Have you seen that video of Tom Brady running a 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, now showing regularly on the Internet?

It's not a pretty sight.

Picture the class nerd running from bullies to avoid an atomic wedgie.

They didn't need a stopwatch to time him; they could have used a sundial. Or One Mississippi, two Mississippi ...

Which shows you how meaningless all those combine tests can be. All Brady has done is win three Super Bowls.

Let's face it, evaluating a quarterback is a crapshoot. Which seems noteworthy while the NFL is undertaking its annual spring Easter Egg hunt for the next great quarterback. They evaluate them with Wonderlic tests, 40-yard dash times, vertical leaps, three-cone drills, interviews and film. Based on history, you wonder why they don't just throw darts at the draft board while wearing a blindfold.

So here's the question: Why risk multimillion-dollar contracts and leverage an entire franchise by taking a quarterback high in the first round of the draft? For every Manning brother, there is a Ryan Leaf and Heath Shuler.

Wouldn't it be less costly and more sensible to pilfer another team's roster for a backup quarterback who has had the luxury of learning the game for a couple of years on the sideline, or to wait until the later rounds to draft one?

Brady was a sixth-round pick, 199th overall, in the 2000 draft. He had to wait a year before he got his chance.

Marc Bulger was a sixth-round pick by New Orleans the same year. He didn't play for two years, and then was signed by the Rams and became a Pro Bowl player.

Derek Anderson was the Ravens' sixth-round draft pick in 2005 (213th overall). He was claimed off waivers by the Browns and become a star in 2007.

Matt Hasselbeck was the Packers' sixth-round pick in 1998. He took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl and became the franchise's all-time passing leader.

Brett Favre was a second-round pick (33rd overall). He was the Falcons' backup when the Packers picked him up in his second year, and the rest is history.

Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent in 2003 and didn't get on the field until 2006. Jon Kitna, another solid pro quarterback, was also an undrafted free agent. Kurt Warner had to play in Europe and the AFL before he was signed as a free agent by the Rams. Then he took them to the Super Bowl.

Jeff Garcia had to play in Canada before he was signed by an NFL team and became a Pro Bowl player. Trent Green was an eighth-round draft pick.

Meanwhile, teams throw away millions of dollars on quarterbacks drafted in the first round who become labeled as busts — Rick Mirer, Tim Couch, Heath Shuler, Mike Vick (yes, he can be considered a bust), JP Losman, Joey Harrington, Ryan Leaf and many more.

Alex Smith is already starting to hear the B word. Vince Young looks more and more like another Vick.

You almost wonder if being a high first-round pick is simply too much for a quarterback when you listen to BYU quarterback coach Brandon Doman, a former NFL quarterback.

"It's a tough position to evaluate," he says. "And these teams are going to spend a guaranteed $36 million on a first-round pick and hope he'll fix the team. It's not likely. Look at the history. Teams are in such dire need of change, and they're hoping this guy will be a quick fix. Then the quarterback gets thrown into the fire before he's ready, and he gets beat up and loses confidence and coaches lose jobs and all the pressure is on him. Now (the quarterback) is dealing with a wide range of other problems. He's not just playing football."

The Browns gave Couch a $48 million rookie contract in '99. He hasn't played in a game since 2003. Ryan Leaf signed a $31 million contract as a rookie. His NFL career lasted 25 games. There are many more stories just like those.

But there are bargains out there. The Falcons committed more than $100 million to Vick while picking up Matt Schaub in the third round in 2004. Schaub is the better pro quarterback.

The 49ers nabbed Young for second- and fourth-round draft picks and later signed Garcia as a free agent from the Canadian league. The Seahawks obtained Hasselbeck from the Packers for late-round draft picks. Bulger and Anderson were signed after serving as backups for other teams.

It's not only better for the teams, it's better for the quarterbacks, who tend to thrive when they are not rushed into action as rookies. The best thing that ever happened to Steve Young was when the 49ers obtained him from Tampa Bay and gave him clipboard duty for a few years. Others who stood on the sideline for a year or more waiting to play: Anderson, Warner, Brady, Favre, Bulger, Romo.

"I believe every quarterback needs three years on the sideline," says Doman. "That would be ideal. Three years in a system is going to give them a chance to see some live bullets without taking the entire load. But most play too soon. It's happening in high school, college and the pros — if they don't get to play in their first year, they pack their bags. They lack patience. It requires coaches to have patience, too."


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