NFC West: JaMarcus Russell

The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, among others, tried to maneuver in the 1983 NFL draft for a shot at selecting John Elway.

So did the Los Angeles Raiders.

Now, former Raiders coach Hue Jackson says via Peter King that the team also badly wanted Colin Kaepernick, another strong-armed quarterback whose athletic background included baseball.

King's piece has plenty of detail, including a captivating visual: Raiders owner Al Davis throwing a glass across the room when San Francisco traded up to select Kaepernick with the 36th choice of the 2011 draft.

Of course, teams miss out on players they wanted in every draft. Some of those players wind up leading their teams to the Super Bowl, as Kaepernick did last season. Other players fail to make much of an impact.

Since 1983, when Elway landed in Denver via the Baltimore Colts, the Raiders have drafted the following 13 quarterbacks: Tyler Wilson, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Billy Joe Hobert, Todd Marinovich, Major Harris, Jeff Francis, David Weber, Steve Beuerlein, Rusty Hilger, Randy Essington and Scott Lindquist.

Those players were, by definition, quarterbacks the Raiders really wanted. To hear selectively about the ones that got away makes me wonder how many other forgettable ones the team also wanted at various points. We're unlikely to hear about those.

We should also acknowledge the role an organization plays in developing quarterbacks. Kaepernick had more than one season of seasoning in the 49ers' system before joining a talented, superbly coached offense, one that was backed by a strong defense. He gets credit for doing his part, but the situation obviously would have been tougher in Oakland.

The 49ers deserve tremendous credit for landing Kaepernick in the second round. They went into that 2011 draft without knowing how well Alex Smith would perform. They had the seventh overall choice and could have taken Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder. Instead, they used that pick for Aldon Smith, who has already set their franchise single-season record for sacks. Kaepernick, meanwhile, is looking far more dynamic than every other quarterback the 49ers were in position to select in that draft.

Note: The headline refers to JaMarcus Russell. Some in the comments section thought "Russell" referred to Russell Wilson. I'm sure the Raiders would like to have him, too, but they'll have to settle for Matt Flynn.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and I first met as competing beat reporters covering the Seattle Seahawks in 1998.

Warren Moon's contract holdout was the big story that year.

Williamson and I spent part of Monday discussing another quarterback unhappy with his situation. Carson Palmer, on his way out of Oakland and possibly heading for the Arizona Cardinals, has "deserted" a team for the second time, Williamson contends.

I took an opposing view on this one in the video atop this item. Whether or not Palmer has handled things well in Cincinnati and Oakland, the Raiders were the ones coming to him asking for a pay reduction. Palmer is well within his rights to resist such a reduction, even if it means taking less money elsewhere.

Teams routinely release players who refuse to accept cuts in pay. No one accuses them of deserting their players. It's just business. And if it's business when teams use whatever leverage is available to them, I'd say it's business when players do the same thing -- particularly during the offseason, and particularly when the team initiates discussions the way Oakland initiated them.

Williamson and I also discussed Matt Flynn's prospects in Oakland.

One more note on Palmer, courtesy of Williamson: The Raiders were 8-16 in games Palmer started, compared to 7-18 in games JaMarcus Russell started. Palmer had a much higher Total QBR in those starts (52.3, which is around average, compared to 23.7 for Russell).
Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information passes along this: Ten of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2007 have changed teams now that Kevin Kolb is heading to Arizona.

This doesn't reflect poorly on Kolb, who has sat behind quarterbacks with multiple Pro Bowls on their resumes, so much as it does on that quarterback class in general.

JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were the only first-round quarterbacks that year. Kolb, chosen 36th overall and with the fourth pick of the second round, was the third quarterback drafted. John Beck and Drew Stanton joined Kolb as second-rounders that year. Stanton is the only one still with his original team, provided he re-signs, as expected.

