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23 Apr 2012

Futures: A Peyton Manning Transcription

by Matt Waldman

With four national championships between 1983 and 1991, the University of Miami football program was at its zenith. Even the Hurricanes’ lesser-known stars read like a roll call of NFL vets: Jessie Armstead, Micheal Barrow, Russell Maryland, Cortez Kennedy, Bubba McDowell, Leon Searcy. And it wasn't just the players. Throw in coordinators like Tommy Tuberville, Ed Orgeron, Sonny Lubick and Bob Bratkowski, and there’s a strong lineage of coaching that came out of Coral Gables. However, as good as the Hurricanes football program was, the best thing on campus has long been the studio music and jazz program.

I know firsthand, because from 1988-1991, I was there. I witnessed the greatness of a music program that, in terms of fielding quality pros with great skill and acclaim, beats the football team hands down. The award-winning roster includes the likes of Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Steve Morse, Grace Slick, Gloria Estefan, Ben Folds, Bruce Hornsby, Enrique Iglesias, and Will Lee (David Letterman’s bassist). That doesn’t even include my roommate Matt Serletic, who produced and performed on Collective Soul’s first album, discovered and produced Matchbox 20, and eventually had a stint as Virgin America’s CEO.

I’m doing all of this music and football name-dropping because I think there are parallels between both professions -– especially when it comes to training and live performance. In my opinion, there’s no clearer parallel than that of a musician taking a solo behind a rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums) and a quarterback under center. Both have to possess an understanding of theory and technique, both need rapport with their teammates, and both need to know how to build off these fundamentals to tell a convincing story.

Over 20 years ago, I was an aspiring jazz musician and I used to spend hours on end in a practice studio studying solos of Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Rouse, and John Coltrane. I’d listen to them play and do my best to write it all down by ear, learn the notes and feel, and then try to play along and match everything they did. This timeless process is called transcription. It’s one of the most valuable tools to developing a musician’s ear, rhythm, and sound.

Just like musicians, many football players consciously adopt the techniques of established pros as technical and stylistic guideposts to help them improve their fundamentals. There was a lot of talk late last year of Tim Tebow studying Tom Brady’s release. To some extent, Tebow demonstrated signs of that Brady release when the pocket was clean.

However, the strongest example of a college prospect "transcribing" a veteran NFL quarterback’s game that I've ever seen was revealed to me this year when I watched tape of B.J. Coleman. The Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback did such a good job absorbing Peyton Manning’s style of drops, play fakes, and delivery of the football that I bet Coleman could fool 90 percent of NFL scouts into thinking that he was Manning -- were he running a scrimmage from a distance in Manning’s No. 18 jersey, anyway. It’s that close a resemblance.

Note that I said these techniques look just like those of Peyton Manning, and not that he plays as well as the future Hall of Famer. Several of today’s pop and R&B stars use stylistic techniques that borrow heavily from Stevie Wonder, but it doesn’t mean they are at his level of mastery as a musician. The same can be said about Coleman’s quarterbacking relative to Manning.

Before transferring cross-state, Coleman was at the main University of Tennessee. He made the conscious effort during those initial years to acquire all the tape on Manning that he could get his hands on, but he also did the work to learn the All-Pro’s techniques. The proficiency he showed to incorporate these fundamentals into his game during live action is a testament to the young quarterback’s work ethic and burgeoning skill. Consider that Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins told the media at the start of the 2011 season that he spent his summer working on stepping through his release, but showed no real improvement. A prospect with the skill to transition new techniques onto the field is a valuable commodity.

This is one of a few reasons why I think Coleman is a project to remember in the mid-to-late rounds. Coleman’s junior-year performance versus Appalachian State is a good illustration of the quarterback’s stylistic similarities to Manning. However, Coleman also flashes better arm strength on the move than Manning did in college. The UT-Chattanooga quarterback also demonstrates the willingness to stand tall and deliver in the pocket, which has nothing to do with technique.

Coleman’s first snap in this contest is a first-and-10 from a weak side twin-receiver, 21-personnel I-formation set. Appalachian State plays a 4-3 with the strong safety in the flat two yards behind the linebackers. The free safety is deep and near the middle of the field.

Coleman sends the flanker in motion until he’s behind the slot to form a stacked twin. At the snap, the Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback executes a play fake to the running back with excellent extension to the runner’s mid-section.

