NFC West: Dan Marino

Years ago, conventional wisdom would have applauded Carson Palmer for topping 4,000 yards passing with the Oakland Raiders last season.

Now, conventional wisdom has evolved to the point where mainstream analysis discounts those 4,000 yards because Palmer, entering his first season with the Arizona Cardinals, accumulated those yards in a losing context. Palmer went 4-11 as a starter.

Andy from New York hit the NFC West mailbag with a challenge we'll take up here. He thinks Palmer deserves more credit than he's getting.

"After two minutes of research, I found on the Hall of Fame's website that only 48 quarterbacks have thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season (a combined 110 times)," Andy wrote. "Of those 110, only 18 times has it been done on a losing team (14 more times with a .500 record). If it is so 'easy' for a QB to rack up yards when playing from behind (when the defense knows it is a passing situation), why has it been accomplished only 18 times on a losing team in the entire history of the NFL?"

It's an interesting point. Passing for that many yards in a season requires some talent, obviously. But there is nothing inherently magical about the 4,000-yard plateau. Palmer passed for 3,970 yards while posting a 4-12 record in 2010. The 48-yard gap between 2010 (3,970 yards) and 2012 (4,018 yards) means nothing.

Palmer, Jon Kitna and Drew Brees each owns two seasons with at least 4,000 yards and a losing record. Elvis Grbac, Josh Freeman, Trent Green, Jeff Garcia, Bill Kenney, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Matthew Stafford and Vinny Testaverde have each done it once.

Some of those quarterbacks were or are great players. Others were not so great.

ESPN developed the Total QBR metric to measure a quarterback's contributions to winning, whether or not the quarterback accumulated lots of passing yards. Manning scored a league-high 84.1 out of 100 last season. Mark Sanchez scored a league-low 34.0.

QBR can tell us something about the recent run on 4,000-yard seasons. Quarterbacks have combined for 42 of them since 2008. The QBR score Palmer posted last season (44.7) ranked 42nd out of those 42 on the list. The chart shows the seven times over the past five years when a quarterback passed for at least 4,000 yards without posting a winning record. Palmer probably had the worst supporting cast, but if anything, QBR affirms the general feeling on Palmer.

Now, back to Andy's point. Why aren't more quarterbacks from losing teams passing for 4,000 yards regularly? I'd venture that most quarterbacks good enough to pass for that many yards will be good enough to help their teams win most of the time. The question here is whether Palmer is one of those quarterbacks. Recent evidence suggests he might not be, but I think his prospects will improve with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler and possibly even Patrick Peterson catching his passes.

Around the NFC West: Cards' new lows

December, 10, 2012
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The Arizona Cardinals should have expected some dropoff at quarterback following Kurt Warner's retirement.

Total bankruptcy at the position wasn't a reasonable expectation.



Coach Ken Whisenhunt naturally wasn't filled with life after watching his team suffer a 58-0 defeat at Seattle in Week 14. He did respond quickly and in the affirmative when asked whether this performance reflected the cumulative effects of sustained offensive futility.

"There’s no question," Whisenhunt said.

Arizona has now converted 16 of its last 87 third-down opportunities, or 18.4 percent. The team has gone four games without a passing touchdown and two games without a touchdown of any kind. The Cardinals have lost their last four NFC West games by a 130-23 score.

Whisenhunt has regularly suggested that lots of teams have had trouble replacing legendary quarterbacks. Miami has spent years searching for Dan Marino's replacement. Denver had trouble replacing John Elway.

"It's a hard position to play," Whisenhunt said Sunday. "I have seen a lot of teams struggle. Ours is documented because we had a player that played very well at that position a couple of years ago. We haven’t had a player like that approach that level in the last couple of years."

The Cardinals have gone from ranking among the NFL's top six in passer rating and Total QBR over the 2008 and 2009 seasons to ranking dead last by a wide margin in both categories from 2010 to present. And they appear to be getting worse almost exponentially.

John Skelton finished the game Sunday with a 0.4 QBR score, the second-lowest for any player in an NFL game this season. That was the lowest single-game mark for a Cardinals quarterback since at least 2008, which is as far back as ESPN's charting data reaches.