A few other notes from Hawkins:
  • None of the 11 quarterbacks from the 2007 class has a winning record as a starter.
  • Trent Edwards is the only one with to hit double figures in victories as a starter (14-19 record).
  • Stanton (2-2) and Troy Smith (4-4) are the only ones without losing records as a starter. Kolb is 3-4.
  • Eight of the 11 have started at least one game. Isaiah Stanback, Jeff Rowe and Jordan Palmer have not.
  • Among those with starts, Beck is the only one without a victory as a starter (0-4).
  • Russell (7-18) and Quinn (3-9) have a combined 10-27 record as starters.

Check out the full list if you've got a strong stomach.

As the Cardinals pointed out in their news release Thursday, Kolb is the only quarterback in Eagles history to pass for at least 300 yards in each of his first two starts. He has been named offensive player of the week in the NFC and has an 81.2 career rating.
Colleague Kevin Seifert showed some daring by sending TCU quarterback Andy Dalton to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12 in a recent mock draft.

He wasn't arguing for Dalton's value so much as saying the Vikings' need for a quarterback might compel them to take one there.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonDid the Rams "reach" to get quarterback Sam Bradford in the first round last year?
"To me," Seifert later wrote with first-year Vikings coach Leslie Frazier in mind, "there is no better time to jump to the other side than in a coach's first year, giving him a building block for the rest of his program."

The key, of course, is not mistaking anchors for building blocks.

Steve Mariucci was the San Francisco 49ers' first-year coach when the team used a 1997 first-rounder for Jim Druckenmiller, a blunder softened only by Steve Young's presence on the roster. That experience should not directly influence the 49ers' thinking as they consider first-round quarterbacks for new coach Jim Harbaugh, but it's a reference point.

With Harbaugh and the 49ers in mind, I went through recent drafts to see which teams with first-year head coaches used first-round selections for quarterbacks. More precisely, I looked at all first-round quarterbacks since 2000 to see which ones had first-year head coaches.

Six of the last eight first-round quarterbacks -- Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and JaMarcus Russell -- joined teams with first-year head coaches. All but Russell remain franchise quarterbacks in their teams' eyes. All but Russell are still playing for their original head coaches. Four of the six had winning records in 2010.

For most of those franchises, value and need lined up pretty well, and first-year coaches benefited.

"If you don't have a quarterback, you're drafting maybe a different kind of running back, maybe a different kind of offensive lineman, than if you have somebody," Lions coach Jim Schwartz told reporters at the scouting combine. "We had Calvin Johnson, but our ability to get Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson in free agency, to draft Brandon Pettigrew -- those pieces were because of the quarterback that we have."

We could also argue that the St. Louis Rams were better off building their offensive line and other areas of their roster before making Sam Bradford the first overall choice in 2010. They could have drafted Sanchez or Freeman instead of defensive end Chris Long in 2009, then spent subsequent selections on players to build around one of those quarterbacks.

Bradford and Denver's Tim Tebow were the "other" first-round quarterbacks in the eight-man group featuring Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman, Ryan, Flacco and Russell.

In general, getting the right quarterback for a first-year head coach puts a franchise in strong position for the long term. There's no sense forcing the issue, however, because the wrong quarterback can drag down any coach, regardless of tenure.

A coach such as the Vikings' Frazier might have a harder time waiting. His contract runs only three seasons and ownership expects quick results. Harbaugh has a five-year deal with the 49ers. Expectations are high, but there's less urgency for immediate results.

The first chart shows the 14 first-round quarterbacks since 2000 that landed with returning head coaches.

The second chart shows the 14 first-round quarterbacks since 2000 that landed with first-year head coaches.

A free game of quarterback roulette

April, 5, 2011
Two notes while on the subject of quarterbacks and when teams select them:
When teams sense an elite quarterback is available in a draft, that quarterback often doesn't make it past the first overall choice. Further evidence: All three quarterbacks taken second overall were the second quarterbacks taken in their draft classes.

Would you rather pull those names out of a hat at random, knowing you would get those players' careers as they played out, or would you rather use one of the top two choices -- or even one of the top seven, given where NFC West teams select -- to select a quarterback in the 2011 draft?
One of the hardest-core Arizona Cardinals fans I know ("Jeremy S.") occasionally sends detailed messages to me breaking down various aspects of the team.

