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The Combination of New Coaches and Labor Issues Makes Young Quarterbacks In Demand

Blaine GabbertThe law of supply and demand dictates that a thing’s value increases if the demand is greater. The number of bidders raises the price. This year’s quarterback class will probably be a further indicator of that, as eight teams have new head coaches, and seven of them are first timers. New coaches like to have new quarterbacks.

I went back to 1980 and looked at all quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds of a supplemental or regular draft, and how much tenure the coach of the team had. Teams have used a first round pick on a quarterback 71 times since 1980, and just over half of them have been selected by a team with a first year coach. To put that in more perspective, only 20% of all teams during that span were coached by first year coaches.

Looking at it a different way, 19.3% of teams with a new head coach drafted a quarterback in the first round, compared to 7.1% of teams with a second year coach, and 3.5% of teams with a coach with two or more years completed with the franchise. Teams with new head coaches were almost 6 times more likely to draft a QB early.

It seems pretty clear, then, that coaches early in their tenure like to acquire a quarterback (or in some cases more than one) through the draft, but what about the effect of new coaches on others as well? When I ran the correlation coefficient between the number of new coaches, and the total number of quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds of the draft, it was +0.40. For those that don’t remember, correlation coefficient tells us how related two variables are, with a number near zero representing no relationship, and a positive number approaching 1.0 representing a direct relationship. In this case, it’s not perfectly aligned (the relative total number of prospects certainly plays some role), but the number of teams with new coaches is related to the number of total quarterbacks selected in the first two rounds of the draft.

We would think that the “supply” end of the equation–the relative number of top quarterback talents in a given year–is completely unrelated to the “demand” portion–the hiring and firing ebbs and flows of NFL teams. Thus, it would appear to me that quarterback draft position can fluctuate greatly based on how many teams, particularly those with new coaches, are wanting to make a splash.

Part of Jimmy Clausen’s drop last year into the second round may have been because there just weren’t enough bidders-only three teams had new coaches last year. The only other time in the last 20 years that saw only 3 new coaches was 2005–you may remember that as Aaron Rodgers drop in the first round to a team that wouldn’t have been in the running for a new quarterback until one fell into their laps.

In addition to the new coaches this year, there is another factor that will drive up the demand in the draft. The labor situation and the potential lockout right as free agency would be starting makes acquiring a quarterback through other forms (free agency or trade) more precarious. Not all new coaches have resorted to the draft for their new quarterback. We’ve seen Sean Payton come in and sign Drew Brees, and Dick Vermeil traded his initial first round pick in Kansas City for Trent Green, while Mike Holmgren did the same to acquire an unproven Brett Favre from Atlanta. (This is not to suggest that all these moves have been positive, as Saban-Culpepper or Shanahan-McNabb would show).

Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, and Jake Locker have all been discussed at various times as first round selections. Mel Kiper dropped both Mallett and Locker off his top 25 recently, and Todd McShay has Locker going 25th, and Mallett not going in the first round in his recent mock draft. I think that is just a sign of the draft silly season starting. Whatever you think of those guys as prospects, know that they fit into the mold of what teams have drafted in the early rounds of a draft in the last 30 years in terms of size and skill set.

You’re going to hear alot about teams not being interested in this guy or that one. I’m not buying anything that comes out about these quarterbacks other than what we saw on early boards immediately after the early declaration date. You have to remember that part of these guys’ rankings are based on talking to teams, and those teams have no incentive right now to be completely honest in who they are interested in with such a competitive market for quarterbacks. The demand, with the lockout and number of teams looking for a quarterback, is too high, and history has shown us that teams will reach for a quarterback in such a market. I certainly don’t see it going the other way, with a precipitous drop like we have seen for some quarterbacks in years when the demand was low. I’ll say all four guys go in the first round, and at least one will go much higher than the prognosticators are projecting.

[photo via Getty]

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