Max Thompson

There is a potential NFL strategy that has never been utilized, but could lead to years of unprecedented success. The concept is simple: first, draft a quarterback in the first round. Then, surround him with talent, and try to win some games for four years. At the end of that time, trade the quarterback for as much as you can get, and start all over again.

Out of context, this seems like an absolutely horrendous idea. Replace your franchise QB every four years? That’s almost as much as the Browns used to do! If that is what is going through your mind right now, congratulations: you are a knowledgeable NFL fan. However, the current state of the game has shifted to a point where this may just work.

First of all, let’s call this strategy “QB churn,” where we essentially continue to rotate blue chip prospects every four years.

The alternative to QB churn would be the current model, which goes as follows: An NFL team finds a quarterback on an inexpensive contract, and they provide him with help. The team wins some games, maybe even some in the playoffs.

Then, the quarterback gets their big money deal, the talent dries up and they fade into the abyss of mediocrity until they either retire or catch a lucky break.

Matthew Stafford and the Lions know all about this. Joe Flacco and the Ravens were the epitome of average after he secured his post-Super Bowl payday. Matt Ryan and his contract have eaten up so much cap space, the Falcons are even below the line of mediocrity. The list goes on and on.

There are plenty of quarterbacks who can win games while surrounded with talent, but only a tiny fraction of those players can have success with no help around them. Do you really believe Dak Prescott can win a Super Bowl without an elite defense, offensive line and skill players? Do you actually think that Mitch Trubisky can pull out a win without that defense holding his hand along the way?

So now we know the issue with the current model: NFL teams are paying quarterbacks based on production alongside help, and then are suddenly shocked when they struggle without the training wheels.

The question you must ask then, is why take the training wheels off at all? Why not just get a cheaper driver over and over again so you can afford these hypothetical training wheels?

Take this completely made-up, never-going-to-happen scenario for example: The Cowboys are currently paying Dak Prescott $2.1 million. He is expected to receive a contract extension at about $30 million per year. That $28 million gap could be the difference between keeping a pair of star players, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones, or watching them walk away due to a lack of available money.

By trading away Prescott, the Cowboys could land anywhere from a single first-round pick, to even a conglomerate of valuable assets from quarterback-thirsty teams, like the Denver Broncos.

I know exactly what you are thinking: “But wait, not all rookie quarterbacks work! Ever heard of Jamarcus Russel?” The crucial point of “QB Churn” is the simple fact that in today’s NFL, young quarterbacks are having more success than ever.

From 2016 to 2018, there were 11 quarterbacks taken in the first round. Of those, nine have solidified a spot as the future of the franchise. Josh Rosen and Paxton Lynch are the other two, and Rosen has had to play with, arguably, the two worst NFL teams in recent memory.

If you take Rosen out of the equation, 90% of the recent first round quarterbacks have been successful picks. For every one Paxton Lynch, we got a Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and multiple others.

At the end of the day, teams with good quarterbacks have two options: The Matthew Stafford route, or the “QB churn” path. Is your quarterback good enough to overcome a shoddy offensive line? Can he drop 30 points per game since his team can’t afford to pay for that expensive cornerback and defensive end?

Far too often today, we are seeing every team answer those questions with a yes, and then instantly sink into a 7-9 quicksand.

Will there ever be a general manager that decides to finally respond with a simple “no”? If they did, we would see the spark of a total roster construction revolution, and an entire different era of the National Football League.

Max Thompson is a freshman majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Want more NFL analysis? Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter!

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