In order to be successful in today’s NFL, a team must have a quarterback that the team can build itself around. However, an economic crisis has taken over the NFL. The demand for GOOD quarterbacks has gone through the roof, while the supply has remained the same. This simple economic principle can be demonstrated by the contracts that are being offered in the NFL, and also by the product that is being put on the field.
Last weekend at the NFL draft, three quarterbacks were taken in the first round, and ten were taken overall. Of the ten taken, perhaps the most controversial was Mitchell Trubisky, whom the Bears traded four picks away in order to take with the second overall pick. Why so many people found this move controversial was because Trubisky, who was one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the draft, had only started thirteen (!!) career games while in college. Trubisky’s lack of career starts, quite honestly, is not his fault though. He sat behind an upperclassman in college which is FINE, however, once he became starter his junior year, he immediately left to enter the NFL, which some coaches and scouts found unwise, as staying in college would have given him more time to develop. However, what some people seem to often forget is that while you’re playing college football you cannot make money (???). The opportunity cost of staying in college has gotten higher and higher in recent years, as there is just too much money to be left on the tables in the pros. In addition to the surpise drafting of Trubisky, this offseason the Bears made a huge splash in free agency by signing Mike Glennon to a four-year $45 million dollar contract––$15 million guaranteed. That is an astronomical amount of money for a guy who hasn’t started an NFL in the almost four years.
Trubisky is one of many examples of leaving college too early in order to go make money. Since there is no developmental league in the NFL, many different quarterbacks have endured the same situation, with Mark Sanchez being the most recent example. Additionally, Glennon is not the first unproven quarterback to be paid an absurd amount of money in the offseason (see Brock Osweiler). It is not the fault of these quarterbacks, however. The NFL’s product has diminished significantly in the past decade and a half, with so many teams that struggle to find a franchise quarterback being unable to put together more than one successful year at a time. Getting back to economics, this is exactly like having an economy that has endured a demand shock. With such a pass heavy style of play in today’s NFL, the demand for a good (emphasis on GOOD) quarterback has gone up, however the supply for a good quarterback has not changed. This has created a complete imbalance in the competitiveness of the NFL, and has led to a worse product on the field. It is so expensive to find a good quarterback, that NFL teams are overpaying greatly for their services, and kids that are in college see how much money they can make in the NFL and cannot give it up. Since the only substitute for a good quarterback is really an average to below-average quarterback, the market has had a hard time correcting itself.
The NFL must look at the quarterback market, and look at how it is affecting their product as a whole if they want to stay as America’s #1 sport. The quarterback market must see change, perhaps through a developmental league for players out of college so that they can work on their game without being thrown into the fire, much like the MLB, NHL, and recently the NBA have done. This is the only way in which the supply for good quarterbacks will be able to see change in the long run, and is something that could get the market for quarterbacks, and the market for the product that the NFL is delivering back to it optimizing quantity and price.