Why Tampa Bay Should Avoid A Quarterback At All Costs
As the 2015 NFL Draft Combine comes to a close, the NFL officially enters into its spring lull, broken up only by the start of free agency on March 10th and the overdone analysis of the many Pro Days hosted by college programs across the nation. The main debate leading up to the NFL draft on April 30th is sure to surround who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be drafting with the first pick. While draft experts argue the intangibles, character, and upside of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, the discussion that should be taking place is whether or not it even matters who Tampa Bay takes with the first pick. In fact, taking a look back at quarterbacks taken with the first overall pick since 1999 begs the question -- should Tampa Bay even bother taking a quarterback at number one overall?
Here is a quick run down, in reverse order, of all quarterbacks drafted number one overall since 1999 -- Tim Couch, Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck. These eleven number one draft picks have produced a grand total of TWO Super Bowl wins, and those two wins were both engineered by Mr. Clutch himself, Eli Manning. Some may argue that Super Bowl wins are not necessarily a reflection of the success of a certain draft pick; in most cases teams drafting a quarterback first overall are just hitting the reset button and are picking a quarterback in order to create a face for the franchise as it rebuilds. To counter, let's check out how some of these picks fared in their careers as the franchise quarterback (records are chronological, starting with rookie year, even if they were not the team's main starter that season).
Eli Manning (2004): 6-10; 11-5; 8-8; 10-6; 12-4; 8-8; 10-6; 9-7; 9-7; 7-9; 6-10
Alex Smith and JaMarcus Russell (2005 & 2007): Nothing much worth noting from either. Alex Smith was traded once he finally figured things out in San Francisco
Matthew Stafford (2009): 2-14; 6-10; 10-6; 4-12; 7-9; 11-5
Sam Bradford (2010): 7-9; 2-14; 7-8-1; 7-9; 6-10
Cam Newton (2011): 6-10; 7-9; 12-4; 7-8-1
- Andrew Luck (2012): 11-5; 11-5; 11-5
Of this group, only two of the quarterback's respected teams have had consistent success -- the Giants with Eli and the Colts with Andrew Luck. Matthew Stafford had quite a hill to climb when he was drafted by Detroit, but six seasons in and Stafford, while capable of big numbers for sure, has not proven he is the guy who can lead the Lions to the promised land. Cam Newton has shown flashes of what made him the number one pick, but has ignored many of his mechanical flaws and has faced consistent criticism. Sam Bradford may not be the undisputed starter in St. Louis anymore after yet another injury plagued season.
The NFL is a quarterback driven league, and the creation of the rookie salary cap means drafting a quarterback with an early pick no longer forces teams to break the bank. However, other than Peyton Manning (1998) and his younger brother Eli, no quarterback drafted number one overall since then has even reached the Super Bowl. The NFL is a business, and team owners and general managers often make draft decisions to put people in the seats come Sunday (and some Thursdays and Saturdays). This tends to be a short-sighted view, as a winning team should fill the seats on its own, regardless of who is taking snaps under center (Baltimore in 2000?).
My advice to Tampa Bay? Both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston come with their own set of question marks. Regardless of how good they were in college, Heisman Trophy winners rarely succeed in the NFL. Mike Glennon showed flashes at times, and quarterbacks drafted in later rounds have had success as starters in the NFL. Tampa Bay has talent on offense in the likes of Mike Evans and Doug Martin. Lovie Smith built his success in Chicago around a strong defense, and would be better off avoiding the pressure that comes with drafting a quarterback with the first pick. The Buccaneers would be better served identifying other areas of need and drafting in that direction. History shows that drafting a quarterback first overall rarely, if ever, turns a teams fortunes around.