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There Is An Entire Lost Generation Of NFL Quarterback Drafts

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 27: Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Carson Wentz is now a Colt, and with it the end of a chapter we will call, When The Quarterbacks Ran Dry. Through the courtesy of ESPN’s estimable Field Yates (don’t be put off by the Lego-on-crank Twitter avatar; he pays attention), Wentz’s departure means that none of the 22 quarterbacks drafted in the first round from 2009–16 is still with his original team.

Here’s proof, via the unabashed psychos at ProFootballReference.com.

We are speaking here of a Chernobyl effect at the position, in which flora and fauna stopped growing for nearly a decade, and all the draft botanists who raved about all each and every one of these folks exposed the dirty little secret about quarterback evaluation that Bruce Arians, the current smartest coach on earth, explained to ESPN’s Tim Keown 11 months ago:

Teams invest a remarkable amount of capital, brainpower and sweat equity into finding, nurturing and pampering a good [quarterback]. But on draft night, after all the evaluations of mental acuity and arm talent and grit, how much of the decision remains a guess?

Arians shrugs and answers quickly, as if citing a scientific study. “Thirty percent,” he says. “And that’s if you’ve really done all the work and you get lucky.”

By that rudimentary math, though, somewhere around seven of those 22 should have landed in the right spot if the evaluators matched the science with the art. Instead:

2009

Josh Freeman Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Indianapolis, retired 2015
Mark Sanchez New York Jets, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, Buttfumble Hall Of Fame, done 2018
Matthew Stafford Detroit, Los Angeles Rams, seemingly prepared to thrive by no longer being in Detroit

2010

Tim Tebow Denver, New York Jets, Birmingham Barons, Syracuse Chiefs, finally retired yesterday
Sam Bradford St. Louis, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Atlanta, still haunting the process

2011

Christian Ponder Minnesota, Oakland, Denver, San Francisco, done 2016
Blaine Gabbert Jacksonville, San Francisco, Arizona, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, parade boat ensign
Jake Locker Tennessee, injured list, retired 2015
Cam Newton Carolina, New England, injuries, bad luck, prognosis and future whereabouts unknown

2012

Brandon Weeden Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Tennessee, Houston again, done
Ryan Tannehill Miami, Tennessee, the joys of Derrick Henry and no Adam Gase
Robert Griffin III Washington, exploded knee, Cleveland, Baltimore, just released a month ago
Andrew Luck Indianapolis, bad offensive line drafts, retired for his own safety

2013

EJ Manuel Buffalo, Oakland, cut

2014

Teddy Bridgewater Minnesota, New Orleans, Carolina, waiting to see who the Panthers draft
Johnny Manziel Cleveland, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Memphis Express, Fan Controlled Football Zappers, done with the NFL by joyously mutual agreement
Blake Bortles Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Denver, Rams again, learning how to be Stafford’s backup

2015

Marcus Mariota Tennessee, Las Vegas, trade rumors in a slow month
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay, New Orleans

2016

Paxton Lynch Denver, Seattle, Pittsburgh
Carson Wentz Philadelphia, Indianapolis, king of dead money*
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams, Super Bowl, Detroit

*The Wentz notation comes with the exciting caveat for those of you who think chartered accountancy is dead sexy. He will have a $33.8 million dead cap hit on the Eagles roster, the largest in league history. So well done and fair play to you, Howie Roseman. You stuck the landing on that one, and you stuck it right in Jeff Lurie’s quarterly report.

Among those 22 quarterbacks, there are a number of causes why they didn’t keep their employers’ love. Some aged out. Most played their way out, or got coached out, or offensive line’d out. A few got medicaled out. And of course, Manziel, who didn’t retire or get cut as much as he simply escaped a slow-motion doom. But still even by Arians’s semi-dismissive guide to quarterback evaluation, 0-for-22 is an impressive amount of oops. In fact, of the 94 quarterbacks drafted anywhere in those eight years, only Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, and Russell Wilson have not been discarded by their original teams, and two others, Colt McCoy and Mike Kafka might end up as head coaches the next time the league needs to blow its nose on the Rooney Rule. It is thus fair to say that there is a lost half-generation of quarterbacks roaming various parts of the Phantom Zone, and Wentz was the last one off the lot.

So what we actually have here in summary, other than proof that Arians understands that the process has less process than the processors want to pretend there is, is an enormous gap of utter desolation between 2008’s Matt Ryan and 2017’s Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Mitchell Trubisky—who were of course not drafted in that order. To call quarterback-drafting a crapshoot is an affront to … well, you fill in the blank. There’s only so much we can ask Field Yates to do in a day.