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The source for back issues of Football Thoughts.

For 12/24/2004

In case you are curious, the NFL record for most regular-season wins in consecutive seasons is 29, established by the Chicago Bears over the 1985-86 seasons. In 1985, "da Behrz" won 15 regular season games en route to a Super Bowl championship. They followed that up with a 14-win season in 1986 in which they lost their only playoff game.

I think all of the whining scribes (such as those who for a certain magazine with a history of jinx-ridden covers) who decried the morality of ABC's decision to run a plug for "Desperate Housewives" as part of the Monday Night Football pre-game show need to shut up and face facts. Among those facts would be that 1) the NFL, as possibly the single largest television-revenue producing franchise in this country, can get away with just about whatever it wants, 2) the demographic for MNF is males between the ages of 25 and 64, most of whom are of the opinion that we need more naked women on network TV, and 3) ratings for MNF have been declining steadily for years, but I'll bet that after their so-called "stunt" you'll see a lot of the aforementioned demographic tuning in to see what they'll do this week.

Now, not to get political on you, but I tend to find it amusing that a lot of the people who decry naked women on TV, claiming that it's exploitation and inappropriate, are quite often the same people who defend aspects of Robert Maplethorpe's work claiming it's art. Guess what? You can't have it both ways (at least, not outside of Provincetown). If you don't like it, change the channel. No one's making you watch Monday Night Football. Besides, who actually pays attention to the pre-game shows anyway?

A couple of thoughts about the Minnesota Vikings:

- WR Randy Moss is on pace to endure his first season with less than 1000 receiving yards.
- TE Jermaine Wiggins is on pace for a 70 reception season.

NFL News headline of the Year: "Hand pulls groin" regarding DT Norman Hand's injury.

And the media wonders why we question their integrity.

Proof that karma runs over dogma: In each of Dave Wannstedt's four full seasons as the head coach of the Dolphins, Miami's featured running back reset the franchise's single season record for rushing attempts every year. Lamar Smith had 309 carries in 2000, and followed that up with 313 in 2001. In 2002, Ricky Williams carried the ball 383 times and then 392 times in 2003.

Introduction of a new term: Dolphinitis.

From 1993 through 2002, the Miami Dolphins were notorious for great starts and lousy finishes. This year, the Dolphins went straight into the tank (no pun intended). However, it's a condition which seems to have been caught by a couple of other NFL franchises recently, most notably the Denver Broncos and the Minnesota Vikings.

Am I alone in thinking that the NHL has become irrelevant in the national sports scene? Or that the NBA is two, maybe three, years behind them?

Are you ready for some NASCAR?

The 2005 Mock Drafts are already starting to come out, which doesn't surprise me as several teams have already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But I don't like what it is that I'm seeing in them. So far, most of the mock drafts I've seen have either USC QB Matt Leinart or University of California QB Aaron Rodgers as the #1 pick.

Even ignoring the fact that both of these kids are juniors who haven't yet declared themselves eligible for the draft (I know that Leinart has said he coming back for his senior season, but I think he changes his mind if he wins a national championship to go with his Heisman Trophy), I'd like to mention how risky drafting a QB in the first round can be.

Since the 2000 draft, 13 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft. While there's a lot of hype, promise, and money associated with those kids (because all but one of them are under the age of 25, they are, by my definition, kids), I'll tell you what there hasn't a lot of: playoff appearances (four), Pro Bowl selections (two), and Super Bowls berths (zero).

In fact, let's go through those 13 QBs and assess how they've done.

Chad Penningon – 18th pick, 2000 Draft
Draft Value Grade: B-

You're probably wondering how I could give a guy with a career QB Rating of 95.6 as well as one each of both the playoff (2002) and Pro Bowl appearances (2002) anything less than an "A". Simple, Pennington was a luxury when the Jets selected him with the third of their record four first-round picks in 2000. But more than that, he sat on the bench for his first two seasons in New York and has only appeared in 40 of a possible 77 regular season games for the Jets. Another fact about Pennington that you might not know: this was the first season of his professional career when he was the starting QB on opening day. Yeah, he's posted great numbers when he's on the field, but if I take a guy in the first round, I want to see him on the field a hell of a lot more than 50% of the time.

Mike Vick – 1st overall pick, 2001 Draft
Draft Value Grade: A-

A gifted athlete and one of the most electrifying players to enter the NFL in a long time, Vick was a no-brainer as the first overall pick in the 2001 draft. He's also responsible for two playoff appearances (2002 & 2004) and the other Pro Bowl appearance (2002). He'd be the greatest street football player ever, but for all his physical skills, he hasn't shown that he can make the players around him better (Exhibit A: Peerless Price) and he's struggled playing within the West Coast offense (a.k.a., the most QB friendly system in the history of football).

David Carr – 1st overall pick, 2002 Draft
Draft Value Grade: C+

Anytime you're starting a franchise from scratch, you might as well take a shot and draft the best QB available. While Carr has been the Texans' starting QB since he arrived in Houston, and has demonstrated that he has the poise and toughness needed at his position, he hasn't shown that he can deliver on either of the true measures of a quarterback: points and wins. Granted he can't solve the defensive problems for his team, but a great QB should be able to get you the occasional win in a shootout.

Joey Harrington – 3rd overall pick, 2002 Draft
Draft Value Grade: D

By their second season in the NFL, Peyton Manning had led the Colts to the playoffs, Dan Marino had taken the Dolphins to the Super Bowl, and Tom Brady had won the Super Bowl and been named the game's MVP. Harrington's in his third season and his career's biggest claim to fame so far has been that he helped his team stop a 24-game losing streak away from home. The only reason why this grade isn't an "F" is because the whole Detroit team has been a disappointment, not just Harrington.