His latest plan goes like this: With no quarterback consensus in the draft this year, the four teams picking ahead of the Cardinals focus on other positions. Arizona then trades the fifth pick to one of the quarterback-needy teams selecting later in the first round. The Cardinals emerge with additional picks. They use the first-round pick acquired via trade to select University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who fits their system.

"I believe Locker will be the best QB to come out of this draft class," Jeremy wrote. "Let’s not forget the guy was considered to be the first overall pick in 2010 if he had declared for the draft. Let’s also take into consideration the Cards could definitely use extra third- and fourth-rounders to replace several years' worth of aging veteran free-agent acquisitions."

Blaine Gabbert & Cam Newton
US PresswireMost mock drafts have Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton off the board before the Cardinals pick.
Draft evaluators disagree with Jeremy's assessment of the quarterbacks. Rob Rang's latest mock draft has quarterbacks Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert gone among the first four overall choices. Most other mocks I've seen have at least one quarterback gone by the time Arizona would be on the clock with the fifth pick.

A quarterback went first overall eight times in the last 10 drafts. No quarterback was taken second overall during that time. Three went third and one went fourth. At least one quarterback was gone by the fifth pick in each of the last 10 drafts. Two quarterbacks went among the top four choices in 2002 and 2004.

Using recent history as a guide, there's a decent chance one of the top two quarterbacks will be available when the Cardinals select fifth overall. At that point, the team would need to make a value judgment on the players available. If Von Miller is one of them, and if the Cardinals agree with assessments saying Miller will be an elite pass-rusher, Arizona should select him. They need a dominant outside rusher too badly to pass on one. But if the team isn't sold on the top quarterbacks and doesn't have a pass-rusher rated high enough to dictate selecting him at No. 5, the Cardinals should absolutely consider what value they might get for the pick.

One team coveting a quarterback is all it takes. Two years ago, for instance, the New York Jets moved up from 17th to fifth in a trade with Cleveland, selecting Mark Sanchez. The move appears defensible for all parties. Sanchez wasn't good enough to reverse the Browns' fortunes, but the Jets had a strong enough supporting cast to help him succeed.

Ken Whisenhunt is right when he says Levi Brown takes more criticism as a high draft choice than he would take as someone selected later in the process.

That's the way it works. The highest picks in a draft class should outperform their peers.

[+] EnlargeLevi Brown
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesLevi Brown, drafted fifth overall in 2007, can still become an "outstanding" player according to Ken Whisenhunt.
The Arizona Cardinals don't need anyone to remind them that they selected Brown over some All-Pro performers, including Adrian Peterson and Patrick Willis. But it's not as though Brown, a player with 56 consecutive regular-season starts, qualifies as a flat-out bust, either. He moved to left tackle from the right side last season and will stay there.

"He improved last year," Whisenhunt said this week from the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans. "As a left tackle, it's not an easy position to move from right tackle. He will continue to get better. He is a talented football player. The biggest thing he has struggled with is the consistency of his play. But a lot of times you are under the microscope more because you were the fifth pick in the draft."

I would rank Brown, chosen fifth overall in 2007, somewhere around 20th out of 32 first-round picks that year.

Brown has obviously or arguably outperformed the following first-round selections from 2007: JaMarcus Russell, Jamaal Anderson, Ted Ginn Jr., Amobi Okoye, Adam Carriker, Justin Harrell, Jarvis Moss, Aaron Ross, Reggie Nelson, Brady Quinn, Anthony Gonzalez and Craig Davis. Gaines Adams, chosen fourth that year, passed away after Tampa Bay traded him to Chicago.

The following first-rounders from 2007 have obviously or arguably outperformed Brown: Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, LaRon Landry, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lawrence Timmons, Leon Hall, Michael Griffin, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Meriweather, Jon Beason, Anthony Spencer, Robert Meachem, Joe Staley, Ben Grubbs and Greg Olsen.

