Michael Lombardi penned a piece for The Ringer today titled Seven Habits for Drafting a Highly Successful QB. In it, he explores the criteria for evaluating and identifying a future winner, a process presumably honed during his time in NFL front offices.
Most of the seven habits were common sense. All teams want a quarterback who has won big games, works hard, and is a student of the game. Some were more questionable, like “the crib factor” which asks if the signal-caller was “born” to play the position. Lombardi may also be too reliant on things like body language and Draft Day birthday party-esque litmus tests meant to gauge teammates’ fondness for the QB.
The piece was the subject of a thorough takedown by Deadspin’s Albert Burneko. And try as I might to find the fortitude to get upset by Lombardi’s conclusions, I can’t. Why?
Because there’s no magic formula for identifying the next great quarterbacks. Pieces like Lombardi’s are useful because they show how a particular mindset shapes front-office thinking. If there was some sort of answer key, NFL teams wouldn’t bungle the quarterback-selecting process each and every year. Tom Brady would have been snatched up before the sixth round.
Even the brightest football minds don’t have all the right answers all the time. The way I read it, Lombardi isn’t suggesting that he does either. Pieces like this should always be taken with a grain of salt.
What should be pointed out, though, is a similar article he wrote in 2011 discussing the necessary traits for a successful quarterback, with this closing paragraph:
There might be as many as five quarterbacks drafted in the first round this year, and we all realize not all of them are likely to become winners. We also know that the recent odds dictate that only two of the five will be successful. The key will be evaluating which two.
While there is a perception about Mallett, the reality is much different. With that in mind, my money is on Mallett and Blaine Gabbert being the two to succeed. Each fits the criteria above and has the skill set to lead a team.
Only time will tell who is right.
Lombardi was … not right. Cam Newton, taken first overall, won an MVP and led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance. Mallett and Gabbert? Together, they’d have one below-average career.
Perhaps avoiding the Lombardi seal of approval is a good thing for quarterbacks in this draft.