The NFL Quarterback is the most important and most difficult job in sports. A "rifle" arm hardly guarantees success, nor does a 4.0 GPA nor Heisman trophy. Countless quarterbacks have been drafted in the NFL's first round with the hopes and Superbowl dreams of fans riding along, only to be disappointed by interceptions, injuries and football follies. The following quarterback busts were drafted #1, #2 or #3 overall: JaMarcus Russell (1), Alex Smith (1), David Carr (1), Tim Couch (1), Jeff George (1), Ryan Leaf (2), Rick Mirer (2), Joey Harrington (3) , Akili Smith (3)...I could go on.
Since finding the next great quarterback in the NFL draft is a Crap-shoot--actually your odds of winning are far better at Craps--I suggest that a quarterback should never be drafted. Instead, teams in need of a QB should follow recent strategy of the KC Chiefs (signed Matt Cassell) and Houston Texans (signed Matt Schaub): Acquire a QB that has been a future Hall of Famer's teammate for at least 2 years. Let me explain.
Take, for instance, Aaron Rodgers who is quickly becoming the league's #1 QB. What did Rodgers do for 3 years prior to getting his first QB start? He held the clipboard for Brett Favre in 2005, '06, and '07.
Philip Rivers? The San Diego Chargers phenom walked the sidelines while Drew Brees started in 2004 and 2005.
Tom Brady? Watched and learned from the New England Patriot's Drew Bledsoe during 2000 and 2001.
Matt Hasselbeck? Three years on the sideline during Brett Favre's tenure in Green Bay ('98, '99 and '00)
Peyton Manning is an exception to this rule--but, no theory is 100%.
For further proof of this theory's success, let's go back a few seasons:
Steve Young -- backup to Joe Montana for three years on the 49-ers ('87, '88, '89)
Boomer Esiason -- played behind and then in front of Ken Anderson for the Bengals ('84, '85 '86)
Dan Fouts -- okay, it was only for his first year in 1973, but many don't realize Fouts was teammates with none other than Johnny Unitas on the San Diego Chargers. One year with the best QB of all time has to count for two years with anyone else, right?
Dave Krieg -- backup to Jim Zorn for three years on the Seahawks ('80, '81, '82)
Marc Bulger -- backup to Kurt Warner for three years on the Rams (2001-03). Bulger selected to two Pro Bowls and was 2004 Pro Bowl MVP.
Maybe the Chiefs and Texans know something about this theory? Matt Cassel backed-up Tom Brady from 2005-2007 and then replaced him after Brady's injury in 2008. Matt Schaub was Michael Vick's backup in Atlanta from 2004-2006. Both Schaub and Cassel are now Pro Bowl quarterbacks (Schaub 2009, Cassel 2010).
So, applying this theory, which backup QBs should teams go after?
1) Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers) - backup to Aaron Rodgers 2008-10. Flynn showed signs of greatness during his 2010 start against the New England Patriots (Rodgers was injured).
2) Brian Hoyer (New England Patriots) - backup to Tom Brady 2009-10. Two impressive pre-seasons. After one more year of backing up Brady, he'll be ripe for the pickin'.
3) Charlie Whitehurst (Seattle Seahawks) - backup to Philip Rivers 2006-2009; backup to Matt Hasselbeck 2010. Led Seattle in defeating the St. Louis Rams to advance to the playoffs Jan 2011.
4) Chase Daniel (New Orleans Saints) - backup to Drew Brees in 2010. Must backup Brees for two more years, then would consider acquiring him if shows success during that time.
Rather than drafting Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Mallett or Cam Newton in 2011, teams would be wise to poach the aforementioned Matt Flynn from the Packers--he even will have Superbowl experience, albeit from the sideline.
Jim Kaese is a best-selling author, serial entreprenuer, proud Dad of 2, and 4x fantasy-football league champion.