Stanford’s John Elway headed up the ’83 draft, considered one of the best ever. It was deep in quarterbacks. Six were selected in the 1st round, and three of them (Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino) made the Hall of Fame.
Elway was considered the prize, and he made it clear that he would not play for the Colts, who held the top pick. Elway played minor league baseball for leverage. Baltimore resisted all initial offers for him, until Denver went over GM Ernie Accorsi’s head and worked a deal with Colts owner Bob Irsay. According to then Cowboys scouting director Gil Brandt, Denver didn’t match Dallas’ offer of QB Danny White and two number one picks. White had led Dallas to three consecutive NFC Championship Game losses, but the brass felt Elway was the game’s next great quarterback and was willing to deal their starter.
Today, Dallas faces a similar situation with Tony Romo. He has an impressive statistical record, but there’s doubt among much of the Cowboys nation of his title-winning ability. This year’s draft looks rich in quarterbacks compared to recent drafts and is topped by Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the quarterback prospect considered by many scouts to be the safest bet since Peyton Manning.
Could the Cowboys find a way to the top of this draft? It would be a fantastic jump, and require many elements, starting with a willing partner in the top slot. In part two of this week’s chat with ESPN Insider K.C. Joyner, he discusses early metrics leaders, the Cowboys 2nd quarter of the schedule, and lays out one scenario which could give the Cowboys, and many other teams, a chance to find Luck.
Cowboys Nation: Tell us the metric leaders at key positions, quarterback, receiver. Is there, or are there any surprising names?
K.C. Joyner: Jason Campbell is actually playing really well for Oakland. I know he had that crazy play last week where the threw the interception where no receiver was anywhere nearby. But he’s over 8.0 in his overall yards per attempt and his vertical YPA is in the low double digits, so he’s playing extremely well. I think the Raiders are going to make the playoffs and he’s one reason why.
At running back, Ryan Matthews is playing well. So is Darren McFadden for that matter. On Matthews, his good blocking yards per attempt is almost double Mike Tolbert’s. And I know Tolbert’s a bowling ball, but Matthews on good plays has an 8.7 GBYPA which is a ridiculous number. They’re going to keep giving him the ball more often because when you have a back that productive, he’s just going to see more of the football.
At receiver, I did a piece for ESPN Insider this week on the Steelers and looked at Mike Wallace’s numbers and they’re ridiculous. He’s over 14.0 in overall YPA and he’s around 26.0 on stretch vertical passes. He’s catching over 80% of the passes thrown his way. No receiver right now is playing as well as he is.
CN: Something you’ve brought up in our chats over the years, is that you shouldn’t view games in isolation but as part of four-game groups. Dallas is 2-2. Let’s discuss what they could do over the next quarter.
K.C.: Who do they have coming up? After the bye, they have New England, St. Louis, Philly and Seattle. New England obviously is tough. St. Louis? They’ve lost their top three cornerbacks. They’re down to 4th and 5th string cornerbacks starting for them. Their nickel back is going to be a 6th string corner. Their dime back is going to be a 7th string corner.
And then Seattle. Brandon Browner is a starting corner for Seattle. He’s a former CFL corner. He is exhibit A in why you don’t draft tall cornerbacks. He’s 6’4”, and he can’t cover, because he can’t move. He’s awful. He’s the worst corner I’ve seen in the league so far this year. I know he’s in double digits in YPA. And it’s not close; he’s closer to 15.0 than to 10.0.
CN: And then the Eagles. And whichever fan base loses that game is going to explode.
K.C.: (laughs) But know that two of the next four should be won, and they’re both at Dallas. There’s an old NFL adage, as you say, that you measure in quarters. If Cowboys fans measure it that way, look, the Cowboys should beat St. Louis and Seattle. If they can beat either New England or Philly, just one of those games. If you go 3-1 in that stretch, then you’re 5-3 at the mid-way point. If that third win is against the Eagles, you’re 2-0 in the division.
The thing is, if they lose to New England, a lot of fans are going to go, ”we’re 2-3” and absolutely go crazy. No. Measure by a four-week span. Measure where you are in four weeks, not one.
Mind you, they have a tough stretch down the road, but if they’re healthy against St. Louis and they don’t win by two or three touchdowns, they’ll be embarrassed.
CN: Either way, they’ll either be mad from losing to New England or sky high from beating New England. Now, have the Rams won a game yet?
CN: I saw them against the Eagles and a little against the Giants, and they were thin then. Very little talent at receiver, and Stephen Jackson got hurt. Now, they have nobody in the secondary, and they’re playing a pressure defensive scheme, and I’m thinking, they could get to hold the John Elway auction II with Andrew Luck.
K.C.: Funny you mention that, because we discussed it in today’s ESPN chat. That would be insane, because they could. They look like a team that, I don’t want to say they would quit on their coach, especially because I have so much respect for Steve Spagnuolo as a coach, but they looked a couple of times this year like a lost squad. In Baltimore, the players looked like they were thinking, ”what do we do? We’re not even close. This is embarrassing. We’re letting a rookie [Torrey Smith] beat us for three touchdowns. How do we fix this?”
You’re right. They’ve got Sam Bradford. He’s their guy. There’s no reason to change at quarterback. And they could get a king’s ransom for Luck. Oh my God!
CN: I remember the John Elway sweepstakes. It was nuts. Lots of teams at the back of that draft, like the Raiders and the Cowboys, put big deals on the table for Elway. And here’s a similar potential situation. And because there’s a rookie cap now, and that top spot isn’t $50 million guaranteed, if the Rams do finish with the first pick every other team is going to be after Luck.
K.C.: Bob Devaney runs the Rams. He’s a seasoned vet. He’ll work a deal.
CN: That might be the best thing that could happen to the Rams, is getting Andrew Luck.
K.C.: They should start by saying, the Ricky Williams deal? Times two. Let’s start there. I mean, it’s Andrew Luck. He is that good. I’ve broken down tape on him. It’s just like breaking down tape of a top pro quarterback. It’s the same thing.
Assuming he doesn’t get hurt? I can see why the scouts give him a 99 rating. They just don’t give those out. And the Rams are playing the type of football that says they could fall apart.
CN: If the Rams somehow do land the pick, the teams around them might be at a disadvantage as trade partners, because better teams who have a talent base would be better able to say, here are two number 1s and a quality player. But then, never underestimate what a desperate front office might do.
Tomorrow: K.C. puts Romo’s game under the metrics microscope and discusses the offense around him.