Preparations for the Christmas season got me thinking about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Specifically about what would be at the top of their wish list.
Truthfully, a franchise quarterback would be at the top of every franchise's wish list, specifically those currently lacking one. Franchise caliber guys are in such high demand because they are so hard to find. Having a franchise quarterback doesn't guarantee a Lombardi Trophy, but it definitely improves the probability.
Therein lies the problem: supply and demand. There are only a handful of individuals walking the planet at any moment of time capable of being considered franchise caliber worthy. That makes scouting for, and evaluating, these rare gems a year round proposition.
That brings me to the inspiration behind this discussion. I read a tweet on Tuesday where an anonymous NFL scout stated that he believes there are two quarterbacks ineligible for the draft that are better than "anyone" of the eligible QBs in the 2023 draft class. That's noteworthy, because the scouting consensus prior to the 2022 draft believed there were 3 or 4 QBs better in the 2023 class that anybody in the 2022 group.
The collective opinions of the scouting community definitely impacted the perceived value of the 2022 class of quarterbacks, with Kenny Pickett to the Steelers being the only quarterback selected in the first round, resulting in plenty of Steelers fans bemoaning the fact that the team didn't want until the 2023 NFL Draft to select from multiple "can't miss" quarterback prospects.
That brings us back to the aforementioned tweet that got my creative juices flowing. Based on that tweet alone, I wouldn't be shocked if the 2023 quarterback class ends up being devalued by the time the draft rolls around. Similar to Kenny Pickett and company last draft cycle.
Truth is, "can't miss" prospects do just that far more frequently than the paid professionals care to admit. That takes the degree of difficulty to a whole other level. That brings us to an even more troubling reality. As stated earlier, having a franchise quarterback guarantees nothing, besides the inevitability that they will tie up the largest portion of your salary cap.
There must be a better way to build a championship contending roster. I believe there is. Look no further than the top two teams in both conferences.
The AFC has the franchise quarterbacks, while the NFC has the best rosters. Pat Mahomes and Josh Allen appear to be on a collision course in the AFC, unless Joe Burrow can crash the party. In the NFC, the Eagles and the 49ers are the most talented rosters in the NFL. The Eagles have a Tier 2 QB in Jalen Hurts, and the 49ers are currently rolling with ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ rookie Brock Purdy at the helm.
I am most encouraged by the success being enjoyed by Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy's teams this season. Both franchises focused their efforts on building the strongest rosters possible, especially on both foundations, instead of overinvesting in the quarterback position.
As I mentioned earlier, having a Hall of Fame worthy quarterback doesn't guarantee a Lombardi Trophy. See Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, and Phillip Rivers for examples.
Up until recently I could never imagine saying this, but it's possible that the quarterback position maybe the most overhyped and overpaid position in the NFL. If the Philadelphia Eagles or the San Francisco 49ers win the Super Bowl this year, we may start to see a philosophical shift in roster building in the NFL. Especially in how franchises utilize their cap space and draft capital.
If the Eagles or 49ers lift the Lombardi Trophy this season, it will be living proof that you don't have to invest 40+ million dollars a year on a single position to win a championship. Actually, it would suggest the opposite to be true. That you are better off spreading the wealth around, in an effort to insure you have the strongest roster possible. Then you are limited only by the abilities of your decision makers to build you a better roster.
This approach would reduce the glaring weaknesses and depth issues that so often are the direct result of overpaying for elite talent at multiple positions. Some of the aforementioned players are worth every penny, but only if they bring home the Lombardi Trophy at some point in their tenure with that franchise. If not, you can accomplish the same results with far more inexpensive players.
How does all this impact the Steelers future, particularly how they view Kenny Pickett? Pickett doesn't compare favorably with the freakish arm talents of Mahomes, Allen, and Justin Herbert; all currently residing in the AFC. But what if a team like the Eagles or 49ers proves you can win a championship with a mere mortal standing behind center. Especially if you surround them with a championship caliber supporting cast.
That's why I feel the stakes couldn't be higher during the upcoming 2023 NFL playoffs. Both for the future of the quarterback position around the league, and for the future plans of rebuilding franchises like the Steelers. Even if our beloved Steelers won't be participating this season.