We've reached the dog days of the NFL season. The draft ended a week ago, the picks and players have been sufficiently over-analysed, and aside from rookie minicamps and OTA's there is nothing remotely interesting happening until training camps open up. This is where most sane people probably stop following the NFL, and aren't getting caught using their phone at dinner to comment on some Gang Green Nation post about a scout we really don't care about leaving to go join the Chargers.
Unfortunately, I (and possibly you if you're reading this) don't qualify as sane. So while we are all indulging in the ongoing debate (which isn't at all premature) about Geno's potential to be our franchise quarterback, I figured now was as good a time as any to wonder aloud about the definition of the term 'franchise quarterback'. There isn't anything close to an accepted definition for this. Instead each fan probably could rattle off a list of names off the top of their head without so much as a thought as to why those specific QB's are elite and why others aren't. I know, because I've got my own list.
Now, that's all well and good in December when you have real football to follow and you don't care about whether Joe Flacco is an 'elite' quarterback, or a 'franchise' quarterback, or both, or neither. However, it's now May, and this is when you get all the pointless debates so lets make a stab at some sort of standard.
I'm not even going to try to come up with an objective measure. That's been attempted, with the quarterback rating. It was about as successful as one could really hope for a single, awkwardly calculated compilation of stats could be. ESPN didn't like it though, so they came up with the Total Quarterback rating, or something. It incorporates a lot of other variables, so it's more complex but ESPN figured they would scale it down to a maximum of 100, release it with a load of fanfare, and it would transcend player evaluation. Now I actually think this QBR is somewhat interesting, but the fact is it hasn't been adopted as a universal standard or even succeed in replacing the old standard.
No, subjective evaluation it must be. I personally favour a simple comparison test, so let me propose a few of them. Obviously none of them are even close to perfect, but as you've probably realised by now, this post is mostly tongue-in-cheek.
1) The Veteran Mercenary test (aka the Peyton Manning)
This one is really simple, if Peyton Manning was a free agent again (or Tom Brady/Drew Brees) and he was willing to sign with a team, would they make a strong effort to sign him? If a team won't, that means they have a franchise QB.
Teams like Oakland and Jacksonville didn't get involved last time, but then they knew that no shot. In this test, Peyton's agents are the ones making the calls. Also, the assumption made here is that he would be looking to sign a 3 year contract, at about 20 million per year. Now, if it was the Jets, I would hope they would jump at the chance. Let Geno sit behind Peyton for 3 seasons, having Geno isn't going to stop us signing Manning at those terms. Hence, by this test, Geno isn't a franchise QB. Whereas, over in Green Bay, I figure they would say thanks, but no thanks.
Problems: A team that has a young potential franchise QB is likely to think about this as a short-term move. However I just think that proves they don't have a true franchise guy yet, having one with potential isn't the same thing. Also if a team like Oakland decides a full rebuild is the best way to get out of cap hell, they may not go this route. I still think they should, if only because you can always clear space and structure a contract to fit, and Manning would instantly transform the culture and expectations there. Still, this test doesn't give us absolute certainty.
2) The Betting the House test (aka the Andrew Luck)
Irsay has just gone insane, and decided to rebuild from scratch, again. He's fielding offers from teams for his young superstar, and the current going price is 3 first round picks. For that, you get 3 absurdly cheap years of Andrew Luck, another option year that you will exercise unless he gets hurt, the right to use a franchise tag afterwords.... Basically you have your franchise QB, as if you picked him in the draft, only he has proven himself at the NFL level.
Call Seattle and they'll probably say they are happy with the guy they have, same in San Fransisco. New Orleans probably keeps the picks and tries to win another Superbowl with Brees. I think so, anyway.
However, again, if this was offered to the Jets, I would think they should do this. Maybe we can trade Geno for a 3rd or a 2nd rounder next year, maybe we keep him as a backup for a year, let Garrard stick around as a veteran tutor, let Geno get in a game and if he shows off some serious potential we could even get a 1st back in a year or so. Ultimately we are hoping Geno could be our guy, with Luck there is a lot more certainty, though of course this is still a significant risk. It's a steep price but one I think is worth paying.
Problems: Teams that have a mid-tier QB, or a young guy with potential, like say Cincinnati, may choose to keep their guy and build around him with the picks. Also you could just imagine New England jumping on this trade, keeping Brady for another year or two then trading him for an absurd haul and plugging Luck in for a decade. Not necessarily the perfect test.
3) The Franchise Tag Swipe (aka the Aaron Rodgers)
Lets assume that Aaron Rodgers didn't reach an extension with Green Bay. Instead they let him hit free agency, but place the non-exclusive franchise tag on him, for whatever reason. Maybe by mistake when they were trying to use the exclusive tag. I don't know, it's just a test. I'd put an image here of Barney Stinson saying "Just go with it, ok?" but you get the idea. Also this is taking too much space as is. Also something about image rights and CBS and me being banned forever.
So now the bidding war starts. Teams lining up to frontload a contract and give the Packers 2 firsts. Except Aaron Rodgers calls up one team in particular, quotes the deal he ended up signing in Green Bay, and says he'll sign for that price. And Green Bay has promised not to match. See above regarding just going with it. It's a thought experiment we're doing here. It may not make sense to you but then cats can't be alive and dead at the same time.
You know what comes next, teams with their QB shouldn't make this move, I think the Jets should, so lets go ahead and skip to the :-
Problems: Again, a lot of the same stuff from before. Reggie may want to rebuild Oakland without burning up capspace, teams with a guy that has potential may save the picks and build around them. However, considering the fact that Rodgers is in his prime, with several high quality years left, and that he has proven everything a QB can prove really, this seems the best test in my mind so far. Probably because it is the least likely of the 3 unlikely scenarios we've seen so far.
4) Food Eating Test (aka Hot Dog Eating competition).
Just as useful as the the tests in terms of what really matters, probably a lot more fun in real life, and it gives us a single objective measuring stick
Problems: The objective measuring stick may not have too much to do with playing QB at a high level. Also getting the players and teams to sign off may be a bit of a challenge.