The art of the play fake isn’t just about the extension of the football. The way the quarterback sells the illusion that he no longer has the ball is just as vital. This only has to occur for a split second to fool the defense. Coleman sells his play fake by maintaining a crouched position and retracting the ball arm fast enough that he can hide it near his hip. He does this just long enough to get the linebackers to freeze, then executes a quick set up. This is an artful play fake that fits the description of Peyton Manning’s play-action game by venerable NFL quarterback and quarterback coach Steve DeBerg: "He makes it look like a run for a real long time, and then sets up faster than anybody I've ever seen."

Coleman finishes his five-step drop and looks deep to the right flat. If you look at how he sets his body, the quarterback’s posture and ball carriage in the pocket appears similar to Manning:

  • The ball is just under his Adam’s apple and shaded towards his back shoulder.
  • Both hands are on the ball, with the elbows and forearms forming a strong triangle.
  • Shoulder-width spacing of the feet at the end of the drop.
  • The body angle is leaning slightly forward as the passer drives off his back foot to hitch or step into delivery.

Up until this point of the play, Coleman’s fundamentals are similar to Manning’s, but once he breaks the pocket and has to deliver the ball on the move, the Mocs quarterback demonstrates more functional arm strength than Manning did when he was in Knoxville. Manning had better arm strength than many scouts gave him credit for, but Coleman’s arm is still stronger.

When the defender gets pressure across the quarterback’s face, Coleman breaks the pocket to the near side, outruns the defender to the near hash, and delivers the ball, on the run, 35 yards from release to the sideline.

Although there is some arc on the pass, this is a power throw. One thing that NFL defenses do consistently to pro quarterbacks is take away parts of the field. That way, they either force their opponent to eat the ball or attempt a pass with a high level of difficulty. Even the wisest NFL quarterbacks are forced into these situations two-to-three times a week, and the best arm talents make these plays to sustain drives. Coleman is painted into a corner in this situation and he demonstrates the arm talent to make the tough throw.

Although the attempt isn’t completed, Coleman flashes the promise that he’s physically capable of doing so. This is why I’d rather have a player like Coleman on my roster than Kirk Cousins. Coleman has the arm talent Cousins lacks to make these tough plays. I'd also rather bet on the aptitude that Coleman has shown to be able to craft his game in the NFL, as well.

The next series features a first-and-10 screen pass with 8:22 in the first quarter from a 21-personnel, 2x1 set. Coleman completes this pass for a 7-yard gain. Appalachian State runs a 4-3 defense where the strong side linebacker is over the tight end, just behind the defensive front.

Coleman checks the depth of the safeties and motions the outside receiver behind the slot man to stack his twin pass catchers. This is the same formation and motion that the Mocs offense used to begin the first series, which illustrates the versatility of a single formation and personnel package.

At the snap, Coleman drops seven steps from center, looks down field, and then turns to his running back to deliver the screen to the left flat. The footwork begins with big steps and ends with shorter, even steps. This change in footwork lets Coleman get his feet under him in a balanced position, which helps generate a throw with good accuracy and velocity.

Although this is a short pass, there is a lot of technique involved in the release to deliver an accurate screen. Coleman has to throw the ball while backing away, and also insure that he’s getting enough height on the ball to clear the line of scrimmage. This particular play has a rather large passing lane, but Coleman can’t anticipate that it will always generate a lane this big, so the consistency of the technique is important.

The Mocs quarterback does good job of getting on his toes, opening his hips, and delivering the ball with an over the top release. The pass arrives with good placement to the back shoulder of the runner in the left flat. This isn’t an earth-shattering play, but it’s another demonstration of good footwork on a seven-step drop, and the ability to execute good technique even if the defense doesn’t force it.

The next play we'll look at demonstrates one of the things that I like most about Coleman: his willingness to stand tall under pressure and deliver the ball. The play I’m referencing is a first-and-10 from a 2x1, 11-personnel set versus a 4-3. Coleman checks the defensive alignment and spots the far side receiver drawing single coverage.

The single coverage is evident on this play because the safety at the right hash is over the slot receiver and shaded to the inside, just like the cornerback over the outside receiver. When a corner is shaded inside his receiver, this is a good sign that he'll be in man coverage. Corners like to funnel receivers to the boundary in man coverage, and shading a receiver to the inside is one way of forcing that agenda.

