Rich's Rant: "Franchise QB"? No Way.

Mr. Passan is back with more thoughts on the upcoming draft, and specifically about something he feels is a bit of a misnomer...

OK, let's clear something up right now.

Enough talk about drafting a franchise quarterback for the Browns. There is no such animal.

When the college draft unfolds two weeks from Saturday, two quarterbacks will rank very high on the lists of National Football League general managers and/or personnel men.

Neither is a so-called franchise quarterback. Whatever that means.

It has become trendy in the last 10 years or so to label someone a "franchise" this or a "franchise" that. What the devil does that mean? Will the franchise rise or fall depending on the performance of one player? C'mon.

Ask 100 people what the term "franchise" player means in the professional football sense and you might get 100 different answers. At the risk of being repetitious, there is no such animal.

Supposedly, the No. 1 rule (in drafting) is you don't pass on a franchise quarterback if you don't have one. Never heard that one before. Are we making up the rules as we go along?

What is rule No. 2? Pay no attention to rule No. 1?

How does the way a player performs in college determine what he's going to do as a pro? In what way will it dramatically change the fortunes of a moribund franchise such as the Browns?

How in the world can a college player be labeled anything before he turns pro? It's impossible to predict this guy will do that and that guy will do this.

The pro game is played on a much higher level than the college game. The pro game is faster, quicker, smarter. Adapting is difficult.

It's not easy for a college kid to come in and assimilate as though there was nothing to it. It happens, but not as frequently as one might think. It is more the exception than the rule.

Athletes peak at various levels. Some peak in high school and then fall off. Some continue to peak in college and then level off when they hit the pros. Others keep getting better as they mature and reach their peak as pros.

To be labeled a can't-miss star before he plays his first game as a pro is unfair to an athlete and puts undue pressure on him. Living up to expectations is one thing in college; quite another as a pro, where money is the great separator.

JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn are the previously mentioned and wonderfully talented college quarterbacks who have been the subject of a number of discussions, mostly argumentative, on this Web site. Each will bring unique qualities to the NFL.

Russell has a sensational throwing arm. Arguably one of the best ever to come out of college. He makes throws that many current NFL quarterbacks can't. But quarterbacking is much more than throwing a football.

Quinn, who ran a pro-style offense the last two years at Notre Dame, benefited from the guidance of a head coach with a wealth of NFL experience. He is more NFL-ready, but has been labeled, perhaps unfairly, as someone who comes up short in big games.

To call either of them a "franchise quarterback" is ludicrous at this point. There is no guarantee that either will succeed in the NFL.

Eli Manning was a given the "franchise quarterback" label coming out of Mississippi a few years ago. Better than brother Peyton, they said. The New York Giants traded a fortune for him. What's he done with the Giants? Rhetorical question.

And what about Alex Smith in San Francisco? Franchise quarterback out of Utah, right? Another rhetorical question.

Is Jay Cutler a franchise quarterback in Denver? Philip Rivers in San Diego? Vince Young in Tennessee?

How about Rex Grossman in Chicago? This first-round pick got his team to the last Super Bowl. Correction: He was the quarterback when the Bears played in the last Super Bowl. Big difference.

A lot of people believed Ben Roethlisberger was a franchise quarterback after his storybook rookie season in Pittsburgh. Anyone believe that now?

Was Kurt Warner, an undrafted free agent, a "franchise quarterback" after taking the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls? Of course not, even though he accomplished something about which most quarterbacks can only dream.

Since 1982, 12 quarterbacks have been the first overall pick in the college draft. Of that group, only John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning have quarterbacked their teams to a Super Bowl title.

Does that mean Vinny Testaverde, Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Tim Couch, Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Alex Smith are not franchise quarterbacks? And if not, why not?

If you know nothing else, know this: A quarterback is as good as those players around him. A quarterback cannot put a whole team on his shoulders and perform miracles. It doesn't work that way. A quarterback needs a strong supporting cast. They are reliant on each other.

The same, of course, can be said about a stud running back. But a running back of Adrian Peterson's caliber can step right in out of college without missing a beat and make a difference. A quarterback can't do that.

Peterson isn't just a terrific running back. He's an elite running back. Probably the best to come along since LaDainian Tomlinson.

The Browns have a lot of holes to fill. Many fans believe quarterback is the most important of those holes. Eventually, they might be correct.

Just not this year.

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