Taking Carr for a Spin

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April 8, 2002
Taking Carr for a Spin

Just because David Carr’s selection atop the 2002 NFL Draft is now official doesn’t mean debate surrounding his worthiness has ended. Quite the contrary — it seems to have intensified of late.

The two biggest and most vociferous points of contention that we’re hearing seem to be 1) taking a quarterback in the first round is risky based on recent high profile first round busts such as Ryan Leaf; 2) Oregon QB Joey Harrington is Carr’s equal, if not the better choice, so why is he not a consideration?

Both points have their merits. After all, it’s possible Carr could prove to be another bust, just as it’s possible the Pro Football Hall of Fame might eventually have to add a wing to accommodate all of Harrington’s NFL accomplishments. But that’s the nature of the draft; no matter how much research you conduct, no matter how many hours of game film you study, no matter how many 40-yard dashes you time… things aren’t always going to work out the way you think.

But ultimately, we think everyone is making much ado about nothing, trying too hard to find kinks in Carr’s armor. He’s thus far passed with flying colors every physical and mental test the NFL can think to throw his way, and he has terrific credentials and verifiable intangibles.

So, to that end, The War Room thought it might be beneficial to address the above concerns, not to arrive at any definitive conclusions, not to suck you onto the Carr bandwagon, but to ease the minds of some who can’t shake the thought that Charley Casserly was the man who drafted Heath Shuler. Here goes…

No question, since 1990, the draft landscape is littered with first round quarterback flops. The list reads like the undercard for the next installment of Fox’ Celebrity Boxing: Jeff George, Andre Ware, Dan McGwire, David Klinger, Tommy Maddox, Rick Mirer, Dave Brown, Heath Shuler, Jim Druckenmiller, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Cade McNown…

But here’s something to consider: of the 20 above quarterbacks, all drafted in the first round between 1990 and 1999, more than half (12) were not the first quarterback selected in their respective draft, and only four were selected first overall. That means the vast majority of the players we’re using to paint our view of Carr were not only not the best players in their respective drafts, they weren’t even the best players at their position.

So why are we wasting our time comparing Carr to any of them?

A more relevant examination in relation to Carr (assuming you’re convinced history can somehow provide us an idea of what to expect) would be to look at quarterbacks drafted first overall, a group Carr will join on April 20. We think you’ll like this list much better.

Since 1970, 11 quarterbacks have been taken with the draft’s number one pick: Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Steve Bartkowski, John Elway, Vinny Testaverde, Troy Aikman, Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning, Tim Couch and Michael Vick. Not such bad company to keep, is it?

Together, they’ve combined to win 10 Super Bowls and 15 league championships (yes, we’re giving Bledsoe credit for last year’s win against the Steelers). Only George and possibly Bartkowski could be considered anything near a bust, yet, 11 years after he was drafted, George began the 2001 season as the Redskins’ starter and Bartkowski did have three seasons of 3,000+ yards passing, two seasons of 30+ TDs and played for 12 years.

Should Bob McNair start making space in his trophy case for the Lombardi Award? No, of course not. But those 11 are every bit as relevant as the 12 busts from the 1990’s. Again, all we’re doing is trying to provide some fodder that might ease some prevalent fears about the Texans using a first round pick on a quarterback — it hasn’t always been so bad.

The bottom line is that Andre Ware’s failures have as much bearing on David Carr’s eventual success as Terry Bradshaw’s accomplishments do.

With that in mind, let’s move on to the Carr vs. Harrington debate. We’re not about to declare one the winner over the other, primarily because it’s a moot point. Whether Harrington’s better or not, Carr is the Texans’ choice. End of story.

But it’s important to keep in mind that millions of dollars are at stake right now, and Harrington has lost a very public battle to Carr, which, fair or not, has to lower his stock just a bit. If the Texans don’t deem him worthy of their top pick, why should Detroit or Buffalo? With each team that passes on Harrington, his salary gets smaller and smaller.

So much of what you’re reading about Harrington’s late surge is no doubt spin control from his camp. It’s also a product of the traditional pre-draft lull where medidiots like Jay Glazer and Mel Kiper, Jr. are sniffing around for something, anything, to print in their columns.

And that’s why Glazer breathlessly declared the NFL split over Carr and Harrington when, in fact, he had only spoken to 8 unnamed people about the subject. It’s why Kiper is telling us that Harrington outdid Carr at the combine workouts, despite Carr having no reason to even be there. It’s why, all of a sudden, Harrington played against better competition last year, making him more "NFL-ready" (as if that helped former Duck Akili Smith), and anyway, doesn’t Carr throw with an awkward, sidearm delivery…?

Here’s the bottom line: David Carr’s individual statistics last year were better than Joey Harrington’s. Adjusting Harrington’s numbers to account for Carr’s 169 more passing attempts, the numbers look like this:

PLAYER COM ATT % YDS TD/INT Carr 344 533 64.5 4,839 45/9 Harrington 313 533 58.7 4,043 41/9

They both beat Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin last year, and while Harrington did play against better competition, it’s important to note he also played with better competition, a distinction few make when discussing the relative merits of their opponents.

Besides, Carr has proven he’s by no means a product of inferior competition. Between 2000 and 2001, he was a combined 167/274 (60.9%) with 2,197 yards, 18 TDs and 8 INTs against Ohio State, UCLA, Air Force (2000 Silicon Valley Football Classic Bowl Game), Colorado, Oregon State, Wisconsin and Michigan State (2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic Bowl Game). He put up big numbers against the also-rans, which is what you want him to do, and played very well against the more respectable opponents. What else can he do?

And, understand: this is not meant to serve as an indictment of Harrington’s prospects; far from it, in fact. We’re merely trying to diffuse the notion that Harrington’s intangibles, or Carr’s supposed lack of them, should in any way influence your opinion of who the Texans should draft. Yes, Harrington looked terrific in beating Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl; but Carr looked just as good beating them in their first game of the year, yet, rarely is that mentioned.

We really have no idea whether David Carr is the right choice or not for the Texans (come back this time next year and we’ll let you know), but at the same time, we don’t think fans should fret wondering if he’s destined to join the list of forgotten first round quarterbacks who have busted of late, nor should they worry that Joey Harrington would be the better choice. There’s little legitimate evidence to suggest either.

If given the right system, the proper environment and sound coaching, scouts have no doubt David Carr will conquer the next level. Have faith, Houston. David Carr David Carr The War Room Return to The War Room