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Roundtable: What makes a quarterback a “franchise guy?”

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The Mile High Report staff discussed what actually makes a quarterback a franchise guy for an NFL team.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-City Views
It’s been awhile since the Broncos last had a true franchise guy.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How do you define franchise quarterback?

What would it take for Drew Lock or ____ to prove himself as “the guy”?

Taylor: My personal definition of a franchise QB is “good enough that the team awards him a 4+ year 2nd contract at or near the top of the QB market”. My definition of a franchise QB makes determining that a necessarily long term thing, so in the shorter term “the guy” is the QB who the franchise’s hopes are resting on. In order to become “the guy”, Lock needs to either beat Flacco outright or otherwise replace him. I’d prefer it to be the former, because that’ll mean he’s really earned it.

Right now the guys who fit my definition include Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, and Jimmy Garoppolo.

A few of those guys are teetering on the brink of falling out of franchise QB status. We’ll see what the future holds for guys like Andy Dalton, Eli Manning, and Derek Carr. And several others may retire soon. But as odd as a couple of those names look on the list considering their context, I judge whether a guy is a “franchise QB” or not based on the team’s long term, substantial commitment to him (or lack thereof) after having observed him in the league for a couple of years.

Kyle B: Goff and Mahomes also came to mind.

Joe M: I define franchise QB as a QB who can consistently win games with his arm even under adverse conditions like poor OL play, poor running game and limited talent at receiver. Franchise QBs are the QBs that you can’t stop, you can only really contain. A true franchise QB elevates the play of those around him.

Ian: In other words, “Elite!”

Kyle: My personal definition of a QB is a leader that can walk through fire with the same confidence and grit that separates the greatest American war heroes. Someone you can trust in, and someone you would lay your life on the line for in the hopes that this particular starting QB can help you achieve your wildest dreams.

It would take a Joe Flacco injury which is likely

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers
It doesn’t sound like Kyle believes Flacco can become “the guy” for Denver.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

JoRo: For me there’s two big things a signal caller must do to reach “Franchise QB” status.

1. His play needs to become consistently good enough that his team is no longer desperately searching for a better option to replace him. While every team wants a top 10 quarterback, in reality there are a lot of starting signal callers that are hovering around league average at the position.

I would say the Colts, Saints, Chiefs, Seahawks, Steelers, Patriots, Falcons, Packers, Chargers, Lions, Texans, Panthers, Rams, Eagles, Browns, and Cowboys believe they have franchise quarterbacks. Things could change if Prescott or Wentz get hurt, or if one of the older guys begins a significant decline, however.

In that same vein: the Panthers, Vikings, 49ers, Buccaneers, Titans, Bengals, Ravens, Bears, Bills, Jets, Jaguars, Cardinals, Washington, and Raiders are committed to guys they hope can be “franchise guys” into the foreseeable future. Some of those hopes look more foolish than others.

Which brings me to the other aspect that defines a true franchise quarterback in my mind:

2. He’s a guy you can win “because of” rather than in spite of. It’s much smaller group and those are the guys you happily commit a big chunk of your cap to. It’s why there was so much chatter around the NFL when rumors surfaced that Seattle and Russell Wilson may be heading for a split. He’s the spoon that stirs the drink in the Pacific Northwest.

A true franchise guy is worth the money in part because he covers up for some of the shortcomings elsewhere on the roster. Peyton Manning is the most infamous of these, as everyone remembers the Colts going from 10-6 in 2010 to 2-14 without him in 2011. The supporting cast is important, but you only have to look at what Tom Brady has done with mostly spare parts and role players to appreciate what he’s meant to the Patriots system for so long.

Gun to my head I would say there’s currently 12 true franchise guys in the league: Mahomes, Luck, Brees, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rodgers, Rivers, Wilson, Watson, Wentz and Mayfield.

Adam: This is my definition of a franchise quarterback.

Adam holds QBs to a pretty high standard.

Ian: I’m with Adam and Joe Mahoney. Franchise quarterbacks are rare, top of the shelf, you know it when you see it. As with Peyton Freaking Manning, they raise all boats. Or in this sense, raise the franchise. Regardless of the circumstances or talent, they win.

Jeff: I would define a franchise QB as a guy who you can win because of, not just with or in spite of.

I slightly disagree with the “raise all boats” notion, because, while true to an extent, it sets expectations that if you’re “good enough” or “elite enough” you don’t need the additional support around you to win. That kind of thinking is what leads to terrible drafting and roster building around guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers for the bulk of their careers. And it’s a tricky balance between a guy who could look the part if they had just a little more support, and a guy who is needing to be propped up his entire career.

The ultimate litmus test then, may be, if you’re down four in the 4th quarter and have two minutes and 80 yards to go, is he a guy that says “gimme the damn ball” and marches down for the win? Or, does your heart sink when you get into a situation like that, or maybe a tough playoff game, because you know he’ll never be the guy who’s going to win it for you.

To the question on Lock, I think he has to show those kind of traits and do it over time. Regardless of what happens, I don’t think you can definitively answer that question this year or even next year.

What do you think Broncos Country?