I've read numerous comments from people saying that the Jaguars should ignore the quarterback position in this year's NFL draft and concentrate on defense. "WE DON'T NEED A QB, WE NEED DEFENSE!" they scream, caps lock smashed into the keyboard. This mindset just blows me away. We don't? The last quarterback the Jaguars drafted was Byron Leftwich in 2003. Between the selection of Byron Leftwich and today, NFL teams have drafted a total of 103 other quarterbacks. To think that the Jaguars haven't taken a single one is borderline ridiculous. Every year the Jags draft players that play positions at which the team already has depth; why should quarterback be any different? Click the jump, I command you.
Dallas. Indianapolis. Kansas City. New Orleans. Tennessee. Oakland. What do these teams have in common? The answer: these six teams are tied for having drafted the least quarterbacks since the Jaguars drafted Byron Leftwich. How many quarterbacks is that? Two. Every single team in the NFL besides the Jaguars has drafted at least two quarterbacks since Byron Leftwich was drafted. If we look at each one of these teams, we see different scenarios:
Dallas - From Aikman to Romo, they had some issues finding their quarterback of the future. Romo isn't even on this list because he was undrafted.
Indianapolis - I think you already know
Kansas City - Black hole for a while; they eventually had to trade their early second-round pick to get Matt Cassel, who is actually on this list as a seventh-round pick of New England.
New Orleans - Lucked out by landing Drew Brees in free agency. They probably would've drafted more of them if they hadn't snagged Brees.
Tennessee - Again, you already know; they whiffed badly on Vince Young and had to depend on veteran free agent Kerry Collins.
Oakland - The JaMarcus Russell debacle is the main reason for the lack of quarterbacks.
Of these six teams, three of them currently have very good quarterbacks that they either drafted before Leftwich or signed as free agents. The other three whiffed badly on the quarterbacks they DID draft and didn't bolster their ranks with other young players to challenge for the starting spot, or in the case of Kansas City, traded for who they hope is their franchise guy.
Now here's the scary part: the Jaguars drafted two less quarterbacks since Leftwich than these teams did.
It's clear to everyone, even the people that love David Garrard, that he doesn't have much time remaining as a viable option (if he even is a viable option at this point, but I digress). What do the Jaguars have in the pipeline for when he's done? Nothing. Let's play make-believe for a minute...
Imagine that the "no quarterback" crowd gets their wish, and the Jaguars pass on a quarterback. The season starts, and Garrard is on fire; eight TD in the first three games. The Jaguars are 3-0 and looking for a playoff spot. Then, in week four, Garrard gets hit low by a defender and destroys his knee. ACL tear, MCL tear, the whole works. The Jaguars turn to their backup quarterback: Luke McCown, back on a one-year deal to back up Garrard. McCown proceeds to stink up the joint; he throws more picks and touchdowns and costs the Jaguars a handful of games. The rookie defenders the Jaguars took instead of a quarterback have their own growing pains, and the team is all-around awful. Fast-forward to next year's draft...now the Jaguars clearly need a quarterback, right? The problem: After Andrew Luck, the next-best quarterback is a late second-round prospect. And Luck is headed to the winners of the first overall pick in the draft, the Carolina Panthers(again!). The Jaguars can either reach for the next-best guy, or keep drafting defense and patch the quarterback hole with more krazy glue. How is this a good scenario for the team? Yes, this IS the worst-case scenario, but that's the point of depth: to make your worst-case scenario less bad.
As of right now, people hate the depth the Jaguars have at safety, linebackers, etc., but at least they have multiple players that play each position. In addition, it's easy to patch holes at safety or linebacker in free agency; teams consistently let good players leave via free agency because they're too expensive to afford. One thing they never let leave via free agency, though, is good young quarterbacks. That's why teams must draft good young quarterbacks on their own; to obtain them from others, they cost a load in trade, usually between multiple first-round picks (Jay Cutler) and second-round picks (Matt Schaub). And this is for players that haven't even proven to be members of the league's elite! To get an elite quarterback, the ONLY way to do so is to draft him yourself.
The Jaguars' downfall over the past several years has been their insistence that "what we have is good enough" when it comes to quarterbacks. Here are some quarterbacks the Jaguars passed on because what they had was "good enough", and the players they selected with those picks:
1st round: Ben Roethlisberger (drafted WR Reggie Williams)
3rd round: Matt Schaub (drafted LB Jorge Cordova)
1st round: Aaron Rodgers (drafted WR Matt Jones)
3rd round: Kyle Orton (drafted CB Scott Starks). Orton was drafted in the 4th round, but the Jaguars would have had to take him in the 3rd.
6th round: Matt Cassel (drafted LB Pat Thomas). Cassel was drafted in the 7th round, but the Jaguars would have had to take him in the 6th.
1st round: Kevin Kolb (drafted S Reggie Nelson). Kolb was drafted in the 2nd round, but the Jaguars would have had to take him in the 1st.
1st round: Joe Flacco (drafted DE Derrick Harvey)
2nd round: Chad Henne (drafted DE Quentin Groves)
5th round: Matt Flynn (drafted CB Trae Williams). Flynn was drafted in the 7th round, but the Jaguars would have had to take him in the 5th (they traded their 6th-rounder in one of the trades to get a DE).
1st round: Josh Freeman (drafted OT Eugene Monroe)
Those are just guys I feel are or have the chance to be solid NFL quarterbacks, and the Jaguars passed on them all. Look at the guys they drafted instead; how many of those guys panned out? Not many.
Some fans seem to treat the starting quarterback like he's innocent until proven guilty. In football terms, he's good enough until proven otherwise. This is how to hold a team hostage in mediocrity. In the NFL, EVERY position should be looked at in terms of "is this the best we can get?" If the Jaguars were offered Gerald McCoy, would you say "heck no, he wouldn't start!", or would you take McCoy and figure out the logistics later? You'd take McCoy because he'd make the team better both in the short term and in the long run. Now pretend Terrance Knighton is 33 years old. NOW what do you think of McCoy? He'd look even BETTER, even if he wouldn't start immediately.
The fact is that drafting quarterbacks is not only A smart thing to do, it's probably the SMARTEST thing to do in terms of player acquisition. If you miss, guess what? He doesn't have to see the field. If you hit, and you already have a guy? Now you have trade ammunition. If you don't have a guy and you hit on a quarterback, you've just solved a LOT of problems. In 2004, with Michael Vick on the roster, the Falcons drafted Matt Schaub. Why? Because they're smart. In 2007, with Aaron Rodgers on the roster, the Packers drafted Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn. Why? Again: they're smart. This year, let's hope the Jaguars are smart. Do you seriously still think the Jaguars don't need a quarterback? The answer is staring you right in the face. Quarterback or bust in 2011.
*All draft statistics found using Pro Football Reference's Draft Finder tool, located here.