INDIANAPOLIS – “As the quarterback goes so goes your team. That's been the mantra for a while in the NFL.”
Attribution for this quote goes to Bengals general manager Duke Tobin on the first full day of the 2019 NFL Combine. Any coach or executive speaking in front of dozens of media members or having a candid chat on the side would say the same.
The smell of desperation might be a turn-off, but it beats the stench of losing or non-contending regular seasons that come with a QB hole.
For all the national headlines – Is Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray big enough for the NFL? – and local interest – Who takes snaps from center for the Redskins next season – or the general buzz that comes with the game’s most important position, there’s some critical information worth understanding: NFL teams are not in love with the 2019 quarterback class.
“It doesn't appear to be necessarily as deep at the very top of the draft,” Tobin said Wednesday during his media availability.
“We’re still in the process of studying [the 2019 quarterbacks]. We’ll keep looking at them. I think that there are a lot of people excited about next year’s class,” Broncos general manager John Elway said days after addressing Denver’s quarterback woes by unofficially acquiring veteran passer/short-term solution Joe Flacco.
That the 2019 class follows a year where teams were thirsty for the available options does not help their cause.
“Nothing against this year’s quarterback class, but last year’s class was unique,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “It was really like the 2004 class… because there were probably three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in that class with Ben (Roethlisberger), Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers. Not to say the [five] drafted (in the first round) last year will be Hall of Fame players, but it was a unique class. I think I’d appreciate what that class is and we’ll see where this class goes.”
With that attraction baseline established, let’s add the following: For desperate organizations, even the flawed prospects appear like an oasis in the desert.
Unless Murray’s official height (5-foot-8?) and weight (190 pounds?) have evaluators thinking of the Lollipop Guild*, the Oklahoma star lands in the first round if not firmly inside the top 10 selections.
(* Update -- They do not. Positive measurements for Murray)
Evaluators generally praise Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, the odds-on-favorite as the first QB drafted, yet acknowledge the one-year starter likely would slot fifth in the 2018 draft class.
Accuracy concerns exist for Missouri’s Drew Lock, inconsistency with Duke’s Daniel Jones. Both enter the Combine with mixed valuations, yet could easily land among the Day 1 selections.
Every team needs a quarterback and will crawl on their hands and knees through the desert searching. After all the college games and post-season observations, it’s the NFL Combine where teams solidify their review and in some cases define their level of desperation.
“Very few (quarterbacks) have it all, and you better have the first pick in the draft if a guy has it all,” Tobin said. “(Otherwise) you have to choose the deficit that you want. Are you willing to put up with a little bit of lack of size, a little bit of lack of mobility, a little bit of lack of arm strength? You have to kind of prioritize what you want your team to be and then draft to that at that position for sure.”
Others are unsure which traits are most desirable in 2019.
“There could be guys that physically can throw the ball better than anyone in this draft. Could run faster than anyone in this draft, but I don’t know if those are the critical factors that they are,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
“Everybody is trying [find an answer], and those are a lot of times subjective things you’re trying to get to in an objective decision.”
Perhaps no projected first-round quarterback in recent memory defines the push-pull aspect more than Murray. The dynamic two-sport athlete chose football over baseball for legitimate reasons. His arm strength, accuracy and foot speed are impressive. Many of his traits blend perfectly into the modern NFL where pockets move and mobile quarterbacks are desired.
However, man, couldn’t he be a bit taller?
“Like the rest of the league, I think the kid is fascinating,” draft analyst turned Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said of Murray. “It’s kind of where are we going as a league at the quarterback position. Is he too small? Is he dynamic? I think we’re all trying to figure him out. I think all 32 teams in the league are trying to figure out the entire position.”
The Redskins’ evaluation of their quarterback unit must produce migraines. Alex Smith’s horrific leg injury last season likely eliminates their best option for 2019. His $20.4 million cap hit remains. Head coach Jay Gruden may believe Colt McCoy works for a season. Not many others agree.
Acquiring a veteran free agent eats into Washington’s limited salary cap space. Drafting a rookie requires patience for an organization that last made the playoffs in 2015. For Haskins or Murray, it may mean trading assets to move into the top-5.
Whatever the plan, the Redskins need a big play. Maybe they fall in love during the Combine process or become desperate enough to overlook flaws. Regardless, the same rule applies: As the quarterback goes, so goes your team.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Hitting the Market: Foles could help Redskins at QB, but not how you think
- 2019 NFL Draft: Big Board 1.0, pre-Combine edition
- Keep a Close Eye: Five prospects to monitor