Earlier this week, Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell spoke candidly about the difficult debate regarding when and how to draft a potential franchise quarterback. We know that you can't really win without a top-tier quarterback nowadays, but at the same time, taking swing after swing can be incredibly costly. Some of it is luck, as we've seen, for example, with the Indianapolis Colts being in the right place at the right time twice in 15 years.
“In today’s day and age, if you can’t get Peyton Manning or Matt Ryan, and they might not be available for the next 10 or 15 years, then you have to adapt and build the roster and do what’s best for the organization,” Caldwell told Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com. “And if a quarterback presents itself later in the draft, you take and develop him. Having a franchise guy makes the world a lot easier, though. It can erase a lot of mistakes you make. But if you force it, you can screw it up. I don’t know if we’re going to find that guy, but I hope we do.”
That's why it's so hard to be a GM nowadays. If you force it with guys like Blaine Gabbert, who never should have been drafted where he was, you're pummeled by fans and the media. But if you don't, you're left in the cold. It's sort of a lose-lose, and a lot of it comes down to fate. Russell Wilson panned out from Round 3 last year, but Brandon Weeden failed out of Round 1. Nobody saw that coming. Absolutely nobody.
I think front offices have to find a middle ground. They can't blindly swing at every 22-year-old signal caller in their vicinity, but they also can't be afraid to take chances.
The good news is that the notion that you must land a quarterback in Round 1 seems to be fading. Wilson (a third-rounder) and Nick Foles (a second-round pick) took the league by storm this season, and Colin Kaepernick was also picked in Round 2.
So while it's tough to hold back, maybe Caldwell is right when he says he’d prefer to get criticized for passing on a quarterback rather than enduring the consequences of drafting one who fails. Maybe the better strategy, now, is to be patient and to avoid joining the silly chase for quarterbacks with inflated reputations at the top of the draft.
He's right, the Peyton Mannings and Matt Ryans are special. But nowadays, they're trumped by guys like Weeden, Gabbert, EJ Manuel, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Vince Young and Matt Leinart.
Patience might be the key, which isn't ideal in 2014.