Final Word: NFC West

December, 7, 2012
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:

Seeking divisional breakthrough: The Seattle Seahawks play a divisional game at home for the first time this season when Arizona visits CenturyLink Field. They are 0-3 in NFC West play to this point. That makes the Seahawks one of four teams without a divisional victory this season. Kansas City, Tennessee and Detroit are the others. The Cardinals claimed a 20-16 victory over Seattle in Week 1. Arizona has been outscored by 45 points in NFC West games overall, however. Only the Chiefs (minus-53) and Titans (minus-49) have worse scoring differentials in division play.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
Derick E. Hingle/USA Today SportsColin Kaepernick's ability to make plays outside the pocket should come in handy against Miami.
Kaepernick on the outside: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has thrown three touchdown passes this season, all on passes delivered outside the pocket. He faces a Miami Dolphins defense that ranks 31st in opponents' completion percentage (67.3) and Total QBR (78.9) when defending such throws. Kaepernick could find opportunities on passes outside the yard-line numbers. Two weeks ago, Seattle's Russell Wilson completed 15 of 18 such passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and a 142.4 NFL passer rating against Miami. Earlier in the season, St. Louis' Sam Bradford completed 16 of 23 such attempts for 221 yards and a 100.1 rating against the Dolphins.

Sack record within reach: The Dolphins will play without injured left tackle Jake Long this week. Long has struggled as a pass protector this season, at least by his standards, but the Dolphins surely would have preferred Long to rookie replacement Jonathan Martin. The 49ers' Aldon Smith leads the NFL in sacks with 17.5, tying Fred Dean's single-season franchise record. Smith needs five sacks to tie Michael Strahan's NFL record for one season. Note that the NFL did not track sacks officially before the 1982 season.

Rams' rookie show: The Rams head to Buffalo with a chance to further showcase a promising rookie draft class. Rams rookies have 1,354 yards from scrimmage this season, the fifth-highest total for any team's 2012 class. The class has scored 39 of the Rams' 47 points during victories over the past two weeks, including three touchdowns from cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Rookie receiver Chris Givens has 16 catches for 207 yards over the past two games. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers hasn't scored points, but he has been increasingly strong against the run. That's a big key for the Rams against the Bills, which rank fourth in rushing yards this season with 1,775.

Wilson milestone near: Seattle's Wilson leads NFL rookies with 19 touchdown passes this season. Peyton Manning (26), Charlie Conerly (22), Cam Newton (21), Andy Dalton (20) and Dan Marino (20) are the only players with more during their rookie seasons. Wilson has nine touchdowns without a pick in his past four games. However, he is facing a Cardinals defense that has traveled well. Arizona picked off Matt Ryan five times in Atlanta. The Cardinals held Tom Brady and the Patriots to 18 points. And while Aaron Rodgers tossed four scoring passes against Arizona, he failed to complete even half his passes. The 49ers' Alex Smith was the lone quarterback to truly torch Arizona's defense this season.

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this item.

Mike Sando's MVP Watch

September, 5, 2012
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ManningRon Chenoy/US PresswireThe Denver Broncos are expecting big things from quarterback Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning stands right where he did one year ago: a cautious 10th on our MVP Watch list to open the regular season.

This time, we know he's going to play. We just aren't sure how well.

The four-time MVP is back. But is he really back?

"Mentally? Yes, and better than ever," ESPN.com's Matt Williamson said. "Physically? No. The timing and accuracy is there, but not the ability to drive the ball."

Another Williamson, Bill of the AFC West blog, expects to see a very good Manning in Denver, but not necessarily a vintage one.

"The reality is he had multiple neck surgeries, he missed a year and he is 36," Bill Williamson said. "A decline has to be expected. But he is an all-time great and I expect him to be [among the] top 5-8 quarterbacks for the next three years. He will make a big impact in Denver."

Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers opened last season second to Tom Brady on this list. He's the favorite now. But a strong season from Manning, whose 227-game starting streak ended when he sat out last season, could qualify him for an unprecedented double.

"If Peyton Manning returns to form and leads the Broncos to a division title, I'd expect he'd be the unanimous comeback player of the year," AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky said. "How many times has the comeback player of the year been MVP?"

