I admit I had to replace a couple of consonants in the title to get across what I really wanted to say.
I am seeing a lot of people extolling the supposed virtues of tanking the year in order to draft Andrew Luck, who by all accounts is that kind of once-in-a-generation quarterback you sink your future into. The question is, is going 2-14 or worse and drafting a quarterback in the first round really a path to long-term success? I have an inkling "not" but this is not about inklings, dammit!
I'll take a look at all teams who with one of the first 3 picks in the draft and drafted a QB. We'll see how they fared over the next 5 years - in today's NFL, you're only going to keep your 1st round franchise QB if you resign him in free agency past that point anyway. Or, if he is a bust, you've figured it out by then and you're able to move on to the Next Big Thing the way the Colts moved on from Jeff George (oops! spoiler alert!).
This is also a pretty long list, so I'm going to break it up a bit. The first part will include everyone up to 1997, the year where the standings turned into the Peyton Manning (and the Ryan Leaf) draft.
ON THE MORROW WE SHALL DIE ALSO TO THE BREAK
1988 Dallas Cowboys: (1-15 first year, 7-9. 11-5, 13-3, 12-4) Straight off the bat, we get a success story. Well, sort of. Actually, Troy Aikman was drafted in 1989, when the Cowboys also sucked in Tom Landry's last season, and it was young Troy who led the team to that MASSIVE 1-15 record. Fortunately for him, help was soon on the way in the form of a huge, huge trade involving Herschel Walker and Minnesota Vikings' entire draft for 1990. If ever there is an exception which proves the rule, this is it.
1989 Indianapolis Colts: (7-9, 1-15, 9-7, 4-12, 8-8). "GORGE (on losses) FOR GEORGE" turned out either terribly poorly or MASSIVELY AWESOME, since the Colts were still pretty damn mediocre to crap until they finally did manage to draft Peyton. Jeff George is well known as one of the great busts of all time, of course, and you can't help but think that much of that may have been too-high expectations.
1992 New England Patriots: (5-11, 10-6, 6-10, 11-5, 10-6). Another success story overall, but those first 5 years are very .500y, if you ask me. It took the Pats 4 years, basically, to put a team around Drew. He gave them several good years after that, of course, and then Belicheat found Tom Brady, so it definitely worked out for New England in the end.
1992 Seattle Seahawks: (6-10, 6-10, 8-8, 7-9. 8-8). Rick Mirer, on the other hand. I won't belabor you with these horrible, horrible years, except to say that Mirer was replaced by the immortal Jon Friesz by the end of the 3rd year in there and completely forgotten in favor of Warren Moon by Year 5. Somehow Seattle did get a 1st round pick for him but I don't think you ought to count on the stupidity of other teams to pay for your mistakes.
1993 Washington Redskins: (3-13, 6-10, 9-7, 8-7-1, 6-10). Remember Heath Shuler? No? Well, the Redskins probably wished they forgot him too. He led them from the bowels of horribleness to the gateway of mediocrity.
1994 Houston Oilers: (7-9, 8-8, 8-8, 8-8, 13-3) Air McNair ended up being one of the better stories with this. It did take Houston/Tennessee 5 years to get a decent enough team around him, but the then-Titans were good enough to contend for Super Bowls for a few years at the beginning of the previous decade.
1997 Indianapolis Colts: (3-13, 13-3, 10-6, 6-10, 10-6). Manning was a real talent; even in his crappy rookie year he was taking chances down the field, and he very quickly managed to turn the Colts around. Obviously, this is the guy Seahawks fans are thinking of when they think of sucking for Luck.
1997 San Diego Chargers: (5-11, 8-8, 1-15, 5-11, 8-8). On the other hand, there is Ryan Leaf. Leaf was, if memory serves, thought of as every bit as talented as Manning was coming out (unlike, say, Bledsoe vs. Mirer, where there was always that question as to whether the latter player would flourish outside of Notre Dame). Leaf did have an attitude about him, but then again so do a lot of great players, so to blame that on his MASSIVE bustology is a bit of hindsight, I think. More to the point, I believe, the Chargers had crap-all around him on offense and actually suffered the worst season in the history of the franchise when they finally gave Leaf the keys to the car in Year 3.