With the signing of Michael Vick on Friday, Smith’s starting job is in jeopardy. To be fair, Smith lost his starting job after struggling last season, but at least he could have dismissed it as the normal struggles of a rookie. Smith is learning that being a high draft pick does not ensure job security in the NFL.
Mark Sanchez (first round/2009), Josh Freeman (first round/2009), Tim Tebow (first round/2010), Jimmy Clausen (second round/2010), Blaine Gabbert (first round/2011), Christian Ponder (first round/2011) and Brandon Weeden (first round/2012) were high draft picks which were given up on within a few seasons. Sanchez and Freeman had four-year runs as starters before being replaced, while Weeden was released after two seasons and recently signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith is not on that list yet, but is dangerously close.
The majority of those young quarterbacks lost their opportunity to start because of regime changes. John Elway quickly replaced Tebow after taking over as executive vice president of football operations; Carolina hired Ron Rivera, which led to Clausen’s quick demise; Gus Bradley was hired as Jacksonville’s coach last season and traded Gabbert this offseason; Cleveland’s coaching and front-office changes contributed to Weeden’s release.
Sanchez and Ponder were benched last season by the coaches who drafted them.
Of course, none of the aforementioned quarterbacks were benched after excelling on the field. They all struggled and arguably deserved to lose their jobs. Even when Freeman was given an opportunity to resurrect his career in Minnesota last season, he played poorly.
The biggest reason teams are giving up on quarterbacks so quickly is the rookie wage scale that was introduced during the recent collective bargaining agreement. Teams no longer must invest a lot of money into a high draft pick, like the $50 million guaranteed St. Louis gave Sam Bradford in 2010.
Technically, Smith is still New York’s starter. If Smith emerges from training camp as the starter, everyone within the organization will say signing Vick gave him an extra push.
However, if Smith loses his job, he will unwillingly join an exclusive club.
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