This week Dan Patrick at Sports Illustrated reported that former Charger/Cowboy/Seahawk/Buc Ryan Leaf said he wishes he hadn’t gone # 2 in 1998.
..Ryan Leaf remains the most notorious QB bust in recent NFL history. Looking back, Leaf wishes he hadn’t gone No. 2 in 1998. “I was a very entitled and very spoiled athlete at that time,” Leaf told me. “You don’t want to say the money changes you, but it definitely does. I think getting drafted later would have been a benefit.”
I agree with Leaf and it’s part of the reason I can’t wait to see what happens with my new object-of-football-affection former Arkansas Razorback now New England Patriot Ryan Mallet. Mallet fell down in the draft but was eventually taken by the Patriots in the 3rd round.
I thought this was great for Mallet, especially if he gets to succeed a very successful Tom Brady who, himself, was pushed into starting when Belichick plucked him from fourth string and dumped Drew Bledsoe in his favor.
Leaf’s weirdly protracted stint in the NFL wasn’t just riddled with bad play, it was marred by him being a bad person in general. Mallet has developed a reputation for being a bit of an asshole. Some of that reputation was built up by a bored media and underhanded team staff, but Mallet has admitted to drug use and his personality is definitely rough around the edges. Starting behind someone is a great way to give a kid like that a little perspective on things.
I think Tom Brady, in addition to folks like Aaron Rodgers are proof of how much playing behind a great QB can help in the modern game no matter the draft number. Brady wasn’t even picked up until the 5th round. If Mallet goes on to be be a great QB and Cam Newton, the #1 pick, fizzles out after a couple seasons with the Carolina Panthers, it doesn’t mean Mallet was always destined to be a better QB. Seems like people tend to look back on busts and say someone else should have been drafted instead when other factors play a role.
To use Leaf as an example, Matt Hasselback was drafted the same year as Leaf in the sixth round and began his NFL career on Green Bay’s practice squad behind Brett Favre “the quarterback whisperer.” Even Brian Griese, also drafted in 1998 but in the 3rd round stuck around the NFL until the late 2000s despite being injury prone.
After watching some of the tragic QB performances of last year, and quite frankly the year before, I’ve gotten super into QB development. If the current normal is to have at least 50 QBs start and at least 72 take a snap at some point in the season, QB support has got to become a priority in the NFL. Anyway, I’ll be blogging about this more in the coming months as I chat with some people and get some ideas.
I think that also might inspire me to do some QB controversy posts…lots of QB struggle going on across the league.