Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
How important is it that Mac starts this year exactly? Let's try to find out by looking at every season from 1994-2020 (the salary cap era)
Notes – I consider someone a starter if they start the majority of the games in a season.
1994 – Steve Young won in arguably his 4th or 5th year starting and 10th year overall. After 2 to 3 failed post-season runs (depending on if you count one where he want in half way into a game for an injured Montana)
1995 – Troy Aikman won in his 4th, 5th and 7th year starting and overall (this being year 7). He lost in the playoffs 1 time,
1996 – Brett Favre – won in his 5th season starting. 6th overall. And lost in the playoffs 3 times before winning.
1997 – John Elway – won his 15th and 16th season starting and overall. He had 8 playoff eliminations before winning.
1998 – John Elway
1999 – Kurt Warner – won his 1st year starting and 2nd year in the league (at the age of 28). He had no playoff loses before this. It is worth noting that where he did play in the arena leagues he went to the championship game and lost twice. If that experience at all prepared him in anyway for the NFL, or if it was just maturity due to age that played a factor in the playoffs is something to ask yourself.
2000 – Trent Dilfer – won his 6th year starting and 7th in the league. He also went to the playoffs 1 time before this.
2001 – Tom Brady – Won his 1st year starting and 2nd year in the league. No one needs to be told it was his first playoff run.
2002 – Brad Johnson – Won his 6th year starting and 9th year in the league. He lost in the playoffs twice before winning.
2003 – Tom Brady
2004 – Tom Brady
2005 – Ben Roethlisberger – Won his 2nd year starting and 2nd year in the league. He lost in the playoffs once before.
2006 – Peyton Manning – Won his 9th year starting and 9th year in the league. He lost in the playoffs 6 times before winning
2007 – Eli Manning – Won his 3rd year starting and 4th year in the league. He lost in the playoffs 2 times before.
2008 – Ben Roethlisberger
2009 – Drew Brees – He won his 8th year starting and 9th year in the league. He lost in the playoffs 2 times before.
2010 – Aaron Rodgers – He won his 3rd year starting and 6th year in the league. He lost in the playoffs 1 time before.
2011 – Eli Manning
2012 – Joe Flacco – He won his 5th year starting and 5th year in the league. He lost in the playoffs 4 times before.
2013 – Russell Wilson – He won his 2nd year starting and 2nd year in the league. He lost in the playoffs 1 time before.
2014 – Tom Brady
2015 – Peyton Manning
2016 – Tom Brady
2017 – Nick Foles – He won his 6th year in the league and with 3 years starting before coming in late as a back up to win. He also had 1 playoff loss.
2018 – Tom Brady
2019 – Patrick Mahomes – won his 2nd year starting and 3rd year in the league. He lost 1 playoff game before winning.
2020 – Tom Brady
So now we have some data to go by. What can we draw from it?
Only 2 times in the salary cap era (maybe overall if you give allowances for early in the leagues history) have we had a QB win their first time in the playoffs. Both cases were very strange. A 28 year old rookie FA who came onto a super team and the GOAT. I think there is a reason these cases are outliers. Due to this, we can assume a team lead by a QB on first time in the playoffs will fail. But it will be a good learning experience to build on for future runs.
Most of the QBs who won, won in their first 5 years. In large part due to their contracts. This only supports the value of getting the maximum out of your rookie deal. The exceptions being HOFers who broke through late like Manning, Elway and Brees or low contract guys like Foles or Dilfer. Rodgers won in year 6, but he was on a cheap contract that year due to not playing and still being partly unproven.
Generally unless you get the GOAT or something crazy happens, you generally need a HOF QB or you have a 5 year window to win before your odds drop way down. Generally no one wins their first time in the playoffs. This means we need to get Mac in there at least twice. We also need to have Mac play the majority of games this year. We don't need a full season, but the switch must come with enough time to give him some good experience to build on for year 2 and beyond, historically speaking.
Finally, and perhaps most controversially. If Mac isn't HOF level, but a good starter. It is in our best interest to trade him if we don't win if the first 5 years. Guys you need to pay a lot of money to who are not HOF QBs have PROVEN to hurt more than help. You are better off looking to build the rest of your team, then get lucky at QB with a low paid guy over producing than to try to win without a HOF player at the spot.
Dilfer was paid 1M out of a 62M cap 1.6%
Johnson was paid 5.5 out of a 71M cap 7.8%
Manning (in 11') was paid 14M out of a 120M cap 11.6%
Foles/Wentz was paid 7.6M out of 208M cap cap 3.7%
Generally if you want to win a super bowl you have 2 options at QB. Either get a HOF guy or skimp on the position while building up the rest of your team and hope for a good cheap option to come along who will be serviceable enough, or get hot at the right time. A half measure of paying a good but not great QB in the salary cap era has been shown to be the WORST thing you can do.
I hope Mac can be HOF caliber, so we have a chance to win not only in these next 5 years, AND in the future after that. If not, then win or lose, he should be traded for value so the team can reset and try again.
An interesting case.
Now show me which QBs ever won as a rookie and also show me the long graveyard list of rookie QBs who played too soon and were permanently ruined.