It's time to weigh in. That's right, I want to go on record right now, so here it is:
The kid's gonna be just fine. He's going to be the quarterback "Shack" Harris and Jack Del Rio envisioned when they made him the seventh pick of the draft. Byron Leftwich is going to develop into a star-quality quarterback and he will lead this team into its future. When that day arrives, he will be the identity of this franchise and the same people who are now his harshest critics will become his most ardent supporters.
Those are the opinions of this reporter. I want there to be no mistake that they are my thoughts and if what I've written does not come true, I want you to remind me of my mistake. I am taking full responsibility for my observations, but I ask this of you: Give it time before you decide I'm wrong.
How much time? A lot of time. One more week isn't enough. Give it one more season, at the least. That's the way it is with young quarterbacks. They all require time … all of them except Dan Marino, of course.
I'm not going to bore you with the details of John Elway's rookie season, or any other quarterback's, for that matter, including Peyton Manning's 28 interceptions or the fact that Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper and Michael Vick barely played. I'm not even going to remind you that the NFL's only other starting rookie quarterback this season, Kyle Boller, is last in the AFC in passer rating, despite having played one of the NFL's softest schedules and in an offense that boasts the league's leading rusher.
Never mind that last year's MVP, Rich Gannon, is a rating point beneath Leftwich and has thrown one fewer touchdown pass. Discount the fact that Drew Bledsoe, who threw two touchdown passes against the Jaguars two weeks before Leftwich became a starter, has also thrown one fewer touchdown pass than Leftwich.
I guess we should also ignore a statistical comparison to David Carr, last season's number one overall draft choice, who is just one spot ahead of Leftwich in the AFC passer ratings and has thrown six touchdown passes to Leftwich's seven and eight interceptions to Leftwich's nine.
You know, you might want to take a look at where Leftwich fits among AFC quarterbacks. Once you get past McNair and Manning, he fits. Truth be known, most teams would trade their guy for Leftwich right now. Baltimore would do it. San Diego, Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland would certainly do it.
All the kid needs is some work. I don't have to tell you that. You know it. You're a bright football mind. You know this is all about learning and development and time and patience. It's just that losing is so difficult to accept and you're tired of waiting. But you also don't have a choice.
This is the way it is and this is the way it's going to be.
One day, losing will become winning and maybe you'll think back to this prophecy. One day, quarterback will be the one position on this team that's not a problem and maybe you'll remember how short-term pain produced long-term gain.
I'm saying that I've covered plenty of young quarterbacks who didn't make it and it's my opinion Leftwich will be one who does. His eyes are down the field, he knows what he wants to do with the ball and it appears he has the ability to do it. What more do I need to see?
I envision the development of a pass-blocking offensive line in front of him and the addition of a star-quality wide receiver and I imagine what Leftwich will be when it all comes together. That's what I see and that's what I believe and, if I'm wrong, I'll welcome your reprimand. But you gotta give it time.
If you wanna play the I-told-you-so game, you gotta wait. That's the first rule of this game.