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Shanahan Has Never Started a Rookie QB Before & Has a Peculiar QB Draft History


During my Daily Slop routine, I came across an interesting blog article that had highlighted Mike Shanahan has never started a rookie Quarterback. What about Jay Cutler? Well, he started the last 5 games in his rookie 2006 season after Shanahan benched Jake Plummer, who was having an abysmal season. 

Let's take a trip back to that 2006 draft. The Broncos are coming off a 13-3 season where they lost to the Steelers in the AFC championship at home. A then 32-year old Jake Plummer had a Rex Grossman-esque performance with 2 fumbles and 2 INTs, but most teams coming off a near Super Bowl experience would only be making tweaks in the draft, right?

What shocked everyone was when Shanahan traded UP four spots to the 11th overall pick to draft Jay Cutler - a QB that never had a winning record in college or had been to a bowl game. Huh? Well, the Broncos had an extra first round pick thanks to the Redskins trading up to get Jason Campbell, so the cost was relatively cheap given the state of their roster.

While Matt Leinart and Vince Young chose not to do public workouts, Cutler did and that paid off as his draft stock sky-rocketed. He was mentored by Steve McNair throughout that time, and even stayed close with him until his tragic death.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen penned a piece before the draft highlighting how Cutler should be the #1 ranked QB, and in hindsight, it makes perfect sense:

In today's NFL, the clock is running faster than ever once the ball is snapped. The idea that a quarterback has a chance to go through his first, second and third progressions while he drops back is basically a myth. The throwing windows are tighter than ever on about 75 percent of the passes a quarterback must deliver. The RPMs matter in a quarterback's throws. There are some doubts about the ability of Leinart and Young to throw it through those closing windows consistently.

Take Cutler's arm, his smarts, his moxie, his toughness and his athleticism, and you have a pretty good model quarterback. To downgrade him because you see a few errant balls during Senior Bowl week is silly because these guys are working in a strange offense with new receivers.

Put Cutler in USC's offense and Leinart in Vanderbilt's offense the past couple of years and imagine what would have happened.


So, let's think about this. Shanahan traded up to #11 to get a QB of Cutler's skills. The Redskins are sitting with the #10 pick right now. Does anyone in the 2011 draft resemble Cutler's skills? I think it's important to keep in mind that Cutler threw with 60% accuracy in the SEC with a sub-par squad against the Nation's best corners. As Chris Mortensen pointed out:

Most of the SEC teams are five and six deep at cornerback -- it's not even close when you compare it to the Pac-10. The speed on defense across the SEC is ridiculous. The defensive coordinators, well, some of them should be coaching in the NFL. Some of them have, in fact. Playing quarterback in the SEC is a task. Playing it well every week is a bigger task."

Yea, Cam Newton is SEC, but I feel like all the times I watched Auburn it was like some Hollywood High School football movie where an abnormally sized QB is able to rush up the middle every play with all 11 defenders, the water boy, and opposing mascot on his back. That type of offense/threat simply does not fly in the NFL.

Chris Ponder has been impressive, but his arm strength has been a huge question mark. Jake Locker is inaccurate in the PAC-10...enough said.  

So, what's my point? Shanahan is smart. The Redskins have a lot of holes and there's no need to force a QB in the first round. NFL teams spends millions of dollars in scouting, yet they still get it wrong 50% of the time on QBs. The 2011 draft class couldn't be any more of a crap shoot than I can recall. As Shanahan's QB draft history has shown, he can find adequate ones in the mid rounds (or better yet, don't force it):

Shanahan has drafted seven quarterbacks in 16 drafts:
Steve Beuerlein (4th), Jeff Lewis (4th), Brian Griese (3rd), Jarious Jackson (7th), Matt Mauck (7th), Brad Van Pelt (7th), Jay Cutler (1st)

Obviously, having Elway as your QB for a decade allows you the luxury of mid/late round QB gambles. To recap that 2006 draft, is there any chance the Redskins can one year have success like this? Cutler (1), Tony Scheffler (2), Brandon Marshall (4), Elvis Dumervil (4), Chris Kuper (5). Kuper is still their starting Right Guard today.

If not, the scouting department needs to go. I'll keep an eye on the QBs when I'm at the combine and will try to talk to as many scouts as I can.