Michigan State is latest QB factory

As a Michigan man, it's not an easy admission for me to make. But Michigan State is now churning out NFL quarterbacks the way it has NBA standouts.

Last week alone, four former Michigan State quarterbacks -- Arizona's Drew Stanton, Cleveland's Brian Hoyer, Washington's Kirk Cousins and Philadelphia's Nick Foles -- all led their teams to big wins. At least three and possibly four will start Sunday with the chance to try to do it again.

As one NFL executive noted this week, it's still hard to process the transformation, a rugged Big Ten school as an aerial training ground. When coaches and scouts think of quarterback schools, they think of Michigan producing Tom Brady and Chad Henne, or Texas A&M producing Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel, or Florida State producing EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder, or Georgia producing Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, or USC producing Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. They don't think of Michigan State.

"If you listed all the colleges putting out starting quarterbacks," the executive said, "it would be a while before you put down Michigan State."

But Michigan State's list, and influence, is growing. Michigan State's current quarterback, Connor Cook, another lightly recruited prospect out of high school, is considered a first-round talent and even a potential top-10 pick. He could become the first Big Ten quarterback to become a first-round pick since Carolina selected former Penn State standout Kerry Collins in the first round of the 1995 draft.

But that's a storyline for next spring. The storyline for now is that, one weekend after Michigan State quarterbacks engineered four wins, they have the chance for more this Sunday, with two squaring off head to head.

Washington at Philadelphia will pit Cousins against Foles. The two were teammates at Michigan State in 2007, when Foles backed up Hoyer while Cousins was in his redshirt year. But the following summer, Foles transferred to Arizona, where after sitting out a year he was the starting quarterback from 2009-11.

Cousins settled in as the starter at Michigan State in 2009. Then in the 2012 draft, the Eagles drafted Foles in the third round and the Redskins drafted Cousins in the fourth round, all leading up to this, another moment for Michigan State.

Again, this is not easy for any Michigan man to admit. But Michigan State's contributions to the NFL now include some magic.

Trader Joe: One year ago Thursday, on Sept. 18, 2013, the Browns made a trade that drew criticism at the time, but praise almost ever since.

Cleveland sent running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for the Colts' 2014 first-round pick, which the Browns wound up turning into former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

As much as the Colts were lauded exactly one year ago for the move, the record of Browns CEO Joe Banner suggested the trade would work out the way it did.

During his time in Philadelphia and Cleveland, Banner has helped engineer a series of trades, most of which wound up favoring his team.

In Philadelphia, Banner and the Eagles' front office once traded second- and fifth-round picks to the Jets for Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas, who went on to ring up 51.5 sacks during his five seasons in Philadelphia.

Banner sent a late first-round pick and a fourth-round pick to Buffalo for Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.

Banner didn't just trade for players; he sent plenty away. He traded former Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley to the Dolphins for a second-round draft pick, quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Redskins for second- and fourth-round draft picks and quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona for a second-round pick and Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

And he traded picks as well as players, such as the fourth- and fifth-round picks in the weak 2013 draft for a third- and a fourth-round pick in the deep 2014 draft. Yet despite those deals, Banner is now unemployed, out of football, trying to figure out how to tweet and what he would like to do next. The Browns will be paying him for years to come, as well they should.

Banner's trades, like the one made one year ago Thursday, usually paid big.

The Equalizer: One of the players Banner helped draft in Philadelphia was wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is squarely in the spotlight for Sunday's game against his former Eagles team. Jackson is this week's Equalizer.

Jackson returns to Philadelphia on Sunday, and the factors behind his departure have been and will continue to be reviewed ad nauseum, with no firm answers other than the Eagles simply didn't feel comfortable moving forward with the receiver.

But what cannot be speculated on are the numbers surrounding Jackson's change of scenery. This season, Jackson still counts more against the Eagles' salary cap ($6.25 million) than he does against the Redskins' salary cap ($4.25 million).

As it turns out, Philadelphia released Jackson for less than what Baltimore released Ray Rice. Yet now, Jackson is back, playing for Washington, with his absence still being felt, financially as much as anything else, in Philadelphia.


Player of the Week: Saints RB Khiry Robinson. With New Orleans having to overcome the loss of injured running back Mark Ingram, time for another back to step up.

Game of the Week: Denver at Denver. Broncos-Seahawks is one of five rematches this season from last season's playoffs, a slate that includes both conference championships and the Super Bowl.

Upset of the Week: Giants over Texans. Houston is 2-0, New York is 0-2; Texans have gotten turnovers, Giants have not. There's a real chance it changes Sunday.