The quarterback pay scale in the NFL, like all the other numbers having anything to do with pro football’s most important position, has gone haywire. In some cases lately, absurdly so.
In the 22 months since Derek Carr became grossly overpaid by the Oakland Raiders to the tune of $125 million over five years, the top salary at the league’s top position has gone up six times, most recently when Seattle’s Russell Wilson signed a 4-year, $140-million contract extension that will pay him a $65-million signing bonus and guarantees him $107 million of its total.
This for a guy who has won two Super Bowls. Unfortunately for him, one was for the Seahawks and the other for the New England Patriots, courtesy of one of the most ill-advised throws in playoff history.
But at least Wilson has a 75-36-1 record and consistently has led Seattle to the playoffs. But what about some of the rest of these slumps?
Of the other six quarterbacks to sign big deals since Carr became the NFL’s first $25-Million-Dollar Man, only two have led their team to a Super Bowl victory and four have either losing playoff records or no playoff records.
The latter would be Jimmy Garoppolo, who signed a deal worth an average of $27.5 million with the 49ers a year ago and almost immediately was out for the season with a major knee injury. That is the second time in three years that Garopollo did not survive a full season despite playing a position that these days seems to be under Secret Service protection.
As we examine this salary explosion, we find Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, who is 66-75 as a starter and 0-3 in the playoffs in 10 seasons, at $27 million a year. Next comes Garoppolo, who is 8-2 as a starter but has been on IR twice as often as in the playoffs (that’s two to zero).
Then there was the case of Kirk Cousins, who received $28 million a year from Minnesota last season and immediately led the 13-3 team he inherited to an 8-7-1 record and out of the playoffs. Cousins will enter his 8th NFL season in 2019 with a losing record of 34-37-2 and a post-season record of 0-1.
How much was that they paid him again?
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan became the first $30-Million Dollar Man, and at least he has a 102-72 record and a Super Bowl appearance on his resume. Of course, he also led one of the great collapses in Super Bowl history and is 4-6 in the post-season.
So which of his numbers are bogus – his salary or his playoff record?
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signed an extension worth $33.5 million a year, and few question his credentials. Unfortunately if what went on in Green Bay recently is even remotely true, coaches also can’t question him ... although he can and does question them.
So a firm look at the recent escalation in quarterback contracts shows as many question marks as dollar signs, which is saying something. Add Carr’s 32-46 record and the fact he’s led Oakland to only one winning season in five years to the equation, and it’s hard not to scratch your head and wonder what some of those contracts were based on.
One thing is clear. It often wasn’t winning, which is a quarterback’s only real job.
Ryan has had two winning seasons the past six years. Carr has had one in five. Cousins has led only one team to the playoffs in four years as a starter. Stafford is 53-59 over the past seven seasons. And while Andrew Luck, whose extension pays him an average of $24.5 million a year, is 53-33, he’s gone 20-18 the past four seasons and missed a full year due to a shoulder injury that seems to have robbed him of significant arm strength.
So, in the end, what do those swelling salary packages being handed out to quarterbacks the past 22 months say about them? Like the rest of their numbers these days, they’re hyper-inflated.