Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mulligan of the Week: Starring Jon Kitna

Yesterday, ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote an extensive article on NFL back-up quarterbacks, and in particular, Jon Kitna. For Chadiha, this marks his second time to be focused in my “Mulligan of the Week” segment, for writing another head-scratching article in which he grossly overrates a quarterback's effectiveness.

Chadiha states, “You really can't blame Jones for trading for Kitna. Like every team in the NFL, the Cowboys are well aware of how quickly fortunes can change if you don't have the right man as a backup quarterback.”

My question is: Hasn’t Jon Kitna proven that he isn’t the right man for any job in the NFL at this point? Dallas struggled last year when starter Tony Romo went down for three games with washed up Brad Johnson and journeyman Brooks Bollinger, going 1-2 in his absence. How would Jon Kitna even be any upgrade?

Kitna’s career record is 46-69 (40%). He’s never won 9 games in a season in his 12 years. In fact, Kitna is 10-26 (28%) in the past three seasons, most notably being the starting quarterback for the 0-16 Detroit Lions. Experience? Technically. Bad Experience? Very much so!!

So why are we celebrating Dallas for continuing the NFL’s re-tread policy of hiring people who have failed repeatedly? Would a business company hire the guys at Enron because having experience (even if it’s negative) is better than having no experience at all? Obviously ESPN has no problem with the re-tread policy. This is like hiring Bernie Madoff to teach a Social Responsibility class!

Chadiha goes on to write, “Teams with less-experienced starters or some playoff-caliber teams are far more likely to go with an older veteran as a backup. For the teams with younger quarterbacks, the benefits here are twofold. A franchise gets a backup who is capable enough to play in a pinch and also ends up with a mentor for the starter, who's usually a high-round pick. Consider how much Kitna meant to Carson Palmer in 2004.”

My counter to that is why would you want your young quarterback to learn from an already-failed quarterback? Wouldn’t their bad playing habits and losing mentality rub off on them? Chadiha’s Palmer example is also weak at best. You could argue that Kitna’s losing ways have finally rubbed off on Palmer, who is only 32-33 as a starter, and is 15-21 the past three seasons. Are you listening Detroit?

There’s more- the article goes on to celebrate Giants’ insurance policy, David Carr, or as some of you may know as “Sacked for a loss of 10.” David Carr is a career 23-56 (29%), and averages a career 3.1 sacks per game. Another great example of “experience,” right?

The article then goes on to talk about the success of Matt Cassel last year- which is a great example of how teams should handle their situation. However, the article does not mention that New England’s approach is the exact opposite of what Dallas has done with Kitna.

My feeling about quarterbacks (and I talk about this extensively in my book, “The Pro Quarterback Manifesto”) is that teams should abide by my laid-out manifesto and use history as a tool. Without getting too in-depth, my manifesto has a few simple notions that all teams should stand by which basically include the following premises:

1) The goal for every team should be to have a B+ of higher level quarterback (aka a franchise quarterback). Having a B+ or higher quarterback has a direct correlation to playoff appearances and the Super Bowl (proof and grading formula can be viewed in my book).
2) If your team does not have a franchise quarterback- the team should continuously attempt to get one by using starts wisely on quarterbacks with little NFL experience to see if they are good or not. All NFL teams should carry at least one young quarterback on their roster because of this.
3) Never waste starts on a quarterback that is already known not to be good. This basically wastes everyone’s time, including fans and management.
4) If you’re a team with a franchise quarterback- the chances are that your team still winning if your franchise quarterback goes down are minimal- so why waste starts on a re-tread failure like David Carr, when you can see if a young quarterback can play or not? (i.e. Tom Brady, Matt Cassel)
5) Having a veteran back-up quarterback only makes sense if the playoffs are still in reach. However, even that only works for a veteran quarterback who has a good track record. For example, back-ups Jeff Garcia, Michael Vick, and Damon Huard are all veteran quarterbacks with experience winning. Quarterbacks like Jon Kitna, David Carr, or Dan Orlovsky do not fit this criterion.

With that- I’d like to ask both Cowboys and Giants fans how comfortable they would feel with their back-up situations if either starting quarterback (Romo or Manning) went down for an extended part of this upcoming season?

In that event, I bet in almost every case, a realistic fan would invest in some blindfolds.


  1. Every mentor Qb is a sub par QB. Just look at Doug Pederson for McNabb. All he did was mentor McNabb, show him the ropes and then McNabb went off on his own. Plus, if a QB mentor stinks, it also shows the younger guy what NOT to do in a game situation.

  2. Reply to J.P. Corso: In your Pederson example- couldn't they have accomplished the same thing by bringing Pederson to camp, showing McNabb around, and then cut him so McNabb can play and get experience? I'm sure teams don't say "this guy is here so he can show you what NOT to do." Wouldn't the Eagles be better off hiring Randall Cunningham to hang out with McNabb for two months instead of wasting 10 starts on Pederson/Detmer?

  3. I believe it is in the NFL rulebook that Jon Kitna must have repeative opportunities to prove he is not a pro football quarterback.

  4. First off, how is ESPN (the cable channel) hiring Herman Edwards is an analyst a re-thread? He might be good at the job.

    Second, you know Steve Young proved himself to be a failure at Tampa Bay. I guess the 49ers wasted their time letting him back up for Joe Montana...a job that Young would later turn into a starting job, becoming multi-time NFL MVP, Superbowl 29 MVP, and highest rated quaterback in NFL history.