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College Coaches Agree NFL Is Overblowing QB Issue

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Quit whining.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I suggested that the NFL could solve its perceived quarterback development problem by actually, you know, developing quarterbacks. According to some college coaches, even that's going a bit far:

Asked last week for his reaction to the comments regarding Baylor's system, spread offenses and how they develop QBs for the NFL, Briles told FOX Sports: "The word I'd use is it's unknowledgeable -- (that's) what I'd say when (they) look at spread offenses. It certainly didn't hurt (his protege at Houston) Kevin Kolb, who was the Eagles' first pick in the draft in 2007, or RGIII (Robert Griffin III) going second overall, and it didn't seem to bother (Oregon's Marcus) Mariota this year." ...

Rich Rodriguez, one of the godfathers of the spread offense, says all the talk is ridiculous. "I watch the NFL and it looks like 65 percent of the snaps, at least, are in the shotgun, sometimes more," he said. "So I think kids running a shotgun, spread-based offense transition easier. I can teach a third-grader in five minutes how to take a three-step drop and a five-step drop under center. But to teach a kid to catch and throw without the laces in the quick game and the full-field read? I think that's a learned skill."

There's plenty more where that came from too, so click that link.

Bruce Feldman wrote the piece, and there was a line of his that stuck out to me:

Still, is there a growing skepticism about how NFL-ready QBs from spread systems are especially in an era where franchises are looking to play young quarterbacks earlier than in years past.

It's quite possible that the NFL's impatience with quarterback development coincidentally grew at the same time as the rise of spread offenses in high school and college. Perhaps it's that impatience that's causing the shortage of good quarterbacks. Maybe it's not the spread that is hindering quarterbacks, but rather being thrown into the fire too early.

The canonical example of impatience killing a career before it started is David Carr, who took an amazing 76 sacks in his rookie year in 2002. He'd take 68 more in the 2005 season after 49 in 2004. He didn't even come out of a spread offense, but playing too early behind a terrible line for an expansion team was a major factor preventing him from turning into a great NFL quarterback. If he had some time to get used to the speed of the game and learn to read pro defenses instead of worrying about being sacked 4.75 times a game (to say nothing of the non-sack hits he took), maybe he'd have panned out better.

A lot of the NFL's top quarterbacks started games in their rookie seasons, some by design on draft day—Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck—some not—Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson. Some like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers didn't start until their second years or later. We can't go back in time and run all these guys' careers again and see how they'd change if their first start came at different times, of course.

What we do know is that the higher a player of any kind gets drafted, the more pressure there will be to play that guy earlier. If spread quarterbacks really are less capable of playing in the NFL early on, the solution isn't to complain. It's to take fewer quarterbacks early and take more late in the draft so there isn't that pressure to throw them in too early. Unlike the recruiting star system, where there is a correlation between high rating and future performance, draft position doesn't say much about a quarterback's future performance anyway.

But you try convincing NFL GMs that none of them are uniquely brilliant to solve the quarterback scouting problem when so many of their peers and predecessors couldn't. They'll always convince themselves sooner or later that one player or another is the guy and will take him in an early round. They can't accept the humility it takes to say, "I can't consistently and reliably identify which college quarterbacks will succeed on the pro level." If someone could, he or she would be the highest paid person in football.

The true root problem then, as it is in so many ways for the NFL, is hubris.