In the modern NFL, teams have no patience for a quarterback project

There were five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. The first three selections were Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, then Justin Fields went 11th and Mac Jones 15th.

All but Lance, the young man from Marshall, Minn., and with only 17 games started at North Dakota State, were quickly tossed into the very complicated world of being an NFL starting quarterback.

Lawrence (Jaguars) and Jones (Patriots) started all 17, Wilson (Jets) started 13 and Fields (Bears) started 11. Lance (49ers) started twice when Jimmy Garoppolo was absent.

They will all be full-time starters this season, other than Wilson being out at the start after knee surgery this month.

The watershed moment for rushing QBs into action occurred with the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. That took away the huge deals for first-rounders on initial contracts — meaning, teams with ready-to-play quarterbacks had a huge salary cap advantage.

While they’ve been at it, NFL teams have also been making quick decisions on non-first-rounders.

The next two quarterbacks taken in 2021 were Kyle Trask, at the end of the second round (64th) by Tampa Bay, and Kellen Mond, taken quickly in the third (66th) by the Vikings.

Trask did not throw a pass for the Bucs in the 2021 regular season, and yet I ran across a Twitter stream asking Bucs fans:

Can Trask be the replacement for Tom Brady, when the greatest ever retires and means it?

Mond did get in for three passes in the late-season blowout at Green Bay. Unlike Trask, we seem to have a consensus on Mond in Vikingville:

Yes, Mond is impressive as a physical presence at 6-3, 215 pounds, with mobility; yes, he could probably get a better idea of ​​what’s going-on out there if he stayed in the picture for playing time, but that ship sailed Monday with the addition of Nick Mullens, a journeyman at age 27.

Meaning, third-rounder Mond at the ripe age of 23 is neither the Vikings’ backup quarterback of today, nor the quarterback of the future.

OK, Mond may stick around as a third-teamer, but the NFL’s quarterback train moves too fast for those getting meaningless practice repetitions in Season 2 to someday become The Man with his original team.

Rich Gannon, years of apprenticeship, MVP quarterback late in career, astute media commentator on the game, was asked about this cruel world in which quarterbacks can be shuffled aside in a hurry.

“I came into the league as a quarterback out of Delaware’s wing-T offense,” Gannon said. “The Patriots took me in the fourth round and wanted to look at me as a running back, or defensive back.

“I complained and was traded to the Vikings. I knew nothing about NFL concepts, and we probably had 15 passing plays and two or three protections. Now, they might have 100 pass plays and 15 protections.

“And these young quarterbacks; their job is on the line every day, and if you can’t keep up … you’re better off selling life insurance.”

Gannon backed up Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson for three years. The only real action was at the end of a blowout playoff loss in San Francisco in January 1989. He later became the NFL MVP in 2002 playing for the Raiders.

“I appreciated Bob Schnelker, our coordinator, because he was hard on me, but Burnsie [coach Jerry Burns] and he had their guy in Tommy, and also Wade.

“I look at Mond now. He’s got the size you like at the position, and he seems to be dangerous with the ball in space, but how does he get better?

“The reps go to the two guys with a chance to play that week, and with the latest CBA, you can’t have the young guy in the building the whole offseason as was done in the past.

“And then you go to Kellen and say: ‘Remember that playbook we gave you as a rookie, those plays and that terminology … forget that. We have a new system.’

“It’s all over the league. We have fired 17 head coaches in the NFL the last two seasons.”

Gannon said: “It took seven or eight years, with Paul Hackett and Mike McCarthy in charge of the offense in Kansas City, that I really got great coaching, and I was able to come into my own as a quarterback.

“It’s very unlikely you’ll get that much time today. The way it is now, I might’ve been the guy selling life insurance, rather than winning an MVP at age 37.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.