In the 2015 NFL draft, something remarkable happened, and it went mostly unnoticed. Teams drafted the fewest number of quarterbacks in more than 60 years. Sixty.
Seven quarterbacks were drafted. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com (via Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon), that’s the fewest since 1954. Subtract four…subtract five…carry the one. Yeppers, that’s 61 damn years.
It’s obviously impossible to tell where this quarterback class will rank in terms of ability. It’s clear, however, where it will rank in depth. This is one of the lightest QB drafts of all time.
This could mean something, or it could not, but people I speak to around the league think it’s a harbinger of things to come. They believe we are on the verge of a quarterback drought.
Yes, it’s all anecdotal, but it’s there. A few things to consider, according to personnel men I’ve spoken to:
The Bust Factor: “The spread option is both good and a curse,” one scout told me. “It’s neat to run and can confuse defenses, but college quarterbacks have a hard time running it in the pros.”
For every Russell Wilson who has been wildly successful, there’s a Tim Tebow or Blaine Gabbert. A lot of those spread busts are now out of the league or backups. The voids they left haven’t truly been filled.
The Bad Coaching Factor: Based on the ones I’ve talked to, if you polled every assistant coach in the NFL asking what football coach other than Bill Belichick they respect the most, it would be Jim Harbaugh, now at Michigan. The only criticism assistants I’ve spoken to have of Harbaugh is that he failed to develop Colin Kaepernick once the quarterback became a star. Kaepernick‘s evolution stopped—suddenly and violently—and that’s on Harbaugh.
But this isn’t just a Harbaugh issue; it’s a systemic problem around the NFL. The league is still having problems developing, and protecting, quarterbacks. Another example was Robert Griffin III.
The Dad Jeans Factor: Some of the game’s best quarterbacks are getting old. Really old. Tom Brady is 37. Peyton Manning is 39, with 69-year-old knees. Drew Brees is 36. Eli Manning is 34. Ben Roethlisberger is a creaky 33. Same with Philip Rivers. Tony Romo is 35. Same with Carson Palmer.
Sure, some of those guys potentially have some years left, but that is a lot of firepower, name recognition and stardom getting up in age.
Most importantly, look at the backups at those positions, and tell me who is replacing them. When Palmer went down last year, the Cardinals were done. They couldn’t competently fill the position.
Don’t get me wrong: There will certainly be quarterbacks—maybe from this draft, certainly from ones in the near future—who turn into stars.
But we might be seeing the end of a renaissance where names like Brady and Peyton retire and their replacements aren’t close to Brady and Peyton because that’s impossible.
With the renaissance over, now comes the drought.
2. Thin-skinned Winston
A few final draft notes.
Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch reported that Jameis Winston declined to give ESPN an interview directly after he was drafted because he doesn’t like the way the network has covered him.
This look from Jameis Winston and his camp is not a good one. If Winston’s approach in the future will be to not interact with any media entity that criticizes him, there will be few newspapers, sites or television stations left for him to speak to.
No one has been unfair to Winston. The criticism, concerning the nature of one accusation in particular, has actually been fairly tepid. Winston’s skin will have to dramatically thicken if he’s going to survive in the NFL.
3. Saints fans really enjoyed the draft
This surprised me: Deitsch reported that the top TV market for the draft was New Orleans, with a 5.3 rating. The rest of the list: 2. Cleveland (4.7); 3. Columbus (3.7); T4. Jacksonville (3.3); T4. Birmingham (3.3); T4. Philadelphia (3.3); 7. Buffalo (3.1); 8. Denver (3.0); T9. Norfolk (2.9); T9. Greensboro (2.9); 11. Baltimore (2.8); T12. Las Vegas (2.7); T12. Atlanta (2.7); 14. West Palm Beach (2.6).
This is amazing, per NFL guru Gil Brandt:
5. Chip Kelly continues makeover
Either Chip Kelly is going to be spectacular in football, as in Bill Belichick spectacular, or he will supernova like no coach ever has before. Yes, even bigger than Mike Ditka in New Orleans.
Kelly continued to GoodFellas (contains profanity) people in the personnel department:
To be clear, this is what new coaches do. They bring in the people they want around them. This is also what new coaches who have total control do. Kelly has every right.
But all of these changes, on the field and off, had better work. Soon. Not five years from now, but in one or two. I think that’s still possible. I think it’s possible Kelly starts churning out 11- and 12-win seasons. It’s also possible he churns out six- or seven-win ones. I just don’t know. No one does. Half of the people I speak to around the league think Kelly will succeed, and half think the whole thing will blow up in his face.
