NFC South Over/Unders: The Crushing Despair of the Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons TE Kyle Pitts
Atlanta Falcons TE Kyle Pitts
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Andrew: Hello and welcome to another edition of Scramble for the Ball, in which your humble Scrambleteers try to find the missing Falcons pass rush, answer the quarterback question in New Orleans, crack the Darnold enigma, and ... well, there's not much to solve with the Buccaneers. And historically, perhaps that in itself is the greatest mystery of all.

Bryan: That's right, today we're turning things over to the NFC South, home of your defending Super Bowl champions. In my never-ending quest to come up with a superlative for these divisions, I think I have to tab the South as the least competitive. The Buccaneers seem like clear favorites, the Saints could challenge them if they get their passing situation ironed just right, and then the Falcons and Panthers also will be playing some football. Maybe this is just me being pessimistic about my family's ancestral teams—they're from the Carolinas, y'all—but this is the only division that looks like an out-and-out two-horse race to me.

Andrew: I'd even go so far as to say one actual horse, and then the metaphorical dark horse lurking somewhere in the background. It's a slightly odd juxtaposition for last year's division champs and last year's 11-5 wild card, but I think it's fair to say the postseason outcomes somewhat justified that arrangement. Let's get straight to the specifics.

Note: "Last Over" and "Last Under" below list the last time each team went over this year's over/under number. Yes, that's awkward with the shift from 16 games to 17. Somehow, we'll get through this together.

Atlanta Falcons (7.5)

Last Over: 2017 (Head Coach: Dan Quinn; Quarterback: Matt Ryan)
Last Under: 2020 (Raheem Morris/Matt Ryan)

Bryan: It's the return of the nation's favorite game: Explain Why Team X Passed On Justin Fields! Our second contestant, after the Broncos, is the Atlanta Falcons. Why, precisely, did the Falcons pass on Justin Fields, instead taking Kyle Pitts and dooming themselves to a quantum state of contending and rebuilding?

Andrew: I may not be the right guy to ask. I'm the guy who said in our pre-draft Bold Moves column at ESPN that the Falcons should draft their quarterback of the future this year. I feel like I did a reasonable job of explaining why. To wit: Atlanta hasn't picked this high since they drafted Matt Ryan in 2008. They're unlikely to do so again with Ryan there. This was their best chance to grab a franchise successor without waiting around until Ryan retires. I guess they didn't agree because they think they're still a contender with Ryan this year and next. I disagree, but that's why their front office is paid the big bucks and I'm—with absolutely no ill will towards our paymasters!—not.

Bryan: It feels like the Falcons are trying to have their cake and eat it too, rebuilding while still contending. You don't restructure a 36-year-old quarterback, pushing gobs of money into the future, unless you're trying to win now. You don't trade away one of the top receivers in the game unless you're trying to rebuild.

Andrew: Right. The Julio Jones trade is the weird part, to me. Everything else screams that they think they can get back to contention quickly enough to do so with Ryan as their quarterback. The Jones trade says they're not so sure. I'm on the side of the not so sure.

Bryan: It does sound like the Jones trade comes from personal issues more than personnel issues, so maybe we should give the Falcons a bit of a pass on that. And so I'm back with you—I don't think this team is a contender. I don't think this team is close to being a contender. I don't think the team is particularly close to being close to being a contender.

Andrew: I think this team could send all ... one? ... of its edge rushers at contention and still whiff on getting pressure.

Bryan: Dean Pees would seem to disagree with you, being super-eager to come out of retirement and coach these guys. And, I suppose to be fair, we saw some actual defensive scheming in their first preseason game, as opposed to the traditional Atlanta defensive strategy of "stand around and hope the ball is thrown directly at you." But I just don't see it—there's a sort of Panglossian optimism floating around in Atlanta these days, and I don't get it.

Andrew: The Falcons are set up to disappoint. You can't disappoint if there are no expectations. Optimism is always followed by crushing despair. It's the natural order of things. I will note that this line suggests Vegas doesn't think they're a contender either. We're not being asked to assess that, but to gauge whether they're bad or mediocre. They play the Jets, Giants, Jags, and Lions. That's gotta help.

Bryan: The Falcons' schedule is rough for a mediocre team. Only the 49ers have farther to travel, in part because Atlanta is losing a home game to play the Jets in London. But I think the Falcons might have a winning record in October; a solid 4-3 doesn't seem at all implausible. But then you get at Saints, at Cowboys, Patriots, at Jags, Buccaneers, at Panthers, at 49ers. That is a hell of a slog to get through if you're not particularly good yourself. If they come out of that with more than two wins, I'll be surprised. If just as plausible for them to come out of it with nul points, which would put them firmly in the under nearly in and of itself. I do not see a path to greater than 7-10 here. This is a firm under for me.

Andrew: Honestly, this is a line I'd be tempted to push on. Atlanta has enough on offense to cause trouble for teams with more complete rosters, and Dean Pees will get something out of that defense. Carolina might not be anything great with Sam Darnold, I don't trust Sean Payton not to start Taysom Hill in Week 18, and Ryan Fitzpatrick should turn back into a pumpkin right about the start of October, which is exactly when the Falcons host Washington. They're nowhere near contention. They'll scrape together eight wins. Over.

Carolina Panthers (7.5)

Last Over: 2017 (Ron Rivera/Cam Newton)
Last Under: 2020 (Matt Rhule/Teddy Bridgewater)

Bryan: Round 2 of our favorite game! Why did the Panthers pass on Justin Fields, instead drafting Jaycee Horn and dooming them to 17 games of mediocre play from Teddy Bridge—wait, I'm sorry, Sam Darnold is their starter? Like, not competing for the job, but locked up?

Andrew: Yeah, Sam Darnold is the "they did what?" of offseason quarterback moves. I guess I get why people look at the tools and think they can make a quarterback out of them, and I certainly don't hold his failure under Adam Gase against him, but Darnold has played worse every season as a pro thus far. He'll buck that trend in Carolina, I'm confident, but that doesn't mean he'll be good.

Bryan: There must be a bottom, at the very least. Only 56 qualified quarterbacks in DVOA history put up a worse season than Darnold's -32.2% DVOA last year, with last year's trio being retired (Alex Smith), sent deep to the bench (Dwayne Haskins) and, uh, handed a new starting job (Carson Wentz).

