Posts Tagged ‘Byron Leftwich’

Note to NFL GMs: Winning should Matter

March 15, 2009

Last year, I wrote that Byron Leftwich wasn’t getting a fair chance to be an NFL starting quarterback, and that NFL people were concentrating too much on his deficiencies instead of his winning record (24-20) as a starter.  A lot of NFL owners, general managers and coaches prefer style over substance, and they’d rather have a player who has what they believe to be the necessities to be a good quarterback (height, arm strength, mobility, etc.) than someone who is great at winning football games. 

Another example of this – NFL people putting a higher priority on style than substance – was Doug Flutie, who if he were given a fair chance would have been a very good NFL starting quarterback for 15 years.  Still another example was Trent Dilfer, who was the starting quarterback during the 2000 season for the Baltimore Ravens who won the Super Bowl.  Dilfer was 58-53 for his career, and he didn’t play on many good teams other than the 2000 Ravens.  For that 10-1 record and Super Bowl championship, Dilfer got kicked out of the door in favor of Elvis Grbac and then Kyle Boller, the poster boy for the first round draft choice who doesn’t work out. 

(At least Boller started for a few seasons.  Top 3 overall draft picks Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, and Akili Smith were all out of the league after a few seasons).  I guess it’s high risk/high reward, like stocks.  A good veteran quarterback (value stock) who can lead you to winning seasons is often passed over for a younger quarterback (more volatile, aggressive stock) who fits the mold but ultimately may not become a winner, but at least seems to have more potential. 

I was reminded of this oddity – how NFL teams don’t always like winners – when Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler was in the news lately.  Not because of Cutler’s anger at almost being traded, but because it made me remember that Cutler’s predecessor, Jake Plummer, went 40-18 with three playoff appearances with Denver.  Plummer was 7-4 in 2006 when he was replaced by Cutler, who lost 3 of the final 5 games of the season for the Broncos.  Denver failed to make the playoffs that year.  Ok, so you say the Broncos had to sacrifice a year for the future. 

But Cutler’s record as a starter is 17-20 with no playoff appearances.  Denver coach Mike Shanahan replaced Plummer with Cutler at the time because Plummer hadn’t played well in the playoffs, but he missed the point.  First you have to get there, and once you get there, you have an excellent chance to win it all.  The point is putting yourself in a position to win, which Plummer did.  Look at the Cardinals this year, the Giants last year, and the Steelers three years ago.  Each team barely made the playoffs but won or made it to the Super Bowl.  You have to get to the playoffs – after that, there is some luck involved.

There are two sides to every story, and Plummer did make too many mistakes, while Cutler has a very strong arm and will probably have success one day.  But at some point, production – wins – should matter.  Substance should matter over style.  Unfortunately, too often in the NFL, it doesn’t.     

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Byron Leftwich

December 15, 2008

I originally wrote this in August.  Byron Leftwich had a great game in relief on November 3, leading the Steelers to a win against the Washington Redskins. You better believe that as good as Ben Roethlisberger is, he won’t sit as long as he can walk because he knows how good Leftwich, a fellow Mid-American Conference (MAC) QB, is.  I do feel somewhat vindicated now that David Garrard has led the Jaguars to a 5-9 record so far.   

 

I’m kind of shocked that quarterback Byron Leftwich wasn’t signed by an NFL team this year until August 9, when the Steelers signed him to backup Ben Roethlesberger.  Leftwich has been criticized for having a very long throwing motion, which combined with his inability to run much hurts him at a time when mobility is increasingly important for NFL quarterbacks.  He has a career passer rating of 80.3, and a touchdown to interception ratio of 54-38.  Solid but not spectacular numbers.  But what about being a winner?  Doesn’t production matter?  Leftwich was 24-20 as a starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Has the NFL changed that much since Leftwich had his best season and led the Jaguars to a 12-4 record in 2005?  Everybody acted as if when Jags coach Jack Del Rio replaced Leftwich with Garrard two years ago, that it was a no-brainer.  Not only was it not a no-brainer, it was the wrong decision.

 

I heard the most ridiculous thing on Sirius NFL Radio this summer.  Former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck said that last year proved Leftwich couldn’t get the job done.  He didn’t join the Atlanta Falcons until week 3 of last year so he missed all of training camp, the preseason, and the first two weeks of the season.  It’s true that he has a long windup that takes a lot of time, but he has a strong arm, he is still in his prime, and he has been a winner.  He led some great comebacks in both college and the pros.