Warren Moon: QB play shows NFL needs a developmental league

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Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon thinks he knows why NFL ratings are down, and what can be done to turn things around.

Moon told USA Today that quarterbacks aren’t good enough to produce the kind of entertaining offensive football that fans enjoy.

“If this is going to be a quarterback-driven league, the quarterback has to be coached better,” Moon said. “There’s a lot of bad quarterbacking out there.”

Moon proposes that the NFL start a developmental league with a specific goal in mind of giving good coaching to promising young quarterbacks.

“The NFL needs a farm system, like it used to have with NFL Europe,” Moon said. “It gives them those reps. Think about guys like Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna and Brad Johnson, who all played overseas and benefitted from the experience.”

The problem with a developmental league is that it would cost the NFL’s owners a lot of money to get it started. That’s why owners have so far been lukewarm to the idea. Moon, however, thinks a developmental league would be a wise investment.

94 responses to “Warren Moon: QB play shows NFL needs a developmental league

  1. He’s right. Quite a few good players came from NFLE and went on to have good careers in the NFL.

    Goodell and his cronies would rather dumb down level of play for parity though, so I doubt this will happen.

  2. Sounds great. Except for the fact that people are already sick and tired of paying so much for the pro experience, hard to imagine they would have any interest in minor league football. They tried this with the USFL and the CFL and arena league- no one cares.

    Not to mention you then introduce players to several more years of injury risk, which would presumably become an even bigger liability for the NFL.

  3. NBA has an awful development league.

    NFL should have a few in small market areas where they can make money and not break their banks, all while developing players. Maybe 8 cities top.

    Do not have a TV contract, have them on the internet where the NFL does not have to spend money, and if people want to watch, they can watch the games for $5 bucks.

    It really isn’t brain surgery.

  4. The NFL owners already have a 100% free farm system. It’s called college football.

    Attendance/ratings/viewers are down for a hundred different reasons but fans knowledgeable discernment of what is and what is not good quarterback play is not one of them.

  5. horsecrap….brady, farve, Montana, marino, young, aikman, Elway, etc etc etc…never went to any freakin development league

  6. Its not just the QB position that needs developing, teams rarely go full speed in camp or during the season practices with all the CBA rules so its no wonder the game is worse and the players are not used to the contact they play at on game day. Developmental league develops all levels of staff, officials etc as well. If you do it don’t restrict the contact like the big boys do or you wont be developing anybody.

  7. How the NFL didn’t see this coming years ago is beyond me.

    If they knew and didn’t do anything about it, that’s even worse.

    The league is full of RB’s at the QB position and it’s terrible.

  8. I actually think it would be better to develop offensive lineman. Colleges are doing a disservice to traditional O-line play. QB’s are just suffering from poor protection.

  9. Yes yes yes! Been saying this for years. College does not prepare players well for the NFL.

    It would take a lot of upfront investment, but look at the potential expansion of the fan base for the local farm teams that would create new local loyalties to teams and players.

    MBA figured this out – we have local AAA farm team and it’s a blast to go to the games. I would kill for a local AAA NFL farm team.

    I think the NFL is being short-sighted.

  10. The bigger problem is College offenses becoming so gimicky, and so far from pro style, QB’s basically have to re-learn the position after getting drafted.

  11. That’s funny because ESPN just put out an article with evidence to claim that QB play is as good as it’s ever been. It’s just that we are exposed to the ugly stuff now more often than we have been in the past, especially with the forced Thursday Night games. I think I agree more with the article than with Warren Moon.

  12. I would prefer the NFL create a lower tier league like the English Premier League, where the worst major teams drop to the minors and the best minor teams can graduate to the majors, as opposed to an MLB style farm league where each of the minor teams are wholly owned subsidiaries of a a major team. But the greed of the owners and unwillingness to share their pie will likely prevent that from ever happening.

  13. I agree, a developmental league would be a wise investment, especially compared to our owner’s stock we have in Green Bay.

  14. In theory the NCAA is supposed to be like the “developmental” league. Problem is the best QB in college mostly play in spread offenses and most don’t fare well in the NFL. I think the college style of play does a disservice to QBs in preparing them for the next level. It really just prepares them to play college football. So you do need more QBs that can be successful in the NFL but they need to play in an NFL system against quality talent.

  15. NFL owners are the absolute WORST.

    Two things that will improve the product:

    1) Pay the zebras. Full time refs are a must. The fact that the NFL has existed under its current system for so long is comical amd sad all at once.