After the snap, Coleman executes another strong play fake with full extension of the ball, and the running back heads towards the right tackle.

Once again, Coleman executes a quick retraction of the ball from the runner and dips his shoulders and head to sell the exchange while he briefly hides the ball. It’s good to see this level of consistency, and it makes sense given the fact that, if there’s a player to study that epitomizes technical consistency, it is Manning.

Coleman freezes the coverage just enough with the play fake, then he does a strong job of using his eyes to hold the safety to the outside for another beat as he finishes his five-step drop. This eye control and manipulation of the defender is vital for a quarterback in the NFL.

Once his back foots hits the ground at the conclusion of his drop, Coleman turns his head to the right and delivers a 54-yard throw from release point to reception for a 55-yard gain.

As Coleman begins this delivery, Appalachian State’s defensive end gets free and has a clean path to the quarterback. Despite this fact, Coleman doesn’t change his release.

During Coleman’s release, the defensive end gets just enough of the quarterback’s arm during the final portion of the follow-through that it slightly alters the distance on the throw. The receiver has at least three steps on the cornerback as the ball gets within range, but the pass catcher has to slow his gait just slightly so he doesn’t overrun the pass.

Because of this impending contact, Coleman’s throw is impressive. He not only takes the hit, but he delivers the ball to the inside with the knowledge that this is the best area of placement in case the hit alters his throw.

The reason that Coleman’s receiver still has time and room to make an adjustment for the completion is the quarterback’s play fake, skill at holding the safety, and his efficient delivery. These fundamentals buy enough room for error on the accuracy of the throw, and it’s these small details that are encouraging about Coleman’s potential to take his game to a higher level.

Is Coleman the next Peyton Manning? No, and that’s not the point. Coleman demonstrates that he has both the physical skills and capacity to learn. This thirst for acquiring and implementing knowledge is what separates late-round quarterbacks that succeed from early-round signal callers that don’t.

Posted by: Matt Waldman on 23 Apr 2012

56 comments, Last at 29 Apr 2012, 5:17pm by DisplacedPackerFan

Comments

1
by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:01pm

This smells like the exact sort of scouting that was so prevalent before statistics started interfering. "Look at these two plays! His elbow is level, and his shoulders are crouched!" So...what? Does he also have good teeth? Is he nice to his mother? It even talks about arm strength repeatedly, the biggest red herring in quarterback-scouting known to man.

FO ain't perfect, but you guys can do better than this.

5
by Independent George :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:12pm

I have to disagree; this kind of analysis seems far more relevant to scouting than statistical analysis. The Lewin projection actually depends on this kind of qualitative analysis as a filter before you even get to the statistical components.

7
by Joseph :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:17pm

Hey AA, can you do any better????
Matt is new here, and his job is to do these type of articles--NOT STATS-HEAVY stuff. Also notice that he makes the point that the guy is a mid-to-late-round prospect. This article says to me, "Look--this guy needs some work. If your favorite team drafts him in the 5th-6th, they might stash him on the practice squad, or keep him as the 3rd QB. He will make some nice plays in the pre-season, but don't get your hopes up for about 3 years. He could become your QB of the future--esp. if you don't have a long term solution."
In other words, KC and OAK look like a good spot for this guy.

17
by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:20pm

I'd have to disagree, also. For someone that's done boxing and wrestling, how you plant your feet, how you square your shoulders and hips, etc, gives you the leverage and power. Similar things apply to quarterbacking. This is a good write-up because Waldman, unlike some other scouts, also writes why posture/technique is important and how it translate to the throw.

And if you think technique isn't important, try a boxing match with your hands by your waist instead of by your head.

29
by Theo :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 4:26pm

You're arguing against a point the writer didn't make.

2
by Dean :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:07pm

Great stuff. Although I'm not sure I can forgive your roomate for discovering Matchbox 20. At the time you're talking about, UM School of Music was the only school in the entire nation (including places like Julliard and Berklee) to offer programs in Music Industry and Music Engineering.

Another band from a couple years later would have been Day By The River. They would have been freshmen in '91. They didn't peak as high as some of the other acts you mentioned, but they got as far as the second stage of the HORDE Festival before a car accident killed their tour manager and essentially dissolved the band.

