When to draft a quarterback

Published: February 25th, 2007
By NFL_Czar's Blog

When is the right time to draft a quarterback in the first round?

The correct answer is when you have a first-year head coach. For example, the Raiders should have taken a quarterback, say Matt Leinart, last year because it was Art Shell's first season. They didn't and Shell had no excuse to fall back on before being fired. And it's definitely why they will take a quarterback this year, having hired Lane Kiffin, an offensive head coach. The two men can grow together. Most believe that Kiffin will tell owner Al Davis that of the draft's top two quarterbacks, he prefers JaMarcus Russell to Brady Quinn.

This being said, what do the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Bucs do?

I say that both teams pass on Quinn because a rookie quarterback can't help Romeo Crennel and Jon Gruden save their jobs next season. Both coaches reportedly are on the spot; they have to win to remain employed. For the Browns, GM Phil Savage's career is probably tied to next season's won-lost record, too.

Nobody knows for sure, but I say that if Oakland takes LSU's Russell and Detroit sticks with Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas with the second overall choice, then Cleveland will take Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and Gruden will select the top player on his draft board, Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, who ran a 4.35 40-yard dash Sunday.

Saturday night, Gruden had his chance to pick Quinn's brain and we know he did a bang-up job. And, yes, the Bucs need a quarterback. They are kidding themselves if they believe that Chris Simms or possibly acquiring someone like Jake Plummer or Jeff Garcia is going to have immediate positive results.

Internally, the Bucs don't buy that Quinn is sliding down the draft board. But the bottom line in Tampa is that Gruden will make this draft call, and he probably will pass on taking a quarterback.

$10 million head coach

If I had to pick one, I'd say that New England's Bill Belichick could become the NFL's first $10 million head coach whenever he was free to leave the Patriots. Belichick is worth it as a coach, slash personnel director. With more and more marginal players earning $4-5 million a season because the salary cap is $109 million, it makes sense for an owner to pay the big number to a head coach who can properly manage that huge player-salary budget.

In fact, several general managers here said that the head coach's salary should be factored into the salary cap.

"I know my coach can't understand why so many second-team players, guys who don't always contribute, are earning such bigger paychecks than any of his coaches," one AFC general manager said. "A great coach is worth every penny to a franchise because he's the one who develops the rookies into starters."

Owners have been complaining about how much money the players are collecting, but what are really impacting their overall profit margin are the costs for the coaching staffs and personnel departments. Many teams have coaching/personnel staff budgets well beyond $10 million a season. The Redskins hit that magic number with only three of their coaches: Joe Gibbs, Al Saunders and Gregg Williams.

Right now, some teams may only spend $95 million of the $109 million cap. You can bet that some owners would love to place their head coach's salary into that pie and save themselves a lot of money.

Consider the Chicago Bears. Deep down they know that head coach Lovie Smith is more valuable to the team than probably any player outside of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. They have finally reached the $4 million level on a new deal for Smith, the game's lowest-paid head coach at $1.45 million for 2007. They probably would place Smith with the game's top dozen earners if they could count the salary toward the salary cap.

More than Hutch

It must be comical to head coach Mike Holmgren and his coaching staff that the Seahawks are preparing to pay Chargers guard Kris Dielman, an unrestricted free agent, more than the $6.5 million that Steve Hutchinson received last year to leave Seattle for Minnesota. Holmgren was so upset that his front office failed to place the franchise tag on Hutchinson a year ago, and ultimately losing him on a poison pill contract that Minnesota prepared for him, declaring that he had to be the team's highest-paid offensive lineman. Seattle couldn't match because left tackle Walter Jones was their highest-paid lineman.

But last season, with three different guards trying to fill the Hutchinson void, Seattle's running game faltered and Jones had a subpar season. This is where Dielman, who may not be as good as Hutchinson on the field and in the locker room, fits into Seattle's future.

Speaking of free-agency, Dielman, Bengals guard Eric Steinbach and Arizona tackle Leonard Davis could hit a gold-mine of riches when free agency signings begin next Friday, March 2. Davis reportedly may have a $12 signing bonus offer from some unnamed team. The Cleveland Browns may be competing with Seattle for Dielman and Steinbach.

Cozy relationship

When Ernie Accorsi was the general manager of the New York Giants, he had a very good working relationship with agent Drew Rosenhaus. After Saturday's revelation by new GM Jerry Reese, whose promotion was supported by Accorsi, that he would be interested in trading for Bills running back Willis McGahee, the Rosenhaus connection was raised by several competing teams. McGahee, who wants a new contract from the Bills, is represented by Rosenhaus.

Reese said that he was unwilling to trade a first-day draft choice (rounds one through three) for McGahee, but that he would be willing to part with lower picks and possibly some players. MaGahee, who doesn't like to work out in Buffalo in the off-season, has mentioned a holdout from training camp if he doesn't receive a new deal. The Bills have been saying it would take a first-round pick to acquire McGahee.

Ugly brother

David Irons, the Auburn cornerback, attempted to be a standup comic today in the media room. His brother, Kenny, was Auburn's stud running back this past season and the two brothers have a great chance at become the first such family tandem to be selected in the first round of a NFL draft. Their father, two uncles and two cousins have played in the NFL.

But in high school, Kenny was David's blocking back.

"We called it ugly sweep right and ugly sweep left," David said of his brother, referring to Kenny's face. "I kept telling him to take his visor off so the defenders could see his face. I mean once he did, they got out of his way and I ran down the sidelines for an easy touchdown."

David wasn't finished. "You should have seen him yesterday in his chocolate suit or whatever he was wearing," he said. "My brother looked like a big, fat cup of coffee."

Moss available

The Raiders don't know what to do with receiver Randy Moss, whose salary this season is slightly more than $9 million. New coach Lane Kiffin says that both Moss and Jerry Porter, who spent most of last season in Art Shell's doghouse, will be in his starting lineup. Porter, who is in the last year of his contract, needs the Raiders while Moss has different ideas. The feeling is he wants the opportunity to play for a playoff team and not be a part of Oakland's rebuilding.

What is unknown is what does Al Davis want for Moss? Would he settle for a third or fourth-round draft choice? If he would, the New England Patriots might be interested in Moss. The Pats need a veteran receiver and Belichick knows he can handle Moss. There's been a lot of talk about the Packers for Moss, but it doesn't look like a move that Green Bay GM Ted Thompson would be interested in making, no matter how much Brett Favre asks.

Eagles passing on Garcia

The Eagles keep telling their fans that they want last season's surprise, Jeff Garcia, to return and be Donovan McNabb's backup. But the team hasn't offered Garcia a contract and the 37-year-old quarterback has been rejected by most teams. The Chicago Bears, who wasted $6 million on Brian Griese last season, aren't interested in Garcia to challenge Rex Grossman. The Panthers don't want him and neither do the Dolphins. Garcia may have a shot with the Bucs, but they are in no hurry to sign him.