    2) Developmental league funded with the massive profits that the league generates.

    Better product, more ratings, more $$$ for everyone.

    Except the fans, they’ll still get worked.

    Go Raiders

  16. I don’t know if it’s a case of the newer QB’s coming in just aren’t that good, their scouting was that bad, or what, but there is definitely a drop off in talent. Of course offensive schemes have changed as well along with the amount of patience teams and fans have for a QB to perform. I’d hate to be a QB in the NFL right now.

  17. The answer is holographic development rooms. Quarterback schools that NFL have that dial up defenses and use a holodeck technolgy to develop the skills. But i thought it was 75% mental.

  18. liberalmel says:
    Nov 3, 2016 11:42 AM
    NBA has an awful development league.

    NFL should have a few in small market areas where they can make money and not break their banks, all while developing players. Maybe 8 cities top.

    Do not have a TV contract, have them on the internet where the NFL does not have to spend money, and if people want to watch, they can watch the games for $5 bucks.

    It really isn’t brain surgery.
    NBA Players to come from the Dleague:

    Hassan Whiteside – All start who just got a max contract
    Danny Green – Spurs starter/6th man
    Marcin Gortat – Starter on multiple NBA teams
    Shaun Livingston – Starter
    Matt Barnes – NBA champion, starter and roleplayer
    Jeremy Lin- Starter on multiple NBA teams
    Gerarld Green – rotation player in the NBA
    Chris Birdman Anderson – NBA Starter for years
    JJ Barea – Crucial role player on NBA finals winner

    You don’t need a TV contract. You need owners who can swallow some cash for the future of their team

  19. The most logical thing to do would be to team up with the CFL and work out some sort of agreement. They already have the frame work in place so it would be easier than trying to start a whole new league from scratch.

  20. the league could be perfect and people would still complain. human nature.

    sure, there is poor quarterbacking in the league. But there is also a lot of AMAZING quarterbacking in the league. There are at least 3 sure fire HOFers active and others on the cusp. Let’s stop creating problems where none exist.

  21. The only problem with Moon’s belief is it isn’t a quarterback-driven league, it’s a money-driven league.

  22. citizenstrange says:
    Nov 3, 2016 11:42 AM
    The NFL owners already have a 100% free farm system. It’s called college football.

    This argument is deeply flawed and just wrong on so many levels. First and foremost is that there is something called a time limit. After 3-5 years in school (theoretically getting an education) they are not allowed to play anymore. They are in their athletic prime, and if they have a bad camp, then that’s it. What a lousy job audition. Not everyone develops or matures at the same time.

  23. I would not mind watching some football in March and April. But then again I too am watching less football these days.

    -Clean out all the crooks in the NFL HQ
    -Streamline the rule book to limit “interpretations” of certain rules.
    -Get rid of TNF
    -Get rid of the commercial break between extra points and KO or KO and 1st down. (One or the other.)
    -Perhaps tone down the fake drama. From the most part men hate drama especially fake drama. And we are the core of the audience.

    That would vastly improve the product that is NFL.

  24. The problem is not many QB’s are given time to develop behind their teams starting QB. Backup QB’s are passed around from team to team never really getting a chance to show what they can do and the decent backups, if put in, have to just about show they can be the next Tom Brady if they wanna become starter otherwise they’re passed along too.

  25. pardonmyjake says:
    Nov 3, 2016 11:38 AM
    brad johnson was awful


    Won a Super Bowl. Tampa defense was good, but not that good. He was serviceable.

  26. You can blame running QBs in college.

    Too much emphasis has been placed on QBs tucking and running instead of going through progressions.

    And now they are struggling in the NFL

  27. The NFL has enjoyed years of soaring popularity. This is just a normal correction taking place. Naturally, the media will overreact and the NFL will overcompensate …

  28. Fewer and fewer college programs are running pro style offenses leading to QB’s and O-lineman that are far from NFL ready. A developmental league would certainly help fill that gap.

  29. My good friend said 10 years ago that “College Spread Offenses will destroy the QB Position”.

    He was 100% correct, the overall QB play in the NFL is worse than it’s ever been.

  30. The NFL has a free farm system that generates billions of dollars and pays the players almost nothing (since most don’t graduate anyway) – It is called College Warren. Remember that place were you played football and had to attend a class or two, got free meals, room&board, maybe a few cars, lots of white pie way above your looks and yet were still poor….

    You know nothing Warren Moon, please stop talking.