Never. The comeback award dates only to 1998. Its three most recent winners -- Brady (2009), Michael Vick (2010) and Matthew Stafford (2011) -- came a lot closer to having MVP-type seasons than previous comeback players. Chad Pennington (twice), Greg Ellis, Tedy Bruschi and Steve Smith were the previous five winners. Manning fits the Brady-Vick-Stafford profile.

"For him to make it back from the serious injury and take his act on the road to Denver, making it go with a new team, would qualify as remarkable and garner a slew of votes for an unprecedented fifth MVP," Kuharsky said. "I rank Aaron Rodgers as a clear favorite to repeat. But a storybook year for Manning could change all that no matter what unfolds in Green Bay. I think we'd have a double-dip situation."

Quarterbacks have won the past five MVP awards. Running backs Shaun Alexander (2005) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2006) are the only non-QBs to win since Marshall Faulk following the 2000 season. No defensive player has won since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

Editor's note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this post.
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The first four NFL quarterbacks drafted in 2012 have already won starting jobs as rookies.

Seattle's Russell Wilson, third-round choice from Wisconsin, has a chance to make it five of the top six. He'll get a chance to work with recently cleared receiver Sidney Rice when the Seahawks visit Kansas City for their third exhibition game, set for Friday night.

We can excuse Denver's Brock Osweiler, the only second-round quarterback this year, for failing to crack the lineup. He'll get time to develop behind Peyton Manning.

"What it tells you that this is probably the most talented class since the '83 Marino-O'Brien-Kelly class," ESPN's Bill Polian said on NFL Live.

But there was also a word of caution from Polian, the former Indianapolis Colts exec, regarding the current crop of rookies: "Let's take a look three years from now. Then we'll know."

Recent history backs up the cautionary tone.

Three of the first four quarterbacks from the 2010 class have lost their starting jobs (Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy). St. Louis' Sam Bradford is the exception among the four. The sixth quarterback drafted that year, fifth-rounder John Skelton, could start in Arizona. None of the eight quarterbacks drafted later than Skelton holds a starting job.

The first five quarterbacks drafted in 2011 are starters now that Jake Locker, chosen eighth overall by Tennessee, has ascended into the Titans' lineup over Matt Hasselbeck. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton are the others. Locker, Gabbert and Ponder have the most to prove.

San Francisco backup Colin Kaepernick was the sixth quarterback drafted in 2011, ahead of Ryan Mallett, Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates, Nathan Enderle, Tyrod Taylor and Greg McElroy. Kaepernick might be starting by now if Alex Smith hadn't put together a career-best season.

Twenty-three of the named 30 starters for 2012 entered the NFL as first-round draft choices. Dalton and Drew Brees were second-rounders. Matt Schaub, like Wilson, was a third-round pick. Tom Brady (sixth), Ryan Fitzpatrick (seventh) and Matt Cassel (seventh) were late-round picks. Tony Romo was the only one undrafted.

Mike Sando's MVP Watch

December, 28, 2011
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Drew BreesDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireDrew Brees broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old single-season passing record Monday night.
Breaking Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yardage enhanced Drew Brees' MVP credentials even if Aaron Rodgers remains the favorite on your imaginary ballot.

The manner in which Brees broke the record shouldn't matter too much in the end because Brees needed only 15 games to break it. Yes, the Saints kept passing during their blowout victory over Atlanta solely because they wanted Brees to get the record. But if the record hadn't fallen Monday night, Brees likely would have claimed it against Carolina in Week 17 -- a game the Saints must win for any shot at the NFC's second seed in the playoffs.

One thing I wanted to know, however, was to what degree Marino chased Dan Fouts' previous record with the same sense of purpose. A trip back into 1984 showed Marino taking a different, more organic path to the record.

Marino entered the 1984 regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys with a chance to clinch home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs.

A week earlier, Marino had thrown four second-half touchdown passes to turn a 17-7 deficit into a 35-17 victory over Indianapolis. Needing just 19 yards against the Cowboys to break Fouts' record, Marino closed the season with a 340-yard effort featuring the winning 63-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton with 51 seconds remaining.

