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The NFL’s arms race is increasing pressure on front offices

In the context of the 2024 NFL Draft, Thomas Dimitroff’s words last week were a timely reminder of what we should be looking for in two or three years.

“If you fail at quarterback and everything else goes wrong in the next two years, yeah, you’re out and you never come back,” Dimitroff, the former Atlanta Falcons general manager, said in an appearance at the Ross TV show. Tucker football podcast.”

That sentiment had to be part of Ryan Poles’ thinking and impulse a year ago, when the Chicago Bears traded up on the No. 1 pick with the Carolina Panthers and passed up the opportunity to select Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. How this year’s top pick, Caleb Williams, fares compared to Stroud – the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year – is a storyline we’ll be watching closely in the coming seasons.

The Poles knew that the Bears’ infrastructure coming off a miserable 2022 season with a poor skill cast of talent and an underwhelming offensive line (not to mention a poor defense with all kinds of needs) didn’t provide much support for a starting quarterback.

But there were risks involved in trading back with the Panthers and staying the course with Justin Fields. The Bears had no way of knowing whether Fields would make enough improvements — he didn’t — or what choice they would get from the Panthers, who had a respected offensive coach in Frank Reich to guide Young.

There was no way to tell that the Panthers and Young would experience a complete collapse, just as there was no way to predict that Stroud would thrive from the start for the Houston Texans, who had one of the worst rosters in the league after the 2022 season had competition. .

That brings us back to the recently completed draft, which saw six quarterbacks selected in the first round for the first time since 1983. The NFL arms race has never been more intense as the QBs went 1-2-3 and the six came out of contention. board the top twelve picks, setting up some teams for potential great success while the odds tell us that just as many will experience utter failure.

Five quarterbacks were drafted in the 2021 first round, and only Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars remains with his original team and is entrenched as the starter. None of the others – Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Fields and Mac Jones – plan to start on the spring depth charts for their new team. The consequences for all four were swift and the decline was steep.

The percentage of high picks at the game’s premium position is alarming, but teams stuck in purgatory — or worse — without an elite quarterback can’t find their way out of the conundrum without landing one.

Caleb Williams is his “authentic self” both on and off the field. And the QB plans to use his confidence to lead the Chicago Bears to greatness.

“You are judged on your big decisions as general manager,” Dimitroff said. “The most important thing, of course, is choosing a quarterback.”

Waiting a year seems to give Poland the ideal landing spot for Williams, considering how much talent he has amassed around the position over the past year. There’s no such thing as a flawless roster for a quarterback, but Williams is positioned for early success as he assesses the roster as a whole.

While not talked about much, front office moves are often based on survival. Choose your spot to draft a quarterback because once you do, the clock starts ticking and the evaluation process speeds up for everyone. When you draft a quarterback, you usually buy a few seasons to let that process play out. Of course, that didn’t happen for former Bears GM Ryan Pace after Fields’ 2021 season was a disaster, not just for the starting quarterback.

It will be fascinating to see how the other starting quarterbacks fare compared to Williams. New Washington Commanders GM Adam Peters selected Jayden Daniels at No. 2, and there isn’t much around him. The Commanders aren’t built to withstand a miss like the San Francisco 49ers – Peters’ previous team – were when Lance flopped and the team was able to make a great discovery in seventh-round pick Brock Purdy.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Commanders with the second pick of the NFL draft on April 25, 2024, in Detroit.  (Adam Hunger/AP)
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Commanders with the second pick of the NFL draft on April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (Adam Hunger/AP)

The Falcons pulled off the shocker of the draft. Most thought they would try to shore up their defensive line, and GM Terry Fontenot instead went with Michael Penix at No. 8, five picks after the New England Patriots acquired Drake Maye.

Fontenot explained that he wants to avoid a QB dilemma when Kirk Cousins, who turns 36 in August, is done. It’s long-term thinking after Cousins ​​signed a four-year, $180 million contract that guarantees him $100 million. Penix is ​​unlikely to help the Falcons win on the field this season, and that’s where the move has been roundly criticized. Still, it strengthens the construction industry’s belief in the Washington product.

The NFC North also features LaGrange native JJ McCarthy, who the Minnesota Vikings traded for the No. 10 pick. GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was confused about replacing Cousins ​​and took his chances with McCarthy after the Vikings did. was strongly linked to Maye, who quarterbacks coach Josh McCown worked with in high school.

The Vikings were seen as a desirable landing spot (along with the Bears) for some top quarterback agents due to the infrastructure in place, including wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, tight end TJ Hockenson, a solid offensive line and impressive young players. coach Kevin O’Connell. Whether it will work out for McCarthy, who knows?