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Finding a stud QB is anything but an exact science


There is no such thing as finding the perfect quarterback.

No matter how one is acquired, it's an ulcer-inducing, hope-inspiring risk that can either take a team to consistent success or blow a hole the size of the new Cowboys Stadium in a franchise.

This past offseason seemed like a gold rush to find Mr. Right (or Left) Arm, who'll turn their franchise around -- or at least get it moving in a better direction.

Now, more than ever, quarterbacks determine the fate of the franchise. This week, NFL.com examines why quarterbacks matter.

Seven teams traded for or drafted quarterbacks they hope will be the next Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan. Six teams gave their existing quarterbacks some form of contract boost (not Roethlisberger) to keep them happy. One team (Washington) twice explored trades to replace its current starter (Jason Campbell). And the Vikings made the biggest free-agent splash by signing Brett Favre two weeks ago.

"There is a lot more pressure," former Rams, Dolphins and Chiefs quarterback Trent Green said. "When you look at coaching changes around the NFL and you look at front office changes, there is pressure on everybody to win much quicker. Whereas in the past, you maybe would have a longer period of time, and that's for coaches, the front office, and QBs, that window of opportunity has shrunk quite a bit.

"That is why you see more and more young QBs get thrown in there. Or, you see teams like Chicago, who went out to get [Jay] Cutler, to try and make a change. Or like Minnesota, (with) Brett Favre. There is just so much pressure to have success now."

That pressure, as Green mentioned, not only affected individual teams, but it took over an entire division -- the NFC North.

Vikings coach Brad Childress is staking his and his staff's jobs that a soon-to-be 40-year old with a damaged right arm and an increasingly damaged reputation can take the Vikings deep into the playoffs. If Favre can, the good luck-gamble will be called genius. If things don't work out, it will be a colossal failure, both tragic and laughable.

Chicago mortgaged draft picks and starting quarterback Kyle Orton to get Cutler, a Pro Bowler, in a trade from Denver. The ransom was high but rarely does a quarterback the caliber of Cutler become available, so the Bears might have made one of, if the not safest, risks of all the teams who dove into the quarterback pool. They know what they're getting because there is a body of work, youth and healthy body parts.

If something goes wrong, though, an injury or something unforeseen, the draft picks that went Denver's way will be sorely missed.

Detroit, meanwhile, used the first overall draft pick -- courtesy of its historic winless 2008 season -- to select Matthew Stafford. No draft picks or team chemistry were exchanged, but $42 million guaranteed was afforded Stafford. That is more guaranteed loot than proven veterans, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner or Jake Delhomme, received in contract extensions or new deals this offseason, respectively.

The money will be a wise investment if Stafford pans out, giving the Lions their first franchise quarterback since Bobby Layne. If he doesn't, the town's auto industry won't be the only business needing a bail out.

"When coaches set their mind on somebody, they go after him and you know they're willing to give up what they need to, to get that person because they think that's the piece that can get them over the hump," Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said. "There's cases all the time where it's the right move and there's other cases where, you know what, it might not work out. It's all about trying to win now and you know teams feel like if they have all of the piece in place and they can get that one guy to be the trigger man, you know, then that can make the difference."

Being the general manager or coach pulling the trigger for that trigger man, despite their seemingly foolproof due diligence, is agonizing to the point where Ambien is needed to sleep and meals are washed down with Pepto-Bismol.

In his first stint as a general manager, Thomas Dimitroff had plenty of options on what to do at quarterback or any other position with the scored earth he inherited in Atlanta last season. He contemplated going with veteran journeyman Chris Redman for a year or two -- they even signed him to a two-year contract -- and fill other holes with prospects like defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and free agents like running back Michael Turner.

He made the correct move with Turner, but after surveying down-the-road quarterback options like Stafford and Mark Sanchez, he and his lieutenants decided to select Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. Even after selecting him, Dimitroff didn't sleep well for weeks, wondering if his legacy would begin, and probably end, on a quarterback a lot of people -- including a jaded fan base in Atlanta -- thought wasn't up to snuff.

