The great Bill Parcells had four rules for drafting quarterbacks:
- The quarterback must be a senior. You need time and maturity to develop into a good professional quarterback.
- He must be a college graduate. You want somebody that takes their responsibilities seriously.
- He must have been a three-year starter. You want to make sure his success wasn’t a fluke and to know that he has been “the guy” for a significant period of time.
- He must have 23 wins. Big numbers don’t mean a whole lot if you don’t win.
A majority of the NFL’s most successful active quarterbacks satisfy most of Parcells’ principles, if not all. Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Carson Palmer ticked each of the four boxes. Same goes for the reigning offensive rookie of the year, Dak Prescott. Moreover, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger each won at least 23 games and started at least three years in college, while even milder success stories like Andy Dalton met every criteria. There are certainly exceptions to these rules (e.g. Tom Brady only started full-time for one season; Cam Newton satisfied only one of the four measures), but clearly Parcells was on to something.
With this in mind, I want to discuss Mitch Trubisky. The former North Carolina signal-caller looks like a lock to be taken in the first round of this month’s NFL draft. He may even be a top 10 pick. The problem with Trubisky, however, is that he falls short in every one of Parcells’ measures.
Personally, I think Trubisky is very talented. While watching Trubisky’s performance in UNC’s bowl game against Stanford last December, in which he routinely made outstanding throws, I remarked to my dad that he looked good enough to be taken number one overall. I’m aware, however, that falling in love with a quarterback based on a small sample size can be dangerous. Recall how many scouts were in awe of JaMarcus Russell’s pro day, for instance. How did that turn out for the Raiders? Plus, I’m not a scout. Quarterbacking high school football only gives me G-14 classification to seriously comment on arm talent, mobility, and things of that nature.
So since I’m not the person to evaluate the physical tools of prospects, I always consult Parcells’ golden rules before forming a final opinion. And that’s why despite Trubisky’s arm talent and size, I’m not sold on him. For starters, he only started for one full season at UNC. If he was truly great, according to Parcells, he would have started for each of the past three seasons rather than play a bit role during the 2014 and 2015 campaigns. Sure, he may be a late bloomer. But this hole in his resume suggests that there have been doubts as to his skill-level.
In addition, Trubisky only led the Tar Heels to an 8-5 record last year. Obviously that’s well short of the 23 collegiate wins threshold established by Parcells and obtained by the likes of Luck (31), Wilson (30), and Prescott (25), among other successful starters. So not only is he inexperienced, but he never took his team to great heights. In theory, this means that he isn’t likely to win games for a pro team, either. And on top of these two issues with his resume, Trubisky chose to declare before his senior year (and therefore has not graduated). Parcells would argue that this is yet another sign that Trubisky lacks the maturity and experience to be worthy of a high pick.
To be clear, Parcells’ logic is not perfect. As mentioned earlier, Tom Brady only quarterbacked Michigan for one full season (although he did graduate and lead Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory during his senior season). Cam Newton played at Auburn for one year as well (of course, he did lead the Tigers to a national title). Ironically, Parcells himself even got burned by his own strategy when he drafted former Michigan quarterback Chad Henne when he was president of football operations for the Dolphins. Henne developed into a mediocre player despite satisfying each of the Hall of Fame coach’s criteria.
Nonetheless, in addition to the number of successful quarterbacks predicted by Parcells’ theory, it is even more revealing to note the busts who did not adhere to the four credentials. Take Brock Osweiler. Similar to Trubisky, the former Broncos and Texans quarterback started at Arizona State for just one season, leading them to a meager 6-7 record in 2011 before declaring for the draft after his junior year. Osweiler, of course, was so bad for Houston that the Texans were willing to eat millions of dollars just to get rid of him.
Other recent disappointments like Blake Bortles and Jake Locker also did not project well coming out of college according to Parcells’ rules. Bortles may have led Central Florida to a Fiesta Bowl victory during his junior season, but he only started for two years and left the program before his senior year. That helps explain why Bortles has been so erratic in his three years with Jacksonville. As for Locker, he only compiled a 15-25 record as a starter in his three-and-a-half years at Washington (he got injured mid-way through his sophomore year). Experience is useless if you don’t demonstrate an ability to win in the first place.
Even guys like Ryan Tannehill and Jared Goff can be lumped into this category. Tannehill and Goff both lacked experience coming out of college. The former started for only one full season while the latter declared before his senior year. Plus, neither of their teams were unbelievably successful. Texas A&M was 13-7 with Tannehill as the starter and did not reach a BCS bowl while Cal was an underwhelming 14-23 with Goff. It’s too early to write either of them off as busts just yet, but neither are likely to lead their teams to Super Bowls anytime soon, either.
Trubisky looks like he could be a successful quarterback. Yet because he lacks the requisite experience, success, and maturity seen in nearly all of the NFL’s top-tier signal-callers before they entered the league, general managers drafting in the first round should tread carefully. They don’t want to draft the next Osweiler.