The Gase thing really does weigh heavily on any attempt to judge the chances of a successful Darnold reclamation project. But, man, Ryan Tannehill was not brought in to Tennessee to be the starter right away. When I even suggested that in Scramble a few years ago, I was quite firmly told by the comments section that no, there wasn't a chance Tannehill would get under center; it was Marcus Mariota's team. That's kind of what I figured would happen for Darnold—he'd end up in San Francisco or Indianapolis or Minnesota, somewhere where there wouldn't be a huge push to get him into the starting lineup right away, with the idea that hey, with a bit of tinkering off to the side, maybe they'll become something. To install him as a starter to the point where you don't even look at the rookie class? I'm missing something.

Andrew: On the flip side, I definitely do get why they drafted Horn. I feel like this defense was only one elite coverage defender away from being very, very good indeed, and Horn can absolutely be that guy. The front office appears to share that belief. I love their front four, Denzel Perryman can be very good at linebacker, and if Horn lets them play that aggressive man coverage against the slate of top receivers they'll face, this defense could be the surprise of the season.

In a way, I'm disappointed they've wedded that to Darnold, but then I'm also intrigued. If they can salvage the player Darnold could have been, there's enough other talent here—the receiving corps is one of the five best in football—that this could be a real dark horse. I don't think they will be, because I don't think Darnold will be good enough, and I suspect they'll end up in post-Peyton Broncos purgatory, but they're in a good position at almost every other spot on the roster.

Bryan: You have been burned by Panthers optimism before, but I think you're right in noting that this team has a decently substantial upside, at least when compared to Atlanta. I think they've also got more downside, considering the respective quarterback situations, but Matt Rhule and Joe Brady have some entertaining designs, their defense has some room to grow, and you know, if the Adam Gase Curse is real, maybe they do have something under center. You can talk yourself into a solid team, if not a particularly competitive one, in Carolina this year.

I can't do it. I think this line is at least a win too high, maybe two. Maybe I'm putting too much weight on the quarterback, but I watched Sam Darnold all of last year, and I'm really struggling to picture him at the helm of a competent offense.

Andrew: Darnold is the sole reason for my shared pessimism. The trend line is all down for him. Maybe being freed from Gase will do it. More likely, I think they'll be wishing they'd drafted a quarterback. Even Mac Jones would have done it, here. Heck, even Teddy Bridgewater would have been a fine option for what they have. Darnold is reclamation project, and we're not even quite sure what is there to reclaim. Under.

Bryan: Yeah, it's not that Fields or Jones are guaranteed to be quality passers or anything, but at some point, you have to roll the dice to try to find a passer to build your offense around. I guess the Panthers technically did that with Darnold but man, get better dice, Carolina. Under.

New Orleans Saints (9)

Last Over: 2020 (Sean Payton/Drew Brees)
Last Under: 2016 (Sean Payton/Drew Brees)

Andrew: We have left the Saints as late as we can reasonably leave them, deliberately choosing the West instead of the South last week, hoping, praying for some clarity on the quarterback situation, because to me and I suspect to most of us that is the key question in New Orleans. Instead, all this week clarified is that the situation is still unclear. To me, that's ridiculous. Jameis Winston is clearly the better quarterback. He understands the position better, reads defenses better, throws the ball better, and leads the offense better. I can't see the rationale for this still being a competition. And yet, Sean Payton...

Bryan: I'm struggling with the appeal to authority here. Surely, Sean Payton knows better than you or I what it takes to be an NFL quarterback, and how he wants his offense to work. But I just don't get the continued infatuation with Taysom Hill. He's a good passer—for a tight end. Having a package of plays where he's a legitimate threat to throw alongside Winston makes a deal of sense to me. But I've yet to see anything, anything at all, that makes me think he should be the primary quarterback for a team with contending hopes. And he's 30 years old! He's not some young prospect who they're developing into a future star. If he is what he is, that's not good enough.

I will say, he did not look terrible in the Saints' first preseason game, for whatever that is worth.

Andrew: He did not look terrible in most of last season's action either. However, he did look like a mobile backup quarterback thrust into a starting role by injury to the starter, not a starting-caliber passer. Winston, meanwhile, played with more of a backup offense than Hill did against the Ravens last weekend and looked more accomplished doing it. His interception was a little underthrown, but I would hope that a professional receiver would make that catch more often than he dropped it.

Winston's younger and better, and his potential is higher. For me, this decision is about more than a 2021 season that is already impaired by salary cap issues from the last fling of the dice for Drew Brees. Winston can take hold of the starting job for 2022 with a good performance this year. Hill is the kind of guy whose long-term replacement you'd be hoping to draft next April. For all of his obvious faults, which were clearly demonstrated in 2019, Winston was roughly a league-average starting quarterback in Tampa Bay, and I see no reason to expect anything different under a better offensive coaching staff in New Orleans.

Bryan: And league-average quarterback play probably keeps the Saints as contenders, at least for the division title. You called them the dark horse in the intro, which is more than fair, but they don't need a perfect storm to repeat as division champs. It would be useful if Michael Thomas came back and was ready, but I like Marquez Calloway's ability to plug in and play well, the defense should continue to be more than solid, and so on. Remember, this was the best team in football by DVOA last season. If they can get their quarterback situation squared away, they should top double-digit wins fairly easily.

Andrew: I'm wary of the lack of depth, particularly on offense, and the number of starters they've lost. It usually takes teams a while to move on from losing a Hall of Fame quarterback—hey, they're hard to replace, huge news!—and the losses on defense add up. They have a tough opening slate, too, as a side that are notorious for slow starts, and a very challenging road schedule.

For all that, I think this line is a referendum on the quarterback decision. If they roll with Winston, I firmly believe this is a 10-win team and a wild-card contender. If they go with Hill, we'll spend December keeping track of their draft position. Please let Payton see sense. Vote Winston. Then I'll feel a whole lot safer picking the over.

Bryan: Your team has a good coach, and I have to trust him to find the better of his two passers and put them under center, whoever that may end up being. Over.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12)

Last Over: NEVER
Last Under: 2020 (Bruce Arians/Tom Brady)

Bryan: Just some clarification on that "Last Over" marking: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have never won 13 games in a regular season. Not in either of their Super Bowl years, not in the peak of the Tony Dungy or Doug Williams years, never. If you adjust for the 17-game season, then the 12-4 2002 Buccaneers come out on top, but the point stands—the next time the Buccaneers win a 13th regular-season game, it will be their first.

Andrew: The Buccaneers have also never won at least 11 games in consecutive seasons before. Not only are we in uncharted territory with the over on this pick, we're even in uncharted territory with a narrow under. And yet, not only can I see it, am I right to think the under is almost unreasonable? Unless you think the Saints are set to sweep them again (I don't) and/or the AFC and NFC East are set to be far better than they appear (I don't), where are the five losses that would tip the Buccaneers under this line? At the Rams, plausible. At Washington, maybe, if that front four can go all 2015 Broncos on Brady in the pocket. Buffalo or Dallas at RayJay? A random division loss in there somewhere? I kinda can't believe the Almanac has this as only the third-easiest schedule.

