The risk of risk averse

Green Bay didn't think twice about drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005

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?


  1. Glen Peer

    Absolutly could not agree more. Thanks Rob.

  2. Sluggo

    I think you take him if you have a chance, but, I doubt he falls to us. Either Cam or Mallet, if they fall, would be HUGE. But I doubt either one does, probably Locker with our crappy luck.
    I would pass on Locker and take a big nasty DT, unless a primere OL sneaks down to us. I think Pete and John will take the BPA as we have so many needs, but Mallet would be great. I think he has the best potential skills of this years draft. A year or two on the bench, and we are set. Pete can get this kids head on straight. Most of the time, kids have an attitude because they KNOW they have the real deal talent. The good boys aren’t as gifted, and have to be model citizens…

  3. Chavac

    With regards to being the face of the franchise, that’s probably what I’ll miss most about Hasselbeck. Was always nice to have the guy that would crack jokes and mess around.

    Despite the alleged character concerns against Mallet (and the accent), he seems pretty personable from the interviews I’ve watched. Whether that’s a facade or not… who knows. Locker on the other hand, despite being a high character guy, comes off as incredibly boring… the type of guy who says the same recycled stuff every other football player spouts.

  4. Nick

    Quite frankly I don’t know why Hawks fans aren’t more hungry to draft a QB. I have seen a lot of people calling for Hasselbeck’s head during the season, and now suddenly there are lots of developmental QB prospects in this draft, but we don’t want to touch any of them? I myself really like Hasselbeck, and while i know he is not the future, he is still so valuable to the organization in terms of leadership and mentoring ability.

    I would be extremely happy to see either Gabbert/Newton/Mallet/Locker fall down to us so we can pick them up at 25. That QB would be coming into a great situation with a solid coach and a guy like Hass to show them how to be a leader and to show them the ropes.

    Mind you it would have to depend on who else is sitting on the board. If a really solid talent starts to slip and we trade up, or we take them if they fall to 25, than that is another story.

    But the way I see it, if we have a chance to grab one of those guys, then we have to. Picking in the lower first round with the luxury to sit whoever it would be behind Hasselbeck for a year or so would be perfect. Attend to depth and other players in the later rounds, and let’s get this QB in the oven until he’s ready.

    P.S. When I talk about the Hawks, I say we instead of they. If I buy their merchandise, then I feel like I am part of the team in a way 🙂

  5. kevin mullen

    Well, watching more tape on Mallet did change my opinion on him, I like his arm and how he goes through his progressions. It looks like Petrino gave him the green light to audible a lot, especially in the Texas A&M game. And he is somewhat mobile for how tall and big he is, especially on his bootlegs. If he falls to #25, it’d be a tough choice between him and Phil Taylor, he does bring a ton of value at that slot, and yes a gamble worth taking.

    Thanks Rob!

  6. Patrick G.

    Nice analysis on Mallett. You know I agree completely with you that we’re going to have to take a risk on somebody soon.

    One point, you say that Mallett wasn’t elected as a team captain. I saw the same thing on CBS sports, but apparently that is incorrect.

    Elected a captain in 2009:

    Elected a captain in 2010:

    That doesn’t remove the obvious intangible risks he poses, but it at least shows he hasn’t totally lost the respect of his teammates.

  7. Bob Dole

    “However, a perceived ‘attitude’ supposedly cost Rodgers his chance to go first overall in 2005 and encouraged his dramatic move down the board.”

    I don’t recall an “attitude” precipitating Aaron Rodgers’ fall. I seem to remember that beyond San Francisco at #1 (who chose Alex Smith over Rodgers) there just weren’t that many teams in the market for a quarterback.

  8. Jim Q.

    Great article Rob, I think you’re doing an excellent job of getting draft information out on this site – that we are all hungary for. It is much appreciated.