To this day, Dimitroff wonders what would have happened if he passed on Ryan, the 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"We did so much research on Matt, from a personality standpoint and an intelligence standpoint as well as the workouts and physicality and his arm strength," Dimitroff said. "At the very end, again it was something that we dug deep. I had the opportunity to be around a player like Tom Brady in New England. I knew some of the traits we really needed here to continue to help turn this program around and that stood for a lot. It wasn't a flippant decision at all. We obviously had a couple of other players up high on our draft board but in the very end we needed a guy leading this team behind the center."

Sanchez, meanwhile, turned out to be coveted by a number of teams this past April, including Washington, which also considered Cutler. In the end, the Jets, who entered the draft with the 17th overall pick, gave up first- and second-round picks, as well as three players, to draft Sanchez at No. 5. Last week he was named the team's starter.

Whereas before teams tried to find the next Peyton Manning or Joe Montana, the push to win now has them looking for the next Ryan or Joe Flacco, Baltimore's second-year quarterback who took the Ravens to the playoffs as a rookie.

"I think the expectations are going to be raised on, you know, guys coming in and being able to play early," Ryan said. "You can't say for certain what other teams or what other people are expecting but wish those guys the best."

While fewer teams seem to want to develop young quarterbacks, the Chiefs and Buccaneers have taken different paths to do so.

Kansas City traded for New England's Matt Cassel, who new general manager Scott Pioli cultivated and witnessed first-hand with the Patriots. By trading for Cassel, Pioli and new coach Todd Haley hope to address other positions in need of upgrading, all the while hoping for an unexpected turnaround while they're building a foundation for years to come.

The Bucs, meanwhile, plan to steadily indoctrinate Freeman, the 19th overall pick. He has all the tools but with a team so in flux, they'd rather wait until things have stabilized before putting the quarterback most scouts agree has the most upside of all the rookies, into action.

Whatever means a team goes about acquiring or retaining a quarterback, the simple fact is, "There's no way you can win at any level in this game, with any consistency, unless you have a quarterback," former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said.

"It is a quarterback's game. It always has been. It always will be," he added. "The funny thing about that is people when they refer to Super Bowls they don't necessarily talk about Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers and reference the 49ers and say they won four world championships. They say Joe won four. Tom Brady won three. Eli Manning won one. Peyton Manning won one.

"The face of the individual always seems to supersede the team a little bit. That ought to tell you the importance of the position."

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I agree the QB is a very important piece of the puzzle, I wish just as much emphasis was put into the olines who each team must have to protect that QB. Too many teams get their hands on a QB with great upside only to put him behind a subpar offensive line.

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After watching the Falcons for the past 4 seasons and catching a couple of games of other teams on TV, it has become really apparent how important an intelligent QB is for a team. Everytime Vick dropped back to pass, I never knew what result I was going to get. A run for first down, a pass for first down, an incompletion, an interception, or a sack seemed to be all just as likely as the other. 3rd and longs were almost pointless because we had such a hard time converting them. I noticed this as I watched the 49ers and Vikings as well. Indecisiveness after the drop back and not enough confidence in the QB's arm and WR's route led to many short, underneath completions, and thats not how a team is going to win a SB.

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There is no position or player more important. QB is Eisenhower or Rommel on the field. The most brilliant coach is worthless if he doesn't have a field general who can't execute the plays (and modify them if needed after reading the defense). You can win without a good QB (Plunckett and Delmer sp), but a Montana or a Brady or an Elway makes it so much easier. Ryan is on a tract to become one of the greats, but we'll have to wait and see if he can realize his potential. Sorry about the misspellings but I am drunk and waiting for Atl. and SD. :P

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Guest Regular Guy

Atlanta has long needed a face to the team, and we now have that in Ryan. I hope he stays healthy and remains with us a long long time. Here's to us finally breaking "the curse" of not having back to back winning seasons!!!!!

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