Bryan: I wouldn't rule out the Saints sweep, and never count out a Bill Belichick team from being able to throw wrenches into things—you think maybe he has a few stops to throw out with the return of the Prodigal Quarterback?—but you're right, the schedule is inviting for another deep run for the Buccos. Every starter is back and ready to go for the repeat. I will point out, though, that when you start getting up to 13-4, you're in some fairly rarified air. It should be no means be considered a gimme. The only teams to have put up more than three consecutive 12-win seasons back in the 16-game era were the Triplet Cowboys, Peyton Manning's Colts, Peyton Manning's Broncos and ... Tom Brady's Patriots.

And so we're back to the elephant in the room. Age does have to come for Brady some day, right? He's not going to be 63 years old and still leading teams to deep playoff runs. The man just turned 44 years old. There have only been 27 player-seasons in league history by players 44 or older, and 20 of those belong to kickers. The combined passing statistics for everyone aged 44 or more are 178-for-345 for 2,023 yards, with 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That may well be the most likely scenario for the Buccaneers hitting the under—age and injury eventually sapping Brady of his Bradyness. He did play through 2020 with a partially torn MCL and is coming off fairly extensive knee surgery, after all.

Andrew: I bet against Brady last year, to my regret. We saw all the growing pains early as he and Arians adjusted to each other. The offense in the second half of the season and into the playoffs was much more of a Brady offense, and surprise, surprise! The Buccaneers went on one of the greatest postseason runs in history. Every starter coming back is a big deal. A better pass-catching back is a big deal. The Patriots may not be the Monsters at the End of the Book anymore, as you like to say, but Brady definitely is. I don't see where you pick out five losses from that schedule, unless injury luck completely flips and Todd Bowles' defense implodes. The champions have the most complete roster and the most impotent schedule. I wouldn't bet against them. Over.

Bryan: I can get them to 11-6 if I'm looking through things as pessimistically as I can—barring, as you say, injuries and what have you. That requires so many things to go wrong—and so many "what's wrong with the Bucs!" articles after a 2-2 start—that I can't be honest and take the under out of anything other than a sense of contrariness. The Bucs are one of the very few teams out there who could honestly claim to have at least a decent chance of winning every individual game on their schedule. Over, as crazy as that is on a 12-win line.

Bryan and Andrew return tomorrow to talk about the AFC South. Should the Titans be the favorites, or is the Almanac right in taking the Colts? Can Trevor Lawrence spark an Andrew Luck-esque turnaround in Jacksonville? And who is behind the nefarious plot against Douglas, the country gentleman residing at Birlstone House? These questions and fewer answered tomorrow: same Scramble time, same Scramble channel.


44 comments, Last at 26 Aug 2021, 10:09am

2 I guess I'm the resident…

I guess I'm the resident Jameis hater but...I find the statement...average qb with a better coaching staff = reasons for optimism specious.

For starters, the coaching staff he left just won the sb and BA has proven to be a good coach everywhere he's been. It's not like Jameis spent his formative years with Jeff Fisher.

Next - he was league average throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Oj Howard - the kinds of talent most qbs drool over. 

Put it all together and I'm not shocked Jameis is struggling to beat out Taysom. Go further and I'm not sure why expecting even average from Jameis is something to be taken as given.

5 !!!

This x 1,000.

I'll also argue that Taysom Hill does have untapped developmental potential at QB. QBs don't physically advance at age 23-24, they advance by getting NFL reps. Which certainly applies to Hill. In spades.

Dunno that Taysom has the requisite QB talent. Suspect he actually doesn't. But dudes, stop pretending Taysom Hill is your typical 30-year-old QB prospect. When that is so obviously, blatantly, inarguably and totally untrue.

10 Hill vs. Winston

My 2 cents since Brees retired has been to let Winston be the primary QB, and let Hill do his thing as a Swiss Army knife player. Teams have 4 games of film on him as a QB now. They have to take the threat of his passing seriously--he wasn't bad last year! (Not that he was great, either--just not bad.) In other words, Payton can put him out there on 3rd and 2, and give him an RPO-type play instead of a straight QB keeper/read-option play.

IMO, there are two possible ways for this to end up--Winston steps in Brees' shoes, and the offense runs the playbook as it has for the last couple of years; OR Payton coaches like some colleges have done where the two QB's get ~50% snaps each game. Not starter/reliever like last year's Dolphins in the 2nd half of the year, but more of a "either guy could start/play more snaps, and we purposefully don't say what we will do." To me, the only value in this could be the "the other team has to prepare for 2 different offenses"-factor. While Winston isn't scramble-averse, Hill is a poor man's version of Josh Allen; defending the Saints offense with Hill behind center requires a spy, defending Winston does not. 

The biggest problem that I see for the Saints is that their defense, although they lost some contributors, is the type where you want a low-variance QB. Neither Hill nor Winston is that. I can see a 2020 WAS-type of team, where the defense will keep them in most games and the offensive performance will determine whether they win or lose a close game.

15 I'd love to see a true two…

I'd love to see a true two-QB offense, if only because it would be interesting..

Bold prediction for 2021: early in the season, Payton calls an RPO handoff from Jameis to Taysom, who then has his own RPO option to Pitts in the corner of the end zone. But the interior breaks down and a crashing DL (also known as the reason that Jameis handed the ball off) tackles both QBs at the same time. Everyone lands awkwardly, both QBs are injured, and into the game comes...Trevor Siemian! Touchdown Trevor goes on to win 10 games and establish himself as the Saints QB starter for the next...(checks how old Seimian, he's 29 already?)...five seasons. All of which end in losses to the TB12 Bucs.

3 Christian McCafferty

Searched the Carolina discussion in vain for Mr. McCafferty's name.  Might his return have some effect on the team's performance, and on its QB?  Or did he already get hurt again?


Well, his last name is spelled McCaffrey, so maybe that has something to do with it. :p

But from what we have seen so far, Darnold is a downgrade at QB compared to Bridgewater (who is the type of QB who won't sink your team, but won't elevate it either). So the upgrade to CMC is cancelled out by the downgrade at QB, IMO.

11 Oops

In reply to by Joseph

Looked right at McCaffrey's name and then spelled it wrong.  Twice!   :(

That said, I agree with the Teddy to Sam downgrade.  With a healthy CMC in 2020, I think Bridgewater would've been a top half QB and Carolina would've picked farther down the draft.