"The reason we drafted Levi where we did was because we had him rated high enough to go in that position, but we also felt like we had to develop our offensive line and defensive line at that point, because that is where the most critical component of your team," Whisenhunt said. "That is the only way you are going to have a chance to compete. Levi has been a good player. He is often criticized, but I think that comes with being the fifth pick, and I don't understand how you evaluate offensive linemen, because they are not catching passes or running touchdowns in."

Whisenhunt said he thought Brown can and will become an "outstanding" player.

"Any time an offensive lineman gets drafted that high, especially in a fantasy football world where people want you to get dynamic playmakers, you are going to face some kind of criticism," Whisenhunt said. "I have to give Levi some credit. As tough as it's been, he hasn't let it affect him. He has continued to work and get better and I think this will be a big year for him. This is a chance for him to show that he can play this position very well."
Clinching the NFC West title and winning a playoff game has dropped the Seattle Seahawks from eighth to 25th in the 2011 NFL draft order.

The slide will continue with every additional Seattle victory.

Beating St. Louis and New Orleans over the last two weeks has not filled draft needs, of course. Seattle still needs to identify its long-term quarterback. With that in mind, I've put together two charts showing quarterbacks drafted around where Seattle could have and currently would select.

The first chart shows every quarterback since 1990 drafted between the fifth and 15th overall choices, including six selected between fifth and seventh. Seattle would have been drafting in this general range if St. Louis had won the NFC West.

Arizona (fifth) and San Francisco (seventh) hold picks in this range, so the chart adds context for their choices as well.

Five of the 11 quarterbacks drafted fifth to 15th since 1990 have earned Pro Bowl honors. The three with plus signs next to their career start totals appear likely to start considerably more games in the future.

As the second chart shows, one of the nine quarterbacks drafted 20th through 30th since 1990 has earned Pro Bowl honors. One other, Tim Tebow, remains early enough in his career to qualify as a potential candidate for such honors down the road. Again, plus signs highlight totals likely to increase substantially over time.

Aaron Rodgers, the lone Pro Bowl choice from this group so far, was an exception as the 24th player chosen in the 2005 draft.

NFL teams have drafted 22 quarterbacks among the top four choices since 1990. I'll list them below by overall draft spot.

First overall: Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Jeff George.

Second overall: Donovan McNabb, Ryan Leaf, Rick Mirer.

Third overall: Matt Ryan, Vince Young, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Steve McNair, Heath Shuler.

Fourth overall: Philip Rivers.

Wet weather and other Week 7 notes

October, 24, 2010
For the second time this season, weather forecasters are calling for a 100 percent chance of precipitation during a Seattle Seahawks game at Qwest Field.

Rain wound up being overrated last time -- that is fairly typical for Seahawks home games, as Facebook friend Brian noted -- but wet weather has already caught the Arizona Cardinals' attention heading into their Week 7 game at Qwest. Rain greeted them upon their arrival Saturday.

"It's rainy, depressing as hell in Seattle," Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals' Pro Bowl defensive end, tweeted. "Good thing it's all buisness cuz I'd never visit this damn place ..."

Enjoy the weather, Darnell, and also these Week 7 notes from ESPN Stats & Information:
  • The Cardinals (3-2) are the third team in NFL history to have a winning record after their first five games despite being outscored by at least 50 points. The 1961 Lions and 1952 Eagles were the previous two teams. Neither qualified for the playoffs.
  • The San Francisco 49ers' opponent, Carolina, is 0-5 for the third time in its history. Coach John Fox has never lost double-digit games in his coaching career. One note I dug up: Despite that 0-5 record, the Panthers are holding opposing quarterbacks to a combined 66.6 rating. No other defense in the league has held its 2010 opponents to a lower rating.
  • The St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford has fared better in the standings than the previous three quarterbacks drafted first overall even though JaMarcus Russell surprisingly had a better touchdown-to-interception ratio in the first six starts of his career. Russell's first six starts were spread across two seasons, however.