  31. Perhaps teams could have a roster spot dedicated to a developmental QB. Teams would have to designate the player and there would be limitation on age of the player, years with team, years in NFL, max number of NFL snaps, etc. so teams could not stash a vet or backup . This player would be able to work with coaches in the off-season.

  32. Or… desperate teams could stop throwing rookie quarterbacks to the wolves right out of the gate and develop them for a year or two before playing them.

    For every Andrew Luck, there are a dozen Christian Ponders. Had those guys been allowed to develop, maybe they would not have gotten their confidence shattered and killed their careers before their careers ever got started.

    Steve Young sat behind Joe Montana. Tom Brady sat behind Drew Bledsoe. Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre… etc, etc, etc.

  33. He’s right in part. The NFL needs a developmental league, they just have to accept that it won’t be profitable. Like minor league baseball. College isn’t helping because it doesn’t prepare the players well enough and college offenses are not able to replicated in the pros. Here’s what I think would help the overall quality.

    1. No more Thursday games except for opening weekend and Thanksgiving (for traditions sake)

    2. Start an actual minor league/development league, no TV contract, small markets, about 8 – 10 teams starting out and realize it won’t make money.

    3. This is the difficult one. You have to allow more hitting in practice. This mainly focused around the o line play, as a Vikings fan I know all about bad o line play. I doubt this will happen because of concussions and collective bargaining

    You start here and see where that takes you.

  34. The old days the CFL used to be kind of a development league – just think of Joe Theisman, Joe Kapp, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, and others who developed their skills and then made an NFL roster. It doesnt happen any more – the CFL has become kind of the Crappy Football League and only the odd Defensive player and maybe a receiver can seem to develop and return. Maybe a more cost effective way would be to work some financial way to compensate CFL teams to pick up some of these players. The CFL has a pretty low salary cap and actually could use a couple of more teams with some financial injection that the NFL could provide. For example teams in either Halifax or Quebec City would provide 10 teams where QB’s could develop. Right now the salary issue is so low it is way better to try and grab a practice team spot rather than go north and play. Tebow probably would have been in the Flutie category had he gone north and worked his issues out.

  35. I can hear the college football argument but it’s important to remember that very few college teams actually run a pro-style offense, which is why there are very few pro-ready quarterbacks.

  36. You can say that the NCAA/CFB is a developmental league, but they fail at teaching the fundamentals. Very few teams play a pro style, and even the basics like tackling are at an appalling level – just look how many NFL games this year have players missing the most basic tackles.

    I agree with Moon, but not just for QBs, but for players in general.

  37. I remember watching Jon Kitna play for the Barcelona Dragons and he could thread a needle with his spiral. He was throwing lazer beams out there the likes of which even Brett Favre would be proud of. But, then he came to the NFL and was a shell of his former self. Never won more than 8 games in a season in the NFL. So, yes, they get the reps, but some use up their greatness in the farm system and never play the same when they hit the NFL.

  38. I think I can speak on behalf of Jets fans everywhere….YES! Developmental league! More quarterbacks! Better ones….YES!!!!

  39. No, change the CBA to exempt rookies from practice restrictions in OTAs and training camp. Heck, throw in first- and second-year players as well to get “coached” up.

    It’s rediculous to expect rookies to improve without the hours they need to put in. However, it’s the veterans that resist – more a rookie improves, more likely they’ll get replaced by said rookie.

  40. Given that Goodell still wants a real team in London it’s even stranger they killed NFL Europe. That was a d-league and PR machine to expose Europeans to American football all in one package.

  41. is it coincidence that QB play has downgraded in direct proportion to the number of “look at me” types in the NFL?

    How about you drop the dance lessons, lose the hair extensions and the Sr, JR, II, III from the jerseys, the fancy colored shoes, the end zone ballet routines and all the other nonsense and just PLAY FOOTBALL?

  42. Steve Young could pass AND run the ball, big difference from just running.

    Brad Johnson would actually look good if he played today, that’s how bad it is.

  43. Could they do a developmental league with practice squad players? They’re paying them anyway. It would be more interesting to watch for NFL fans, as these are guys you’re hoping will develop and make your pro team.

    Keep it all simple to reduce overhead, with low ticket prices. That seems to work well for baseball, which has many more leagues and teams that a NFL farm league would.

  44. College coaches jobs are to win games for their school and it’s highly competitive.

    So they can’t say to the Athletic director “Hey I could have won 2 more games but my focus is developing NFL talent.”
    and expect to keep their job.

