I’m sure many Falcon fans want the Falcons to pursue Byron Leftwich, but I don’t think this would be a good move.
Now let me say this off the bat. I think Byron Leftwich is a much better quarterback than Joey Harrington. I believe that Leftwich is somewhat underrated by the world at large, and when he’s healthy, is one of the better passers around.
But that’s the real issue isn’t it? Leftwich hasn’t stayed healthy for an entire season, and if a team was to acquire him, you would certainly have to be sold on your depth. This lack of durability makes Leftwich unreliable as a starter.
Also, Leftwich has repeatedly clashed with coaches, from his head coach to his position coaches and offensive coordinators. Reportedly, one of the reasons why Bill Musgrave was fired in Jacksonville back in 2004 was because he clashed heavily with Leftwich. At the time, the Jaguars were willing to placate their franchise passer. But clearly, Leftwich didn’t work well with Carl Smith, otherwise the team woudl not have been so quick to dump him this year, and if Dick Koetter their current OC really loved Leftwich, he wouldn’t be unemployed today. That has to concern me seriously if I’m a team looking to acquire Leftwich. Sure, he’s certainly talented, but barring his old Marshall coaches making the jump to the pro, I have to believe that he is not going to mesh well with a given coaching staff.
Frankly, if I’m McKay or Petrino, I’d certainly revisit Leftwich come the off-season. But for now, I really believe this is Joey Harrington’s team. And yes, it’s a shame, but Harrington’s confidence is so fragile, I wouldn’t take the risk of shaking it by adding another quarterback.
The Falcons don’t need to be looking for their next franchise passer during this season. That’s something to be addressed in the off-season, so rather than this team focusing on acquiring young promising, but obviously underachieving passers, they instead need to simply focus on securing depth.
That in my eyes means passing on Leftwich (for now) and looking at other options. I like Tim Rattay. Remember the Falcons thought hard about signing Rattay back in late March, a few weeks before they began to court Harrington. Rattay is an ideal No. 2 due to his experience as a starter. He doesn’t have a big arm, but after a month’s preparation should be ahead of Redman on the depth chart and ready to play in case of injury.
The next best option would be Craig Nall. Nall is sort of one of those guys with a lot of upside. He hasn’t played much in the NFL, but shined in Europe a few years ago. He’s untested, but he’s a big guy with a big arm and has generally been impressive by all intents and purposes while in Buffalo the past two years. Now, you’re saying how can that be the case if he was just released. Well, Nall’s release has less to do with his play it seems and more to do with the Bills trying to make room and create opportunities for Trent Edwards this year. When the Bills brought in Nall a year ago, he was expected to potentially challenge Losman for the starting job. Given the season Losman had in ’06 and the drafting of Edwards, that dream faded.
Following Nall on my short list is Ken Dorsey. Dorsey has experience as an NFL starter, and generally has been pretty good. He’s just had the unfortunate pleasure of playing on some bad teams (49ers and Browns). He was 2-8 while in San Fran as a starter, not exactly a great percentage. But when you consider that Rattay, Cody Pickett, and Alex Smith combined to be 4-18 during that time, Dorsey doesn’t look so bad.
I know none of those candidates pop out like a Leftwich, but I just don’t think you should be trying to add a starting quarterback in September. And let’s face it, if Leftwich were added, there would be a spoken or unspoken agreement between him and the organization that he’d get a chance to start in the near future. Instead, we should leave those endeavors for the off-season. I’d rather see the Falcons sign one of the three above candidates just as a stopgap to push Redman. Then I’d like to see Leftwich sign a one-year deal with another team, which will give us time to evaluate him outside of Jacksonville, then if we so choose can opt to sign him in March.