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In yesterday’s post, I argued that teams were overly hesitant to move on from bad investments. There’s a reason for that: miss on a first-round quarterback, and there are serious ramifications. Sometimes the offensive coordinator gets the axe first — we saw the Jets move on from Brian Schottenheimer this past offseason — but usually the coach and offensive coordinator are a package deal. And the quarterback usually gets at least one more chance with a new staff.

The 2007 draft provides two examples of this. The Oakland Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick, and we know how that went. This was part of a regime change, as Lane Kiffin and Greg Knapp replaced Art Shell and John Shoop. But by the end of 2008, both Kiffin and Knapp were gone, as Russell lasted for one more year under Tom Cable. With the 22nd pick, Cleveland selected Brady Quinn. Romeo Crennel and the Browns went 10-6 that season, but the team regressed to 4-12 in 2008. With Brady Quinn barely making an impact in two years and the team struggling, Crennel and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski were shown the door; a year later, Quinn was done in Cleveland, too.

Lest anyone forget, Blaine Gabbert is already on his second staff. Jack Del Rio and Dirk Koetter were shown the door for largely non-Gabbert-based reasons, although both have landed well in Denver and Atlanta as coordinators. But let’s take a step back and look at history. From 1998 to 2010, there were 35 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft. The table below shows each quarterback, his last year as the main starter for that team, how many years he “survived” there (simply his last year starting minus his draft year plus one); I’ve also listed the team’s offensive coordinator and head coach during the quarterback’s rookie season, and how long each of those two men survived in their positions individually and collectively. Finally, the last column is my subjective “bust/not bust” column, with me grading each quarterback on a scale from 1 to 3 on the “was this player a terrible, average, or good pick.” Again, in all of these cases I’m looking at the success with that team, not with any other team (and for Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, I’m considering them as having been drafted by the Chargers and Giants, respectively.)

YearPickTmQBLast Yr StYrs SurvOCLast YrYrs SurvHCLast YrYrs SurvCombinedbust?
19982SDGRyan Leaf20003Mike Sheppard19981June Jones1998121
19981INDPeyton Manning201013Tom Moore200912Jim Mora20014163
19992PHIDonovan McNabb200911Rod Dowhower20013Andy Reid201214173
19993CINAkili Smith20002Ken Anderson20002Bruce Coslet2000241
199911MINDaunte Culpepper20046Ray Sherman19991Dennis Green2001343
199912CHICade McNown20002Gary Crowton20002Dick Jauron2003571
19991CLETim Couch20024Chris Palmer20002Chris Palmer2000241
200018NYJChad Pennington20067Dan Henning20001Al Groh2000123
20011ATLMichael Vick20066George Sefcik20011Dan Reeves2003343
20023DETJoey Harrington20054Maurice Carthon20021Marty Mornhinweg2002121
200232WASPatrick Ramsey20032Steve Spurrier20032Steve Spurrier2003241
20021HOUDavid Carr20065Chris Palmer20043Dom Capers2005471
20031CINCarson Palmer20108Bob Bratkowski20108Marvin Lewis201210183
20037JAXByron Leftwich20053Bill Musgrave20042Jack Del Rio20119112
200319BALKyle Boller20075Matt Cavanaugh20042Brian Billick2007571
200322CHIRex Grossman20075John Shoop20031Dick Jauron2003121
200422BUFJ.P. Losman20063Tom Clements20052Mike Mularkey2005241
20044SDGPhilip Rivers20118Cam Cameron20063Marty Schottenheimer2006363
20041NYGEli Manning20118John Hufnagel20063Tom Coughlin20129123
200411PITBen Roethlisberger20118Ken Whisenhunt20063Bill Cowher2006363
200525WASJason Campbell20095Don Breaux20051Joe Gibbs2007342
20051SFOAlex Smith20117Mike McCarthy20051Mike Nolan2008452
200524GNBAaron Rodgers20117Tom Rossley20051Mike Sherman2005123
20063TENVince Young20105Norm Chow20072Jeff Fisher2010572
200610ARIMatt Leinart20061Keith Rowen20061Dennis Green2006121
200611DENJay Cutler20083Rick Dennison20083Mike Shanahan2008362
200722CLEBrady Quinn20093Rob Chudzinski20082Romeo Crennel2008241
20071OAKJaMarcus Russell20093Greg Knapp20082Lane Kiffin2008241
200818BALJoe Flacco20114Cam Cameron20125John Harbaugh20125103
20083ATLMatt Ryan20114Mike Mularkey20114Mike Smith2012593
20091DETMatthew Stafford20113Scott Linehan20124Jim Schwartz2012483
200917TAMJosh Freeman20113Greg Olson20113Raheem Morris2011362
20095NYJMark Sanchez20113Brian Schottenheimer20113Rex Ryan2012472
20101STLSam Bradford20112Pat Shurmur20101Steve Spagnuolo2011232
201025DENTim Tebow20112Mike McCoy20123Josh McDaniels2010141

