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Anybody want a quarterback?

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Roar Guru
23rd October, 2018
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We all know the old adage. The quarterback is the most important position of the four North American professional sports.

In fact some suggest that gridiron would be considered the ultimate team sport on the planet if not for the outlier of not being able to realistically compete for a championship without a competent quarterback.

And so the annual quarterback carousel happens every NFL off-season. If there is such a time.

It’s a bizarre time where owners and general managers fool fans, players and often themselves into a false sense of hope and optimism, where mediocre – to put it kindly – quarterbacks are acquired and sold to a new fan-base as the saviour whom shall lead them to a joyful and successful future.

But what did the wise man once notoriously say about the inability to polish the proverbial excrement?

The most recent NFL off-season will live long in the memory for its quarterback merry-go-round-like behaviour. And although there were many middling signal callers who changed teams and were subsequently advertised to their new city as quarterbacks capable of taking their franchises to the next level – sorry, Case Keenum and Alex Smith – the off-season quarterback sweepstakes were notable for two distinct reasons.

The first was the incredible decision from Washington Redskins management to let a more than capable quarterback in Kirk Cousins walk into free agency. This almost never happens. Not with good players at this position.

The Redskins decision led to a free agency frenzy in which quarterback-starved teams fell over each other in desperation for his services. Ultimately the Vikings won the race and Cousins became a very rich man. But remember, this isn’t Peyton Manning we’re talking about.

American football player Kirk Cousins

(Keith Allison, Flickr)

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The second was the number of rookie quarterbacks drafted in the 2018 NFL draft in April. There were five drafted in the first round alone, which is the equal second most in history, and while some teams don’t yet know that their rookie signal callers won’t pan out, these five teams at least have their short-term answer at the game’s most important position.

With Cleveland, Buffalo, Arizona, Baltimore and the New York Jets all taking quarterbacks in April, an interesting question lies in wait next off-season: Just who needs a quarterback?

The answer to that question is generally always ‘everybody bar a lucky few’. However, this may not be the case in 2019, as all those who are destined to end up with a pick near the top of the draft have just filled or at least attempted to fill their elusive quarterback quandary.

A quick glance around the league highlights the unusual lack of quarterback desperation.

In the AFC the only team anybody could say will draft a first-round quarterback with any assurance is Denver, who have struggled offensively at times this season with stopgap Case Keenum at the helm (sorry again, Case).

While franchises such as New England and the Los Angeles Chargers will be tempted to take an heir apparent to Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers respectively, they both have concerns elsewhere.

Though there may be some upheaval in places such as Miami, with seven-year veteran Ryan Tannehill; Cincinnati, with Andy Dalton; and Jacksonville, with Blake Bortles, there appears to be only one sure-fire team looking to draft a signal-caller in Round 1 come April next year.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

(Jeffrey Beall / CC BY-SA 3.0)

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If that seems a small number, there’s even more non-uncertainty in the NFC.

The New York Giants are the obvious candidate, having finally realised 12 months after the rest of the world that Eli Manning is finished. New York aside, there is nobody else that appears certain to take a quarterback with their first selection in the next NFL draft. Again, New Orleans may be tempted to find the next in line to the legendary Drew Brees, though the Saints are without a first-round pick as things currently stand. Washington, having brought in the 33-year old Alex Smith to replace Cousins, may be the only other.

But that’s the demand. What about the supply?

The early general consensus of the 2019 crop of college quarterbacks is that they aren’t as highly thought of as the class of 2018. Unfortunately for NFL general managers, the hottest current college quarterback prospect is Alabama’s left-handed wonder-kid Tua Tagovailoa, who won’t be eligible for the draft until 2020 at the earliest.

Of those eligible, Oregon’s physical specimen Justin Herbert leads the pack of college football quarterbacks in 2018. Standing at a monstrous six-foot, six inches and moving like a guy ten inches shorter, Herbert possesses all the attributes many coaches salivate over. However, many scouts have suggested Herbert will in fact return for his senior year at Oregon rather than forego his studies and have his life changed at the draft in April.

American football generic

(Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Some of the other names to remember include Missouri’s Drew Lock and West Virginia’s Will Grier, both of whom possess the moxie attitudes of successful pro quarterbacks without possessing the natural arm talent of either Herbert or any of those drafted in the first round of 2018.

This draft being light on in terms of impactful quarterback prospects, coupled with the fact most teams expected to be picking inside the top ten on draft night just took guys they really like at the position, leads one to anticipate that this off-season’s quarterback musical chairs will look very different. In fact based on the current draft order, it’s possible that after the current No.1 pick holders the Giants inevitably take a quarterback first overall, the next one may not hear his name called until Denver’s pick 14.

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This may pan out to be a game of musical chairs without the chairs. Or music for that matter.

But do we really expect there to be a status quo this off-season when it comes to the most important position in world sport? After all, this is the NFL we’re talking about.

If you don’t have a quarterback in this league, the search for one consumes you. Sometimes that searching can span half a century or longer.

If you think that might be typical sports hyperbole, just ask fans of the Cleveland Browns or New York Jets.

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