Sunday, October 23, 2005

QB, don't lose that number

Got all kinds of time ...

What I know about Friday night's game between Kansas City and Miami comes exclusively from watching the highlights on NFL Network. See, even though I had paid to watch the broadcast of this game by virtue of buying the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package, I wasn't actually allowed to see it thanks to Hurricane Wilma and some arcane broadcast rules. Now I know what it's like to suffer from a hurricane.

They were pretty comprehensive highlights, however, and I saw Kansas City quarterback Trent Green throwing one perfect pass after another. And I thought: That dude is really something. The guy is my age, for one thing, which means he's an old, old man, yet he's still one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league. He's come a long way from the player who threw just one pass in his first five years bouncing around in the NFL. In 1999, we heard all about Kurt Warner's emergence after he stepped in for the injured Green in St. Louis. But if Warner came out of "nowhere," Green had come from next door to nowhere.

Through the first six weeks of the season, 41 quarterbacks have started games. Of them, four went undrafted out of college: Warner in Arizona; Anthony Wright of Baltimore, who's an injury substitution; Jake Delhomme of Carolina, who's had the job for two years; and Kelly Holcomb of Buffalo, who just stole that job out from under J.P. Losman (or, rather, who just fished the job out of the trash after Losman crumpled it up and tossed it away). Of the 37 other QBs who have started a game, Green is the lowest-drafted by a comfortable margin. Green was picked in the eighth round of the 1993 draft and was the 222nd player taken. The next-lowest-selected QBs to start a game this year are Tom Brady (199th), Gus Frerotte (197th) and Matt Hasselbeck (187th). Further, while both Brady and Frerotte were starting in their second years in the league and Hasselbeck was starting in his third, it wasn't until Green's sixth year that he got a chance to start (or even to play, really). Green's break came in 1998, when he was with Washington. Whom did he replace that year? Gus Frerotte. (Read more here.) And what do you know? Frerotte was the Dolphins' starting quarterback Friday night. Big circles, man. Big circles.

So the Kansas City-Miami game was a showdown between an eighth-round draft pick and a seventh-round draft pick. How often does that happen? Not very often. First of all, the draft was cut back to seven rounds in 1994, so eighth-rounders themselves are an endangered species. (Vikings backup Brad Johnson and the Falcons' Ty Detmer both went in the ninth round in '92; Doug Flutie was taken in the 11th round in '85.) But beyond that, it's noteworthy whenever any game doesn't have at least one starting quarterback who had been taken in the first round. Of the 32 teams, 19 have started a first-round quarterback this year -- and it would be 20 if Rex Grossman hadn't snapped another axle. Of the 88 games played through Week 6 of the season, 65 -- three-quarters -- were started by at least one first-rounder. And 77 -- nearly 90 percent -- were started by at least one quarterback who had been taken in the first, second or third round (roughly the first 100 picks). Only 11 games before Friday's were started by two QBs taken in the fourth round or later, or not drafted at all. Those games:

1NO Brooks (4) at CAR Delhomme (U)
1STL Bulger (6) at SF Rattay (7)
2NE Brady (6) at CAR Delhomme (U)
2STL Bulger (6) at ARI Warner (U)
3CAR Delhomme (U) at MIA Frerotte (7)
3ARI Warner (U) at SEA Hasselbeck (6)
4SEA Hasselbeck (6) at WSH Brunell (5)
4NYJ Bollinger (6) at BAL Wright (U)
5MIA Frerotte (7) at BUF Holcomb (U)
5SEA Hasselbeck (6) at STL Bulger (6)
6WSH Brunell (5) at KC Green (8)

The most famous game like this in recent years was, of course, Super Bowl XXXVIII, which featured sixth-rounder Tom Brady against undrafted Jake Delhomme. But as you can see, games like that are the exception. In fact, it's twice as likely that a game will pit two first rounders against each other: Twenty-two of the 88 games played through Week 6 -- 25 percent -- had both teams starting first-round quarterbacks. And in three of those games, the opposing quarterbakcs weren't just first-round picks; they were both No. 1 overall picks (bold):

1TEN McNair at PIT Roethlisberger
1HOU Carr at BUF Losman
1CIN Palmer at CLE Dilfer
1PHI McNabb at ATL Vick
2PIT Roethlisberger at HOU Carr
2JAX Leftwich at IND P. Manning
2MIN Culpepper at CIN Palmer
3JAX Leftwich at NYJ Pennington
3OAK K. Collins at PHI McNabb
3ATL Vick at BUF Losman
3CLE Dilfer at IND P. Manning
4MIN Culpepper at ATL Vick
4DAL Bledsoe at OAK K. Collins
4IND P. Manning at TEN McNair
4HOU Carr at CIN Palmer
5CIN Palmer at JAX Leftwich
5PHI McNabb at DAL Bledsoe
5IND P. Manning at SFSmith
5TEN McNair at HOU Carr
6JAX Leftwich at PIT Maddox
6CIN Palmer at TEN McNair
6NYG E. Manning at DALBledsoe

Including quarterbacks on current rosters and those who are out because of injuries, there are 25 quarterbacks in the NFL this year who were selected in the first round of the draft. Those first-round quarterbacks play on 22 teams. It breaks down like this (Asterisk [*] denotes No. 1 overall choice):

TEN TEAMS have no quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round (in parentheses are the draft positions of the quarterbacks on the roster, with starter in bold):
(3, 7, U)
(4, 7, U)
(3, 4, 6)
(4, 4, U)
New England
(6, 7, 11)
St. Louis
(6, 7, U)
(2, 7)
New Orleans
(4, 5, U)
Tampa Bay
(3, 3, 4, 7)
Kansas City
(2, 8, U)

SIXTEEN TEAMS have one first-round quarterback, a starter:
Atlanta (*Michael Vick) Indianapolis (*Peyton Manning)
Baltimore (Kyle Boller) Jacksonville (Byron Leftwich)
Chicago (Rex Grossman) Minnesota (Daunte Culpepper)
Cincinnati (*Carson Palmer) N.Y. Giants (*Eli Manning)
Cleveland (Trent Dilfer) Oakland (Kerry Collins)
Dallas (*Drew Bledsoe) Philadelphia (Donovan McNabb)
Detroit (Joey Harrington) San Francisco (*Alex Smith)
Houston (*David Carr) Tennessee (Steve McNair)

THREE TEAMS have one first-round quarterback, a backup:
Buffalo (J.P. Losman) San Diego (Philip Rivers)
Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers)

TWO TEAMS have two first-round quarterbacks, one of whom is the starter:
PittsburghBen Roethlisbergerstarter
Tommy Maddoxbackup
N.Y. JetsChad Penningtonstarter
*Vinny Testaverdeinjury backup

ONLY ONE TEAM has two first-round quarterbacks, neither of whom is the starter:
Washington (Patrick Ramsey and Jason Cambell)

Yes, friends, it was all leading up to this last factoid. The Steelers have two first-rounders on the roster, but they were selected 12 years apart. The Jets also have two under contract, but they were picked 13 years apart. The Redskins, in true Redskins fashion, paid first-round money to Patrick Ramsey in 2002, then turned around and paid more first-round money to Jason Campbell in 2005 ... and neither of them is the starter. The starter is a 35-year-old fifth-rounder. Who's also being paid first-round money.

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