By my count, there were 14 clear busts drafted. In ten of those cases, the coach and the offensive coordinator were gone within two years. An 11th busted pick was Tim Tebow, at least from a Broncos perspective. Josh McDaniels was fired for lots of reasons, Tebow included, although offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has survived in Denver.

The other three cases were all pretty unique. In Houston, Dom Capers got 4 years and Chris Palmer got 3, partly due to the fact that the Texans were an expansion team and partly because David Carr and Houston had showed signs of improvement early on. In Baltimore, Matt Cavanaugh lasted just two years, but Brian Billick’s ring — and his decision to go after Steve McNair — allowed him to hang around for five more years after drafting Kyle Boller. Gary Crowton was gone two years after failing with Cade McNown, but one fluke season allowed Dick Jauron to hang around seemingly forever.

Even when the pick is not an obvious bust, the seat can be very hot. Steve Spagnuolo lasted only two years in St. Louis after drafting Sam Bradford; after three years, both Greg Olson and Raheem Morris were gone in Tampa Bay. Norm Chow and Bill Musgrave were considered offensive gurus, but lost their jobs after failing to develop Vince Young and Byron Leftwich after only two years.

Even the success stories bring their own cautionary tales. Mike Sherman drafted Aaron Rodgers, but he never got to reap any of those rewards, being dismissed along with his OC after one season. Dan Reeves and George Sefcik never got much of a payoff from the Michael Vick pick. But for the most part, if you hit on a first round quarterback, you’re in very good shape. Coordinators like Ken Whisenhunt, Cam Cameron and Mike Mularkey got head coaching jobs following the success of Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan. Ironically enough, Mularkey is now in his own tricky situation, as coach — but not the man responsible for the drafting — of Blaine Gabbert.

Obviously this is just one side of the coin. Lots of coaches and coordinators who *don’t* spend a first round pick on a quarterback get released after a couple of years, too. But it is interesting to see the ramifications following a bad draft pick (or, perhaps, following the failure to properly develop a good draft pick). In the case of all 14 busts, all the offensive coordinators (with the exception of McCoy if he is back in Denver next year) were gone within three years.

  • Sunrise089

    Is the 1-3 bust scale reflective of draft position inside the first round? Just seems odd for Grossman to get a 1 and Sanchez a 2 considering the value of the picks used on them.

    • Chase Stuart

      The bust scale is reflective of about 3 seconds of thought per quarterback. You can make Grossman a 2 and/or Sanchez a 1, if you like.

      • Sunrise089

        Excellent! For the record, Grossman is now a 2, Sanchez a remains a 2, but Tebow soars to a 4 🙂

      • Alvaro

        I had even a bigger problem with Grossman being a 1 and Campbell being a 2. No way the Redskins got better value out of Campbell than the Bears did out of Grossman. For all his faults, I’d defintiely have Sexy Rexy as a 2.

  • cool stuff, small point RE Rodgers. Ted Thompson drafted him in his first year as GM, not Sherman. Don’t know if most or any of the other coaches had GM duties and really “drafted” the QB.

    • Chase Stuart

      Yeah, I think in a significant number of these cases, the GM is more responsible than the HC.

  • Richie

    It’s interesting how Blaine Gabbert has already been given 150+ more pass attempts in his career than Brady Quinn. Gabbert has mostly been a little worse than Quinn.

    I hate Notre Dame, and have no particular affinity for Quinn (except that I wanted the Dolphins to draft him instead of Ted Ginn). But for some reason, I keep wanting to see Quinn get another shot. I can’t even explain it. I’m still not convinced he can’t be an NFL QB. Though, lots of coaches have watched him in practice and apparently disagree with me.