Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: You never know what you'll get when picking a QB No. 1

To play or not to play. That is the question.

When it comes to quarterbacks who were the first overall picks in the draft, there is one thing that is certain and that is nothing is for certain.

You draft a quarterback first overall. What do you do? Do you throw him to the Lions — and Bears and Packers? Or do you let him percolate on the bench until he is ready to tame the NFL's wild bunch?

If you know the answer, you should apply to become a general manager because no one has figured it out just yet.

There is no perfect formula for developing a star quarterback, no scientific proof or historical data that even suggests one way is better than another.

You make your choice and hope for the best.

Which is what the teams meeting today at Raymond James Stadium are doing.

One the home side, there are the Bucs. They drafted Jameis Winston first overall a year ago and immediately threw him into the lineup. He will make his 19th NFL start this afternoon and, so far, it has gone well. Winston is 7-11 as a starter, not bad considering he took over the worst team in the league.

Meantime, if you're looking today for Jared Goff, taken first overall in this year's draft by the Rams, you'll have to scour the sidelines. Goff is not expected to play today, nor is there any timetable for when he will get in there.

If it was up to former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, Goff wouldn't play at all this season.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Gruden said, "I think he might be best served not playing at all this year. Right now you're going into Week 3; how many reps is he getting? Week 1 he wasn't even active. How's he getting better if he's not getting all the reps? I just can't understand how you're going to tell me in Week 5 he's ready to go. Because he's been sitting there?"

Is Gruden right? Maybe. Maybe not. Who the heck knows?

Since 1970, 22 quarterbacks have been taken first overall in the draft.

And they've been a whole lot of everything.

Six went on to win Super Bowls. Three — Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman — have made the Hall of Fame with two others (Peyton and Eli Manning) almost certain to make the Hall when their time comes. And, someday, quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Andrew Luck could be worthy of Hall consideration.

On the other hand, there have been busts, such as JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch and David Carr.

And there have been a bunch of in-betweens, the likes of Jeff George, Carson Palmer, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.

How they become one thing and not another is a complete mystery.

Aikman, for instance, played his rookie season with the Cowboys and got his brains beat in by going 0-11. He toughed it out and eventually won three Super Bowls with Dallas.

Then there's Carr, who also got his brains beat in by being sacked a record 76 times with the expansion Texans. Seemingly shell-shocked by his miserable rookie year, Carr never really panned out. He kicked around the NFL for 10 years, played for four teams and went a less-than-pedestrian 23-56 as a starter.

In a perfect world, a quarterback would sit until he is ready to play. Aaron Rodgers was not a first overall pick, but he backed up Brett Favre for three seasons in Green Bay and then became a starter at 25, which seems ancient for a first-time starter. He is 81-40 and, arguably, the best quarterback in the NFL. No doubt that his time watching from the bench benefitted him.

But most teams don't have the luxury of taking their time with the first overall pick.

First off, teams with the first pick almost always have the first pick because they were the worst team in the league the season before. And, usually, the reason they were the worst team is because they didn't have a good quarterback.

Playing a first overall pick right away is partly out of necessity and partly out of pressure from fans and media. In today's NFL, back-to-back losing seasons is enough reason for a coach and/or a GM to lose his job. That means they can't afford much patience with a first overall pick.

The Bucs showed no patience. And, in the end, they got lucky.

They needed a quarterback. A quarterback was waiting for them in the draft. They took him. Put him the lineup. And it seems to be working out.

Many teams are not so fortunate. Like the Rams. They're still waiting to put Goff out there.

Hey Jameis, any advice for Goff?

"Just do it for your teammates,'' Winston said. "Your preparation, everything you do, do it for your teammates. He's going to be good, he's a great quarterback. You see (Eagles quarterback) Carson Wentz is tearing it up."

Carson Wentz? He was the second overall pick and he's killing it while Goff sits.

How did that happen?

Who knows?

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