The Cowboys had tied the game with 1:47 remaining on a deflected 66-yard pass that Tony Hill caught off the rebound.

"The final moments were as stunning and sensational as in any game this season," the New York Times' Michael Janofsky wrote at the time.

Marino was the MVP, of course. Brees, despite his record-setting ways, stands second on our list again this week. Rodgers has more touchdown passes and fewer interceptions for a team with a better record and a Week 1 victory over Brees' Saints. But if Green Bay rests Rodgers and its starters while Brees outduels Cam Newton in Week 17, then what?

Not the only time Saints got their stats

December, 27, 2011
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New Orleans' decision to keep passing Monday night in pursuit of Dan Marino's single-season yardage record has opened the Saints to criticism.

Coach Sean Payton knew it, which is why he addressed the subject without prompting following the Saints' 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

While NFL records are best achieved organically, at least the Saints were honest about what was happening. An interest in racking up stats doesn't preclude a team from valuing winning the most.

NFC West fans might recall Arizona's Matt Leinart throwing a 7-yard pass to Steve Breaston with 53 seconds left in a 2008 Week 17 game the Cardinals led, 34-21. The completion gave the Cardinals three 1,000-yard receivers.

Relatively few were watching in Week 8 this season when the Saints sustained Drew Brees' streak of games with at least one touchdown pass. Brees ran seven plays in the final 46 seconds while the Saints trailed the St. Louis Rams, 31-14. His 8-yard scoring pass to Lance Moore with 6 seconds remaining kept alive the streak.

The Saints trailed in that game, so circumstances were different than they were Monday night. Running up the score was not an issue. Teams regularly fight to the finish when losing. The streak was still foremost on my mind when watching Brees operate frenetically with no chance at winning the game.

Brees extended the streak in a 31-21 defeat. The streak has subsequently grown to 42 games with at least on Brees scoring pass. Johnny Unitas holds the record (47 games).

Mike Sando's MVP Watch

October, 5, 2011
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Aaron RodgersBrace Hemmelgarn/US PresswireAaron Rodgers accounted for six touchdowns in the Packers' Week 4 win over Denver.
Larry Fitzgerald answered the MVP question before I could finish asking it.

"That's a no-brainer," he said from the Arizona Cardinals' locker room this week. "Is it even close right now?"

Not really.

Aaron Rodgers tightened his grip on the top spot by becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 400 yards passing, four passing touchdowns and two rushing scores in the same game. By comparison, the entire Jacksonville Jaguars team has 550 yards passing, two passing touchdowns and one rushing score in its first four games.

Tom Brady remains the biggest threat to Rodgers for the long term, but the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford has gained ground.

"If the Patriots didn't lose one game, you might say Tom, but Aaron is playing lights out," Fitzgerald said. "And they're kind of doing it under the radar, too. It's as under the radar as you can be as a Super Bowl champion. You don't see them all over ESPN. You just see them going about their business."

Fitzgerald pointed to the Lions' Calvin Johnson as the wide receiver most likely to break the quarterback-running back stranglehold on MVP honors. And he said the Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed and the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware have the potential to make a run at MVP from the defensive side.

"Ed Reed is as important to that Ravens defense as a good quarterback is to any team," Fitzgerald said. "He has been playing great."

There wasn't quite room for defensive representation on the list this week. The Lions' Johnson joined Eli Manning and Philip Rivers as new from last week, pushing aside Buffalo's Fred Jackson, Dallas' Tony Romo and Houston's Matt Schaub. Jackson has not exceeded 74 yards in his past two games. Schaub's status took a hit with Andre Johnson's injury, and it was tougher finding room for teammate Arian Foster after the Texans' backup running back, Ben Tate, produced so well when Foster was out.

Sacks: NFC West QBs have 58 of them

October, 5, 2011
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The Buffalo Bills did not suddenly field a roster packed with perennial Pro Bowl linemen.

Their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, has nonetheless taken only two sacks in 147 drop backs.

I ran across this improbable stat when researching for the next MVP Watch item. It reinforced the idea that sacks, which are often drive killers, reflect so much more than a line's ability to prevent them.