6 let's pretend the historical record doesn't exist, Because, QBs!

I can think of lots of reasons to draft the best tight end prospect ever at #4 rather than a QB who otherwise falls to #11:

Winston. Mariota. Darnold. Jones. Trubisky. I'd suggest Goff and Wentz definitely belong here, too. Still possibly Mayfield, also.

But you're right. It's just darn impossible to get a QB unless you draft one really, really high. Only exceptions from last season being Rodgers. And Wilson. And Brees. And Brady. And Cousins. And Prescott. And Tannehill. And Jackson. For that matter, pretty clear Fitzpatrick would've gotten the Dolphins into the playoffs last year had they kept him in the job.

Let's pretend the high drafting of quarterbacks hasn't been spotty as all get out because, QUARTERBACK!!! And let's pretend there haven't been plenty of non-elite QB prospects who subsequently still became elite QBs because, QUARTERBACK!!!

7 There will always be first…

There will always be first round busts and late round successes at QB, but the odds are still very much in favor of a highly-drafted player. You remember the first round busts because they are prominent, but you don't remember the many, many more late-drafted QBs who quietly flamed out of the league. Maybe one QB picked after the first round every draft or two becomes a successful starter, but those are very difficult to identify. (Also Tannehill was the eighth overall pick in his draft.)

Meanwhile, TE is probably the position in which the highest percentage of recent first rounders have proved to be busts, while the elite TEs of the last decade (Kelce, Gronk, Graham, Kittle, Waller) were all picked later. 

12 This

No one remembers Ben Dinucci being a 6th(?) rounder last year because he sucks like everyone expected. Or Jacob Eason not starting over highly drafted (but old!) Rivers. Who then retired and the Colts went out and got the #2 overall pick who was objectively atrocious but they still wanted him over the guy that had more experience with the team!

Will respond in detail to op more directly in a bit. 

8 Having done draft work in…

Having done draft work in the past, I have two conclusions:


1) Qb quality is absolutely correlated with where the qb gets taken. 

2) tier 1 and tier 2 QBs are so rare that it's an impossible standard to hold to someone to. It's even less correlated with draft location( though it's still exists)


I think the better question should be, is Ryan on some permanent decline where it's worth moving on because he gives you 2 years to build a roster before he's toast. If that's the case, then drafting his successor makes sense. If it's more like 4-5, I think he's worth building around. Drafting a player as good as Matt Ryan or better, even at the position they were in, is unlikely.


That said, my biggest issue was taking a tight end with the pick. I know he's getting praised as a once in a generation prospect, if there's one position that seems uncorrelated with the draft, it's tight end. Since Gonzo, every first round tight end has been a disappointment. At this point it's hard to have much faith in the pre draft projections.

19 Really now?

Now, Pitts was a great prospect. So was Fields. But that's not a guarantee they'll hit. Not that ATL even knew that Fields would fall to 11. 

Winston (#1), Mariota (#2), Darnold (#3), Jones (#6) and Trubisky (#3) weren't great. Goff (#1) and Wentz (#2) weren't the best but played integral parts in their team making the SB. Mayfield (#1) isn't a detriment. That's reaching. But limiting it to the top 6(? you mentioned Tannehill but he went #8, weird arbitrary cutoff) vs...infinite, if you include UDFAs, or rather 250 other picks is simply not understanding how the numbers work. 

As it's mentioned above, there are a ton of non top 12 (guessing Tannehill slipped your mind because I bet you skipped over Mahomes and Watson for a reason as they went in the same range Fields did) QBs that have sucked. A majority of the UDFAs of course. But even those drafted don't usually work out.

Since you mentioned Brady, do you remember every QB drafted before him? Or even after? Nope. Well, thankfully for my argument (unless you think that's Tannehill range) none went until #18 in Pennington. Who was 2nd? Oh, Giovanni Carmazzi never even played. You see where this is going. Ill cut to the chase and just say that only 2 of the 12 made at least 1 Pro Bowl (Brady of course and Marc Bulger). Outside the top 12/15/17...wasn't great that year right? Whole draft wasn't but whatever.

Brees draft had 11 total QB selected. Top 12 that hit? Only Vick, so 1/1. Outside that? Literally only Brees so 1/10. Not great. I'll be generous and count anyone that was a primary starter for at least a year and that brings it up to...4/10. As if we'd count Quincy Carter, Chris Weinke or AJ Feeley. 

Lets look at Rodgers (#24) draft next. 10 QBs selected. How many in the top 12/23 made a Pro Bowl? Oh, 1/1. Hmm weird. Outside the top 12/23? 3/13 made a PB. Wooooow. Even your boy Fitzpatrick hasn't made one. And speaking of him. No, they don't likely make the playoffs with him. You do know Tua went 6-3 as a starter right? As opposed to Fitz going 4-3. With two of Tuas losses against the AFC finalists right? You really think Fitz is beating the AFC champs? Or the AFCE champs on the road? When he already lost to the Bills at home? Tuas only other loss as a starter was to DEN but that was a combined effort with Fitz who turned the ball over (unlike Tua) and didn't get any TDs (also unlike Tua). Now he did save the day vs LV but lets not also ignore Tua beating NE in week 15 unlike Fitz did in week 1.

Russ was the best QB from 2012 and Cousins isn't too shabby. But Luck was kinda good. RG3 was too (before being rushed back from injuries). Where did they go? Oh top 2. Already pointed out the inconsistency with your usage of Tannehill but it turns out he's good. Outside that top 12, 3/8 PB hits. 

Get it? Do I have to go on? Don't expect your dart throw to outside that top 22 or whatever to hit from so far out. And like the article mentions, ATL probably isn't picking that high again until Ryan is gone and when the consensus loves a guy like Fields, you aren't going wrong. Pitts could just be another Tony G. Great but what impact could he have outside a great QB? Topped out at a CCG (and that wasn't due solely to him of course, for better and worse). 

If you want to just the Sam Elhingers of the world over the Justin Fields because...random chance...that's on you. Good on the Bears for taking a good chance. 

34 There are also a lot of…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

There are also a lot of other factors that impact whether or not a QB will be successful, from the quality of system/coaching to the other players brought in by GMs. And it's not like one generalized explanation fits all. Some players would benefit from more discipline, while others will thrive in laid-back environments. Some get set back by injuries that they can't overcome, and others get four different coaches in four years.

