Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The much-ballyhooed “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes is the hot issue on the tongues of many Miami Dolphins fans after an 0-5 start to the season.
The campaign is for a team to finish with the worst record in professional football and secure the number one pick in the draft and select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck is considered a can’t-miss, once in a generation quarterback in the veins of Peyton Manning or John Elway. Both of those quarterbacks were franchise defining players that many Dolphins fans hope Luck can become if they lose enough games to get him.
But, getting the number one pick and selecting a quarterback is ripe with troubles. Since the much-ballyhooed quarterback class of 1983, a total of 14 quarterbacks have been selected with the number one overall pick.
Out of those 14 quarterbacks, only Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning have won a Super Bowl. The rest have become either journeymen quarterbacks or are still in the league and trying to solidify their lofty draft status.
The list is littered with bad quarterbacks including Tim Couch, David Carr, and the all-time biggest draft bust, JaMarcus Russell. It also has five quarterbacks still starting including: Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford.
Obviously, selecting a quarterback first overall is not exactly a science and you have to rely on your scouting department. But scouts can often be so off on a pick that it’s beyond description how bad the players turned out.
JaMarcus Russell was the number one pick in 2007 out of LSU. Here’s a sampling of what some of the “experts” had to say about JaMarcus.
“The workout Russell had was Star Wars. It was unbelievable,” said Jon Gruden.
“I can’t remember being in such awe of a quarterback in my decade of attending combines and pro days,” said ESPN’s Todd McShay.
“JaMarcus Russell, my man,” Fox’s Terry Bradshaw said. “The Raiders finally get their big arm; and he’s a good kid, strong kid, smart kid. He’ll be a big-time player.”
For the record, Russell played three years in the NFL and completed just 52 percent of his passes and threw for 18 touchdowns versus 23 interceptions. He’s since been in trouble with the law and disappeared from the sports world.
The other prime example of just how bad scouting players can be is Ryan Leaf. He didn’t end up being the number one overall pick in 1998, but he was being mentioned in the same breath as Peyton Manning.
Here’s what SI.com wrote about Ryan Leaf before the draft: “There are no physical or athletic limitations to hold Leaf back from becoming a great NFL QB…Nobody will question his physical abilities, and it is not outlandish to think that he could be the first pick of the draft, instead of Peyton Manning. There is a huge upside with Leaf, and it is conceivable that he could be one of the best young QB’s in the game in 2-3 years.”
SI did mention an indescribable quality that Leaf had that could hurt him in the NFL. He imploded and is considered the second biggest draft bust in NFL history. The San Diego Chargers set their franchise back nearly 7 years with the Leaf mistake.
Back to Andrew Luck, there’s another issue about his abilities as well. Luck spent two years under then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. Under Harbaugh’s tutelage, Luck exploded onto the scene and became the best quarterback in college football.
Harbaugh left before Luck’s junior season to coach the San Francisco 49ers. In San Francisco, Harbaugh has turned quarterback Alex Smith, who was a candidate to be released, into one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league in 2011.
Smith is completing 63.3 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. His 2011 quarterback rating of 95.2 is nearly 20 points higher than his career average of 74.3.
It yields the question of is it coaching, or is it ability? It’s reminiscent of the chicken and egg dispute that’s never been settled.
Under Harbaugh in 2010, Luck threw for 3,338 yards, completed 70 percent of his passes, and threw for 32 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions. In 2011, Luck is on a similar torrid pace and halfway through the season has thrown 18 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.
But remember, Luck is playing in the defensively-challenged Pac-12 Conference. Outside of his own Stanford team, the next highest-rated defense in the Pac-12 is the Cal Golden Bears ranked 48th in the country, according to cfbstats.com.
There’s also another wrinkle into the supposed “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes that could throw a wrench into the plans of any team intentionally tanking the season to acquire Luck.
According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, there are rumblings among front office personnel that Luck and his father could force a team to trade him or Luck won’t play for them, a la Eli Manning in 2004.
In other words, Luck hasn’t played a down in the NFL, but will be holding all the cards when it comes to a team wanting to select him in the 2012 NFL Draft.
It’s hard to believe that any NFL team would intentionally lose to try to acquire Luck. It’s even harder to believe that true fans of a team would hope their team would “Suck for Luck.”
But in a quarterback driven league, nothing is outside the realm of possibility. At the end of the day, if the Miami Dolphins do end up with the number one overall pick; they had better get their house in order or the 2012 draft could be 1983 all over again, and not in a good way.