It’s 18 years since the Seahawks last spent a first round pick on a quarterback. There are almost certainly Seahawks fans among us that saw the birth of a child around the time their football team drafted Rick Mirer in 1993. That child will now be preparing for college.
Bill Clinton had been President for a few months when the Seahawks last drafted a quarterback in round one. People probably thought we’d have flying cars by 2011, maybe wondered if we’d be living on Mars. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was four years old and we were still 15 years away from Indiana Jones and the flying fridge.
During those 18 years the Seahawks appointed Mike Holmgren to run it’s football team and he acquired Matt Hasselbeck. For a time this played a large part in why the Seahawks avoided the position in the draft, but doesn’t explain why such blatant disregard was placed in preparing for the post-Hasselbeck era by the previous front office regime.
The Seahawks haven’t had anyone to invest their faith in as a long term solution for some time. It really shouldn’t be 18 years since the team last drafted a quarterback in round one. Therefore, maybe we should expect people to get excited when a player comes along and shows even a modicum of talent? Maybe it is OK to get excited about Josh Portis? Just like people got excited about Mike Teel and the two Charlie’s – Whitehurst and Frye.
The problem with most UDFA quarterbacks – or late rounders for that matter – is that they simply don’t have the physical tools to succeed. Tom Brady is the massive exception to the rule because he looked anything but a pro-athlete before being drafted in round six by New England. There is a huge neverending list of other quarterbacks that teams spent throwaway picks on in the hope they will be the next diamond in the rough. Once or twice in a generation something materialises.
We also have to appreciate the situation Brady found himself in. Whatever you want to say about Bill Belichick, he clearly knows how to create a winning football team. Brady has benefited from his surroundings, the ability to enter into a good situation and grow with a system that suits his style. He’s become an elite performer but in an environment that allowed it to happen. It’s an environment the Patriots will hope has a similar effect on Ryan Mallett, who could look like an equally brilliant steal in a few years time.
Portis is unlike the majority of late round or UDFA quarterbacks. For starters, he has an arm. Most quarterbacks drafted late or picked up in free agency are Greg McElroy clones – players who’s main characteristic is ‘winning’ mainly because they had the opportunity to play behind pro-level offensive lineman, had Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson running the ball and Julio Jones catching passes. McElroy’s reputation was built around being a winner with that other nonsense word scouts use – ‘moxy’. His physical talent was completely limited and so was his on-field IQ. Portis doesn’t appear to be restricted in this way. You don’t need to see him perform against San Diego’s first string defense to acknowledge the guy can spin a football.
He’s also mobile, can extend plays (as witnessed on his touchdown pass last week) and has that rare knack of keeping his eyes downfield when scrambling around. These are all the talents of not only a draft pick, but a high one. We tell ourselves to calm down because he’s an UDFA, but take that knowledge away and why wouldn’t you be very impressed? Yes it wasn’t against San Diego’s #1 ranked defense from 2010, but this was a guy who played Division II football for two years before a week’s pro-practise. He got over his early nerves, he led a nice scoring drive. It’s a start.
Portis is an UDFA because he went to three different colleges and had all kinds of off-the-field issues and suspensions. The red flags flap into your eyes and you need to get the heck away from them to see clearly. Isn’t that what makes this a different case though? Portis isn’t a Brady-miracle type who needs to beat the physical odds to succeed. Portis is capable from a pure physical stand point. We’ve seen – albeit in very small samples – a flash of pro talent. The biggest question mark is whether he can develop that flash of talent into something tangible and whether he can avoid any further drama away from the game.
It’s a similar story with tight Anthony McCoy. When I watched him playing for USC in 2009, I thought he looked like a first or second round pick based on several games evidence for the Trojans. The Seahawks got him in round six because of major character red flags. This front office is giving players like Portis and McCoy a shot at redemption and a chance to make up for bad decisions. With the gamble so minimal, why wouldn’t you? Instead the league is full of Tim Ruskell types who wouldn’t dream of it, but why? What truly separates Portis and McCoy in terms of on field talent and some of the guys drafted early? Off the field stuff. So bring them in for a no-risk cost. Had both players been taken with early picks, people would be much more prepared to accept others getting excited by a nice pre-season showing.
What constitutes acceptable hype?
As I wrote in this piece, the chances are Portis will never make it as a pro. I think mostpeople are realistic about that. His peak ability may be Seneca Wallace, which would still be a tremendous achievement for an UDFA. Some fans would be disappointed if they thought that was the maximum potential because they want to believe in the miracle happening in Seattle. I don’t agree with that view, but I wouldn’t condemn it. It’s not ridiculous for people to get excited about Portis, just don’t go over the top and get your hopes up too much. It’s not ridiculous for people to suggest common sense should prevail and maintain the guy was an UDFA, but let’s not be blind to the fact Portis isn’t an UDFA due to a lack of physical potential.
Ultimately the Seahawks are taking no gamble seeing if this guy can mature and become a trusted pro. They lose nothing if he fails. The fans equally lose nothing if their optimism is seen to be misplaced. There will be another camp All-Star, maybe even one drafted in round one.
Go ahead and enjoy watching the guy play football over the next three weeks. If the Seahawks are going to take two decades to find a quarterback worth spending a first round pick on, you’re going to need other ways to dream about a franchise QB not called Matthew Hasselbeck.