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NFL Draft: Coach Experience when Selecting a QB in the First Round

Posted by Andrew McKillop on April 26, 2011

Nobody knows who the Carolina Panthers will select with the #1 pick in this year’s NFL draft, but some pundits have them dead set on selecting a QB.  If the Panthers do select a QB, I wonder if that’s a good idea, considering they are also being led by a rookie head coach in Ron Rivera this year.

Since 2007 it seems that inexperienced head coaches quickly want to put their stamp on the team, by selecting a QB in the first round.  The average experience of head coaches selecting QB’s since 2007 is 0.4 years.  Six teams with rookie head coaches have selected QB’s in the first round since 2007.

From 2004-2006 the trend was for experienced head coaches to select QB’s in the first round.  The average experience of head coaches selecting QB’s in that period was 8.6 years.  Surprisingly the inexperienced head coaches (.582 winning percentage from QB starts) have had slightly better luck with their first round QB’s than the experienced head coaches (.560 winning percentage).

It seems that rookie head coaches have slightly less chance of succeeding with a QB selected in the first round, than experienced head coaches.  Since 1990 there have been twenty QB’s selected in the first round by teams with rookie head coaches.  The rookie head coaches have a winning percentage of .521 when first round QB’s started in games they coached.  Subtracting the recent success of rookie head coaches with first round QB’s, from a period of 1990-2006, that winning percentage changes to .488.  Coaches with ten years or more of coaching experience under their belt, have a .531 winning percentage with their first round QB selections.  In Carolina’s case, it’s important to note that since 1990, QB’s selected with the first overall pick by rookie head coaches, have a winning percentage of .474.

Despite the in-depth research NFL teams do, picking a QB in the first round is an inexact science, and a high risk move.   When the move pays off, the dividends are great (ex: Peyton Manning), when the risk proves costly, the long term consequences are great (ex. JaMarcus Russell).  This is usually why a head coach’s job is on the line when their team selects a QB in the first round.  Going back to 1990 (exclusion of current head coaches for a total of forty coaches) the average number of years a head coach hangs onto his job after their team selects a QB in the first round is 3.45 years.

Check out the breakdown for more in-depth information:

Note: W/L records include playoff starts

Legend: Exp (Years as a NFL head coach before QB pick), Aft (Years as team’s head coach after QB pick)

T (Traded on Draft Day)

Note: Eli Manning was drafted by the San Diego Chargers (Schottenheimer), but was traded on the day of the draft to the New York Giants (Coughlin) for Philip Rivers.

S (Supplemental Draft Selection)

I (One season as interim coach), W (Still coaching team), F (Fired mid-season), R (Retired mid-season)

Year Pick Player W L T Coach Exp Aft W
2010 1 Sam Bradford 7 9 Steve Spagnuolo 1 1 W
2010 25 Tim Tebow 1 2 Josh McDaniels 1 1
2009 1 Matthew Stafford 3 10 Jim Schwartz 0 2 W
2009 5 Mark Sanchez 23 14 Rex Ryan 0 2 W
2009 17 Josh Freeman 13 12 Raheem Morris 0 2 W
2008 3 Matt Ryan 33 15 Mike Smith 0 3 W
2008 18 Joe Flacco 36 19 John Harbaugh 0 3 W
2007 1 JaMarcus Russell 0 1 Lane Kiffin 0 2 F
2007 22 Brady Quinn 1 2 Romeo Crennel 2 2
2006 3 Vince Young 30 18 Jeff Fisher 12 5
2006 10 Matt Leinart 4 7 Dennis Green 12 1
2006 11 Jay Cutler 17 20 Mike Shanahan 13 3
2005 1 Alex Smith 11 19 Mike Nolan 0 4 F
2005 24 Aaron Rodgers Mike Sherman 5 1
2005 25 Jason Campbell 8 12 Joe Gibbs 13 3
2004 1 T Eli Manning 64 46 Tom Coughlin 8 7 W
2004 4 T Philip Rivers 14 3 Marty Schottenheimer 18 3
2004 11 Ben Roethlisberger 34 12 Bill Cowher 12 3
2004 22 J.P. Losman 1 7 Mike Mularkey 0 2
2003 1 Carson Palmer 42 41 Marvin Lewis 0 8 W
2003 7 Byron Leftwich 24 21 Jack Del Rio 0 8 W
2003 19 Kyle Boller 20 22 Brian Billick 4 5
2003 22 Rex Grossman 2 1 Dick Jauron 4 1
2002 1 David Carr 16 43 Dom Capers 4 4
2002 3 Joey Harrington 3 9 Marty Mornhinweg 1 1
2002 32 Patrick Ramsey 6 10 Steve Spurrier 0 2
2001 1 Michael Vick 11 9 1 Dan Reeves 20 3 R
2000 18 Chad Pennington Al Groh 0 1
1999 1 Tim Couch 4 17 Chris Palmer 0 2
1999 2 Donovan McNabb 99 56 1 Andy Reid 0 12
1999 3 Akili Smith 1 6 Bruce Coslet 7 2 F
1999 11 Daunte Culpepper 16 13 Dennis Green 7 3 F
1999 12 Cade McNown 3 12 Dick Jauron 0 5
1998 1 Peyton Manning 32 34 Jim Mora 11 4
1998 2 Ryan Leaf 3 6 Kevin Gilbride 1 1 F
1997 26 Jim Druckenmiller 1 0 Steve Mariucci 0 6
1995 3 Steve McNair 81 59 Jeff Fisher 1 I 16
1995 5 Kerry Collins 23 21 Dom Capers 0 4
1994 3 Heath Shuler 4 9 Norv Turner 0 7
1994 6 Trent Dilfer 7 11 Sam Wyche 10 2
1993 1 Drew Bledsoe 34 29 Bill Parcells 8 4
1993 2 Rick Mirer 11 18 Tom Flores 10 2
1992 1 S Dave Brown Ray Handley 1 1
1992 6 David Klinger 4 20 David Shula 0 5 F
1992 25 Tommy Maddox 0 4 Dan Reeves 11 1
1991 16 Dan McGwire 1 0 Chuck Knox 18 1
1991 24 Todd Marinovich 3 6 Art Shell 2 4
1990 1 Jeff George 5 12 Ron Meyer 7 2 F
1990 7 Andre Ware 3 3 Wayne Fontes 2 7



Bonus information:  Only six NFL head coaches have been able to coach their first round QB’s to a Super Bowl victory.

Year Pick Player W L T Coach Exp Aft W
2004 1 T Eli Manning 64 46 Tom Coughlin 8 7 W
2004 11 Ben Roethlisberger 34 12 Bill Cowher 12 3
1989 1 Troy Aikman 44 30 Jimmy Johnson 0 5
1982 5 Jim McMahon 49 17 Mike Ditka 0 11
1970 1 Terry Bradshaw 121 56 Chuck Noll 1 22
1965 1 Joe Namath – AFL 51 38 4 Weeb Ewbank 11 9



Reference: Pro-Football-Reference Draft Finder

2 Responses to “NFL Draft: Coach Experience when Selecting a QB in the First Round”

  1. Idan Solon said

    McNabb wasn’t traded on draft day.

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