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The Dallas Cowboys are rumored to be drafting a replacement for Tony Romo with the fourth pick in the first round. In general, teams with bad offenses are the ones that draft quarterbacks, and technically, the Cowboys would fit that mold given the team’s struggles last year. But, of course, the Cowboys expect to have a good offense in 2016 with a healthy Romo, so I was curious how unusual it would be for a good team to spend a first round pick on a quarterback.

The table below shows the offensive SRS grade and the number of wins1 for each team that has drafted a quarterback since 1971 in the year preceding such draft. For example, the 2014 Bucs and Titans had very bad offenses and went 2-14 before drafting quarterbacks with the first two picks. That’s how things typically go, but not always.

2015Tampa Bay BuccaneersJameis Winston1-6.52
2015Tennessee TitansMarcus Mariota2-72
2014Jacksonville JaguarsBlake Bortles3-7.14
2014Cleveland BrownsJohnny Manziel22-4.84
2014Minnesota VikingsTeddy Bridgewater320.25.5
2013Buffalo BillsEJ Manuel16-0.96
2012Indianapolis ColtsAndrew Luck1-62
2012Washington RedskinsRobert Griffin2-4.35
2012Miami DolphinsRyan Tannehill8-2.26
2012Cleveland BrownsBrandon Weeden22-7.24
2011Carolina PanthersCam Newton1-9.12
2011Tennessee TitansJake Locker8-0.96
2011Jacksonville JaguarsBlaine Gabbert10-1.28
2011Minnesota VikingsChristian Ponder12-3.36
2010St. Louis RamsSam Bradford1-11.71
2010Denver BroncosTim Tebow25-18
2009Detroit LionsMatthew Stafford1-40
2009New York JetsMark Sanchez52.29
2009Tampa Bay BuccaneersJosh Freeman17-0.69
2008Atlanta FalconsMatt Ryan3-5.84
2008Baltimore RavensJoe Flacco18-55
2007Oakland RaidersJaMarcus Russell1-10.32
2007Cleveland BrownsBrady Quinn22-4.54
2006Tennessee TitansVince Young3-24
2006Arizona CardinalsMatt Leinart10-25
2006Denver BroncosJay Cutler11513
2005San Francisco 49ersAlex Smith1-5.12
2005Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers244.310
2005Washington RedskinsJason Campbell25-7.46
2004San Diego ChargersEli Manning1-0.64
2004New York GiantsPhilip Rivers4-4.84
2004Pittsburgh SteelersBen Roethlisberger11-2.56
2004Buffalo BillsJ.P. Losman22-56
2003Cincinnati BengalsCarson Palmer1-3.62
2003Jacksonville JaguarsByron Leftwich7-1.36
2003Baltimore RavensKyle Boller19-1.57
2003Chicago BearsRex Grossman22-4.44
2002Houston TexansDavid Carr1
2002Detroit LionsJoey Harrington3-22
2002Washington RedskinsPatrick Ramsey32-48
2001Atlanta FalconsMichael Vick1-5.74
2000New York JetsChad Pennington180.28
1999Cleveland BrownsTim Couch1
1999Philadelphia EaglesDonovan McNabb2-12.33
1999Cincinnati BengalsAkili Smith3-4.53
1999Minnesota VikingsDaunte Culpepper1113.215
1999Chicago BearsCade McNown12-3.44
1998Indianapolis ColtsPeyton Manning1-0.63
1998San Diego ChargersRyan Leaf2-4.14
1997San Francisco 49ersJim Druckenmiller263.712
1995Houston OilersSteve McNair3-4.72
1995Carolina PanthersKerry Collins5
1994Washington RedskinsHeath Shuler3-3.84
1994Tampa Bay BuccaneersTrent Dilfer6-3.35
1993New England PatriotsDrew Bledsoe1-6.52
1993Seattle SeahawksRick Mirer2-9.82
1992Cincinnati BengalsDavid Klingler6-1.83
1992Denver BroncosTommy Maddox250.312
1991Seattle SeahawksDan McGwire16-0.59
1991Los Angeles RaidersTodd Marinovich242.212
1990Indianapolis ColtsJeff George1-2.78
1990Detroit LionsAndre Ware7-1.77
1989Dallas CowboysTroy Aikman1-3.83
1987Tampa Bay BuccaneersVinny Testaverde1-4.62
1987St. Louis CardinalsKelly Stouffer6-6.54.5
1987Atlanta FalconsChris Miller13-2.87.5
1987Chicago BearsJim Harbaugh26-0.114
1986Houston OilersJim Everett3-4.95
1986Detroit LionsChuck Long12-1.67
1983Baltimore ColtsJohn Elway1-60.9
1983Kansas City ChiefsTodd Blackledge7-1.85.3
1983Buffalo BillsJim Kelly14-1.97.1
1983New England PatriotsTony Eason15-3.58.9
1983New York JetsKen O'Brien248.910.7
1983Miami DolphinsDan Marino272.712.4
1982Baltimore ColtsArt Schlichter4-3.82
1982Chicago BearsJim McMahon5-4.46
1981Green Bay PackersRich Campbell6-5.85.5
1980Oakland RaidersMarc Wilson153.89
1980Pittsburgh SteelersMark Malone286.812
1979Cincinnati BengalsJack Thompson3-2.74
1979New York GiantsPhil Simms7-1.16
1979Kansas City ChiefsSteve Fuller23-34
1978Tampa Bay BuccaneersDoug Williams17-11.12.3
1977St. Louis CardinalsSteve Pisarkiewicz193.511.4
1977Minnesota VikingsTommy Kramer273.713.1
1976New York JetsRichard Todd6-1.23.4
1975Atlanta FalconsSteve Bartkowski1-9.73.4
1973Baltimore ColtsBert Jones2-5.15.7
1972Green Bay PackersJerry Tagge111.45.7
1972Philadelphia EaglesJohn Reaves14-2.77.4
1971New England PatriotsJim Plunkett1-9.12.3
1971New Orleans SaintsArchie Manning2-4.62.9
1971Houston OilersDan Pastorini3-3.54

