BALTIMORE — It's often said that the NFL draft is an imperfect science, with no greater evidence than the practice of selecting quarterbacks. A first-round signal-caller is no assurance of stability for a franchise, and a complete whiff (i.e. Jamarcus Russell) can set an organization backwards for years to come.
In Brian Billick's new book, "The Q Factor," the former Ravens coach likens drafting a franchise quarterback to "looking for a needle in a haystack ... with high-powered magnifying glasses, night goggles, big data, and Ouija boards."
In "The Q Factor," co-written with Jim Dale, Billick tracks the five first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 draft — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson — through the first two seasons of their young careers, analyzing the traits that made them so highly touted, all in pursuit of identifying more foolproof keys to predict quarterback success.
Billick spoke to The Baltimore Sun about the new book, what he sees in presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and his evaluation of Jackson six games into the 2020 season. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
— What prompted you to write this book on the 2018 first-round quarterback draft class so early in their careers?
— Jim Dale approached me prior to the 2018 draft about the very question: Why do we keep missing? Why is it 50-50 at best? With the analytics and the experience and all the resources we throw at it, it's still a 50-50 crapshoot as to whether a first-round quarterback is going to be successful or not.
2018 looked to be a draft that was going to be at least four or five guys (in the first round). So it just seemed like a good time to look at, by using that draft, the process itself. What is it about the process? Can it be marginally better to try to avoid that 50-50 crapshoot?
— In your own words, what is "The Q Factor" and why did you decide for that to be the title?
— "The Q Factor" is obviously in reference to the quarterback. But it's a euphemism for all leadership positions. Businesses are constantly looking to acquire top talent, whether it's a CFO, CEO, CCO. Leadership in business is as important, or more important than it is in football.