Miami's known for it's football, but people forget that it's a first rate academic school as well - especially it's music, engineering, medicine, and architecture programs.

10
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:01pm

Ha!

That guy who discovered that Band had a brother by the name of Dean :)

I had another roommate in the Music Engineering program. We just hung out a month ago.

26
by Dean :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 3:18pm

Not me. I don't have any brothers. The guys from DBR were a year behind me, but a couple of them lived on my floor. One of my best friends was flunking out of Music Engineering so he just became a business major.

3
by ajpalma (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:08pm

I was at the game you're referencing as an App State fan, it was the season opener of 2010. While Chattanooga had an impressive first half going up something like 21 points, App state did end up winning this one it but it wasn't Coleman's fault (special teams turnovers and lack of a skilled kicker).

Coleman burned App on the play-action all day, it was quite impressive. I left that game thinking he was the real deal. When I saw him play in 2011 though he didn't seem as impressive with the pressure on him of playing from behind.

4
by ebongreen :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:12pm

Nice write-up Matt. I'd love to see something like this - or your general impressions - of GJ Kinne of Tulsa. He seemed pretty dialed-in in his post-collegiate all-star game, and another fellow with some promise as a late-round developmental guy.

19
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:21pm

Thanks. We'll see about Kinne...

6
by Jon Burr (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:14pm

Coleman had serious discipline issues at his high school McCallie, as well as at UT. Not necessarily debilitating issues, such as drugs/alcohol or injury, but he constantly threatened to change schools when things weren't going his way, and eventually did just that at UT, when he couldn't beat out eventual pros Ainge and Crompton. Perhaps he just realized time wasn't on his side and that he needed to start sooner than later, but as someone who watched him in HS, at UT, and at UTC, I would be absolutely stunned if he ever amounted to anything as a pro.

18
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:20pm

Interesting take. Certainly, off-field/locker room behavior has its place in determining the future of a player. However, just purely looking at what's on the field, Coleman is an fun case study of a player who has assimilated techniques he's clearly studied since he arrived at UT and transferred to UTC.

49
by LM (not verified) :: Wed, 04/25/2012 - 8:44am

You clearly have never met BJ nor do you know anything about him. He absolutely does not have discipline issues.

8
by Jeff George (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:20pm

I like this post. I can't tell you how irritating it is to listen to analysts and commentators parroting about mechanics while not actually telling you anything about mechanics other than highlighting the QB's feet, head, and throwing motion. This post shows what goes into playing the position a bit, as well as what evaluators look at.

11
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:04pm

I think most of us want to see evidence of the analysis when possible. It doesn't mean the projection that's based on the analysis is going to be correct, but at least readers know where the writer is coming from.

Highlighting and explaining technique at the position can go a long way towards enriching one's perspective of the game.

9
by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 1:53pm

Why is it that there are so many people passionate about mathematics and music? I have a degree in math and my career path has been largely statistician and analyst roles, but only after the few bands I was in failed to pay the bills. I'm still an avid bass player - I split much of my free time between playing music and developing fantasy football draft strategies.

Anyway, good article. I enjoyed the read and the pictures are a good help, visually. These types of posts look like a lot of work.

14
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:06pm

They are a fair bit of work. However, this is the research I do for my publication The Rookie Scouting Portfolio:

Blog (further examples of work) www.mattwaldmanrsp.com
Publication www.mattwaldman.com

12
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:05pm

Comparing him to Cousins is a bit cheap, everybody knows that Cousins is going nowhere as a pro. I'd be interested to see how Waldman thinks he compares to Tannehill or to some low-end pro quarterbacks mechanically. It sounds like he may at least be qualified to hold a clipboard.

A quarterback trying to model themselves on PM isn't exactly new. Every pocket passer who comes out is compared to Manning. He's not the most statistically dominant quarterback anymore, but Rodgers in particular seems to be a less fundamental and repeatable pro (this isn't a knock on Rodgers - but he's amazing because he really shouldn't get away with some of that stuff - yet always does).

Arm strength is a bit odd; most college starters have pretty good arms these days, and the best arms don't always succeed in the NFL (see: Brady, Tom vs. Russell, JaMarcus). And yet, you don't see Greg McElroy starting in New York.