There's also the question of work ethic. When you're more talented than everyone else, you tend to coast by without learning how to work. Same thing happens in academics, where some high-IQ students don't learn how to study. That's the difference between Peyton Manning--who went into his Colts interview with a prepared list of questions for the team--and Ryan Leaf.

If I had to pick one common factor, it's stability. I'm hard-pressed to think of a successful QB who didn't have stability, whether that came from coaching continuity, sticking with the same team/players, or whatever. The coaches/rosters still have to be decent, but in the end we're talking about young adults who are figuring out how to be professionals. That matters.

Oh wait, I did think of a QB who has never had stability: Ryan Fitzpatrick. I can't rationalize the success of the Harvard man.

Anecdotally, you could also make an argument that defense matters to a QB's development. Brady, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Wilson all won early Super Bowls thanks in large part to defenses that kept the pressure off of them while enabling their teams (and them) to win.

I suppose even that comes back to stability. Teams with excellent defenses typically don't have top-ten picks, and teams with high draft picks are rarely stable. If that matters as much as I think it does, then Trey Lance has the best chance from this year's first round to succeed thanks to Shanahan/Lynch/defense. I'll be surprised if Urban Meyer doesn't mess Trevor Lawrence up, refuse to take the Jets seriously until they prove that they've changed, and don't know how long of a leash Nagy/Pace have in Chicago (or how much Khalil Mack has left in the tank).

As for Mac Jones in NE, the odds are that Josh McDaniels will take over in the next few years. I'd like to think he's learned from his debacle in Denver (Belichick didn't succeed in his first HC job either), but the jury remains out.

38 Of course there are

But that wasn't OPs point.

We're talking about positional value which people seem to still struggle with. Passing on a great QB prospect (to draft the highest TE ever at that) because Winston didn't work out isn't understanding hit rate. For crying out loud the Falcons themselves got Matt Ryan at #3 overall. Good luck finding find another prospect as good as Fields, all for a flippin TE and you're scared he might become Mariota but surely you'll find another Brady or Dak. Easy as pie. Forget the Easons, etc. 

9 I'm no Falcons fan, but at…

I'm no Falcons fan, but at Saints, at Cowboys, Patriots, at Jags, Buccaneers, at Panthers, at 49ers isn't exactly a murderers' row. Maybe Lawrence sets the league on fire as a rookie (unlikely) but the Saints' QB options are terrible, Prescott isn't healthy, Cam is washed and Jones might not be ready, and the 49ers are choosing between a guy they hate and a rookie who is definitely not ready. Atlanta may not when all or any of those games, but that doesn't mean they can't.

14 I think the main thing is…

I think the main thing is that at least for the Saints and Patriots, the issue is that even with seriously limited QBs, both of those teams have been either average or good: the Saints went 8-1 over the past two seasons without Brees, and the only reason why the 7-9 is "terrible" for the Patriots is their history. And I don't think the 49ers hate Garoppolo - they just haven't had him. I highly doubt they would've drafted a QB if Garoppolo had even played half of his games possible as 49ers starting QB. And Prescott's a Week 10 game. To me, that's 5 pretty solid losses there (matching what Bryan thought), with the Cowboys the only one that makes me think twice.

I mean, I'd still stay the heck away from the Falcons line in general just because of the massive unknowns. They weren't really a bad team last year (I mean, 4 actual wins vs 7.5 Pythagorean is a huge gap)... but losing Julio Jones is just a big gut punch, and coaching changes to young guys pretty much has to be a die roll.

Panthers under seems like the only safe pick in the NFC South to me. I'd still go Falcons under, Saints over (though I'd expect a push) and Tampa under if I was forced to choose, but the Panthers are the only one I'd do freely.

20 I mean, the Falcons are…

I mean, the Falcons are likely one of the worst teams in the league, so most of those teams are “hard” to them. The Buccaneers and maybe the 49ers (depends on QB play) are the only elite teams in that stretch.

13 Maybe I'm the only one who…

Maybe I'm the only one who thinks the Bucs are going to struggle to be as good as they were last season. It's not just Brady who's old; the entire defensive front seven aside from Devin White is going to be 30-plus. I think the big story in Tampa is going to be, "Gosh, who would have thought we'd have so many injuries this year?"

I don't expect a collapse, because the rest of the division is taking a step back as well, but something like 10-7 sounds right. I mean, Blaine Gabbert has a good chance of starting multiple games for this team.


16 the entire defensive front…

the entire defensive front seven aside from Devin White is going to be 30-plus.

Who are you expecting their front 7 to be? Just pushing forward from last year, it's Suh (34), Gholston (30), Pierre-Paul (32), White (23), David (31), and Barrett (29), with the 7th (in 'base') being Vea (26). So I'm not exactly sure I understand the "everyone's 30 plus" - being strict, that's only a little over half being 30+, and I mean, Gholston just turned 30.

 I think the big story in Tampa is going to be, "Gosh, who would have thought we'd have so many injuries this year?"

You don't need to bring age in for that story: Tampa literally had the fewest AGL last year, and while that metric is a bit sticky (as in, it correlates year-to-year), you can't rank better than 1st. Few key injuries on offense/defense and yeah, the Bucs could sink a fair amount.

17 The fact Hill is even in the…

The fact Hill is even in the conversation over Winston says something, and I don't think it's surprising; Payton has had the perfect QB to run his offense for years, and Jameis Winston is basically the anti-Brees.  Brees played very smart, had great touch, was accurate, threw great timing passes, and did all the little things right.  Winston has shown over and over that those are the things he's bad at, and I think about three games into the "Jameis Winston, starting Saints QB" era Payton's head would explode on the sideline.

Hill is probably not going to be a good NFL QB, but Jameis Winston has had many chance to prove he is a bad NFL QB.  His last season was 30 picks, 12 fumbles, and, sure, that was the worst season he'd had for turnovers, but none of them were good, and 88 INTs and 59 fumbles in 72 games playing with the Bucs?  That's a consistent record of doing bad things on the field, and, sure, Hill's not likely to be phenomenal, but Payton's got enough of a whiff of Official Genius about him to where I can see him thinking he can work with that and cobble together an offense.  I don't think he has any confidence he can rein in Winston's stupid decisions, there's just way too many of them.

18 In Winston's last year in…

In Winston's last year in Tampa Bay, the 30-INT year, he ranked 24th in passing DVOA. In each of his other four seasons he ranked 16th or better. He has an established track record of being an average starter, albeit a high-variance starter.

21 This year's Saints remind me of the 2016 Broncos

The Almanac addresses this in some detail, and I'll just summarize here: it's hard to cope with the loss of a Hall of Fame QB, even one that's been running on fumes, as both Manning and Brees were in their last seasons. The second big parallel between the 2 teams is how they both lost a ton of defensive talent from the units that largely drove the team's success in those final years.