    I get what fans are saying but it’s not realistic. Plus college has always had running QB’s. Literally always. Sorry. Life in the real world is complex and can’t be simplified down to a few sentences to fit on twitter.

  45. jgo304 Quote”My good friend said 10 years ago that “College Spread Offenses will destroy the QB Position”.

    He was 100% correct, the overall QB play in the NFL is worse than it’s ever been.”Quote

    Agreed. people need to stop this “College football is a good farm system” crap. It isn’t. The #1 priority of a college football coach is to win games for his school, not to develop players for the NFL.

  46. Moon benefitted from playing in a development league (CFL) when he didn’t get a shot out of college. If you want people on the right QB track you’re going to need your own league and not worry about it making money. NFLE was also a marketing exercise, so maybe keep it domestic. Play on an off night to not compete with HS/CFB/NFL and worry more about giving people game reps. You could even make it an expanded practice squad and promote the team association like the NBA does.

    They’re going to have to DIY unless the pendulum in CFB swings to more pro-style passing, which is unlikely. That or a significant partnership with the CFL that would probably require more changes to the CFL than they’re willing to make.

  47. No, the NFL and its infantile fans need to resist the urge to see their rookie QB start. There are actually fans who think waiting until game 6 is too long etc.

    They used to sit on the sidelines for 2-3 years on average to get up to speed on the pro game. Granted those QB’s were field generals who called their own plays, but there is enough to learn that a couple years would do them all good. You might find out that Ryan Leaf could have made it if society was not in the grips of an acute ADD attack.

  48. OK… random thoughts.. All commentators and analysts say that there is a huge shortage of qb’s in the league. That skill and play are down, and in general, there aren’t enough “good” QB’s to run the modern offense. There are 32 teams and 16 capable QB’s/

    Has anyone thought that maybe it’s actually time to abandon the modern offense? If you just don’t have the QB to run it, then why run it? What team is going to be the one that finally says they are going back to a power running team? If your QB can’t run the offense, and that person is the lynch pin to run it,,,, then why run it at all?

  49. I was trying to design a developmental league years ago with a great Idea !!! I talked about it with many people and they said I should go for it , It was a great Idea ! But of course it all came down to the $. Anyone interested ?

  50. Why let the guy who actually played make that decision when a bunch of guys in suits can do it

    Besides, it would give Goodell a game in London half the season as he wants again.

  51. Just expand the number of roster players giving teams the option to protect 4. Would give more young players the opportunity to stick on rosters to work their way up and develop, and teams wouldn’t be worried about having those guys plucked from practice-squad rosters.

  52. Half the teams in the NFL would qualify as developmental league. Pretty sad state the NFL is in.

  53. There are two problems with college football that propagate the unprepared player problem.

    The most talented players no longer play 4 years, they bail as early as they can get a high draft pick and start making money.


    The mere fact that NCAA football earns billions of dollars and the players get nothing is ludicrous at best.

    Allow the schools to pay players, however all college player contracts must include a stipulation that if they accept pay they cannot be eligible for the NFL draft until their contract expires.

    All college contracts must be for 4 years. Allow for transfers by contract re negotiations that do not add extra years to the contracts.

    Allow adjustments for previous seasons played. i.e. if a player has already played two seasons of college ball and is offered a contract, a 2 year contract would be allowed.

  54. There has always been a shortage of good QB’s. But now that we pay so much for games, it is less acceptable for fans.

  55. The problem is these QBs get ruined in college with all their weird offenses and lack of real competition.

    Then they get to the pros and its time to relearn everything.

  56. Its actually never been easier to play QB than it is in todays game. 9 of the top 10 all time QB ratings** are from players in the last 10 years. Every ones issue is that there aren’t ever 32 good QBs. Its a hard position to play.

    ** The team with the better QB rating in a game has won over 80% of their games. This season 88%.

  57. He’s right. It’s about quarterbacks and other players learning in a pro style system. And all the people screaming college is a farm system. Stop. It’s almost a different game now. Spread offenses are killing the transition between college and pro’s. Quarterbacks are not the only ones that would benefit. How about some guys learning how to tackle? They need to put it in smaller cities. Ones around 100,000 to 200,000. And show it as regional tv games. And that’s where some of your vets can still play too.

  58. As much as I respect Warren Moon for what he did as a player and as a man, he is dead wrong here. What he seems to dismiss is that the level of play by defenses is far superior to when he played. I can guarantee you that QB’s of Moon’s day, such as Jim McMahon, Boomer Esiason, Phil Simms, Randall Cunningham, Bernie Kosar, et. al would have a damn hard time finding success when trying to go against today’s defenses like the Cardinals, Seahawks, Patriots, Broncos, Panthers and Vikings. Hell, the DE’s are faster than almost everyone of the QB’s (except for Cunningham).

