Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to make sure a message registers, I suppose. Following up on that message, here’s a quote I heard today from Mel Kiper that I couldn’t agree with more:
"This notion that you are going to find Tom Brady or Matt Cassel late — good luck. That’s catching lightening in a bottle."
Even for Scott Pioli, the football executive who helped discover those two quarterbacks, the odds against him pulling that off again are astronomical. 10:1 at best, I’d say, if not 50:1. Besides, we think Pioli discovered these guys, but who really knows what went down behind closed doors. It could have been all Pioli. It could have been all Bill Belichick. It could have all been some maestro of a quarterback scout we’re paying no attention to.
We’re rebuilding our franchise. Period. Anyone who argues that is stuck in a state of denial. Any rebuilding effort that’s worth a damn in the NFL starts with a QB.
I keep hearing this “defense wins championships” stuff ad nauseum. Well, if that’s true, then why was it the Steelers’ offense who bailed out its defense in the Big Game? If that’s true, then why have the past four Super Bowl winners been led by a first-round quarterback? If that’s true, then why have the past three Super Bowl winners featured at least one former first-round wide receiver (the Colts had two)?
All of those points are important ones to keep in mind. But the most important one is the first-round quarterback point. Defense wins championships? Maybe, but first-round and franchise quarterbacks definitely win championships.
Over the past six years, you have three first-round quarterbacks and possibly a guy who’s on his way to becoming the best QB of all time, Tom Brady. With the recent rule changes that benefit receivers and in an indirect way QBs (You know, the rule changes that were a direct result of that Colts-Patriots game where Ty Law was reenacting The Deliverance “squeal like a pig scene” on Marvin Harrison), quarterbacks have never been more valuable than they are today. NFL players are also just so big, fast, strong and physical nowadays that the NFL feature back is becoming a dinosaur. A dodo bird. A Siberian tiger. It’s almost an extinct breed, folks. I’ve just figured that out in the past year. The NFL is a passing league now.
The aforementioned reasons are why I believe that we aren’t destined to see another Trent Dilfer any time soon.
That being said, we have to find a quarterback. Again, I don’t believe that Tyler Thigpen is that guy. I would like to see us either bring in A.) Matt Cassel via trade (or even Matt Leinart); or B.) Mark Sanchez via draft, and a veteren guy to allow us to bring Sanchez along at the proper pace. Thigpen could compete with said placeholder QB for the temprorary starting gig in scenario B.
Do I have a stiffy for skill players? Yes, in the top five, I do. I want a quarterback who can put together game-winning drives like Ben Roethlisberger or John Elway at that spot. I want a wide receiver who can haul in game-winning grabs like Larry Fitzgerald or pre-gun Plaxico Burress. I want a pass rusher who can take over down the stretch like Derrick Thomas and Jared Allen used to. I want an offensive tackle who can dominate for a decade like Orlando Pace.
What I do not want is a middle linebacker who had less than 10 sacks in four years of college ball. What I do not want is a defacto No. 1 tackle like Jason Smith, who looks like a poor man’s Jake Long or Joe Thomas right now at best. I mean, I watched Baylor play some this year and never really even noticed him. Additionally, there will be good ILBs and OTs available in both free agency and at No. 34. You cannot say the same thing when it comes to quarterbacks, and maybe even receivers with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Percy Harvin ascending up draft charts. Hell, I’m much more inclined to look at someone like Brian Orakpo or Everette Brown at No. 3 than I am Aaron Curry or an OT.
As for Cassel, he would only cost us two first-rounders if we matched the Pats offer and they let him walk. That’s not going to happen. I think something like the No. 34 pick and Larry Johnson would really work for them. As Peter King and others have said, I don’t think the Pats will have a lot of other suitors that want to work with them. They will be willing to work with Scott Pioli and vice versa. As for the money, yeah, a quarterback who’s playing like a franchise quarterback deserves first-round quarterback money. A middle linebacker is never worth that kind of money if you ask me. Maybe Mike Singletary or Ray Lewis in their prime. Can you guarantee that Curry is the second coming of Ray-Ray? I don’t think anybody can.
Can I guarantee that Cassel or Sanchez will be the next Ben Roethlisberger? No. I can’t. But I’d rather whiff on a franchise QB with the No. 3 pick than a middle linebacker. A franchise QB can win you a Super Bowl. How many franchise middle backers have done so? Ray-Ray and Singletary, sure, but not very many others, if any. How many franchise QBs have delivered Lombardi trophies? Lots. In fact, the last time we had a franchise quarterback was the last time we won one. If we can bypass burning the No. 3 pick or a first-rounder altogether to get Cassel, even better. Paying him first-round money without burning a first-rounder minimizes the gamble.
About Lance Moore, it would be a 2010 second-rounder and I happen to think he’s worth it. His contract could potentially be a steal. If we could get Matt Cassel and Lance Moore without giving up a first-rounder, I would have no problem with us surrendering two seconds. I would also have no problem with us going pass rusher at No. 3 instead of Michael Crabtree or Sanchez. We will address middle linebacker through free agency. I totally think we will. Offensive line as well.
As for all the comments about Cassel and Ryan trading places with Tyler Thigpen and faring the same, c’mon, gimme a break. Cassel walked into a ton of pressure in the best division in football and won 10 more games than Thigpen, who played in the worst division in football. Ryan also won 10 more games than Thigpen in a competitive division, despite his Falcons having the exact same 2007 record as our Chiefs. The homerism for this Thigpen guy is off the charts right now. I can’t even reason with some of you folks.
My free agency Blueprint is next on my agenda (and I’m hoping to have Wonderlic scores by then — very, very important). For now, in addition to Bart Scott, Chris Canty and Khalif Barnes, remember two names: 1.) DE Antonio Smith, who I have not written about, and has the obvoius Cardinals connections; 2.) C/G Jason Brown, who I have written about in earlier Blueprints.