What the New England Patriots have done
Using Tom Brady as the example of this strategy is inherently unfair to Quinn as a Detroit Lions general manager. After all, Brady is probably the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. There are other examples of how this strategy has been a hallmark of the Patriots success for most of the past two decades, though.
Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 fourth round pick out of Auburn University, is the latest in a long line of Patriot draftees that will sit and learn behind an incumbent starter. Stidham was a fourth round pick and was considered a better athlete than a complete pro quarterback, largely due to his tenure in a spread system. He is going to sit behind Brady and learn the Patriots way under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
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To embrace intellectual honesty, this strategy of drafting developmental prospects doesn’t work every time or everyone would do it. You have to have stability at the quarterback position, probably a winning tradition, and draft picks that you don’t mind sacrificing if your experiments don’t work.
Many general managers don’t have the stomach for such eye sores on their drafting record, nor do they have the cache of goodwill and winning to get away with it.
These are the names, including some that you may have never heard of, Rohan Davey, a round four 2002 draftee, Kliff Kingsbury, drafted in the sixth round in 2003 (although he is now an NFL head coach), Matt Cassel, seventh round of 2005, Kevin O’Connell, drafted third round in 2008, Zac Robinson, drafted seventh round in 2010, Ryan Mallett, third round of 2011 draftee, Jimmy Garoppolo, a second round 2014 draftee, Jacoby Brissett, third round of 2016, and Danny Etling, drafted seventh round in 2018.
These men have been Tom Brady’s understudy for his time under center. What you should notice is that the Patriots used quite a few picks, although not all were very high in their draft, respectively.
Notice the frequency with which the Patriots select players at the most important position. Ten picks have been used since Brady was selected to find and keep talent in the quarterback room. Four of them were Day Two picks, meaning either rounds two or three, proving that it isn’t only late picks being used to find Brady’s eventual successor or quality players behind their starter.
The most amount of years that they’ve gone without drafting a quarterback was two in the last twenty drafts. The Detroit Lions have now matched that longest void except without retaining any of the men they drafted at quarterback prior.