The chart shows won-lost records and basic stats through six starts for Bradford and fellow No. 1 overall choices Matthew Stafford, Russell and Alex Smith.

Sam Bradford makes his NFL preseason debut Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings in the Edward Jones Dome.

What should we expect?

The chart shows first-game preseason stats for quarterbacks drafted first overall since 2000. They combined for a 65.1 passer rating (JaMarcus Russell was not signed in time to participate).

In 1998, Peyton Manning completed a 49-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison on his first preseason attempt.
Darren Urban of points to one indicator suggesting Matt Leinart should succeed as the Cardinals' starting quarterback. Urban: "The idea? If a guy scored at least a 26 on the infamous Wonderlic exam at the combine, had at least 27 college starts and completed at least 60 percent of his collegiate passes, usually, it means the guy can succeed on the NFL level. Leinart scored a 35 on the Wonderlic. He started 39 games in college. And he completed 64.8 percent of his passes. Check. Check. Check." I think Leinart can succeed in the NFL, but will he? The evidence has been mixed, but we should have a very good idea by midseason unless injuries sideline Leinart first.

John P. Lopez of doesn't mention Leinart during the piece Urban cites. Lopez: "Since 1998, these are some of the NFL quarterbacks who aced all three parts of the Rule of 26-27-60: Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Kyle Orton, Kevin Kolb, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Stafford. Meanwhile, among the once highly-touted prospects who failed at least one part of the formula: Ryan Leaf, Joey Harrington, Michael Vick, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, Daunte Culpepper, David Carr, Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell."

The Arizona Republic says Cardinals seventh-round choice Jim Dray has signed his rookie contract. Dray became the first 2010 Cardinals draft choice to sign a contract.

Clare Farnsworth of says fans can begin registering to attend training camp Monday. Farnsworth: "Camp kicks off July 31, and both practices that Saturday will be open – starting at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. There will be 13 other practices open to the public at Virginia Mason Athletic Center and those dates will be announced later."

Also from Farnsworth: Running backs coach Sherman Smith is back with the team that gave him his NFL start. Smith: "Playing pro football, that never was an aspiration of mine. When I went to Miami of Ohio after I graduated from high school, my desire was to be a high school coach and a teacher. That was it. That’s all I knew I wanted to do. That was the plan all along. There was no hesitation when my career was over. I knew what I was going to do."

Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune says the Seahawks were one of the NFL teams to speak with BYU running back Harvey Unga after his workout Thursday. Drew: "Unga's agent, Eric Metz said 20 teams were in attendance and another six teams called in the morning and requested tape from the drills. I noticed these teams there, based on logos on their shirts, caps, etc: Packers, Chiefs, Rams, Colts, Steelers, Eagles, Lions, Bears, Falcons, Saints, Seahawks, Patriots, Buccaneers, Giants, Bengals, Browns and Dolphins. Obviously, I missed a few. I do know that the Panthers, Titans, 49ers, Vikings and Texans were not there, based on what the Packers scout told me."

Matt Maiocco of says Scott McKillop and Navorro Bowman will compete for the No. 2 job behind inside linebacker Takeo Spikes. They should get plenty of practice reps because Spikes, 33, doesn't practice all the time. Veteran Matt Wilhelm provides a safe alternative to his younger competitors. Maiocco: "Bowman is a player who caught the 49ers' eyes with his instinctive style of play. But he learned in the 49ers' offseason program that he first had to learn his role -- and all the adjustments off every play -- before he would be allowed to put those instincts to work. Personnel chief Trent Baalke said Bowman and McKillop made a lot of plays in college. Both are physical players, but Bowman runs better."

Gil Brandt of says the 49ers were one of four teams to send their personnel director to watch Illinois defensive tackle Joshua Brent-Price work out in preparation for the supplemental draft July 15. Brandt: "Despite the humid conditions, Price-Brent had what was described as a very good work out. Price-Brent measured in at 6-foot-1 3/4 and 321 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash twice, each time clocking in at 5.38 seconds. He did 22 reps on the bench press to go with a 29-inch vertical jump. He had an 8-foot, 10-inch broad jump, a 7.71-second three-cone drill and a 4.74-second short shuttle."

