Finding a franchise quarterback is the most important duty of any NFL general manager, which is why sometimes it's best to wait.
The Los Angeles Rams, desperate to build anticipation for their first season back in L.A., decided to ignore that advice. Last week, the Rams traded for the top pick in this year's draft Thursday, surrendering their first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round selections (Nos. 43 and 45) and a third-round pick (No. 76) in 2016 to the Titans. Tennessee also will receive the Rams' first- and third-round picks in 2017.
The Rams made this deal in order to ensure they would be able to draft the quarterback of their choosing next week. Although the signs point to them taking Jared Goff, reports from last week suggest they didn't know who the pick would be when they made the trade:
Rams have traded with Tennessee for the top pick in the draft -- Carson Wentz is the presumed target.— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) April 14, 2016
Rams lean Jared Goff today, but one reason they made trade now was to get two weeks to debate top 2 QBs because "both are going to be good."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 14, 2016
Both quarterbacks are making trips to L.A. this week to meet with the team.
The Eagles acted just as irrationally as the Rams
It was just 51 days ago when the Philadelphia Eagles inked Sam Bradford to a two-year, $36 million extension. But now, they've mortgaged their future conceivably for a chance to draft either Wentz or Goff.
Philadelphia dealt the No. 2 pick to the Browns Wednesday in exchange for its first-round selection (No. 8), plus a third-round pick and fourth-round pick this year. The Eagles will also surrender their first-round draft choice in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018 as well.
Bradford's performance last season left a lot to be desired, but it's baffling as to why the Eagles would commit to him less than two months ago only to seemingly back away just one week before the draft.
As the rest of the NFL besides the Rams and Eagles learned from the RG3 trade four years ago, these all-in moves have a propensity to blow up on teams. Washington sent a plethora of draft picks to the Rams in 2012 to move up and draft Griffin, whose tumultuous tenure in the nation's capital ended last month.
The Rams hosed Washington in that deal, acquiring three starters -- left tackle Greg Robinson, middle linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins also enjoyed four very productive seasons before signing a big contract with the Giants in free agency.
Since this will again be a big storyline this week, here's a full breakdown of "the trade." pic.twitter.com/fC6OmXHOoD— Casey Pearce (@ccpearce) September 15, 2015
It's OK to wait
There's little doubt the Rams, who had the worst passing attack in the league last season, are in dire need of an upgrade at quarterback. But there are ways to improve upon Nick Foles and Case Keenum without mortgaging the future, like signing a bridge veteran QB such as Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of feeling obligated to draft the hot name of the moment -- especially if you're not convinced he's going to be a superstar.
The words "bridge veteran" are probably anathema to Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who spent more than $1.8 billion on a new stadium in L.A. that will be the world's most expensive sports complex when it opens its doors. But the glitz surrounding Wentz or Goff will wane if they struggle in the pros, regardless of their No. 1 draft status.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson says he thinks both Goff and Wentz can be franchise quarterbacks; however, Philadelphia doesn't seem to have its eyes set on either player specifically. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman says he would be comfortable selecting either quarterback, meaning he just made the biggest trade of his career for the privilege of drafting the Rams' leftover pizza.
Given that the Eagles just invested in Bradford, a former No. 1 pick himself, this trade reeks of short-sightedness. A team that finished 7-9 with one of the worst defenses in the NFL should be investing its resources in some other areas.
On top of that, the deal has predictably ticked off Bradford as well. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Bradford is "hot" and "wants to show everyone who's best." There's no guarantee the Eagles have improved their quarterback situation, but they've certainly introduced a lot of drama to their locker room long before training camp has even begun.
Those who don't learn from history ...
Make no mistake: Trading into the top five or top 10 to take a quarterback seldom works out. Since 1990, RG3, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick, Ryan Leaf, Kerry Collins and Jeff George were all taken by teams that moved into the top third of the first round to select them. Vick is the only one of those players who had success for more than just one season.
This year's prizes, Wentz and Goff, have a number of question marks. Wentz has the physical tools to be a top-tier NFL quarterback, but the lack of strong competition he faced at North Dakota State remains a legitimate concern. Goff faced quality opponents playing in the Pac-12, yet there are ample concerns about his timing and accuracy.
If a team feels strongly about a young quarterback coming up through the draft, of course it should try to acquire him at all costs. But QB-starved franchises shouldn't feel obligated to draft someone whom they're ambivalent about just because it would generate headlines. If the right guy isn't there, it's best to move on.
In this case, it seems as if the Rams and Eagles are enamored with the idea of selecting a quarterback at the top of the draft this year, but not with Wentz or Goff specifically. That's a dangerous approach.
History shows buzz doesn't win football games, but teams continue to ignore the lessons they've been taught.