Diamond in the rough?

Ingle Martin has as good a chance to be next starting QB for Packers as anyone, says PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay.

When the Green Bay Packers selected quarterback Ingle Martin in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL draft, many wondered who the heck is this guy? And he's from Furman? Why pick a QB from a school few have heard of. Hmmm, maybe the next David Whitehurst, who played at Furman and for the Packers in the 1980s.

Most dismiss Martin, to this day, as a possible replacement for Brett Favre, whenever he retires. However, when Favre went down with a "funny-bone" injury last week against New England, and Aaron Rodgers struggled, it got me thinking: could Favre's real heir-apparent be Ingle Martin? Not that Rodgers isn't capable. He may or may not be. Until he gets an off-season as a starter and can enter a regular season knowing he's the guy, we'll never know for sure if Rodgers is Favre's replacement.

But for arguments sake, let's assume Rodgers falls like a brick from the Empire State Building and all is left is Martin. Seems like a nightmare, doesn't it? Ingle Martin, starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

Before you dismiss this apparent silly talk, read the following list of quarterbacks who were drafted in the same round as Martin or after and have developed into NFL starters:

Tom Brady (fifth round), Matt Hasslebeck (sixth), Ty Detmer (ninth), Mark Brunell (fifth), Jake Delhomme (undrafted), Gus Frerotte (sixth) and Tony Romo (undrafted). Brady has won three Super Bowls and Hasslebeck and Delhomme have made it to one, while the others experienced varying degrees of success.

The point is, not all quarterbacks are first-round picks. Not all are even third-round selections like Joe Montana. There are diamonds in the rough at every position in the NFL, and maybe Martin's the next at quarterback.

In college, Martin, who opened his career at Florida, completed it at Furman, throwing 42 TD passes for 5,751 yards (both Furman records), and 22 INTs over in two seasons. Anybody Florida wanted as a quarterback had to have some skill, especially when Steve Spurrier recruited him. Martin left Florida, where he made four starts, after backing up Rex Grossman and current Gators QB Chris Leak. He needed the opportunity to flourish and he did.

The Packers picked him in the fifth round after a solid college career, thinking you never know. Myself included believes Martin being the next Brady, Delhomme, Hasslebeck or even Detmer could be a stretch. The Packers have also picked QBs in the fifth round or later named Jay Barker (fifth), Ronnie McAda (seventh) and Kyle Wachholtz (seventh) who have bombed.

Like every pick in the draft, from No. 1 to "Mr. Irrelevant," it's a crapshoot. Do you think when Drew Bledsoe was pounded in the chest while scrambling against the Jets, it was the best thing to ever happen to the Patriots? Brady comes in and wins three Super Bowls in four years. Delhomme was cut by the Saints before hooking on with Carolina and now he's a top 10 QB.

Frerotte was picked the same year the Redskins picked Heath Shuler in the first round and Frerotte, not Shuler, was the starter that season. Rodgers and Martin are not competing to be Favre's replacement, that's Rodgers' job to lose. But if Rodgers can't handle following the footsteps of a hall of famer, predicting Ingle Martin as the true successor for the Green Bay Packers might not be the "Hail Mary" pass we all think it is. Many quarterbacks in the NFL have established themselves as starters without sparkling college credentials.

Scouts can't get it right with every player, so maybe Martin can be another diamond who slips through the rough. It seems like quite the fairy tale, but Martin becoming Green Bay's next true starting quarterback and having a solid career is more realistic than what Brady has done. Few QBs have won three Super Bowls, let alone one who wasn't projected as being much in the NFL. With that in mind, don't forget about Martin. Some day he just might be the Packers' starting quarterback.

Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

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