By Coach Fah Nassar
Playing quarterback is a hard job. At any level. It is a thoughtful position, one with many moving parts and responsibilities regardless of physical attributes and athleticism, there is a mental approach and a leadership approach to this game. It is perhaps the most important position on the team.
So why is it that often times the most volatile and oft-tinkered with position in the game? Why is this a position where it is deemed the least-veteran player on the team gets to command said team with little to no actual professional experience? Why is it a position that is based on potential rather than known experience?
This was once a position that was so revered that newly drafted quarterbacks sat behind their predecessors for multiple seasons so they can be the best version of themselves. That time has long passed, and the quarterback development has suffered from it.
Four quarterbacks were drafted in the first round in 2011. Two (Jake Locker and Christian Ponder) have been out of the league for some time now. One is a career back up (Blaine Gabbert) and the last and 1st overall is Cam Newton. Cam went to a coach in Ron Rivera that allowed for development and growth. I cannot say the same for the other two. Ponder had a chance to sit behind a legendary quarterback in Donovan McNabb but Leslie Frazier and the Vikings organization decided to bench and move on from McNabb and start Ponder. After only four years of that experiment, the Vikings moved on from Ponder favoring a young Teddy Bridgewater.
The following year was not a stellar one given hindsight being 20/20. Andrew luck, who had incredible skill and potential, was eventually so injured by the ineptitude of his offensive lines (and front office by an extension) that he had to retire early due to health concerns. Robert Griffin III fell to his injuries, a convoluted relationship with the owner and a coaching staff that believed in him so much they drafted Kirk Cousins in the same draft. Ryan Tannehill almost became a back-up quarterback to a floundering Marcus Marriota but won his opportunity. Branden Weeden was another Browns selection at quarterback to fail and now is not in the league.
Ten years later, only 1 quarterback from 2011 and one quarterback from 2012 are even in the league. The lone 2013 first round pick to the Bills (EJ Manuel) is gone. The 2014 Class has one standout, Teddy Bridgewater, who is on his fourth team.
The most important position is usually left up to owners, most-likely fed up with losing and hedging their bets on unknown quotients (draft picks) They are finessed by their team presidents and general managers, whose job it is to get the right people to positively affect winning.
This is where things can bet hairy. Picking the right head coach for the organization can be a slippery slope. There are a ton of things that go into the decision-making. So I wonder, if all of these people, knowing how valuable that position is, are doing the due diligence… how did Adam Gase get any job affecting the lives and livelihoods of innocent rookie quarterbacks?
When he said he helped coach Peyton Manning, an already Hall-Of-Fame bound quarterback when he arrived in Denver should have spoken directly to his delusions of grandeur.
Nonetheless, he was gifted a job in Miami, where many have failed before, and was given a shiny new quarterback fresh off of the draft. Ryan Tannehill was thought to be the future of the Dolphins, until he began playing. He spent six years losing in Miami before being traded to back up Marcus Mariota. It was then, after a 2-4 start, Mariota was benched for Tannehill and his career flourished. So what was the issue? Was it Tannehill? Was it a change of scenery or was it something else.
Fast forward to 2019. Gase is now in New Jersey coaching the New York Jets. He has second year quarterback, Sam Darnold, who arguably had a decent year in a rebuild. Once Gase took over, any positive gameplay with the Jets was eroded. Gase traded away stars the general manager brought in. Soon after, Darnold was ruined and the losses were on him, in the eyes of many fans, even those who knew Gase was not NFL coach material.
Now, Darnold is flourishing in Carolina with a 2-0 start. Gase is the offensive coordinator for a high school team. This seems like the best place for him, as long as he isn’t coaching a quarterback.
End of day, when we use phrases like bust, trash, basura… we aim them at the players, when in many cases, it is not. Not every quarterback gets a revival tour or an opportunity to prove they belong as a starting quarterback. Not every quarterback should. But if there are bad coaches like Gase or gms who perform poorly in their roles (like Chicago when they traded for Trubisky), there should be an opportunity for those quarterbacks elsewhere in the league in my humble opinion.
I also feel those in leadership should be more savvy about how they chose, develop and grow their draft picks, especially at quarterback. Perhaps that could help the product we love remain the best version of itself.