Following on the theme of the last few days I’m going to break down the tape of Arkansas vs Texas A&M and run through every offensive snap taken by Ryan Mallett. Stay tuned for that piece tomorrow.
If you’re wondering why I’m paying so much attention to Mallett at the moment – it’s because I truly believe he’s probably the most intriguing prospect in this entire draft class. He could go in the top ten (don’t rule out Tennessee at #8 as a possible home) and he could drop out of the first round completely. All the while, he has the skills to make a quick impact on the NFL and also (some people believe) the character concerns that could make him a soap opera.
Mallett may also be the closest thing you’ll find to an Aaron Rodgers in this class. It’s easy to forget that Rodgers fell to the 24th overall pick in 2005 when you watch him lead the Packers to a title. At the age of 27, he has his first Super Bowl ring and it could lead to many more. It’s easy to sit here and say a number of teams made a mistake passing on his now undoubted talent. Many other quarterbacks have made a surprise fall (Brady Quinn anyone?) and not had the same success.
However, a perceived ‘attitude’ supposedly cost Rodgers his chance to go first overall in 2005 and encouraged his dramatic move down the board.
Ask a lot of draft pundits to discuss Mallett and it won’t be long before they mention similar perceived character concerns. He was never voted a team captain at Arkansas – why? Do the rumours of stock-destroying inside information carry any substance?
There may well be legitimate concerns that will hamper Mallett’s hopes of getting the best possible pay-day next April. Perhaps we’ll find out more at the combine? The mere speculation may be enough to put some teams off and let’s not underestimate the power of positive or negative hype.
That may be especially true for Mallett because we want our quarterbacks to be pretty much perfect.
Not every team feels that way of course. Oakland and Tennessee certainly didn’t concern themselves too much with character analysis when drafting Jamarcus Russell and Vince Young respectively.
Even so, you can’t get away from the fact most team’s want their quarterback to lead by example. This is the individual who people will think of first when someone mentions the franchise, so a bad image leads to a bad impression. It’s not good PR when your quarterback is missing the first four games of the season as Ben Roethlisberger did in 2010. Of course he’s mostly forgiven when he makes his third Super Bowl appearance since entering the league in 2004.
Seattle is no different to the majority of teams. People have got used to the media-friendly PR guru that is Matt Hasselbeck. He’s a family man who always has a ready quip for the media. He’s a role model for young players and a much loved Seattle sports personality.
Can his successor survive being anything else? That remains to be seen.
Fans generally want their quarterback’s to be clean cut individuals, stuck in a film room or playbook and openly dedicated to their craft. In reality they’re human beings and not everyone can have Peyton Manning’s work ethic.
While the Manning’s of the NFL will always have success due to the perfect combination of talent and workaholic dedication – it’s not the only way to win. Sometimes talent is enough.
Jay Cutler? He made the NFC Championship game this year despite his surly disposition and purported lack of chemistry with the rest of his team. Ben Roethlisberger? See above. Michael Vick? He was unbeatable at times this year.
Ask some select Seahawks fans if they’d want any of three quarterbacks above starting for their team in 2011 and the answer would be a resounding ‘no’. Such is the case when considering drafting a quarterback too.
Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert are unflappable character guys. They don’t deliver entertaining interviews lack Hasselbeck but they say the right things and look the part. Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett have a few question marks in that area. The latter two may also be supremely more talented.
There’s nothing wrong with being risk averse, in fact it certainly can help a team avoid titanic busts especially in the top ten picks. What if Oakland drafts Joe Thomas instead of Jamarcus Russell?
But there’s a reason why a prospect like Ryan Mallett is even being discussed as a first round pick. He’s got the big arm, his accuracy is much improved this year and he reads a field well. He has the talent needed to succeed even if there are some pending character risks.
Then you look at a guy like Greg McElroy. He’s an UDFA for me but may go in the late rounds. I don’t think he will ever become even a backup quality quarterback at the next level. He might be a harder worker than Mallett, but he doesn’t come close from a physical standpoint, he’s not overly accurate and he doesn’t have that ability to dissect a defense and go to his third or fourth option.
People often mention Christian Ponder’s off the field intelligence and he’s a personable guy who will fit into a pro-locker room. However, I don’t see that intelligence crossing over into his on-field decision making and I don’t expect he’ll ever become a legitimate NFL starter as a limited physical talent.
Yet those two quarterbacks (and the likes of Andy Dalton) are sometimes considered more preferable options – despite their limitations and low chance of starting at the next level. They simply aren’t difference makers, while Mallett can be.
We will generally over look a big nasty defensive tackle being kicked off a team (as is the case with Phil Taylor at Penn State) because we want our lineman to be nasty. They don’t have to be the face of the franchise and carry all of the responsibilities that go with it. It’s different with quarterbacks and so it should be I suppose.
But you can’t also cut your nose off to spite your face. Maybe some teams did that with Rodgers? The general cost of picking at #24 lessened the risk for Green Bay and they’ve won big from their small gamble.
Seattle may face a similar roll of the dice in April. A guy like Mallett may not be the team’s first choice of the four quarterbacks likely to go in round one, but can they afford to play safe and keep the chips for another day? Is a gamble or sorts worth taking to secure a rough diamond and potentially find the long term playmaker this franchise so dramatically requires?
And as a coaching staff do you back yourself to make it work out?