Steve Wyche of says Sam Bradford expects to sign with the Rams by training camp. This note was from late June, but I wanted to pass it along as a way to address the subject of rookie contracts. The vast majority of rookies sign in time for training camp, with all but a few others missing only limited practice time. The Rams and Bradford both have incentive to get a deal done in time for camp. Bradford doesn't want to miss valuable practice time. The Rams want him on the field. Both sides would be making a mistake if Bradford were to miss any significant camp time. I would expect a deal to get done on time.

Around the NFC West: Vickerson emerging

June, 30, 2010
Arizona Cardinals

Might the Cardinals have an interest in former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell?

Former Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin has high expectations heading into the 2010 season.

San Francisco 49ers checks in with first-round draft pick Anthony Davis.

How is Taylor Mays like Luke Skywalker? Matt Barrows explains.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have signed safety Kevin Ellison to a new contract a week after claiming him off waivers.

Kevin Vickerson is emerging as a force at defensive tackle.

St. Louis Rams

The New York Times' Fifth Down blog previews the 2010 Rams.

Former Penn State linebacker Josh Hull is excited about his opportunity with the Rams.
Berry Tramel's column and my earlier item on how early to start Sam Bradford have generated discussion and a few new thoughts.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesIf the Rams are satisfied with the supporting cast, they may start Sam Bradford right away.
"They're going to pay him like a (Hall of Famer)," former Seahawks defensive lineman Mike Frier tweeted. "He better start."

Turf Show Times' VanRam outlined key factors he thinks will be important in determining the best time for Bradford to make his regular-season starting debut with the Rams. "Plenty of things have to be in place before that happens," he concluded. "It's unlikely those things will be a go by Week 1."

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reminded us that the Rams' Steve Spagnuolo and Pat Shurmur were with the Eagles in 1999 when Philadelphia eased first-round quarterback Donovan McNabb into the lineup after going with Doug Pederson to open the regular season.

"Then again," Mortensen tweeted, "if the Rams think Bradford is ready & Steven Jackson is ready to play, the O-line is very solid ... and Sam could start."

Tramel noted that the Rams should start Bradford even though they lack the "big-time running games and solid defenses" that helped Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez start right away as rookies. I would take exception to half of the premise. The Rams do have a big-time running game as long as Steven Jackson is part of the equation. Their offensive line was pretty good and improving until injuries and Richie Incognito's demise wiped out the Rams' depth in the second half of the season.

"Is there a set of stats to put together to show the relativity in the last five or 10 years as to QBs drafted in the top 10 slots, when they began to start, and their first- and/or second-year performance," Bcook122 asked in the comments section of my earlier item. "There is no question that it's not done in a vacuum and the quality of the offense when the guy takes over has a lot to do with the success ratio, but I'm a little concerned about all this talk of Bradford being 'pro-ready' and then holding a too high expectation. Clearly, if he is the best of the bunch, he is going to be starting, and if he shines like Sanchez did, then yahoo, but that's not always the case."

This is where I think it's important to make distinctions between Bradford's situation and other situations encountered by early quarterbacks.

The Jets traded up from the 17th spot into the fifth spot to draft Sanchez. That meant Sanchez walked into a pretty good situation. There's no use in comparing that situation to situations encountered by quarterbacks drafted first overall by teams that did not acquire the top pick. Bradford has joined the worst team in the league, by definition. Sanchez joined one of the better teams.

Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Tim Couch and Peyton Manning were No. 1 overall choices drafted by teams that did not acquire the top choice. Eli Manning and Michael Vick were also No. 1 overall quarterbacks during that time, but both landed with teams that did not finish the previous season with the NFL's worst record.

Stafford, Carr and Manning started in Week 1 as rookies. Stafford lasted four games before an injury sidelined him. Carr absorbed 76 sacks in 16 rookie starts. Manning tossed 26 touchdown passes with 28 interceptions while starting 16 games as a rookie.

