The Intangibles: The franchise quarterback philosophy
Last week was one of the craziest in the NFL. We’ve seen several earth-shattering moves come to fruition for the quarterback carousel of the offseason, and there are still plenty of dominoes to fall as free agency kicks off.
Each of the quarterback moves we’ve seen this week represents a philosophy that NFL teams have exercised in recent years to address the sport’s most valuable position. Today, I want to break down each of these moves to see which works best, which works worst, and what they can mean for the teams in question.
Aaron Rodgers: Hometown Hero
Tuesday marked the end of a months-long saga plagued by drama, controversy and disappointment. Rodgers could have gone anywhere he wanted to push for another ring, but he ultimately decided to return to the franchise that drafted him.
The Packers are applying the philosophy of building from within with this move. They drafted Rodgers and many other stars who made annual NFC contenders from Green Bay. It led to a ring at first, but since then it has led to disappointment. That said, the Packers and Rodgers are better off, at this point, sticking together. Countless franchises no doubt envy the long-term marriage the two have nurtured, and the ethos exercises a degree of patience and commitment rarely seen elsewhere in the league. Rodgers will always be able to ponder the “what if” of testing another franchise, but the sure thing is often better than the guesswork.
Carson Wentz: An Exercise in Agony
Too often, teams settle for second-rate quarterbacks in hopes of letting otherwise strong teams have their way. Indianapolis did just that last year by acquiring Wentz, and they clearly don’t want a stake in it after a hasty split. The Washington Commanders are likely upgrading their previous starter in Taylor Heinicke, but Wentz has proven to be far too reliant on the infrastructure around him to succeed on a weak team like the Commanders.
There are teams that look at marginal quarterback upgrades every year with wishful thinking. The Panthers set an example last year when they acquired Sam Darnold, and other teams will likely follow after missing out on the big names. A mediocre quarterback game stresses the surrounding roster, and it can certainly still lead to success. But more often than not, teams without a top 10 signalman hit a wall.
Russell Wilson: Swing for the Fences
The Denver Broncos’ acquisition of Russell Wilson is consistent with one of the NFL’s most winning formulas. Take a solid roster from a quarterback, trade the future for a proven veteran, and enjoy. The Buccaneers did it with Tom Brady, the Rams did it with Matt Stafford, and the Broncos even did it in 2015 with Peyton Manning.
It’s a surefire way to take a team from the depths of mediocrity to the Super Bowl. Many have yet to break the Bronco’s way for them to make a push for the AFC, but they’ve got a guy in Wilson who’s won at the highest level and a roster that’s hungry to make the leap.