(Andrew Luck photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
(Donovan McNabb photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Yes, the Eagles just gave away the store for the second pick of next week’s draft. No, they don’t know if they’re getting Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, but, yes, they’ll take a quarterback. And, no, they’re not concerned.
Reason: History. As GM Howie Roseman pointed out, the last time Philadelphia chose a quarterback with the second overall pick it wound up with Donovan McNabb, the second quarterback off the board in the 1999 draft.
Nice save, Howie.
McNabb not only worked out to be the quarterback the Eagles hoped when he was drafted behind Tim Couch in 1999; he was one of the greatest quarterbacks in franchise history. He spent 11 seasons with the Eagles, took them to five conference championship games and one Super Bowl and left with most of the club’s career passing records.
But this just in: When quarterbacks go 1-2 in the draft – excepting 2015, because it’s too soon to get a read on Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – only one of them becomes a franchise starter. And, with the exception of McNabb, that one is the first quarterback off the board.
Pass the record book, please. Since the NFL-AFL merger, there have been six drafts where quarterbacks went with the first two picks, with five of those drafts in the last 23 years. So let’s take it from the top:
- A year ago, Tampa Bay took Winston with the first choice, and Tennessee took Mariota with the second. Both had productive years, with Mariota producing four TDs and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his debut and throwing for an NFL-record eight TDs in his first three starts. That’s the good. The bad? He was 3-9, missing four games with injuries. Nevertheless, Tennessee feels so good about him it bailed out of the No. 1 spot a week ago to accumulate enough draft picks (six of the first 76) to make sure he succeeds.
- In 2012, Indianapolis chose Andrew Luck with the first pick, and Washington – which acquired the second from St. Louis — chose Robert Griffin III. Luck is one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the game and has taken the Colts to the playoffs three times, including the 2014 AFC championship game. And RGIII? Sorry you asked. After a sensational rookie season when he led the Redskins to the playoffs, he was handicapped by injuries that sidelined him, put him on the bench and eventually drove him to Cleveland.
- In 1999, Tim Couch was the Cleveland’s choice as the first overall pick of a first-year expansion franchise, while McNabb went second. Couch took a beating from the start, getting sacked 56 times as a rookie. He did lead Cleveland to the playoffs in 2002, but his career was short-circuited by so many injuries he was gone from the Browns within five years and out of the league after the 2007 season. Career record: 22-37.
- In 1998, Peyton Manning was the first pick, and Ryan Leaf was the second. Let’s just leave it at that.
- In 1993, Drew Bledsoe was the first pick of the draft, going to the New England Patriots, while Seattle chose Rick Mirer with the second. Bledsoe went to two Super Bowls with New England, while Mirer went to Seattle … and Chicago … and Green Bay … and the Jets … and San Francisco … I think you get the idea. A franchise quarterback he was not, with a career record of 24-44.
- In 1971 the New England Patriots chose Jim Plunkett with the first pick, and the New Orleans Saints took Archie Manning with the second. Plunkett went on to win two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders, while Manning never had a winning season in a career that included stops in New Orleans, Minnesota and Houston and 391 career sacks. He was, however, named the NFC Player of the Year in 1978 on a Saints team that was 7-9. Nevertheless, he finished with a career record of 35-101-3, the worst winning percentage (26.3) among NFL quarterbacks with 100 or more starts.
Bottom line: Philadelphia just took an enormous gamble. Roseman gained power with the exit of former coach Chip Kelly, and he just exercised it by mortgaging the future on a quarterback. So he better hope he hits on the next Donovan McNabb. Because if he doesn’t? GMs don’t last long missing on quarterbacks that high in the draft, and look no farther than Hall-of-Fame hopeful Bobby Beathard. He left San Diego two years after the Leaf draft.
“The biggest thing that teams have to look for now,” said Bledsoe on last week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “(is) you’ve got to look into the mental makeup of the guy more than anything. Because when you play the position of quarterback, especially at the NFL level, you’re going to have adversity — especially when you’re drafted at the top of the draft you’re going to a team that, by definition, wasn’t very good.
“And you’ve got to have some character; you’ve got to be able to show that you can deal with some adversity and continue to progress in spite of the fact that early on in your career you may not have a lot of success.
“So if I was a guy who was making that decision, that’s where I would look first. Any of these guys can throw it … and throw it well enough to be successful in the league. But I would look at their mental makeup; their character; what kind of adversity they’ve dealt with in their life and how they’ve done with that before I’d look at anything else.”