On offense, in addition to Manning's retirement, those Broncos saw a nearly wholesale changeover on the OL (only OC Matt Paradis remained), the loss of their top TE, and some change at RB.  On defense, the Broncos lost 3 starters and 2135 snaps from the league's best defense - Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, and Demarcus Ware. Their record fell to 9-7 in 2016.

The Saints have lost TE1 Jared Cook and WR2 Emmanuel Sanders.  On defense, they have lost 2934 snaps from the departures of Janoris Jenkins, Patrick Robinson, Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, and Alex Anzalone.  The OL has stayed largely intact, and could be the best argument in favor of betting on the Saints to win 10 or more games.  Even so, I'm taking the UNDER.

25 Slight counter-argument

Agree with the Broncos comparison. The problem to me is not the snaps lost on defense, other than the Jenkins and Rankins snaps. Hendrickson's production will hopefully be replaced by Davenport and this years' 1st rounder Payton Turner. Hendrickson's production was a huge, "career year" outlier. In his first 3 years, he had 3 starts and 6.5 sacks; last year, 15 & 13.5. Considering that they traded up to draft Davenport the year after drafting Hendrickson, it's safe to say they didn't seen this coming. Robinson's departure only hurts b/c of Jenkins' leaving, as Robinson wasn't even the nickel defender; at least they have a couple of options there--the nickel and dime defenders will probably be the backup safeties (per the depth chart). Rankins really hurts b/c of the 6-game suspension of DT Onyemata. In other words, I can see the defense improving as the year goes on as whoever takes the CB2 job gets comfortable and Onyemata rejoins the group. 

The offensive snaps, plus the probability that Michael Thomas misses the first few games, are where the problem could be. They just don't have anyone with a track record. If Brees was behind center, he would elevate the WR corps--but he's not, and there aren't a whole lot of proven players there. Trautman has promise at TE, but he's just a 2nd year player. Thomas and Kamara are 2 great skill position guys, no doubt--but behind them, there's just a lot of unproven guys. Taysom Hill is probably the 3rd best skill position player on the Saints roster. 


22 What is the over under if Sam Darnold is not awful?

If Sam Darnold is not awful what is the over under on the number of times Adam Gase gets bashed on this site?

I'll go over 100, do I here 200?  Going once going twice....

Maybe if Darnold is awful I should still take over 100, as the number of times Adam Gase gets bashed on this site--despite the fact that he is long gone.

I just looked up what Adam Gase is doing:

Former Jets Coach Adam Gase Accepts Job As Offensive Coordinator Of Local High School Team. Adam Gase might have just completed the biggest demotion in the history of NFL coaching. The former Jets head coach was fired after last season following a 1-15 record in his second year as the head coach in the big apple.

I thought we previously determined that the Giants are the East Rutherford Middle School, making the Jets the East Rutherford Elementary School.  Why is this a demotion?  Oh, wait he is the offensive coordinator at a high school, not even the head coach.

Sing along:  And if you feel like asking me, if you've got the notion--I second that Demotion

27 High school OC? Wow. Some…

High school OC? Wow. Some day they're going to make a movie about this guy if he can somehow keep doing noteworthy things. I'd like to think one day he'll get another OC gig in the NFL, go to the Super Bowl, get labelled a misunderstood genius and land another HC gig only to entertainingly destroy another franchise. Then he'd be fired and go to coach pee wee in Japan. And then you'd have your movie.

23 LOL

“and when the consensus loves a guy like Fields, you aren't going wrong. ”

JaMarcus Russell has waddled into the chat.

24 Boy reply to me

In reply to by Raiderfan

Process over results. How are we still getting confused by this

26 It was also an incredibly…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

It was also an incredibly different time, as well. You could totally argue against picking Russell back then because first-round draft picks were very expensive: you could easily get a better ROI by picking positions where a player could be just a "decent starter" rather than shooting for the moon at QB. Nowadays there's no downside at all to picking a rookie QB - especially when you've already got Matt Ryan! You can just keep him on the bench, and if Ryan suddenly morphs into the best QB in the league (rather than just top-10) and, I dunno, decides to let you slash his pay in half, at worst you can trade him away for a decent return.

In fact the real damning argument against Atlanta is that they didn't get a team to bite on a trade up to 4 to get Fields. That at least would've been somewhat defendable. Hell, just picking him period and then starting to call other teams wouldn't've been a bad option. Worst case, you keep him and see what you've got (see above) - best case you get a team to give up a lot for him and give whatever QB you move on to after Ryan a lot of talent.

28 Trade down was the best option

if you're not into Fields for whatever reason (I'd still question why anyway, but for Atlantas sake they did have Ryan for 3 more years at big money, so financials are a real concern). But it sounds like they didn't try calling around (enough) since Fields did get traded up for. Maybe Chicago didn't call because it was too high up but they could've and although it would be risky (perception wise) they could've accepted a Chicago deal and it could turn out alright if Chicago isnt a top ~13 team (and they could just on the border of that looking at things). They just seemed to be enamored with Pitts. But bringing Fields back to Georgia would've probably sold a lot too. 

32 But it sounds like they didn…

But it sounds like they didn't try calling around (enough) since Fields did get traded up for. 

Yeah, exactly. It doesn't even matter if Pitts wouldn't've been available then. You're obviously not going to have Ryan for Pitts's entire career, so Pitts absolutely can't be the kind of "must get" guy that you'd grab.

I mean, the fact that Pitts is an offensive player makes it even worse. If it had been a guy like Nick Bosa or Chase Young, I'd be like "okay, I don't agree, but sure, fine." You're setting yourself up to hope that Ryan manages and build a star defense around him. Sure. Fine. That's a plan. I can see that.

Drafting Pitts isn't a plan, it's nuts. Even if he ends up being the best tight end evaar you're practically guaranteed to waste a good fraction of his career. Statistically, there's no way you can plan on Ryan being viable for more than 3 more years. And then it's going to be at least 2-3 years of shuffling QBs, and then Pitts has a good chance of coming to you and saying "c'mon, trade me to a decent team so my career's not totally wasted" and you've got Tony Gonzalez and the Chiefs all over again.

29 Let's assume every team had…

Let's assume every team had the same understanding of contract value and probabilities. Would the Raiders therefore be forced to give up an asset to dump the 1st overall pick in order to move down?