6. Teams monitoring La’el Collins case
“We are all watching this (La’el Collins) situation closely,” one team personnel man said. “Every team. If he’s cleared, every team wants him.”
Another team executive made an interesting comparison: “The rush to get Collins will be like the space race from the ’60s.”
It all has a surreal kind of feeling to it. After news of Brittany Mills’ murder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police want to talk to Collins. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Mills “Is believed by police to be a former girlfriend of Collins.” He is not a suspect, and police just want to see if he can assist with providing information at this time.
Meanwhile, NFL teams are in the corner, waiting like sprinters at a starting line, to chase Collins. Just strange.
7. Philip Rivers highly disingenuous
This story from ESPN’s Jim Trotter is excellent. Philip Rivers needs to be called out for trying to manipulate the Chargers into a contract extension. And that’s exactly what he (or his agent) did.
Rivers knew what he was doing when he said this to Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego:
What we’ve established here with my growing family is hard to recreate. It’s hard to up and recreate that. I know that moves are part of life. But that certainly is fair to say that (not being sold on moving to Los Angeles) is part of it. The good thing is I’m not under contract in a year where we’d potentially be in Los Angeles.
That’s a threat saying if the team moves to L.A., he won’t want to move with it. That’s his right to say, but then you can’t try and act like you’re the victim in this situation.
8. Have Halle Berry announce draft picks
I am absolutely, positively, crazy obsessive over this idea from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, which stems from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling Marcus Mariota to apologize for pronouncing his last name “Marioto”:
Now that the first round of the NFL draft has become a prime-time TV spectacle, why is the commissioner still the one who announces the picks? Whether they hire James Earl Jones or Michael Buffer or Jeremy Irons or Sam Elliott or Morgan Freeman, the draft has become big enough that the NFL should consider getting a professional speaker with a memorable voice to call out the names—especially if the commissioner isn’t going to nail each and every name, each and every year.
It is indeed true the draft has become a huge event—200,000 people attended NFL-related events downtown, according to the league—so why have the commissioner announce the names? The NFL could afford to pay a star do it.
My top five:
- William Shatner: Just allow me one Trek guy. OK, thanks.
- Sandra Bullock: Charming, funny and acted in a football movie.
- Jamie Foxx: See above.
- Amy Schumer: No way in hell this would ever happen, but imagine the possibilities.
- Halle Berry: No explanation needed.
9. Seahawks didn’t do their homework
According to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times, the Seahawks did not interview witnesses to an “ugly” hotel incident from November 2014 involving second-round pick (No. 63 overall) Frank Clark. Clark, a defensive end, was kicked off Michigan’s football team following his arrest.
Clark pleaded guilty to persistent disorderly conduct. He was initially charged with two first-degree misdemeanors for domestic violence and assault, but his plea deal with prosecutors only resulted in a $250 fine (in addition to two days already served in jail).
Per Baker, the Seahawks said, “Team officials had conducted an extensive investigation of their own and felt confident that the 6-foot-2, 277-pound Clark had not struck his girlfriend.”
That’s in stark contrast to what Baker is reporting: “Two women say they found the girlfriend of Seahawks draft pick Frank Clark sprawled half-naked on her hotel-room floor and barely moving the night of his arrest on charges of domestic violence and assault.”
General manager John Schneider told 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday that “Whether it was punching a woman or striking a woman, [Clark] would not have been on our board.”
Seattle was happy enough with Clark’s explanation, but Baker’s report doesn’t speak to a thorough investigation. The Seahawks could have passed on Clark. Let some other team draft him.
They chose not to.
10. One last thing on the Seahawks
They are an example of why it’s so hard to keep NFL dynasties intact.
The late George Young, former general manager of the Giants, used to say the two most dangerous times for teams were when a star player signed a huge contract and after winning a Super Bowl. The latter was because every player started wanting theirs. The team concept was always in danger of disintegrating because so many guys start looking around saying, “Where’s mine?”
The Seahawks mostly avoided that last season (at least publicly). But Bruce Irvin’s profane rant about the Seahawks failing to pick up his option, reported by Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times, was one of the first public cracks. He wasn’t happy, and the reason was understandable. The difference in monies is extensive—about $6 million.
“Worked for everything I got in my life this s–t will b no different! I earns my keeps!” Irvin said in a tweet.
“Faced way tougher adversity getting outta them streets coming up! That’s (expletive) is nothing! (Expletive) THAT OPTION!” he later added.
Yeah! Expletive that option!
Keep this in mind: Irvin has 16.5 sacks in three seasons.
They’ll probably work this out, but this is one of the few times we’ve seen a Seahawk publicly complain about cash. He may not be the last.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.