Looking to draft Andrew Luck, RG III or Ryan Tannehill and throw him into your rebuilding lineup right away?
Perhaps the story of QB David Carr should serve as a cautionary tale.
ICONCarr was the No.1 overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft.
10 years ago Carr seemed like a no-brainer as the first selection of the 2002 NFL Draft.
He started 26 games at Fresno State. During his senior year, Carr completed 64.7 percent of his passes and led the NCAA with 4,299 passing yards and 42 touchdowns.
He not only guided his WAC team to upsets against Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin but also had the character to serve as the face of the expansion Texans. The devoted family man wears his wedding ring during games.
Carr, though, would last just five years in Houston and get sacked 249 times, including an NFL-record 76 times during his rookie season.
“The early part of his career affected him,” said Charley Casserly, the CBS NFL analyst and former Texans general manager who drafted Carr.
Carr’s first two games of his NFL career could serve as a microcosm for the rest.
Starting from the opening snap, he showcased his talent and moxie, leading the Texans to a triumphant, 19-10, upset against the in-state rival and blueblood, Dallas Cowboys, in Week One. With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Carr threw a 65-yard TD pass to Corey Bradford to give Houston the lead.
The following week the Chargers defeated the Texans, 24-3, sacking Carr nine times and hitting him a dozen more. Watching him take a beating, some teammates wondered how he could even focus to call the next play.
Carr would get up each time, taking every snap that day, but the cumulative sacks eventually would take their toll on the potential star.
The Texans’ offensive blueprint
Houston had a plan to jumpstart the new franchise while protecting its rookie quarterback.
Casserly did not view Carr as an elite quarterback but a capable one who could lead them to the playoffs.
“I thought he could be a good, solid quarterback in the league,” Casserly said. “I looked at him as a guy who could win 10 games.”
After drafting Carr, the Texans would surround him with playmaking talent. In 2003 they selected Andre Johnson, one of the NFL’s best receivers, and Domanick Davis, the Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year who later changed his surname to Williams.
Before they began playing in 2002, the Texans solidified the interior of their offensive line. They signed C Steve McKinney as a free agent and selected guards Chester Pitts and Fred Weary during the NFL draft.
Prior to that draft, Houston seemingly had taken care of the all-important tackle positions during the expansion draft.
So that the Jaguars could fit under the salary cap, they agreed to let the Texans have DL Gary Walker and Seth Payne if they also took a formerly elite but aging and expensive pass protector in OT Tony Boselli.
“We knew Boselli was at the second part of his career,” Casserly said, “but didn’t see any reason he couldn’t be an effective, pass blocking left tackle.”
After selecting Boselli, The Texans chose OT Ryan Young, a talented former Jet with their second pick.
Injuries, though, would plague both players.
Although he passed the physicals, Boselli, the first pick of the expansion draft, would never play a down for Texans because of a shoulder injury. A torn groin and a knee injury would limit Young to seven games, and lingering ailments would end his NFL career one year later.
“With the two of them, I think it’s a different story,” Casserly said. “We were never able to get the offensive tackle position right.”
Behind a porous offensive line, Carr never became comfortable. He developed happy feet. He lost confidence.
And he would face further adversity. Houston fans clamored for the team to select local favorite, QB Vince Young, with its first overall pick of the 2006 draft.
The Texans went with Mario Williams instead, and Young’s Titans defeated them twice in 2006. During the Titans’ 26-20, overtime victory in Houston, Young won the game with a 39-yard TD run.
It overshadowed the fact that Carr led the NFL in completion percentage that year.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Casserly said.
The day after trading for QB Matt Schaub, the Texans released Carr, who completed 60 percent of his passes for 59 touchdowns and 65 interceptions during his 22-53 tenure with the team.
Further adversity and injuri
Other theories emerged as to why Carr did not fulfill his potential.
Though a good-hearted and community-oriented man, Carr may not have possessed the passion toward football needed to be an elite quarterback. The Houston Chronicle reported he was often one of the first to leave the facility.
His three-quarter throwing motion was heavily scrutinized, and coaches tinkered with his delivery.
Regardless, he certainly possessed one positive — toughness.
A hand injury suffered by backup QB Tony Banks forced Carr into action against the Falcons during Week 13 of the 2003 season despite a sprained throwing shoulder. He, though, rumbled for 36 yards on a 3rd-and-5 play, enduring a hit to his shoulder instead of sliding.
Carolina, who signed him to a two-year contract, had planned to sit him behind Jake Delhomme for the 2007 season, but injuries again thrust a hurt Carr into the lineup. Carr started four games and completed 53.7 percent of passes for 635 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions despite playing through a back injury he did not disclose publically.
He spent the next two years with the Giants before playing in one game during the 2010 season for the 49ers, a poor environment for grooming quarterbacks at the time.
Ask Alex Smith.
After the lockout Carr had several opportunities to become a backup for other playoff contenders but chose to return to the Giants where he knew the offensive system and felt comfortable.
A free agent during the 2012 offseason, Carr, 32, again re-signed with the Giants.
In a cruel and ironic twist, he sits behind Eli Manning, another quarterback drafted No. 1 overall, while the Texans have built one of the NFL’s best OL units.
Jeff Fedotin has written for Packers.com, Pro Football Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and Rivals.com. After graduating from Northwestern University, he interned for the Buffalo Bills.
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