Patrick Ramsey – 32nd pick, 2002 Draft
Draft Value Grade: B- (tentative)

When the Redskins traded up to select Ramsey as the last pick in the first round, they did so with the idea in mind that they would be selecting their QB of the future and giving him time to develop. Unfortunately, he was forced into the starting lineup as a rookie due to injuries to the other QBs and knocked out of the starting lineup by injuries in his second season. This year began with a demotion to backup but injuries have him starting again. I think the kid's done an OK job in the time allotted to him, he just needs to be given a serious chance to be an NFL QB (which is why the grade is tentative).

Carson Palmer – 1st overall pick, 2003 Draft
Draft Value Grade: B

I don't like the idea of having the first overall pick in the draft never enter a game during his rookie season. It's a waste of large amounts of money. But this year, Palmer has shown that he can put points on the board and that he's not afraid to attack defenses, regardless of who they are.

Byron Leftwich – 7th overall pick, 2003 Draft
Draft Value Grade: A

He's been the starter since Week 4 of last season. He's shown that he can play with poise and doesn't make mistakes that cost his team the game. There isn't a QB in the AFC who throws a prettier pass (and that includes Peyton Manning). I might have been wrong about the Jags winning the AFC this year, but beware of this team behind this QB next year.

Kyle Boller – 19th pick, 2003 Draft
Draft Value Grade: C+

Boller has been Baltimore's starter since the first game of his rookie season. And while Boller has not posted stellar offensive numbers or been responsible for huge numbers of points put on the board, the Ravens have won almost 60% of the games he's started because he limits his mistakes. I said earlier, the true measures of a QB are points and wins and this kid wins.

Rex Grossman – 22nd pick, 2003 Draft
Draft Value Grade: Incomplete

Grossman has started and played in a grand total of 6 NFL games and has posted a record of 3-3 but he's suffered a season-ending injury in his third game of each year in the league. I'd love to say that the kid could be the next Steve Young, but he just hasn't played enough yet.

Eli Manning – 1st overall pick, 2004 Draft
Draft Value Grade: C (very tentative)

For those of who've been living under a rock and don't know, Eli Manning is the younger brother of Peyton Manning, who was also the first overall pick in the draft. Both of them are the sons of Archie Manning, who was the second overall pick in the draft back in 1971 (behind Jim Plunkett). So, if the kid's bloodlines hold true, then 1) he'll be a star in the NFL for a long time, and 2) there'll be a lot more pressure on Archie Manning and his wife to start having more children. As for right now, he's got a whole lot learning to do but I'll give him points for getting on the field and playing this year.

Philip Rivers – 4th overall pick, 2004 Draft
Draft Value Grade: Incomplete

The guy who I thought would have been the best QB of the class of 2004 and he hasn't played a down in an NFL game yet – a casualty of Drew Brees playing what would be considered MVP caliber QB in any other year but this one.

Ben Roethlisberger – 11th pick, 2004 Draft
Draft Value Grade: A+

The kid's 11-0 as a starter and brought his team to the playoffs as a rookie. At this rate, they'll be renaming the Steel City Roethlisberg in about 10 years.

J.P. Losman – 22nd pick, 2004 Draft
Draft Value Grade: Incomplete

By all accounts, Losman was raw coming out of college and needs at least a year before he's ready to take a shot at seriously playing QB in the NFL. What little action he's seen in games has been an unmitigated disaster.

I'll admit that four of those QBs were drafted this spring and I graded them accordingly, but when you factor in the amount of money that these kids have coming to them (well in excess of $200M), it makes you wonder why NFL franchises invest so much money in what can essential amount to a giant crap shoot?

Yeah, I know the cliché that goes something like "the QB is the most important position because he's the only guy who touches the ball on every play". And I've seen the facts, most notably that five of the last ten Super Bowls have been won a team whose QB was a first-round pick (Young, Aikman, Elway, and Dilfer), and four of those Super Bowls were won by a guy who was the first-overall pick in the draft (Young, Aikman, and Elway). But that means that five of the last ten Super Bowls were won by a team whose QB wasn't a first-round pick (Favre, Warner, Brady, and Johnson). And furthermore, I'll add that two of those Super Bowl-winning, first-round picks didn't play for the team that drafted them (Young and Dilfer) and another one was at the end of a very long career (Elway).

It might just be as simple as one of the mock draft sites said when they wrote: "the golden rule of the NFL Draft is that unless you already have one you simply don't pass on a potential franchise signal caller".

Unfortunately, the key word there is "potential". I'm not sure about you, but if I'm responsible for a corporation valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars (which football franchises are), then I'm going to hesitate before I gamble upwards of $40M on "potential". And if I'm the owner -- and it's my money -- then I want to make damn sure that my money isn't being thrown away on the NFL's version of Izzy Alcantara.

Additionally, drafting a QB in the first round can be especially counterproductive when you realize that most teams who "earn" a top-5 draft pick have a multitude of needs, most of which will not be solved by drafting a QB. In fact, that decision usually exacerbates the situation because other positions of need get ignored.

Fortunately, more and more teams are following the Ron Wolf model of selecting a QB. That would be where a team expends a mid to low round draft pick on a QB who shows promise but isn't ready to start yet, and works with him to developmental his talent. If he doesn't pan out, it was a low-risk investment and there's nothing to worry about. But, if he does develop from a project into a player, then you can trade him for something of value or you can keep him and move a veteran player.

I raise this issue because, the 49ers, Dolphins, Browns, and Cardinals could all be in a position to possibly draft one or both of these "potential franchise QBs". However, only the 49ers [oddly enough, the team in line for the first overall selection] and Cardinals would actually benefit from such a move. Both Miami and Cleveland have more holes on their team than your average colander and would be condemning themselves to another year in NFL purgatory if they ignored those holes to go after the sexy pick.