Russell did not play until Week 13 of his rookie year. He did not start until Week 17. Palmer did not play at all as a rookie. Couch became the Browns' starter in Week 2. Smith made his first NFL start for the 49ers in Week 5.

The more I look at recent history, the less it appears to matter exactly when quarterbacks drafted first overall make their starting debuts. Quarterbacks ultimately succeed or fail based on how they approach the game, their mental toughness, physical abilities and how well their teams assemble coaching staffs and rosters around them.

That said, if you're a Rams fan, how excited are you to see Bradford make his NFL debut in Week 1 against an Arizona defense featuring Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Joey Porter and Adrian Wilson? Think those guys would like to welcome Bradford to the league with a few crushing hits?
Hugh from Monterey, Calif., writes: Sando, because Bill on the AFC West blog let us know the figures, we can see that JaMarcus Russell earned $5.57 million per win for Oakland [$39 million for seven victories as a starter]. You've got the best stats and most skill to do this, so would you give us a ballpark on what other QBs have been paid to date per win, or at least in your division? It may not be fairest assessment, but it makes for an interesting take on this vital position. Who has given the best value over the past three, five, or 10 years? Thanks again, coach.

Mike Sando: Sounds like fun, Hugh. did provide a handy class-envy calculator revealing how long it would take someone to match Russell's earnings based on a static salary. For example, someone earning $50,000 annually would have to earn that amount for more than 257 years to match Russell's haul. Ouch.

I put together a chart showing what primary 2009 NFC West quarterbacks earned per victory, yard and touchdown under their most recent contracts:

  • Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck signed his deal in 2005, so his calculations were based on regular-season totals since then (14,112 yards and 92 touchdown passes with 36 victories).
  • Arizona's Kurt Warner earned about $11.5 million on the contract he signed in 2009. His calculations were based on his 2009 regular-season stats (3,753 yards and 26 touchdown passes with 10 victories).
  • San Francisco's Alex Smith renegotiated his deal in 2009. I based his calculations on the signing bonus and salary he earned last season totaling about $4 million. His 2009 stats featured 2,350 yards, 18 touchdowns and five victories.
  • St. Louis' Marc Bulger renegotiated his deal in 2007. I based his calculations on the bonuses and salaries he received since then. His stats during the period in question included 6,581 yards, 27 touchdowns and five victories.

I could have tried to calculate information for Warner and Smith based on previous contracts as well, and it's something I still might do. But first I would have to verify how much each quarterback earned in incentives and otherwise under terms of past deals. Smith was a bargain last season compared to the past, when the 49ers paid him roughly $24 million over his first three-plus seasons.

The chart is sorted by highest price per victory as a starter. Sorry, Rams fans.

Bradford, Whitehurst and QB success

April, 28, 2010
Elias Sports Bureau produced a list showing lowest career winning percentages by quarterbacks drafted first overall.

The 49ers' top two quarterbacks, Alex Smith and David Carr, made the list, even though Smith went .500 as a starter last season.

Why do some highly drafted quarterbacks fail while others succeed? ESPN's Chris Sprow analyzed the subject with an eye toward quarterbacks who enjoyed success after spending one or more seasons as a backup.

The piece, alluded to earlier Wednesday by Greg Johns, presented evidence suggesting Seattle's Charlie Whitehurst could outperform the Rams' Sam Bradford.

My thought: Quarterbacks forced into lineups right away generally have worse supporting casts than quarterbacks afforded time to develop in the shadows. The former group would often be very high draft choices. Their teams were horrible the year before, which is why those teams drafted a quarterback early. Their teams threw them out there right away and the supporting cast wasn't good enough. Teammates lost confidence in the player.

So much of a quarterback's success depends on what's happening around him. Jay Cutler was legitimately an up-and-coming quarterback when he played for Mike Shanahan. The dynamics changed when the Broncos fired Shanahan, and Cutler probably will not recover until the dynamics are right again.