Only 14 of the teams that drafted a quarterback in the first round were at least 0.500 in the prior year and at least league average in offensive SRS. In the last 20 years, they were only six such cases, and each case had some extenuating circumstances:

  • The 2008 Jets had Brett Favre at quarterback, but he did not return in 2009, leading to the trade up for Mark Sanchez.
  • The 2005 Broncos had Jake Plummer, but he was one year away from retiring. Of course, he retired in part because he lost his job to Jay Cutler in ’06, but the Broncos likely always felt that Plummer was not going to be the guy to get the team over the hump (and he struggled in the AFC Championship Game loss to Pittsburgh).
  • The 2004 Packers had Favre, and we all know that story. Drafting Aaron Rodgers was a long-term play because Favre stuck around longer than most would have expected, but it still worked out beautifully for the Packers.
  • The ’98 Vikings had Randall Cunningham, but he was 36 years old by the time the ’99 Draft arrived. Given how good Minnesota had been the year before, the Daunte Culpepper pick was a luxury the Vikings could afford.
  • The ’96 49ers had a 35-year-old Steve Young; at the time, drafting Jim Druckenmiller, who had fallen in the draft, seemed like a way for San Francisco to continue the team’s excellent quarterback situation. That didn’t quite work out as planned.

The Cowboys situation would be pretty similar to what the 49ers were facing. Young, like Romo, had some durability concerns, and Romo is six months older than Young was at that time. This will be the highest the Cowboys have drafted since owning the first overall pick in 1991, so if Dallas views a franchise quarterback as one of the options at four, it makes sense to draft him even with Romo. The best-case scenario for Dallas under Romo is that he plays well for a couple of years, but in that situation, the Cowboys will be picking at the back end of the first round for the next three years, and without much of a long-term plan at the position.

  1. Pro-rated to 16 games for non-16 game seasons. []
  • Interesting that the best and worst SRS teams both came from 1998 and picked a QB in the first round in 1999. And they were the two most successful QBs of the five that were picked that year.

  • Richie

    One thing this shows, is that aside from Dan Marino and Aaron Rodgers, guys drafted after the 18th pick haven’t fared very well.

  • Alejandro

    I might be giving away my youth here, but I loved watching Jake the Snake in Denver when I first got interested in the NFL. He was like an even more gunslingery version of Favre, the way I remember him. In fact, Denver has had a great streak of interesting (not always necessarily meaning “good”) quarterbacks, from Plummer to Cutler to Captain Neckbeard to TEBOW to Peyton.

  • sacramento gold miners

    The Chargers, Giants, and Steelers will need to be proactive with their QB positions, as they all have mid 30s starters. The Patriots invested a second round pick at QB recently, but who knows if that will work out.

    • JeremyDeShetler

      From what I’ve read, they are currently shopping Garoppolo right now for a first round pick.