    I have a couple of questions for your consideration. How many and which of the FA – QB’s ie: Kolb, McNabb, Palmer, Cutler, Young, et. al. do you think may be picked up by QB hungary teams that pick ahead of the Seahawks, thus reducing their need to draft a QB in the first round? Wouldn’t a brand new coach of a team feel much better about aquiring an experienced QB in FA rather than rolling the dice and risking his new job in the draft?

    Also, I’ve only heard a couple of interviews with Mallett on TV and I though he came across very well in both and gave the impression that he was very well spoken, intelligent and enthusiastic about the game of football. Character issues IMO, are often the folly of youth (if not too serious) and correct themselves with age and maturity. I read online somewhere that Mallett had a drunk in public problem a couple of years ago, but no concrete information as to what else may be rumered as character concerns. I also picked up somewhere on a draft evaluation site that Mallett had once trown the football I think it was either 87 or 89 yards – in the air. If true, thats not bad.

    • Rob

      Hi Jim,

      Until the league agrees a new CBA we won’t see any trades or free agency. It appears very likely a compromise will not be in place before the draft – meaning the like of Kolb, McNabb, Young etc will be handcuffed to their current teams or will be in free agent limbo. I suspect this will heavily influence teams’ decision making during the draft, because the biggest needs can’t be filled via other means before the end of April.

      I’ve seen good and bad interviews with Mallett personally. The good ones have been more recent and certainly it’s something he’s worked on now that he’s essentially in one long job interview. There are some very serious allegations out there about him and some high profile pundits/journalists have suggested that there are some issues. Even today Caplan is reporting that Mallett may fall to the third round. That’s unlikely for me, but it represents the kind of negative press out there. Mallett’s been tweeting odd things all day possibly in response.

      He’s an enigma for sure. Brilliantly talented, huge potential – but maybe a little immature.

  9. John

    I don’t think Rodgers fell because of character concerns. Maybe his character didn’t impressed the SF coaches as much as Alex Smith’s but it wasn’t a major flaw. Instead there were two bigger issues that went into his fall: the stigma of being a Tedford quarterback and his unorthodox mechanics of holding the ball at his ear. Basically, there was skepticism that Rodgers was going to be another Tedford bust and that he only looked good in college because he had been coached up by Tedford. It didn’t help that he wasn’t recruited out of high school and came out of nowhere, which fed into the idea that he was a product of Tedford’s system.

    The issues with his mechanics were more legitimate I thought. While generally very accurate, he had a tendency to throw just a bit too high more often than a guy with his precision should. If teams were going to have to adjust his mechanics, it was a risk that dropped his grade.

    In hindsight, some of the concerns about him were overblown and flat out dumb. But at the time, if you were a team with a first round pick and had seen Dilfer, Carr, Harrington, Akili Smith, Boller, all guys with the tools to succeed, disappoint, you couldn’t help but have reservations about him. At what point were you going to stop ignoring a trend and give it credence. That point started with Rodgers and that was a big reason why he fell, not because he was a bad dude with personality issues. As far as I know, he was well liked by his coaches and teammates at Cal. Tedford still keeps in touch with him.

  10. Rob

    With regard the Rodgers/character concerns thing – I appreciate the comments but really I was not trying to suggest his complete fall was down solely to this. Among the things that influenced San Francisco’s decision to select Alex Smith was a perceived attitude with Rodgers. They felt Smith was a better leader. Obviously once he’d fallen so far that year the ‘need’ wasn’t there for a lot of teams and he lasted until #24. A fall for Mallett would be slightly different, but I think the point still remains. You’re not taking a big gamble on a QB late in round one. That doesn’t mean you make a reckless decision, but should a guy fall maybe unexpectedly you have to keep an open mind, particuarly at the QB position. Don’t be too scared to take a chance on a quarterback just because of the obvious importance of the position, because the lasting impact of failure is much more moderate at #25 than it is in the top ten.

    • John

      Thanks for clarifying. I thought you meant Rodgers slipped because of character concerns and I didn’t think that was the case.

