Taking a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft is supposed to be a celebratory occasion. A turning point point for a franchise. A huge moment in the careers of an NFL head coach, a general manager and an owner. That's not always how it works out though.
As ESPN NFL insider and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers' general manager Mark Dominik noted on Thursday, the last four teams to select the first quarterback in the NFL Draft are no longer led by the same head coach.
The Los Angeles Rams were the first team to pick a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft: Jared Goff. Less than eight months later, Jeff Fisher was out. A year earlier, Lovie Smith was fired 16 games after the Buccaneers took Jameis Winston with the No. 1 pick.
In 2014, the Jaguars made Blake Bortles the third-overall pick and first quarterback off the board. Gus Bradley was fired last December. And in 2013, E.J. Manuel was taken 16th overall by the Bills, who are now on their third head coach since then — Doug Marrone 2013-14, Rex Ryan 2015-16, and now Sean McDermott. Granted, Marrone voluntarily resigned after the 2014 season.
The point is, whether a head coach is responsible for the pick or not, once a franchise takes a first round quarterback the clock starts ticking. If the quarterback is successful, the coach sticks around. If the quarterback is a dud, the coach will be gone. Soon.
In the past 20 years, 53 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round. If a quarterback makes a Pro Bowl within the first three seasons of his career, the coach who drafted him lasts an average of 95.8 games. If a quarterback doesn't make a Pro Bowl within his first three seasons, the coach lasts an average of 43 games.
(On the other end of the spectrum, seven active head coaches have won at least one Super Bowl title. Only two of them have drafted a quarterback in the first round.)
Job security is always dicey in the NFL — half the league comes into the 2017 season with a coach who has been on the job two seasons or less — and though a dismissal can't be tied to one pick or player, it's revealing that teams who invest early in potential franchise quarterbacks make coaching moves soon thereafter.
Who's next? Here are five teams who could be the first to select a quarterback at the 2017 NFL Draft. Could they be without their head coaches in the near future?
New York Jets
Head Coach: Todd Bowles
Unless the Browns, 49ers, or Bears unexpectedly select a quarterback with their respective top-three picks, the most realistic slot for the first quarterback to come off the board at No. 6 to the New York Jets. But for third-year head coach Todd Bowles, an early investment in Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson likely won't put him further onto his hot seat.
After last year's five-win debacle and carrying a hole-filled roster (one that includes 2016 second-rounder Christian Hackenberg), Bowles needs a bounceback year to retain his job beyond 2017.
Head Coach: Hue Jackson
If the top three teams pass on quarterbacks and the Jets don't jump at No. 6, the Browns get their pick of the litter at No. 12. Second-year head coach Hue Jackson appears to have a longer leash than his predecessors — Jackson is the eighth non-interim head coach since 1999 — therefore should be given time if there's any improvement in 2017.
The Browns are taking at least one quarterback in the draft. It's just a matter of when, if that quarterback will see the field immediately, and if passing on a non-QB will hurt Jackson's job security.
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
Don't bet against the Cardinals taking a quarterback at No. 13. But if they don't, also don't bet against them acquiring a second first-round pick to draft one, especially if Trubisky or Watson are still on the board. Given Carson Palmer's injury history (only seven seasons of 16 games in 13 years) and age (37), and the miserable play of backup Drew Stanton, it makes sense.
No one saw Arizona's seven-win season coming. It was Bruce Arians' first season with fewer than 10 wins since he arrived in 2013. Barring a HUGE step back, the 64-year-old offensive mastermind isn't going anywhere. And even with a major step back, the Cardinals would probably give him at least another year or two. Don't rule out an Arians exit if things fall apart though. Would he stick around for a major rebuild?
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien
Like the Browns, the Texans will draft a quarterback in 2017. And unless Bill O'Brien feels great about Tom Savage or Brandon Weeden, that rookie quarterback will compete for the starting job.
Their quarterback draft history has been just awful — Alex Brink, T.J. Yates, and Savage are only QBs taken since 2005 — and O'Brien's reputation as a quarterback whisperer is looking more like a myth as he becomes further removed from Tom Brady in New England and Christian Hackenberg's freshman season at Penn State.
O'Brien hasn't topped nine wins in three seasons, and two straight playoff appearances are more a result of a putrid AFC South than anything else.
Kansas City Chiefs
Head Coach: Andy Reid
Kansas City hasn't drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1983 and the Green Bay Packers did so only once in current Chiefs' general manager John Dorsey's preceding 13 years as their director of college scouting and director of football operations (Aaron Rodgers, 2004).
They could opt for at least four other positions, including running back, with their first-round pick (No. 27), but quarterback remains a strong possibility if an elite arm is available. It would take a complete multi-year collapse for Andy Reid to get fired.