With the flood of Stafford posts up as recent; I wanted to post a FAQ piece encapsulating my opinions on the matter.
Do I think Matthew Stafford will be a great pro quarterback? I don't know.
What about Brian Brohm? I'd rather Seattle trade for Brohm than draft Stafford. Unfortunately, I have no evidence that Green Bay is even interested in trading Brohm. Fans always want to somehow beat the system: Nutso trades, fliers on players who will never play but would be so awesome if they did, and far out scenarios involving free agents with no desire to sign. It's possible Seattle could trade for Brohm. If Stafford is available at four, it's absolute Seattle could draft him.
How can I endorse a quarterback I do not think will be great? I haven't officially endorsed Stafford so much as said:
He's been considered a top pro prospect since high school
Fits what I interpret as Tim Ruskell's draft MO
Fits a need Seattle is almost desperate for
Is the right player, at the right time, for the right system
Will likely be available
Makes more sense than almost any other available prospect
May be the only franchise quarterback Seattle has a realistic shot of acquiring
And that quarterback is far and away the most important position in football.
What about a left tackle? Sean Locklear deserves a chance to see if he can stick. If he bombs out, next year's draft has five tackles projected to go in the first round and another six that could go in the first day. I think left tackle is approaching fad status, and do not think a great NFL team or even a great NFL offense needs a great left tackle.
What about Michael Crabtree? Crabtree is awesome and I think he'll make a great pro. I do not think drafting Crabtree matches Ruskell's philosophy, do not think of wide receiver as a building block position, believe wide receiver is as likely to bust as any position and believe Crabtree must provide elite production to dignify the salary he will be due.
Won't he be obscenely expensive? Whoever Seattle takes, they're staring down a 5-6 year, 60+ million dollar contract with 25 to 30 million guaranteed. That's elite money for any position but quarterback. Quarterbacks are paid much, much more than any other position. The Franchise Tag for quarterback is nearly five million more than the next highest paid position, cornerback. In that sense, quarterback is absolutely the smartest position to take in a fixed salary structure. Quarterback is the only position Seattle's pick will not have to be elite to justify his salary. Stafford becomes expensive just as Seattle is clearing money off its books.
What if he busts? The money isn't so much a factor as the production. A top drafted quarterback demands seasons to develop, and bust or not, Seattle will be forced to start Stafford. Seattle isn't likely to compete in 2009 or 2010. I keep reading "win now", but it would take a miraculous turnaround to win now. Seattle is not a young team that suffered growing pains last season; it's an old team that broke down. Drafting to win now is like chasing a pot with crap hole cards. Seattle could chase, end up an improbable winner, but it's more likely they'll lose now and be less able to pursue the next hand.
The Stafford bust effect kicks in 2011. Seattle's young talent will be entering its prime. Its older talent will be inside its peak. Matt Hasselbeck will likely be gone. Stafford could single-handedly ruin the 2011 season. How long does he last if he obviously sucks? Let's look back at eighteen* years of top ten picks**, starting five years ago in 2004. How long did the obvious busts last before sent packing?
Byron Leftwich: 3 seasons, 6 games.
David Carr: 5 seasons
Joey Harrington: 3 seasons, 11 games
Tim Couch: 4 seasons, 8 games
Akili Smith: 2 seasons, 1 game
Ryan Leaf: 1 season, 9 games
Kerry Collins: 3 seasons, 4 games
Heath Shuler: 2 seasons
Rick Mirer: 3 seasons, 9 games
Dave Klingler: 3 seasons
Jeff George: 3 season, 11 games
Far from being franchise crippling, bust quarterbacks rarely saw their fourth season, and no bust quarterback taken outside the first overall pick lasted into his fourth season. My methodology is pretty simple here. Any season in which a quarterback played the majority of games in a season and started a game the next season is considered a "season". That's to reflect that even if a quarterback did not start every game, the team was still captive to his potential (i.e. hadn't given up on him and drafted an adequate replacement.) Season's are counted as sixteen games no matter how many the quarterback actually started. The average top ten bust played 52 games (51.9) or three seasons and four games.
As I've said before, part of the reason people interpret such malignancy in the quarterback bust is that teams that draft top quarterbacks are already rebuilding and therefore likely to be bad. If Seattle is already unlikely to compete in 2009, then should Stafford bust, he'd likely be off the team in 2013.
* I picked eighteen seasons to balance the post strike era with a large enough sample size.
** The only quarterback I omitted is Andre Ware, who only played in only fourteen games over four seasons. Seems like an obvious outlier.
This marks the end of my first phase of talking Stafford and posting will return to normal tomorrow. If I've piqued your interest, March will feature plenty of Stafford including entire game breakdowns.