The United States Football League held Day 1 of its inaugural player draft last night. With the league opting to keep its available player pool a mystery until draft day, it was kind of exciting to finally get to see which formerly big names in the NFL and college football we’d see take the field for this reincarnated league from the ’80s.
With the first overall pick, the Michigan Panthers selected former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. It was an interesting pick to say the least. There were a few quarterbacks taken in the first round who had been drafted by NFL teams prior: Kyle Lauletta, Alex McGough, and Clayton Thorson. Why not go with someone who at least demonstrated NFL draft-worthy potential during their collegiate careers? Obviously, every team has different needs and the team’s coach, Jeff Fisher, likely wanted the player he thought best fit his style. Although perhaps he was just so satisfied with routinely going 7-9 in the NFL that he thought he’d carry that legacy into the USFL as well (I guess that would equal 4-6 or 5-5 over a 10-game schedule). Who knows?
Whatever the reason, if Patterson is so highly-touted as to be taken before literally everyone else, then it was probably a good pick. The USFL draft works differently than most. Teams couldn’t just take whoever they wanted. Each round was specifically meant for one positional group. Round 1 was quarterbacks, but a second quarterback couldn’t be drafted until Round 12 — the final round of Day 1. This is where teams would be able to pick their backups.
The names that went flying off the boards were pretty standard given the level of talent taken in the first round. After a series of standout college quarterbacks who couldn’t quite make it to the NFL, it was time for the final pick of the day. The Panthers were on the clock and they selected...former NFL first-round quarterback Paxton Lynch?
Wha—? How in the—? Paxton Lynch is going to be backing up Shea Patterson? Well, I assume they’ll battle it out for the starting gig prior to the season, but the Panthers essentially drafted Lynch to be Patterson’s backup. A former first-round NFL talent who started games for the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos his rookie season is now backing up underwhelming college quarterback Shea Patterson?
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Lynch saga in Denver obviously didn’t pan out. Lynch was too infatuated with playing video games and struggled in the face of adversity. Although he couldn’t beat out Trevor Siemian for the team’s starting role his first two seasons and was out of the league his third, the ability is clearly there, otherwise John Elway, Gary Kubiak, and company wouldn’t have drafted him in 2016, right? So, the fact that he wasn’t even drafted as a starter for the first season in the USFL is just a testament to how horribly Lynch fumbled the bag on his football career.
Lynch, still only 28, had the table set for him. He was placed on a Super Bowl-winning roster immediately. His team had won its division five years in a row prior to drafting him. His physical attributes were highly touted by legendary quarterback John Elway.
He had it made! But that “enthusiasm” that Elway saw in Lynch never amounted in the NFL. When the game of football tried to welcome Lynch with open arms, Lynch couldn’t reciprocate. While he never reached the heights of someone like Johnny Manziel, Lynch’s downfall is just as tragic.
I hope that as Lynch rides the bench behind Patterson, he looks back on his football career and remembers what could’ve been. He’s got nobody to blame but himself, and everyday he’s getting closer and closer to rock bottom.