ENOUGH ALREADY!

Thank the football gods that the Patriots have Tom Brady as their quarterback. Because if we had some schmoe currently under center, and we were one of those teams who were desperate for a “franchise quarterback”, I think I would have cut my ears off with all the talk that would be bouncing around the radio and print these last couple of months.

We’ve got Clark Judge over at CBS.sportsline.com talking about how idiotic the Jets would be to pass up on Matt Leinart. Then there’s Skip Bayless at ESPN.com announcing that the Texans are fools for not taking Vince Young #1 overall. Meanwhile, there’s a hundred other articles out there bandying about the merits of Leinart, Young, Jay Cutler (seriously, who?), and everybody else that’s currently available in this year’s draft. And they ALL talk about how important it is to have that “franchise quarterback”, and how apparently the only guys worthy to own have “first round pick” before their names. Jesus H. Staubach, do these guys actually WATCH the NFL?

Yes, Brady was a 6th round pick. We all know this. But he’s supposedly the exception to the rule. Well, outside of Ben Roethlisberger last year, how many early 1st round picks have led their team to a Super Bowl title lately? Brady has 3, Brad Johnson (who wasn’t even a STARTER in college) won for Tampa Bay (his second team, I might add). Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl for Baltimore… years after being a bust as a first round pick for Tampa Bay. In fact, his SB win is generally considered a fluke and is used as an example of a team winning in spite of it’s quarterback. Before that was Kurt Warner, you know, the guy who wasn’t drafted in the NFL and had to play freakin’ Arena Ball to get signed! Elway won his two Super Bowls, yes, but that was a full 14 years after being the #1 overall pick (which by the way, was Baltimore’s, not Denver’s). Before that, Brett Favre, who was a nobody on Atlanta’s bench before Green Bay grabbed him and turned him into a Hall of Famer. Steve Young *would* have been a #1 overall, but he played in the USFL first, then sucked in Tampa Bay before getting lucky and going to the 49ers. The list goes on and on. Joe Montana, Joe Theisman, Roger Staubach, Johnny Unitas, none of them were top of the draft picks.

Yes, occasionally it works out. Troy Aikman’s arrival helped turned the Cowboys of the early 90’s into a legit dynasty. But he didn’t do it alone. He had Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history, which is to say nothing of their all-pro defense. Having a franchise QB helped, but it certainly wasn’t the “key”. Drew Bledsoe was a #1 overall pick, and he definitely helped turned New England’s fortunes around, but he came onto the scene the same time as some guy named Parcells, who I’m *pretty sure* was as much a key to revitalizing the organization as Bledsoe was. As it turned out, the team didn’t start *winning* Super Bowls until Bledsoe was out of the picture.

Meanwhile, there’s an agonizing list of top flight college quarterbacks who have been grabbed in the early rounds as “no brainer” picks who we were assured would lead their teams to glory. Their failures are legendary. Look at some of these first round flops from just the last ten years:

1997 – Jim Druckenmiller (#26)
1998 – Ryan Leaf (#2)
1999 – Tim Couch (#1), Akili Smith (#3), Cade McNown (#12)
2000 – Chad Pennington (#18)
2001 – Michael Vick (#1)
2002 – David Carr (#1), Joey Harrington (#3), Patrick Ramsey (#32)
2003 – Kyle Boller (#19), Rex Grossman (#22)

We’ll be able to add a few more in a couple of years when the likes of Eli Manning, Phillips Rivers and J.P. Losman all prove to be good-but-not-great (and you just know they will). Go back a little farther and you dig up names like Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer and Todd Marinovich. All of these guys were “can’t miss” at the time. But they did. BIG TIME. It seems for every guy that plays worth his supposed draft value, a dozen more flame out horribly. And even then, they don’t guarantee a Super Bowl winner. Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Duante Culpepper and Carson Palmer may have all lived up to their billing in terms of talent. But how many have led their teams to a Super Bowl as of yet? McNabb, once, and he lost (choking in the final minutes, no less).

Michael Vick was supposed to “change the way the game was played”. He hasn’t. In fact, the game has tried to change the way he has played. They say Vince Young is Vick, but better. Oh really? I’ll believe it when I see it. He was awesome in the Rose Bowl, no question, but I’m not so sure he’s the key to a Super Bowl for the likes of Houston, what with all their problems elsewhere on the roster.

The truth is, a quarterback, for all the hype he gets, is only as good as the players around him and the coaches that lead him. He’s just another part of a championship team. And all the pre-draft hype in the world won’t change that.

Like I said, thank the gods we have Brady.

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