16
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:18pm

There's a difference in saying you model yourself on a player and actually work enough to look a lot like him in drop, setup, and release.

"Every pocket passer who comes out is compared to Manning." Really? Who has been legitimately compared to Manning coming out?

I think you're confusing Rodgers mechanics with Favres when you make the statement about "shouldn't get away with that stuff - yet always does." Rodgers has sound techniques.

You don't see Greg McElroy starting in New York is a poor argument, IMO. Pick a non-rookie with a real shot in camp to compete for a job.

I've written plenty about Tannehill. Here are a few links:

http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2012/03/12/why-ryan-tannehill-is-a-first-round...

http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2012/02/11/managing-the-pocket-part-ii-texas-a...

http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2012/02/09/managing-the-pocket-part-i-texas-am...

27
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 4:20pm

Matt, I did not mean to come off as critical, I enjoyed and benefited from the writeup. Thank you for putting the work in.

I did not suggest that those players were legitimately compared to Manning, only that Manning's name shows up more often than one would otherwise expect in scouting articles.

(As an aside, I have always been amazed by Manning's play-action fake, and I'm glad to see it get some press. A while back I saw a practice-field video of a handoff and a play action fake - I believe with Addai as the back - and the motion is EXACTLY the same. Really, really good.)

Rodgers terrified me this year. No one should be able to make so many throws outside the pocket, on the run, and connect so reliably with their receivers. He makes defenses look like they're defending a bigger football field, and I could not, based on TV cameras, ever decide if it was just that Jordy Nelson and Co. were "that good", or whether other quarterbacks just don't throw their receivers open, or if it was the planets aligning and next year he'll be mortal again.

30
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 4:27pm

No worries. This is the place we can debate, right? I'm okay with you having a critical viewpoint of my work. Just like anyone here, I'm a student of the game. I'm still learning.

I'm going to be wrong about players. Kirk Cousins could become a productive NFL starter. Russell Wilson could flame out. All I can do is give my take and provide as much supporting evidence as possible within readable format that isn't to lengthy.

I appreciate the desire to clarify and I'm glad you enjoyed it. But I don't mind the debate or criticism. It comes with the territory.

33
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 5:41pm

Debate! OK, can we have a predaft barney about one of this draft's most divisive prospects, Quinton Coples?

He's so hard to work out, his good tape looks like the best 4-3 DE prospect since Mario Williams, great length, strength, good hands and good quickness for a man of his size. He's played inside and at end, produced at both, has very good knee bend for a tall man but his recent press suggests he's just awful and likely to fail at the next level. What's your take?

36
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 10:34pm

I will side with my pal Jene Bramel on this one - he's in the middle. Neither the next Pierre-Paul nor a complete bust. He has things to learn as evidenced in Jenes's three-part analysis of Coples at my blog. These are all lessons he can learn:

http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2012/02/13/unc-de-quinton-coples-the-importanc...

http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2012/02/14/quinton-coples-part-ii-pad-level-an...

http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2012/02/16/quinton-coples-part-iii-stacking-up...

31
by Kal :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 4:46pm

Manning's work ethic and perfectionism in action here. He spent something like 3 hours a day simply doing and redoing his playfake to look exactly like his handoff - and he'd film it and look at it again and redo it over and over until it was nearly identical. It was an absurd amount of work, but it resulted in his playfake looking phenomenal - to the point where opposing defenses stopped keying on Manning at all and starting keying instead on the line and the WRs and the RBs.

32
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 4:54pm

Exactly.

Here's an interview I did with former scout Dan Shonka of Ourlads. He talks about his encounter with Manning at Tennessee. It's a telling account of Manning's work ethic.

http://wp.me/p1xOUs-sc

13
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:05pm

"I know firsthand, because from 1988-1991, I was there. I witnessed the greatness of a music program that, in terms of fielding quality pros with great skill and acclaim, beats the football team hands down. The award-winning roster includes the likes of Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Steve Morse, Grace Slick, Gloria Estefan, Ben Folds, Bruce Hornsby, Enrique Iglesias, and Will Lee (David Letterman’s bassist)."

Err..., Jaco Pastorius died in 1987.

(And Enrique Inglesias is nothing to be proud of, awful, awful music.)

