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The developmental QB myth

During his pre-draft press conference Friday general manager Phil Emery shot down the idea about drafting a developmental quarterback in the later rounds. The Bears have a perceived need at back up QB. I decided to look into it a little further to see if QBs really can be developed.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Josh McCown left the Bears during free agency and signed with the Tampa Bay Lovieneers Buccaneers, there have been whisperings that the Bears could be interested in drafting a quarterback in the late rounds of this week's draft.

First of all because Jay Cutler, despite his fresh, shiny and new contract extension, is on the wrong side of the 30 and without McCown the Bears do not have much experience backing him up.

The No. 2 to beat is Jordan Palmer, who has thrown a grand total of 15 professional passes and has zero touchdowns. The only other quarterback currently on the roster is Jerrod Johnson, who was undrafted in 2011 and has bounced around NFL practice squads, United Football and the Arena Football leagues, and has never appeared in an NFL game.

However, Emery stated that he is comfortable with the three signal callers currently employed by his team. From

"That developmental theory doesn't hold a whole lot of water. There's entire classes of quarterbacks, since '06, I went back and looked at from Jay's on -- when people say developmental quarterbacks, OK, so who has gotten developed? There isn't a single quarterback after the third round since 2006 that has been a long-term starter. So you're either developing thirds, and most of them have been wiped out of the league. So to get a quality quarterback, you've got to draft them high. That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that's unusual, highly unusual.

This was, in fact, a large departure from what he said just one year ago. In last year's pre-draft presser the GM had this to say about the prospects of drafting a QB:

"I'd like to draft a quarterback every year. If we could find the right quarterback, those are very valuable in terms of the position, obviously I don't see that you can have a winning franchise and a championship franchise without a high-quality quarterback, so you want to give yourself as many chances as possible. They're also very valuable from a trade perspective."

So which is it? Well for one, it's possible it's all a smokescreen and that he doesn't want to tip the team's hand ahead of the draft. Or perhaps his opinion has actually changed due to the research he did ahead of this year's draft.

To find out for sure though I thought I would follow up on his research and check out the stats for all the quarterbacks drafted after the third round, except that instead of stopping with the 2006 draft I went all the way back to 2000.

What did I find? Emery isn't wrong.

According to, 106 QBs have been drafted between the 4th and 7th round since 2000 and only Tom Brady is worth anything. Even when expanded to consider the undrafted QBs, only Brady and Tony Romo prove to be good over a number of years.

Of the 106 QBs only seven have a .500 or better record as a starter: Brady, Kyle Orton, David Garrard, Sage Rosenfels, Stephen McGee (1-0), Drew Hensen (1-0) and the immortal Craig Krenzel. When eliminating those with .500 records Orton (35-35) and Rosenfels (6-6) are thrown out too. When Romo is considered, that is still only four QBs after round three that have had winning records.

Granted that Krenzel started a total of five games and emerged 3-2 and was never heard from again. And Hensen was benched out of his only career start, a Thanksgiving Day game against the Krenzel-led Bears. That was the last time anyone ever heard from either of those players, so consider their records with a grain of salt.

Furthermore, in the playoffs, only Brady has a winning record while Garrard (1-1), Romo (1-3), Bulger (1-2), Cassel (0-1) and T.J. Yates (1-1) have all had losing postseason records.

Also, when considering PFR's handy "Starter" metric, which is the number of years that a player was a "primary starter for his team at his position" we see that of the 106 drafted QBs they combined for 51 years as primary starters. 12 of those years belong to Brady. Only 16 of the 106 even registered at least one year as a starter, meaning that together those 16 players averaged about 3 seasons as a starter collectively.

When Brady and his 12 seasons are removed that drops to 2.6 seasons as a starter for the other 15. Those 15 players combined to go 225-338 (.400 win percentage). Not exactly confidence-inspiring when considering a "developmental" prospect.

So the evidence shows that Emery is right, the best quarterbacks come from the first three rounds of the draft. Occasionally you might get lucky and get a journeyman at best, but the odds are that your fourth round QB of the future is going to be Kyle Orton at best and Chris Weinke at the worst.

Tom Brady and Tony Romo, as much as their teams are heralded for finding them, are the exceptions and not the rules when it comes to late-round QBs.

The fact is, then, that the Bears shouldn't take a QB this week. In order for it to pay dividends history says they should use a Thursday or Friday pick on one, but they have too many needs to take that luxury. They need defensive help way more than they need a prospect who might see the field down the road but shouldn't be expected to win games any time soon.

Late-round QBs who turn out to be Super Bowl winners are a pipe dream. The picks are better spent elsewhere.