The list of players with the fewest sacks in a season (minimum 300 pass attempts) features almost exclusively players lacking the raw speed or athletic ability to avoid defenders. Dan Marino, Mark Rypien, Kerry Collins, Joey Harrington and Troy Aikman are the only players in the sack era (since 1982) with at least 300 attempts and fewer than 10 sacks in a season.

The system a team runs, the receivers a team has and the decisions a quarterback makes also play prominently into the totals.

We're seeing that in the NFC West through four games.

The St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford is on pace for 72 sacks, which would tie Randall Cunningham for the second-highest total in a season since sacks became an official stat in 1982. He's learning a new system featuring deeper drop backs and slower-developing routes, all while playing without his most dependable receiver. Bad combination.

San Francisco's Alex Smith (14 sacks), Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson (14) and Arizona's Kevin Kolb (12) rank among the seven most-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL this season. NFC West starters have taken 58 sacks, with Rams backup A.J. Feeley also taking one. Line issues have played larger roles for Smith and Jackson, in my view. Kolb's feel for the pocket hasn't seemed strong enough, possibly a reflection of his inexperience and learning a new offense.

Sacks were down for Smith (three in 36 drop backs) and Jackson (zero in 38, against an Atlanta defense that now has no sacks in its past three games) in Week 4. The Rams are off this week, but the other NFC West teams rank among the 15 teams with at least 10 sacks so far this season. This will be a theme for the division in Week 5.

Mike Sando's MVP Watch

September, 28, 2011
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RodgersDennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireAaron Rodgers has thrown eight touchdown passes and just one interception for the 3-0 Packers.
Aaron Rodgers' ascension to the top spot in the weekly MVP Watch requires no rationalization.

The Green Bay Packers are the undefeated reigning Super Bowl champions. Rodgers is their best player, the Super Bowl MVP.

Esquire has taken note by declaring, "In fact, what distinguishes Aaron Rodgers is not his decision making, which, though impeccable, is in the mortal realm. It's his sheer giftedness -- his economic brand of elusiveness matched with a talent for throwing the damned ball that is the equal of Dan Marino's, Warren Moon's, or (hey, why not?) Brett Favre's."

That is good enough for us after Tom Brady, the MVP Watch leader through Week 2, inexplicably tossed four interceptions in losing to Buffalo. Brady lost ground to Rodgers, who is now on pace for 43 touchdowns with three interceptions, and Drew Brees, whose only defeat came against Rodgers' Packers in a memorable season opener.

Seeing some combination of Rodgers, Brees and Brady atop an MVP list comes almost as a matter of course. Matthew Stafford's inclusion at No. 4 was at least remotely foreseeable given heightened expectations for the Detroit Lions this season. But three names on the list this week -- Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson, plus Tennessee's Matt Hasselbeck -- once would have seemed utterly unfathomable as candidates to anyone outside (and probably inside) their immediate families.

There are as many Buffalo Bills in the running as Packers, Patriots and Steelers combined. And the best quarterback in the AFC South right now plays in Nashville, not Indy. Hasselbeck, never known for sheer arm strength, is improbably among the NFL leaders (first in QBR, third in NFL passer rating) on throws delivered outside the yard-line numbers.

"It's early, of course, but Hasselbeck's playing like a guy capable of transforming a franchise," AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky observed.

With Hasselbeck, Fitzpatrick, Dallas' Tony Romo and Oakland's Darren McFadden emerging as MVP Watch-worthy, there wasn't room for every qualified candidate.

NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert rightfully asks whether any non-quarterback has had a greater impact on his team than Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Anyone watching the Cowboys knows the same could be said for the incomparable DeMarcus Ware. The way Joe Flacco lit up the St. Louis Rams caught my attention as well.



Skip Bayless and Dan Graziano took up the case for Charles Haley as a Pro Football Hall of Famer on ESPN's First Take.

Bayless thought Haley should have qualified on the first ballot as a key championship variable for the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. Bayless and Graziano also touched upon to what degree Haley's sometimes disagreeable and disruptive behavior affected his candidacy. Those are relevant factors, but this discussion is incomplete without acknowledging what role the process plays in enshrinement.

