For every Tom Brady, there's a Ryan Claridge. The New England Patriots have been known throughout the league for their year in and year out success in running the draft. However, I want to see if the people directly responsible for the drafted players' growth- the positional coaches- really do have an effect upon how successful a player will be in the NFL.
The first position I want to look at is the Quarterback position.
Since 2001, the Patriots have invested 5 draft picks out of a total of 91 on quarterbacks- a relatively low number. While this has a direct relation to Tom Brady's success and the lack of a need for a long term draft replacement, looking at how back-ups perform once they are given the chance shows how well a quarterback coach prepares his players.
QB Coach – Charlie Weis (01-02)
2002, 4th – Rohan Davey (2002-2004)
Stats: 8/19 88 yards. Out of Football.
Davey is the first quarterback after Tom Brady to be drafted. While there didn't seem to be a need for his selection so early in the draft, perhaps the front office wasn't completely willing to trust in Tom Brady's wonder season. Charlie Weis double dutied as Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach for Davey's rookie season. During Davey's tenure, he had to deal with three different QB coaches in Weis, John Hufnagel and Josh McDaniels.
QB Coach – John Hufnagel (03)
2003, 6th – Kliff Kingsbury (2003-2004)
Stats: 1/2 17 yards. Out of Football.
For some strange reason, the front office thought that Davey wasn't enough as a QB pick. They opted to take Kingsbury as well. Kingsbury stuck only until 2004 (same time as Davey) and had to utilize two different QB coaches in his stay, with Hufnagel and McDaniels both taking the lead. In fact, Kingsbury spent 2003 on the IR and was signed by theNew Orleans Saints in 2004 in September, right when the season started.
QB Coach – Josh McDaniels (04-08)
2005, 7th – Matt Cassel (2005-2008)
Stats: 620/1048 6870 yards, 39 TDs 29 INTs. Starting QB for the
Cassel is the golden child out of the QB selections. The only one who can be considered a successful pick, Cassel was another late round pick who was deemed worthy of a project. Cassel stepped up to the plate and became a great quarterback. Cassel benefited from having only McDaniels as his QB Coach.
2008, 3rd – Kevin O’Connell (2008)
Stats: 4/6 23 yards. 4th String QB for the
O'Connell is the earliest QB taken by the Patriots in this decade. He also had the shortest tenure. He was on the roster for the 2008 season and was released during the 2009 pre-season. Blessed with an ideal body size for a quarterback, something didn't click and O'Connell was released in favor of undraftedBrian Hoyer. The Patriots were willing to dump O'Connell after one season, despite utilizing a 3rd round pick on him, and were willing to enter the 2009 season with 2 QBs on the roster rather than keep O'Connell. I still don't understand why the Patriots were so willing to ditch the O'Connell experiment so early on, but McDaniels had O'Connell under his tutelage for a season and didn't see any progress.
QB Coach – Bill O’Brien (09-)
2010, 7th – Zac Robinson
I believe that Robinson has the ability to develop into the next Matt Cassel, as long as he has consistency at the quarterback coach position. Out of the previous 4 selections, only Cassel had the same QB coach throughout his tenure (O'Connell had to switch to O'Brien during the preseason). Players like the Cincinnati Bengals' Carson Palmer, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New Orleans' Drew Brees and most other top quarterbacks have benefited from having extended continuity in the QB Coach position. Most of the top quarterbacks in the league have had either one QB coach their whole career (Palmer) or have had a QB coach for a long enough period of time (3+ years) so the player can develop to NFL-ready (everyone else).
I think that Robinson, with 2-3 years in the system, will eventually have a NFL ready playing body and skill set allowing the Patriots to trade him in exchange for a greater draft pick than they used to draft him.
I'm expecting Bill O'Brien to stay around for a while longer in his hybrid Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach position and develop young quarterbacks into starting caliber players. While I know that idea doesn't tickle any fans' fancy, I think that having a few years of continuity at a position will greatly benefit not only the quarterbacks, but the team as a whole as everyone builds a rapport with one another.
Players drafted: 5
# Coach T/Os: 3
Players with playing experience: 4
Players considered a success: 1
Success Rate: 25%