I still would argue, I'm not sure it changes much in the long term. If Jamarcus busts, it only hurts the owner more in terms of net outlays. No amount of cost savings and free agents were ever going to make a Russel led team anything of note. If he pans out but doesn't become a superstar, you hope for a career like Matt Ryan which is pretty darn good. Get lucky and you get an Eli career. Or unlucky and you are the Stafford lions. But ending up as the mid 2000s Raiders is less about Russel ranking in a fortune and more that he flat out sucked. Even as a lowly cost controlled rookie, that kind of miss sets your franchise back a few years. The jags suffered the same thing with Gabbert despite his cost controlled savings. And Johnny Manziel became the prelude for the tanking Browns. 

To that end, with QB, I just don't think a team can realistically trade down and roll with adequate for very long. 

Objectively, the qb probability of success is still correlated with draft position. And ignoring Russel specifically for the moment, the first qb off the board usually represents the highest probability of panning out.



31 No amount of cost savings…

No amount of cost savings and free agents were ever going to make a Russel led team anything of note. 

That's because a good team wouldn't have let Russell lead the team. If a guy's bad, you don't play him. The Raiders started Russell even though I guarantee he was being outperformed by Gradkowski in practice. Manziel was going to start opening day in 2016, which I can't even fathom!

And I have no idea why you're bringing Gabbert into this. Gabbert had nothing to do with the Jaguars struggles. Was he a good pick there? No. But the Jaguars failed because they were a badly-run team. He didn't cause the defense to collapse. He was immediately picked up by San Francisco and when he ended up starting for them, he was their best option that year! Heck, he's still in the league, for the team which just won the Super Bowl! They've resigned him multiple times!

What should a well-run team do with a failed draft pick? Don't play them when there's a significantly better option. Cut bait when it's obvious. Hence Ron Rivera and Dwayne Haskins. One stupid decision doesn't hurt you for multiple years. Multiple stupid decisions does.

35 Where the heck did that idea…

Where the heck did that idea come from? You think Manning wasn't outperforming his backups on the Giants? I'm betting even Warner and Manning were close that first year. Obviously in games Warner put up slightly better numbers but it wasn't *that* different and Manning's numbers were well within what you expect a good QB to produce his rookie year.

"And was it clear Brady was better as a 2nd year qb than Bledsoe?"

Huh? Brady took over when Bledsoe got *hurt*, and actually performed better. How does this have anything to do with what I was talking about?

I have no idea what you think I'm saying. I'm saying if a guy's getting clearly outperformed in practice, you don't keep playing him based on hopes and dreams. Both Eli and Brady had to at least be *close* in practice, since, well, Brady was *better* in games and by his second year Eli was totally reasonable.

Totally different than, say, Russell or Johnny Manziel with the Browns.

36 "Eli and warner were close…

"Eli and warner were close that first year...."

Eli was twice as bad according to DVOA in 2004 than Warner was. I have no idea what your definition of "close" is. But if the objective was to win, Eli was not the choice over Warner. In fact, Eli was one of the worst rookies ever and yet he was given the nod anyways.

Look at Goff. Even Case Keenum was miles ahead of Goff( Goff was roughly 5x worse in DVOA). The Rams should never have played Goff anothet snap after his rookie year. 

My point is, when you draft a high qb, your objective should be to play him, ride out the growing pains and hope he develops like you think he can. Maybe if the incumbent is lighting the world on fire, you don't go that route.

With Russel, even if he stunk, you had to play him because that's part of the development cycle. That's basically the road followed with Goff. 

37  Eli was twice as bad…


Eli was twice as bad according to DVOA in 2004 than Warner was. I have no idea what your definition of "close" is.

Nope. That's not how percentages work. Warner was 87.9% of league average performance (that's what -12.1% DVOA means - and no, it doesn't mean DVOA's capped at -100%, it's totally possible to have negative performance) and Eli was 74.6% of league average performance. In other words, Eli was about 85% of Warner's performance in game. Even if you just want to look at straight DVOA and think of it that way, ~13% DVOA difference between 2 QBs isn't that huge a difference. It's like, 2 standard deviations for a QB.

But - again - Eli's a rookie. On average, rookie QBs improve by around 12.8% after their first year. Warner was -12.1%, Manning was -25.4%: but a rookie. Boost up by the rookie improvement expectation, and you're talking about -12.1% or -12.6%. That is what I mean by "close."

My point with Russel was...even if he stunk, you have to keep playing him because that's part of the development cycle. If you disagree, then explain if the Giants did the right thing starting Eli. 

Playing Russell in 2007 was fine. Obviously you need to see what you have, and McCown was terrible (however - again - strong indication it wasn't the QB's fault). Playing Russell in 2008 is justifiable as well. No one else played well, either. Maybe Russell really was playing well enough in practice that the evaluations said it's the rest of the team, not him. He should've gotten better - but he didn't. So you've got a red flag right there, but who knows. Team knows more than we do in those situations. Plus maybe he stays on the roster just because of his contract. Who knows.

But playing Russell in 2009 revealed they're an incompetent franchise.

Why? Because Russell's a third year QB. He's started 16 games already. He's basically the same age and has more experience than Bruce Gradkowski. If Russell can't beat out Gradkowski in practice, you cut him. Period. He'll never improve at that point. It's a total waste. If you can't cut him (due to his contract), you bench him. Playing him means you don't know what you're doing.

Russell, 2009: -62.0%
Gradkowski, 2009: -5%

Now you're actually talking about one QB playing twice as well as the other. And both have roughly equal experience in the league! This isn't "Warner, 7th year vet, 33 years old" vs "kid out of college." These are two guys at the same point in their development curve. One is garbage. One's fine.

They started the worse player at the beginning of the year because they felt they had to. Bad franchise. Easy indicator.

edit: I actually just realized you're totally misunderstanding me in any case. I said "cut bait when it's obvious," not "cut them the instant they're outperformed." The "obvious" part is "when it's obvious they won't improve to a viable starter." Also, Goff starting over Keenum just strengthens my argument though - Fisher only played Goff to try to save his career. It was pretty damn obviously a bad move.

39 You know, it's easy to…

You know, it's easy to misunderstand you when you write this, 

"If a guy's bad, you don't play him. The Raiders started Russell even though I guarantee he was being outperformed by Gradkowski in practice. "

There are no qualifiers to this statement at all. If he's outplayed in practice( or on the field)...

40 What's difficult to…

What's difficult to understand there? I said you don't play him. I didn't say you necessarily cut him. I also didn't say "if rookie is marginally worse than veteran former MVP starter." In what universe would a first year rookie performing even remotely close to Kurt Warner be interpreted as "bad"?

