We all know that the quarterback is the most important position in football. Finding the right quarterback is key to the success of a franchise. Finding that guy is easier said than done. So how is the best way to get yourself a franchise quarterback? Is it through free agency, a trade, or the draft?
The large majority of franchise quarterbacks are taken by their teams in the draft and develop into stars with the team that drafted them. Rarely does a quarterback like Peyton Manning reach free agency. The Arizona Cardinals are a team that have pretty much always been in search of that franchise quarterback.
The closest the Cardinals came to having a true franchise quarterback was when Kurt Warner took them on a magical run to the Super Bowl. Even Warner was pretty much an accident. Warner was let go by St. Louis due to injuries and ended up backing up Eli Manning in New York. The Cardinals signed him to back up and mentor Matt Leinart. The rest is history. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Warner retired before finishing his contract with the team due to concerns about the effects of concussions. Looks like Warner may have been on to something there.
Although the Cardinals have never been able to draft a true franchise quarterback it isn’t for a lack of trying. Since 1977 the Cardinals have taken 18 different quarterbacks in the draft, including three in the first round.
So who is the best quarterback the Cardinals have ever drafted?
Neil Lomax was taken in the second round of the 1981 draft; 33rd overall. Over a short eight year career, all with the Cardinals, Lomax threw for over 22,000 yards with 136 touchdowns and 90 interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl twice and led the league in passing in 1987. He retired early due to a nagging injury that eventually required him to have his hip replaced.
Despite a 47-52-2 career record, he posted those solid statistics. It’s even more impressive when you factor in that Lomax was sacked 227 times over the final four seasons he played. That includes a 61-sack season he suffered in 1985. Imagine how poor of a line Lomax was playing behind in St. Louis that season. That number is worse than any of the debacles of an offensive line the Cardinals had in 2010, 2011 or 2012 when those lines each allowed at least 50 sacks.
This is the same player who threw for an NCAA record seven touchdowns…in one quarter of a game. That was one of 90 NCAA records he held in whole or in part when he played at Portland State University.
An honorable mention goes to former Arizona State Sun Devil Jake Plummer who was also taken in the second round by the Cardinals in 1997. Plummer was known for his athleticism and his ability to get outside the pocket and throw on the run. Plummer would probably be far more successful in today’s NFL. Plummer played six mostly losing seasons in Arizona before moving on to play four productive seasons with the Denver Broncos, including his lone Pro Bowl season.
Plummer (pictured) was under center when the Cardinals went 9-7 in 1998 and made the playoffs. They beat Dallas in the first round 20-7 and advanced to take on a 15-1 Minnesota squad. It didn’t end well as the Vikings crushed the Cardinals 41-21 inside the Metrodome.
Until Kurt Warner came along a decade later, this was the only playoff win the Cardinals had since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1988.
Lomax and Plummer were the most successful quarterbacks the Cardinals have drafted. Check back tomorrow to find out the worst pick the team has spent on a quarterback.