(Photos courtesy of New York Giants)
Talk of Fame Network
Attention Tampa Bay and Tennessee: Here’s hoping you got it right with quarterbacks in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Otherwise, you may have just sabotaged your franchise for as many as ... sit down, please ... eight years.
That’s not our opinion. It’s the opinion of former GM Ernie Accorsi, who drafted John Elway, found Bernie Kosar in the supplemental draft and pulled off a draft-day deal to acquire Eli Manning and two Super Bowls for the New York Giants.
Accorsi stopped by the latest broadcast of the Talk of Fame Network radio and offered this advice to teams like Tampa Bay and Tennessee drafting at or near the top of the first round.
“You’ve got to be so careful,” he said. “You cannot go into a draft and say, ‘We’ve got to get a quarterback.’ Now you can go into a draft and say, ‘I really I like so-and-so in the fourth round. He might have a chance. He has some qualities. He’s not going to be picked high. Give him a chance and let him develop.’
“(But) if you’re in a year that has some question marks about the elite guy, and you’re picking high … and you’re picking that guy out of need, it’s a ticket to disaster. Because if you bust on a high pick -- and I mean a top five or six pick for a quarterback -- that could set you back eight years.
“First of all, most of them don’t play well early. Then, if he’s a bust and he doesn’t improve, now you’re into the fifth year and you’ve blown those five years, and you have to start all over again. And it sets you back. If you’re going to pick that high or trade up that high for a quarterback, you better hit on it, or you’re probably not going to survive as a general manager.”
In Elway, Kosar and Manning, Accorsi found three quarterbacks who combined for four Super Bowl wins, 11 conference championship appearances and one Hall-of-Fame bust. So he knew what he was looking for, and what he was looking for was something beyond the measurables.
And he explained by recalling his first training camp with the Baltimore Colts, late in the career of Johnny Unitas, and after Unitas incurred an elbow injury that would wind up ending his career. Watching him for the first time in years, Accorsi noticed what everyone else knew – that his passes didn’t have the velocity they once did, and his delivery seemed slow.
So he turned to Milt Davis, a team scout, and asked the unthinkable.
“Can we still win with him?” he said.
Davis’ response became Accorsi’s blueprint for future quarterbacks.
“Ernest,” he said, “let me tell you something: You evaluate the quarterback on his ability to take the team down the field in the last two minutes with the championship on the line and into the end zone.”
Accorsi never forgot what he was told.
“That’s how you evaluate the quarterback,” he said. “That’s a simplified way of saying (with) the intangibles, it's almost like you can’t see them. You have to feel them. It’s the guy that, if you’re on the other side of the field, scares the heck out of you. And it’s the guy that’s on your side of the field that you know somehow you always have a chance with him in a ball game.
“I always define Unitas’ leadership as you’re more nervous on the road than you are at home. When you’re sitting on that bus at the hotel and watch him get on it, the first thing you think is: We got a chance; he’s on our side.”