Saturday, March 24, 2018

The not-so-total package

All right. Let’s get this out of the way right out of the chute.

Josh Allen is a freakish quarterback.

He can flick his right wrist with little or practically no effort and propel a football 35-40 yards. On a straight line.

Ask him to air out said football and he can deliver it with modest effort in the vicinity of 80 yards. That’s practically inhuman.

Josh Allen is, indeed, a freakish quarterback. No argument there.

His nickname is well earned after he primed his howitzer, a.k.a. his throwing arm, and put it on dazzling display the other day for a coterie of professional football scouts, general managers and at least one owner (the one from Cleveland).

Lots of ooohs and aaahs on many of his impressive throws in the scripted workout. It is hard to not notice.

They all came to see this physical marvel and find out whether he was a figment of someone’s imagination. He did not disappoint and added another layer to the argument of which of the top four quarterbacks in this class should be the No. 1 pick in next month’s National Football League college draft.

In doing so, he validated the notion by many draft gurus who knew about him and believe he very well could be the top selection in the lottery. Allen’s coming-out party was a huge success.

It is so easy for scouts and coaches – and, yes, even owners – to fall in love with such a stunning weapon. It’s a trap most of them fall into. There is a tendency to overlook other aspects of quarterbacking.

Like Allen’s weakest attribute, for example. In two full seasons at the University of Wyoming, the big California kid completed only 56% of his passes. That normally is a gigantic red flag for coaches.

Allen’s only consistency in that regard is that he completed 56% of his passes in both seasons. Not a shred of improvement in the second season.

There is reason to believe he has problems with timing and anticipation with the possibility of so-called slow eyes in the execution of plays, like not recognizing defenses quickly enough to make the proper adjustments and not delivering the ball on time.

Holding the ball a split second too long before delivering it can make all the difference between a completed pass and either an incompletion or interception. DeShone Kizer was a perfect example of that malady with the Browns last season. Many of his 22 interceptions were delivered late.

The question is whether the inability to process quickly enough hurt Allen’s completion percentage at Wyoming more than receivers who failed to help him. It is much more important to fall in love with the total package than it is to fall head over heels for the throwing arm.

You don’t have to be freakish to be great. Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Eli Manning don’t fall into that category. All are great current quarterbacks headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but in an entirely different way.

The same can be said for the likes of Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Joe Montana. There is a lot more to playing the position that owning a rocket arm.

But isn’t launching a football great distances with air-piercing speed the most important weapon in a quarterback’s arsenal? No. Allen’s 56% completion parentage the last two seasons is not an aberration. It’s a trend.

It’s a trend the Browns might want to give serious thought to even though the top pick will sit at least one season behind Tyrod Taylor and experience what it’s like to be a professional football quarterback.

Sam Darnold, not nearly as dazzling as Allen in his pro workout, was a starter the last two seasons at USC, where he was a 65% passer and threw for more than 7,200 yards. (Full disclosure: I believe Darnold should be the pick if the Browns choose to go quarterback with the No. 1 selection.)

Strong-armed quarterbacks are intoxicating to scouts and coaches. The Oakland Raiders took a chance with the first pick in the 2007 draft on a bullet-throwing quarterback from Louisiana State named JaMarcus Russell. After three miserable seasons, Russell was out of football. He was the antithesis of the complete package.But he sure could throw the hell out of the ball.

Quarterbacks who struggle with accuracy rarely correct those problems. The successful ones are those who give their teams the best opportunity to win games by being consistently accurate. 

So is Josh Allen the franchise quarterback the Browns have sought for nearly two decades? Or is he the next JaMarcus Russell?

Former (Browns) scout and draft guru Daniel Jeremiah, now with the NFL Network, summed it up perfectly when discussing Allen: “His ceiling is higher than anybody, but the floor is lower.”

Food for thought.


  1. We Have Seen Strong Armed Quarterbacks Before In Brandon Weedon And Deshone Kizer. Weedon lacked Touch On The Ball And Kizer Lacks Accuracy And Field Vision. Darnold Seems To Be The Best Bet Overall. All Of The Top Quarterbacks In This Year's Draft Have A Kink Or Two In Their Game. Stay With Darnold. Most Of The Time, A Quarterback Will Not Be Required To Throw A Pass That Travels 80 Yards. As Far As I Am Concerned, I Prefer Accuracy Over Arm Strength.

    1. So Allen's completion percentage is more alarming than Darnold's turnover history?

  2. On my YES. More. Much more. No, make that much, much, much, much more.

    Chew on this one: Allen threw 21 interceptions in 649 throws; Darnold threw 22 in 846 throws. Allen had 44 touchdown passes; Darnold had 57.

    And this one: Darnold made 24 starts for USC and was 20-4.

    Keep trying.

  3. Make that Oh my YES.