Predicting the Success of a QB

tom brady draft day photoA significant amount of time and money is spent on the NFL draft. If you watch any ESPN after college football is over you undoubtedly know the names: Todd McShay and Mel Kiper. For a long time I thought they were the same person. Always together on TV. “Hi! My name is Todd McShay and Mel Kiper.” A pair that must’ve first to market and planted themselves atop the mountain of draft expertise as no one else wanted to spend their entire life memorizing players metrics from A&M or GT. I couldn’t think of a better life spending hours watching game film in a lonely basement. Unfair of me?

The coverage of the NFL draft spans almost as long as Shark Week. From the physical metrics of hand-size, 40 yrd dash, and bench press to the interviews and wonderlic test (I crushed it :…|) all of this data is collected, analyzed, and weighed. NFL front offices are determining wether or not to invest in a human that they hope will have a positive ROI. A human that is absolutely flawed. Still don’t believe the hype about the draft? Hollywood made an entire movie about the NFL draft. If you can somehow muscle your way through the below trailer you are a much more patient than me. If you watch the movie than I feel very sorry for you.

The position with the most scrutiny is the quarterback. Kevin Costner would agree with me and I know Jon Gruden would as well. The right quarterback can turn a franchise around, in the same manner that the family vacation to Yellowstone would be turned around because little brother was left behind. Finding the right QB is actually quite difficult… It’s basically impossible. There is no QB tree to just pluck them from.

Looking at the top five best records of current NFL quarterbacks with at least 10 wins you will find the following names: Dak Prescott (0.812), Tom Brady (0.779), Russell Wilson (0.706), Ben Roethlisberger (0.672), and Aaron Rodgers (0.667). Dak is the only player on that list without a ring, but only has 16 games under his belt going into his Sophomore season. The below spider charts will provide further evidence that predicting the success of a QB is extremely hard. Would anyone, in their right mind, draft Tom Brady? Russell Wilson looks like a complete gamble as well! Athleticism? Check. But we all know it takes more than that! Look at RGIII or Johnny Manziel.

“A shorter stocky guy with massive hands. This is the guy who will retire Tony Romo!”

“Really tall… and… He is going to help get rid of Drew Bledsoe (a Super Bowl Winner and HOF)!”

“Short and fast… can we have him as a RB or CB? Did I mention he was short?”

“UH. A Massive human. With surprising speed?”

“Okay. Huh.”

It takes more than brawn and athleticism alone to be a franchise QB; they have to be cerebral. A smart, quick decision maker, with the ability to make the right choice under duress. In comes the wonderlic test. The hypothesis here is that a high score on this test would indicate success. If this were true then the 48 posted by Ryan Fitzpatrick would have made him a #1 overall and sure fire success. Or how about the 16 scores posted by Terry Bradshaw and Dan Marino, both Hall of Famers. Another sure to be Hall of Famer, Donavon McNabb had a 14. I should mention here that the top five QBs previously mentioned (Wilson, Brady, Prescott, Roethlisberger, Rodgers) average a 29 score. I think there are two things to consider here: (1) Football smarts is different than test smarts. It is more important to know how a player makes decisions rather than getting a mathematical question right. (2) Taking a test is hard and some players may not perform well under that specific circumstance. It is a different kind of stress than the one on the field. However, of all the metrics taken this seems to be the most promising in rounding out the picture of a potential QB.

I want to back track to our list of current QBs with great winning percentages. What do they all have in common? A great organization behind them or truly great decisions. Its that simple. That might seem like a cop-out, cliché, or whatever, but it is true. The greatest QB could not and cannot turn a bad franchise around alone. The Browns have been chasing unicorns for years with zero success. They are a horrible franchise because they make poor decisions, over and over. USA Today listed out the top teams of the last 20 years in 2015. Know where Cleveland fell? They are 30/32 teams. That is bad. Really bad. The top five QBs I have been talking about for most of this post are in the top 10 winning franchises of the last 20 years; Patriots #1, Steelers #3, Packers #4, Cowboys #8, and Seahawks #9. They didn’t get their with just one draft move or one player. Good decisions were made over and over again. Another truth: Winning matters. It matters so much so that if teams forget how to do it, the habit of losing becomes part of the DNA. And that becomes really hard to change. Let’s switch to another sport really quick for a dramatic example – baseball. Two teams, one name. The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein. Having not won a championship in a generation to winning is an amazing feat and it started in the front office.

Wanna know how Josh Rosen is going to do next year? Wait and see who drafts him.

What is going to happen with Deshaun Watson this year? I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Why Jared Goff is a bust? The Rams winning percentage is 31/32 teams in the last 20 years.

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