This whole notion that a team cannot win a Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback can be as destructive as it is seductive. Every quarterback that has ever been drafted in the first round has been drafted using that rationale, and the fact that the Eagles are going all in on the premise is something that should concern anybody who possesses an ounce of critical reasoning ability. It's a circumstance that I delved into in my column in today's Daily News, eliciting the usual smattering of rebuttals, "If Carson Wentz turns out to be a franchise quarterback, then the Eagles made the right move. End of story."
Well, yeah. Except, it isn't the end of the story. In fact, it isn't the story at all. No matter how illuminating Howie Roseman thinks the notion is, nobody in the NFL doubts that the Eagles will be in very good shape for a very long time if Wentz reaches his ceiling. Nobody doubts the arm strength, or the mobility, or the toughness, or the grit, or the way the ball comes out of his hand. All of that stuff is obvious. The story isn't where the Eagles will be if Wentz reaches his upside. The story is the scenario in which the opposite happens, which is the way most of these stories play out.
If Wentz reaches his potential, it will have nothing to do with the Eagles having seen something in him, or in the importance of the position he plays, that others didn't. This was never about appraising Wentz's value if he succeeds. It was about appraising the risk that he does not succeed, and then deciding on an investment commensurate with that risk. If Twitter becomes the next Facebook, everybody who bought the stock when it opened at $44.90 will look like geniuses. At the moment, though, it is trading at $14.25.
The notion that you can somehow evaluate Wentz independently of the price the Eagles paid for him betrays an economic ignorance that has sunk many a business (and many a portfolio). The problem with being a fan of an NFL team is that the business owners are playing with house money -- the guaranteed profit that each of them turns wildly skews their appraisal of risk. If investing a first round draft pick in Tim Tebow had the potential to cost an owner millions of dollars in lost profit, he might think a little more carefully about the odds that such a player successfully reinvents himself against NFL comeptition. Fortunately for the owner, the only thing he is gambling with is your emotions. And he doesn't buy shrimp cocktail with angst.
If Carson Wentz turns out to be a franchise QB, the Eagles made the right move. If Tebow turned out to be a franchise QB, if Johnny Manziel turned out to be a franchise QB, if Robert Griffin turned out to be a franchise QB...maybe thinking it in those terms makes you uncomfortable, but such is life. But let's not even think in those terms, because, again, those terms are seductively simple. The reality is, many QBs fall somewhere in the middle of the Tebows and the Lucks, and the belief that you can't win a Super Bowl with one of those guys is a loser's mentality. Part of the problem is we throw around the term "Franchise QB" as if the term defines itself, and, when you press people hard enough, you usually discover that they define the term as "QB capable of winning a Super Bowl." Which is funny, because those same people then turn around and argue that a team needs a franchise QB in order to win a Super Bowl. If you define a franchise QB as any QB that has won a Super Bowl, then, yeah, you need a franchise QB to win a Super Bowl. The reality is that Joe Flacco's numbers are not reflective of a guy who was anything other than an average quarterback on a good team who had a very good four-week stretch. In fact, his numbers aren't a whole lot different from Sam Bradford's. I know, I know, the only numbers that matter are wins. Flacco's a winner. And if we define great QBs as QBs who win, then, yeah, a team needs a great QB to win. Problem is, we just watched a team win a Super Bowl with a quarterback who was definitively not great. In fact, Peyton Manning was so obviously less great than he was in years in which he failed to win the Super Bowl that his last act as a Hall of Fame QB might've been to destroy the notion that you need a Hall of Fame QB to win a Super Bowl. Of course, a Hall of Fame QB helps. But in the past 15 years we've seen Colin Kaepernick, Jake Delhomme, Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon, Flacco, Donovan McNabb, all go to the Super Bowl. Manning won two. Rodgers won one. Marino won none. Elway won both of his once he was over the hill.
The question isn't what happens if Wentz turns out to be Rodgers or Luck. It's what happens if he turns out to be Matt Stafford, or Jay Cutler, or Ryan Tannehill, or Matt Ryan, or even Sam Bradford. Because those kinds of quarterbacks might have been Flacco if they'd been drafted in the bottom half of the first round, where they might've been drafted by a team with a great defense and a great general manager and a solid offensive line.