That statement doesn't need qualifiers. Russell was a third-year QB who, again, I guarantee was being outperformed by Gradkowski, who's also a young QB. No reason to play him. At that point, you know he's bad and likely always going to stay bad.

Do you like, want examples of differences? 

  1. Jets ditching Darnold: good that they were able to do it, probably a year late. Outperformed significantly by Flacco. Panthers picking up Darnold: super-nuts.
  2. Giants sticking with Jones for a third year: depends on if Mike Glennon ever gets in and outperforms the heck out of him. If he does, they were stupid. If not, *shrug*.

It's hard for us to tell if a guy's being outperformed in practice or not. It's not hard for the team to tell.

41 You realize this whole…

Pat, I respect you as a poster so I don't really want this to continue in the hostile vein. To that end I'll only state plainly my confusion.

This whole discourse started with the fact that I said, the Raiders drafted Russel and were obligated to play him. That was it. I never said at a minimum of X number of years or starts, just that a highly drafted rookie who stinks is going to command starts. 

Thats when you posted this comment which I will again repeat.

"That's because a good team wouldn't have let Russell lead the team. If a guy's bad, you don't play him. The Raiders started Russell even though I guarantee he was being outperformed by Gradkowski in practice. Manziel was going to start opening day in 2016, which I can't even fathom!"

And then you later made this comment.

"Playing Russell in 2007 was fine. Obviously you need to see what you have, and McCown was terrible (however - again - strong indication it wasn't the QB's fault). Playing Russell in 2008 is justifiable as well. No one else played well, either. Maybe Russell really was playing well enough in practice that the evaluations said it's the rest of the team, not him. He should've gotten better - but he didn't. So you've got a red flag right there, but who knows. Team knows more than we do in those situations. Plus maybe he stays on the roster just because of his contract. Who knows.

Maybe I am too dense and I am missing the obvious subtext. But when I read, " If a guy's bad, you don't play him" and then I read, "Playing Russell in 2007 was fine. Obviously you need to see what you have...", I get confused. 

But since this thread has gone on far longer than it really deserves to, I'm happy to just too stupid to understand. 

42 Some of your confusion, I…

Some of your confusion, I think, is that it looks like hindsight/post-hoc reasoning. As in, it looks like I'm saying playing Russell for a few years is fine, and then once 2009 rolled around, suddenly it was horrible to start Russell in 2008.

That's because it's a process judgement, not a results judgement. I'm not going to blame a franchise for playing rookies and the rookie not working out. I don't know what's going on at practice, so I can't judge. But when you get reports leaking about a guy (work ethic, weight concerns, etc.) - those aren't just "office gossip." Those are calculated communications from people on the team to cover their reputation around the league. It's them saying "this decision was forced on us by these other guys, we didn't make it."

That's why Manziel's also a good example. If you haven't read about the Browns dysfunction over those years, you really should - that was not a normal screwup. Again, you had plenty of hints beforehand. But then at the end when things explode, it just confirms all those hints were right.

This whole discourse started with the fact that I said, the Raiders drafted Russel and were obligated to play him. That was it.

Yeah, and I said a good team wouldn't have let Russell lead the team. There's a difference between giving a rookie a few starts when your season's already trash and handing the reins to him for a full year the next year when he's seriously not ready.

Again, it's all a process judgement. You don't judge results, you judge process - it's a game. You play poker, sometimes you get a bad hand. The real question's what you do with it. Washington started Haskins last year probably because he looked OK in practice, and Rivera wanted to see if he improved with real game experience. Instead he declined, so they cut bait. Good process. No problem. Raiders draft Russell high, and then start him for 2+ seasons when he showed no evidence of improvement and clear evidence that there were better options available, and later reveals confirm he sucked in practice. Bad process.

Screwing up a QB decision doesn't kill your franchise (as in, multi-year top-10 draft picks) for more than maybe a year or two nowadays. Really bad screwups (Hackenberg, Paxton Lynch, Rosen, Haskins, Kizer) don't really hurt you any more than any other first-round miss any more if your process is good. "Middling" QBs can probably set you back a bit more (which you've suggested before) but with good process you can manage that (c.f. the Jets and Darnold - I seriously can't tell you how much my opinion of the Jets FO has improved this offseason) and hey, if the Rams actually succeed with the Stafford trade, maybe lump them in there too. (Philly's issues aren't due to Wentz in my opinion, they're absolutely a 'bad franchise' case. Plenty of 'bad process' examples there).

Seriously, those 5 guys had 0, 4, 13, 13, 15 starts between them when the teams cut bait. Russell had 25, Lock has 18 and counting. Manziel had 8 but clearly should've been in the "0, 4" grouping. 

You might also note that the QBs I listed are basically all the "total failure" picks from the past 5 years, because in general, it seems like teams are improving at dealing with this stuff (likely because they're realizing how dirt cheap these guys are). Lock is really my last "seriously, WTF are you doing" question with the Broncos, and if Bridgewater plays those whole year, even then I'll be like "okay, that's fine."

43 Again,  I find this…

Again,  I find this statement: 

"Yeah, and I said a good team wouldn't have let Russell lead the team. There's a difference between giving a rookie a few starts when your season's already trash and handing the reins to him for a full year the next year when he's seriously not ready."

And this statement

"Playing Russell in 2007 was fine. Obviously you need to see what you have, and McCown was terrible (however - again - strong indication it wasn't the QB's fault). Playing Russell in 2008 is justifiable as well"


Completely contradictory 

44 How are they contradictory?…

How are they contradictory? 2007 was fine, he started one game. Whatever. Who cares.

2008 could have been fine, if Russell had shown enough in practice and his poor performance was just a learning curve issue. But 2009 revealed that it wasn't - he was just handed the team, even though he totally wasn't ready. Like, absolutely not ready. In the time following, plenty of stuff came out to confirm that. As in, the coaches gave him blank tape to study because they knew he wouldn't watch it, and then he comes in and claims that he studied stuff on the tapesAnd they started this guy.

Again, it's about the process - it's just a bunch of rules that you can infer from results like "start player X here if Y and Z happens in games." You have to know the why, and usually you can't confirm that until much later. Which means you have to figure out the why from what little bits of info you get.

That's why I say a good team never would've let Russell start in 2008. No way. They would've said "well, he's not ready" and gone with whoever else. The reason you hear all of these subtle things about QB prospects come out from a coach's point of view is that they're trying to sabotage public opinion of the guy because they're being forced to play him by the front office. If they aren't being forced to play him, you just quietly never hear anything, and the guy goes away. Again, Paxton Lynch.