To say that Haley or another player should have earned enshrinement in a given year usually suggests another player wasn't as deserving. The Hall accepts no more than seven candidates per year, including a maximum of two seniors candidates, meaning even deserving candidates must be more deserving than those actually enshrined to raise a serious beef.

Haley was first eligible in 2005. Steve Young and Dan Marino were the only modern-era candidates elected that year. Michael Irvin and Harry Carson were also finalists that year, but neither received the 80 percent approval rating required for enshrinement. Both became Hall of Famers later. Was Haley obviously more deserving than those four?

Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Carson comprised the 2006 modern-era class. Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli comprised the 2007 modern-era class. Fred Dean, Darrell Green, Art Monk and Gary Zimmerman made it in 2008. Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Rod Woodson and Ralph Wilson made it in 2009. The 2010 class featured Rickey Jackson, John Randle, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith.

The current class includes Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and Ed Sabol.

We could argue that he was more deserving than a candidate here or there, but only a very few elite candidates -- Rice, White, Emmitt Smith, Bruce Smith, etc. -- have credentials strong enough to transcend any Hall class.

Tim Brown, Roger Craig, Dermontti Dawson, Andre Reed, Cris Carter, Cortez Kennedy, Bob Kuechenberg, Randy Gradishar, L.C. Greenwood and several of the above-mentioned Hall of Famers have also been finalists since Haley became eligible.

Was Haley obvious more deserving than each of them? It's a debate worth having, but also one that goes beyond whether Haley should get in at all.
NFL teams selected six quarterbacks among the first 36 choices in the 2011 NFL draft.

That hadn't happened since 1983, when Dan Marino was the sixth quarterback chosen.

The distinction fell to Colin Kaepernick this time. The Nevada quarterback wasn't happy watching NFL teams select five other quarterbacks before San Francisco traded up nine spots to select him 36th overall.

"You want to prove that you should have been the top pick, that other quarterback shouldn't have been taken ahead of you," Kaepernick told ESPN's Colin Cowherd. "To me, I take that kind of personally, that teams thought I was the sixth-best quarterback and not the best quarterback."

Marino, chosen 27th overall in his draft class, fared OK.

The chart lists the sixth quarterback drafted every year since 1999. Kaepernick and Shaun King were the only ones selected higher than 81st overall. Tom Brady was famously the seventh quarterback selected in 2000.

Kaepernick will be trying to defy trends. Not only have the sixth quarterbacks in recent draft classes struggled, but so have most passers chosen in second rounds over the years.
John Clayton's take on whether the Philadelphia Eagles should trade Kevin Kolb describes as "good" the chances of an NFC West team acquiring the quarterback.

"While it seems unlikely the Eagles can get a first-round pick in 2011 because the time is running out to get a CBA done before the draft, a first-round pick in 2012 still works," Clayton wrote.

For trading purposes, a first-round pick in 2012 would be worth less than a first-round choice in the current year. Teams interested in trading for Kolb could benefit if a lockout extended past the draft because the Eagles wouldn't be able to command a 2011 draft choice in return.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. previously said he would part with the 25th overall choice for Kolb if he were the Seattle Seahawks.

OK, but what about using that choice for a quarterback in the draft?

Teams selecting quarterbacks in that range have struggled to find good ones. Aaron Rodgers (24th in 2005) and Dan Marino (27th in 1983) stand out as exceptions. The last 10 quarterbacks selected in the 20s: Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn, Rodgers, Jason Campbell, J.P. Losman, Rex Grossman, Jim Druckenmiller, Tommy Maddox, Todd Marinovich and current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes the Rams' situation at running back this way: "I think the Rams have delayed the almost-annual 'effort' to add a quality change-of-pace back behind Steven Jackson to the point where we're on the cusp of wondering if the Rams should be thinking about a successor instead. I myself think Jackson has two or three more top-tier seasons under his belt. (And if you think that way, it might be a year or two early to be thinking about a successor.) He turns 28 in July. If [they] don't think Jackson has two or three top years left, then I could see where you might be thinking more strongly about Mark Ingram." My thoughts here.

