In the last 16 years Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers have combined to win 13 Super Bowls. All 6 players are sure-fire Hall of Famers, The other 3 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in that time frame were Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, and Nick Foles. All had great defenses and none repeated as champions.
It is hard to win the big game without an elite trigger man, just ask the Bengals. Andy Dalton has been the man under center for Cincinnati since 2011 and while he has led the team to the playoffs, Dalton’s success has been largely dependent on what is around him. Dalton is capable of winning a Super Bowl if all other conditions are right, but he is not a quarterback who will make a team a serious contender year in and year out. Even with all the success he has had in Cincinnati, they should always be looking for that guy.
So, when is the right time to upgrade at the quarterback position?
The answer to this question is simple: As soon as possible. Teams must be constantly looking to improve and this means seeking to upgrade at every position. The key is being right.
If the Bengals see a franchise changing quarterback in this draft, they must move heaven and earth to get him. That is what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes. They saw him and moved up in the draft to get him, giving up a first round pick the next year to do it.
That team was fine with Alex Smith at quarterback. He had taken them to the playoffs and likely would again, but Mahomes was a difference maker whose transcendent talent took the Chiefs to the next level in 2018. Sure they could have built around Smith, but they would have been depending on a lot more people and would not have had that one play maker to put them over the hump.
As I said though, you better be right. The Arizona Cardinals are rumored to be moving on from Josh Rosen after only one season. If so it would be an oddity. In most cases drafting a first round quarterback is a commitment. Even if the player isn’t expected to start in year one, they will likely get the nod in year two. That was the case with Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Both were drafted to teams with establish, but not world-beating quarterbacks, and in both cases, those established quarterbacks were sent packing a year later.
So let’s say the Bengals made a move on a quarterback in Round 1, and they were wrong. A few things could happen. First, they may realize in his rookie season that he is not going to surpass Dalton immediately. So they don’t trade Dalton and their draftee continues to ride the pine. Dalton is now likely getting disgruntled, but his career with the team has actually been extended, That is because the team will not look to draft a quarterback high in 2020 because they are invested in their 2019 first round pick as the future of their franchise (again Arizona could potentially be an exception).
So now they missed on a QB in the 2019 Draft and missed out on a QB in the 2020 Draft.
So should they make a move and draft a quarterback in the 2019. Yes, if...
Yes, if they have identified a franchise changing quarterback. If they think the can get in a position to draft Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, or Missouri’s Drew Lock and they think that is the guy who will make this franchise a Super Bowl contender, than they absolutely have to do it even if that means giving up heavy draft capital over the next two years.
If they don’t identify one of those three as that transcendent franchise altering player, then they should wait. They may look to take a quarterback later in the draft and possibly move up to get him. Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson, West Virginia’s Will Grier, and Boise State’s Brett Rypien. Maybe they believe one of these guys could be that transcendent player, but even if they don’t it is okay to take a flier on a guy after Round 1. Spending a 2nd or 3rd Round pick on one of these guys wouldn’t prevent them from entering the Tua Tagovailoa sweepstakes in 2020.
So when is the right time to upgrade at quarterback? When you know you can.