  59. Oline need help more than QBs very few tackles can properly pass block coming out of college, even “NFL ready” 1st rounders struggle as rookies pass blocking. If everyone QB was pressured/hit less they would perform better.

  60. It’s called the NCAA, Warren.

    The problem is more and more NCAA coaches are being lazy and using gimmicky, but more athletic style offenses having the QB run as opposed to learning how to stay in the pocket, get the ball out with accuracy, etc.

  61. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell just published an article basically proving that this notion of bad QB play being the reason behind the decline in play is a false narrative.

    A few of his points:
    1. Ryan Tannehill’s #’s the last two years would have been the #1 and #2 rated QB #’s in the 80’s and top 5 just 10 years ago
    2. Reviews completion % of balls thrown downfield today versus just 6 years ago (better today)
    3. Reviews INT % compared to this year and the 80s’s (way better now)
    4. We have WAY more access to watch all of the average QB’s. The RedZone not only shows us every score, it shows us every turnover, every mistake, etc. Access to the All 22 tape just became public a few years ago, thus allowing us to pick apart mistakes
    5. Back in the 80s, 90s, and even early 2000’s we only saw prime time matchups between the good teams with the best QB’s. We now see all QB’s regardless of their skill level

    I suggest you read it, pretty eye opening.

  62. I’ve been saying this for awhile now. The NCAA does not run pro systems anymore (even though they pretend they do) so these QB’s are coming into the league blind and being asked to pick it up immediately. Basically all of them are system QB’s now and because of that guys like “the most pro ready QB since John Elway” Andrew Luck can’t even string two good seasons together.

    Fact is this is the reason the same teams are picking in the top 10 every year. How many QB’s do teams like the Rams, Browns, Texans and Titans have to burn through before the NFL realizes it’s not them it’s the crummy choices they’re being given. If you pick a QB in the first round and he has to sit out a season to learn IE guys like Jared Goff there is definitely a problem.

  63. Also accurately points out the level and complexity of the defenses now and how much more QB’s are being asked to do pre-snap, post-snap, etc

  64. Fewer and fewer players are adept at the “Pro System”. As the NFL “Pro System” dinosaurs die off, we’ll witness the metamorphosis of today’s “College System” into tomorrow’s NFL…..

  65. Teams need to do a better job of drafting QBs play and hire better QB coaches, Wentz, Prescott, R. Wilson, and Carr, have all done well.

    Having a good run game helps, bring those young QBs along, but reaching for QBs like Locker, Gabbert, and Ponder also gives the illusion that development lead is necessary.

  66. I’d watch a developmental league as long as the games occurred in March through July. Especially is those players had assigned NFL teams.

  67. Expand practice squad rosters, update the limitations/rules on who is eligible and have those squads play the TNF games – like a JV team. Teams can develop players, coaches and officials for minimal investment.

  68. “brad johnson was awful”

    You are crazy!! He was the missing piece in an offensive puzzle that my Buccaneers needed to finally win a Super Bowl. Not a superstar, but a good QB.

  69. The reason that QB play is not “up to the snuff” that they could be is pretty simple. Years ago, a QB who was drafted high, would go to a team and sit on the bench for a couple of seasons behind an experienced QB to watch and learn the game. He knew that, barring injury, he would not be a full time starter and would become acclimated to the speed of the NFL.

    Nowadays, since a top QB is drafted by the worst team in the league, the pressure to put him in there immediately, and the money they pay him, makes it where he is thrust into the lineup of a woefully inadequate team, particularly on the offensive side. Then, he is put into the game, the fans go crazy thinking he is the Savior and expect him to lead them to the next Super Bowl. When he is not able to win a game by himself, the fans turn against him, write him off and he is on the trade block.

    Why not go ahead and let him sit on the bench, while he can be worked in and worked with and, when he is ready, bring him in as the starter?

    That’s the problem with a lot of young QBs that flunk out today.

  70. Perhaps if colleges actually ran offenses that made QB’s into QB’s instead of mindless runners who cheat, steal laptops, and father children with multiple women, we’d have the guys developing instead of just being children without hormone impulse control.

    Then again, as long as Alabama wins like it does, you don’t need a real man back there – you just need a half way intelligent chimp.

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