Also from Thomas: Some experts say the Rams need an owner-friendly collective bargaining agreement to succeed in St. Louis over the long term.

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis examines the value of Wonderlic scores, noting that former Rams receiver Kevin Curtis scored 48 out of 50 on the exam. Softli: "Some high-profile players have scored low on the test. This year's top talent with single-digit scores includes Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green and Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson. However, both will get drafted in the top 10 picks. Years ago, quarterbacks Dan Marino and Vince Young both scored 16 on the test, though Young scored a six on his first attempt. There is no correlation between this test, Pro Bowlers, and Hall of Famers or busts."

Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com says coach Pete Carroll has embarked on a four-city coaching clinic tour. Malcolmson: "The coaches workshop attracted high school and college coaches, along with various business executives and community leaders, who hope to employ many of Carroll’s teaching and leadership techniques to their spheres of influence. With a wide range of speakers, the workshop featured 'four quarters' of learning, going from self-discovery to 'learn your learner' to the importance of practice to 'perform in the absence of fear.' "

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times has this to say about the Seahawks and the 25th overall choice in the 2011 draft: "Well, if Seahawks are on the clock at No. 25 and Mark Ingram is still there, the Seahawks would have to look long and hard at that one, and it would be tough to justify passing up a young back with that power and that talent just because you have Marshawn Lynch signed for another year. Remember back in [2005] when a quarterback went tumbling down the draft order, and Green Bay -- with John Schneider in that front office -- didn't have a pronounced need at quarterback. But they took Aaron Rodgers."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers his own list of 10 best NFL head coaches after seeing the version ESPN.com put together. He ranks Ken Whisenhunt eighth. Somers: "To me, the list emphasizes the importance of having great talent evaluators, a consistent philosophy and the importance of ownership staying out of most football decisions. That's certainly what Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Andy Reid, Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin have. So do the Falcons and the Ravens. A year ago, a case could be made that the Cardinals were moving in that direction, but a 5-11 record in 2010 suggests otherwise."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team has closed the door to its draft room, an indication the Cardinals are getting serious about putting together their draft boards (yes, the team has more than one).

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Colin Kaepernick's athleticism could appeal to the 49ers, who have identified athleticism and accuracy as top traits in a quarterback. Barrows: "Kaepernick ran for 1,206 yards last season and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground. He is the only player in NCAA history with more than 4,000 rushing yards and more than 10,000 passing yards. But the Turlock native is careful to describe himself not as a rushing quarterback but as a quarterback who can extend plays with his feet."

Steve Young: State of Rams' QB situation

February, 4, 2011
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- A big thanks goes to Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young for taking time Friday morning to discuss quarterback situations for each NFC West team.

I'll break out his thoughts and add my own, beginning with a look at the situation in St. Louis, where Sam Bradford will be entering his second season.

Steve Young: You have seen Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and now Sam break down the barriers of really taking on teams that were flat on their back -- Joe, not so much -- and succeeding right away. The year the Falcons chose Matt, they were coming off a disastrous season. They were flat on their back with so much upheavel, and he and a coach righted it. I haven't seen that since Dan Marino, but even then, it wasn't like Marino had to turn them completely around. I thought it was unprecedented what Matt Ryan did. And what Sam did, playing winning football out of nowhere. Hearing him talk, the way he speaks, the way he plays, he is a really heady guy who is going to do very good. You can see that. You get players like that and you know you are going to have them for 15 years. There is nothing more valuable by extreme measurement to a franchise. For St. Louis, it is a big, big deal. They took a risk. I can't imagine as a rookie actually playing good football. I went through it.

My thoughts: Expectations could get out of control a little bit this offseason. As well as Bradford played, 24 qualifying quarterbacks had higher passer ratings this season. Bradford will take an initial step backward this offseason while learning a new offensive system. The Rams need to upgrade their receivers, find another starting guard, get their tight ends healthy and consider adding a change-of-pace running back. They do not need a quarterback, however, and those other holes can be filled without great difficulty. Bradford does appear to have the right makeup and physical ability to be the franchise quarterback the Rams sought when they made him the first player chosen in the 2010 NFL draft.

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