In the 2019 draft, the Giants surprised many by taking Daniel Jones with the 6th overall pick. Their general manager Dave Gettleman said that they wanted to use the “Kansas City Model”, meaning they would sit Jones for a year behind Eli Manning.
NFL teams love doing this, as sitting highly drafted starters behind terrible starters is a long time tradition. Excluding top overall picks, almost every team tries to do this.
I say “try” because while guys like Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers have done well after sitting, most of the time this strategy fails miserably for obvious reasons. Let’s go through them so maybe the teams selecting quarterbacks this year will learn when and when not to sit a rookie.
1) They’re drafting a quarterback for a reason.
Teams who are drafting quarterbacks high in the first round are almost always doing so because the veteran they currently employ isn’t very good, and the Giants were no exception. Sure, some people laughably think Eli should get into the Hall of Fame, but even his biggest fans had to admit he wasn’t very good in 2017 and 2018, with the Giants losing 24 games in those years.
Inevitably what happens is that their bad veteran shockingly continues to be bad, and they’re forced to make their rookie the starter in the middle of the season anyway. So all they end up accomplishing is giving valuable practice reps and game experience to a guy who’ll be watching the games from his couch while posting on the Arrowhead Guys game threads the next season.
The reason Kansas City was the exception to this rule is that they had a quarterback in Alex Smith who was a consistent winner. When the Chiefs drafted Mahomes they were coming off a 12-4 season. This is a much different situation than most teams, who wait until the absolute last moment to draft a quarterback.
2) There’s no reason to sit them.
The idea that a quarterback should sit and learn is popular, but to my knowledge there’s no actual evidence that it’s beneficial for most guys. In fact common sense would tell you that the reverse is true. In what other area of life would you rather have somebody who had one extra year of schooling instead of one extra year of experience?
That doesn’t even include the fact that the starter gets far more practice reps than the backup. When you invest such a high draft pick into a guy, isn’t it just common sense that you want to give them as many practice reps as possible?
Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are exceptions to this rule because they had pretty bad issues with mechanics, which is the one thing that is actually better improved outside of games. Like any other habit, you develop it by doing it the right way over and over again. The vast majority of first round quarterbacks aren’t going to have those kinds of issues.
2) The veteran wastes cap space.
The Giants could have saved $12 million on their cap in 2019 had they released Eli and simply made Jones the day 1 starter. For that money they got 4 starts and 1 win in a season where they ended up 4-12.
Instead they could have spent that money on a free agent receiver or lineman to give Jones some extra help in 2019 and beyond. This is so simple that I don’t feel like I even need to explain it. Was that one meaningless win really worth it?
And while you could argue legacy for the Giants here, this same math applies to every team who does this. Remember when the Bears signed Mike Glennon to a big deal just for him to go out and win a single game for them?
Yet we’ll almost certainly see this pattern again. Teams will try and sit their rookies behind bad veterans, and when the bad veteran plays poorly they’ll be forced to play the rookie. I haven’t even looked at the quarterback class this year, yet I can still confidently predict that every single quarterback drafted in the 1st round will be named the team’s starter by the end of the season.