      I don’t know what to think about the character issues with Mallett. I hate the anonymous nature of them and it must suck for Mallett and his parents to hear that he’s such a bad guy through the press. Still, it’s a little concerning that they’re so front and center this early in the public draft process. Scouts interview coaches throughout the year and for this information to come out before the combine, it’s almost like it was too alarming to keep quiet about. That’s the worrisome part about it.

      More than that, Mallett should be judged by what he does on the field and there, he just doesn’t impress me. With a perfect pocket, he’s outstanding. His arm is great and his accuracy really improved last season. But when things break down, he’s terrible. He sooo slow in picking one foot and putting it down. When a defender is within three feet of him, it’s over. He’s a sack magnet. He doesn’t have the ability of other slow quarterbacks to shuffle away from defenders or duck them. You can’t be an elite quarterback without the ability to beat pressure. You’re going to falter a lot on third down and against good teams who can rush the passer.

      He reminds me of Kerry Collins, with his strong arm, immobility, powerful build and long release. Like Collins, I think Mallett will start a lot of games in his career but will ultimately frustrate with turnovers, sacks and the sense that he’s too limited and flawed to win a championship with.

  11. Sluggo

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mallett go in the top 10. Dude is a GREAT qb. I pray he falls to us.

  12. Matt

    Well done on the article, Mallet is a beast and u could careless about his “character” issues, he’s a young guy, he’s going to be immature, what’s really immature is everybody freaking out about his attitude, if we drafted him it wouldent be to be win his press comfrences it would he to win games.

  13. FWBrodie

    Hey Rob, do you remember when Pete Carroll was first hired and said that he looks for arm strength AND the mobility to get out of the pocket in a quarterback? Do you have a link somewhere or remember where that came from? I seem to remember it being discussed here. Maybe it was actually Bates?

    • Rob

      He reiterated that point during his end of season press conference, which I believe is archived on the Seahawks official website.

      • FWBrodie

        Watched all 40 minutes of the press conference and didn’t find it, BUT wow am I glad I watched that. Anyone that hasn’t watched it I highly recommend going to their website and watching part one and two. Lots of places to read between the lines and Carroll finds a way to be as honest as he can without giving up too much. It’s like he’s teasing you or daring you to make obvious assumptions without confirming them.

  14. dmason

    After team workouts I doubt Mallett lasts till 25.
    Anyone see the QB challenge between Mallett, Locker, and Dalton? All three had to hit moving targets at gradually increasing distances. I know it might not mean a whole lot but Mallett was clearly the best passer of the three. Locker was inaccurate and Dalton’s throws didn’t have the zip of the other two.
    Who knows if this Ryan will one day remind us of another Ryan who busted out of the NFL terribly. The facts are this guy has improved each year, played against the toughest competition in the NCAA while playing in pro-style offense, and took his team to a BCS game. Character concerns aside, I think he’ll remind NFL execs of Joe Flacco. Heck, he’s more polished then Flacco when Flacco came out of Delaware.

  15. beeboy

    You talk of character issues and yet you post the laptop stealing, pay me or I don’t play Newton as the top pick..


    I haven’t followed Mallett enough to comment on his flaw but we have all seen what a douchbag Newton is..If that felon is good enough for 1st round then certainly Mallett’s character should be good enough to be included in the 1st, unless he was some serial rapist or something.

    Love this site Rob, thank you.

    • Rob

      It’s important to remember that Newton didn’t steal the laptop. His role in the ‘cash to play’ incident is unclear too. These things will certainly concern teams, but the point I’ve tried to make is that Mallett – despite his talent – is getting a pile on effect in the media. Everything is negative. That can have an impact and whatever issues Newton has had, people are not really discussing them. We’re hearing about teams having him down as the #1 prospect on their board, we’re hearing about some of the problems he’ll have adjusting to the pro’s (like most rookies) but we aren’t hearing about character problems. I think both players are immense talents with huge potential but they are not flawless. Mallett could easily go in round one and I hope he does, but I have to write the mock as I see the current situation playing out.

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