turns all that high-school-hype into a remarkable NFL career. The Saints have nothing to worry about with Drew Brees at quarterback. Unless Josh Freeman pans out, Tampa Bay could be in limbo for awhile longer.
Arizona Cardinals: Prior to 2003, Jake “The Snake” Plummer was the starter for most of six seasons. Since Plummer departed for the Denver Broncos, the Cardinals have drafted John Navarre, Matt Leinart and John Skelton. For the two years after Plummer, Arizona started Jeff Blake, Josh McCown, Shaun King and Navarre. After a short stint with the New York Giants in 2004, probable Hall of Famer Kurt Warner became the go-to guy for the Cardinals. Leinart, Arizona’s first-round pick in 2006, started most of 2006. But, the organization soon realized that the team was more apt to win with Warner at quarterback. Warner, who retired after the 2009 season, started 57 regular-season games in five years with the Cardinals. Arizona is looking to Leinart, a starter in 17 NFL games, to fill Warner’s shoes. If Leinart cannot get it done, then head coach Ken Whisenhunt could hand the job over to former Cleveland Brown Derek Anderson. While in Cleveland, Anderson started 34 games – double the amount Leinart has on his resume.
San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco really got spoiled with the years of Joe Montana and Steve Young. Since 2003, the 49ers have spent three draft selections on quarterbacks – Ken Dorsey, Alex Smith and Nate Davis. For the most part, Smith has been the story for San Francisco the last five seasons. When one is a No. 1 overall pick, the expectations are out of this world. Such is life for Alex Smith. Even with 40 NFL starts for Smith, it seems as though the 49ers would have more confidence in a moist towelette. Besides relying on Smith, over the last eight seasons, San Francisco has seen Shaun Hill, J.T. O’Sullivan, Trent Dilfer, Tim Rattay and Dorsey spending time in the pocket. With such instability at quarterback, it has not helped that the 49ers have had seven offensive coordinators in seven seasons. That is tough for any quarterback – especially one who is hoping he won’t get stuck with a title JaMarcus Russell already knows so well.
Seattle Seahawks: For almost a full decade, Seattle has been extremely comfortable with its quarterback – Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck, the one-time backup to Brett Favre in Green Bay, led the Seahawks to five straight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl berth. Knowing that it was Hasselbeck’s job as the starter, the Seahawks drafted three QBs – Seneca Wallace, David Greene and Mike Teel. None of the three are still with the Seahawks. Wallace signed with the Cleveland Browns in the off-season. Greene is out of the league, and Teel was picked up by the New England Patriots. With an aging body and numerous football-related injuries, Hasselbeck might lose his job to Charlie Whitehurst, a four-year backup with the San Diego Chargers. Whitehurst has never started an NFL game. But, in head coach Pete Carroll’s first year in Seattle, change could be near. It is probably the end of the road for the 34-year-old Hasselbeck.
St. Louis Rams: Before the 2009 season, in six seasons as the Rams starter, Marc Bulger started 80 regular-season games. Primarily because of injuries and poor offensive line play, Bulger, who was released by the Rams in April, only played a full season once – in 2006. With Bulger solidifying the QB spot for years, St. Louis drafted three quarterbacks in the later rounds – Jeff Smoker, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Keith Null. However, the future was set back in April when the Rams used the No. 1 overall choice on Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford. Even with shoulder concerns, many believe he can be what the Rams need – a franchise quarterback. It is about time St. Louis emerges from the NFL cellar.
Overall analysis: Quarterbacks Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck and Marc Bulger are either out of the NFC West or will be soon. There time has well since passed. Arizona and San Francisco are trying to prove folks wrong about first-rounders Matt Leinart and Alex Smith. Seattle is looking to an unproven player in Charlie Whitehurst. St. Louis should be revitalized with rookie Sam Bradford taking over at quarterback. For the NFC West, it’s out with the old and in with the new.
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.
Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville and 103.7 FM at the Jacksonville Beaches at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard also hosts Inside the Game every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WBOB.
Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.