15
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:08pm

Karl,

I'm referring to alumni in general, not from that four-year period - otherwise you should have pointed out all of them.

20
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:24pm

I'd never heard of some of them but I was pretty certain that Jaco Passtorius died in 87 so I looked that up on wikipedia, there's only so much pedantry I can muster on a Monday evening. For all I knew Gloria Estefan was helping as a teacher and Ben Folds was tinkling the ivories at Coral Gables as a child prodigy, both would be possible, not so much for Jaco (who I studied while learning the bass, quite amazing).

If it cheers you up I think this other thought is spot on, "A prospect with the skill to transition new techniques onto the field is a valuable commodity." If you look at two of the best quarterbacks in the game, Rogers and Brady, the transformation of their games from when they entered the league is just remarkable and demonstrates that they carry coaching onto the field at an elite level. This makes Tannehill look like a much more promising prospect as his mechanics developed beautifully from 2010 to 2011, a different passer.

21
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:26pm

No worries Karl...

As you can see in comment No.16, I'm a believer in Tannehill's potential.

22
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:33pm

Man, when did Kirk Cousins piss in your Wheaties? Russell Wilson gets a highlight reel excerpt that ignores his 3 INTs in that game and Tim Tebow gets a favorable comment about his mechanics (!), but that crapsack Kirk Cousins is the poster boy for do-nothing QBs. Only a loser could go to 22-5 for an MSU team that didn't run the ball particularly well. There's no way he could have cleaned up in Div I-AA.

23
by speedegg :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:41pm

sounds like someone missed the write-up of Cousins:

http://footballoutsiders.com/nfl-draft/2012/futures-ugly-underside-mr-co...

24
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 2:58pm

I read it. I just found it odd that the author felt he needed a second week to continue his criticism of Cousins. At this point, it feels gratuitous.

There's also a difference between sticking a 35-yd out into a window against App State and doing it against Georgia or ND. That's the same Georgia defense that held #1 LSU without a first down in the first half of the SEC Championship game.

25
by speedegg :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 3:16pm

From a fan standpoint, I would say yes.

After listening to Greg Cosell's podcast on quarterbacks, I would say no. Cosell said he evaluates QBs immaterial of conference, opponent, and what the QB is asked to do in his college offense. He made a comment that some college offenses tend to pad or mask statistics, so he's not interested in (for example) intercept numbers in a vacuum. He's looking for what the QB can physically do and how/if it translates to the pro level.

Based on that Cosell has concerns about Cousins, also.

28
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 4:24pm

Actually, there's no difference. Either you can do it consistently or you can't. Either you show the judgment to make that play consistently or you don't. I also believe you're taking my criticism of Cousins as gratuitous when I was just giving a point of contrast to something I had shown earlier in this series of posts. If that rubs you the wrong way, there's not much I can do to change your feeling.

However, what's so fascinating about watching players for their techniques and behaviors on the field is that it can completely belie the value of stats in some cases (your point that UGA's defense is better than App State so it shouldn't be a meaningful analysis)

I have given great evals to players like Joseph Addai and Matt Forte in games vs. (statistically) top-ranked defenses (Auburn for Addai and LSU for Forte) where neither back average even 2.5 yards per carry. The reason they got those high marks is what they demonstrated in terms of skill sets. In contrast, I have watched players have huge statistical outings against lesser defense and they have scored poorly because they didn't consistently display the skills, techniques, and decisions of prospects capable of becoming NFL starters.

The right kind of stats can illuminate aspects of the game and its players that we may not see at first glance. So can the right kind of play-by-play analysis.

34
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 5:50pm

Sure, but that's not the comparison you're making. You're praising a solid performance (Coleman) against average competition versus poor performance (Cousins) against stellar competition.

And I appreciate the point you're making about mechanics. I just think you're entering with an opinion and cherry-picking evidence that supports it, instead of evaluating the entire sample. Because you certainly evaluated Cousins with an entirely different set of examples than you did Wilson or Campbell, and it smells like bias.

35
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 7:52pm

It is an understandable, but easy claim to make that I'm cherry-picking when I only have so many examples to create a readable piece.

However, two points: You've glossed over my point that I've studied skill sets and techniques of players and graded them high for poor performances against stellar competition while giving poor grades to players with solid to great performances against average competition.

Secondly, the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio a 975-page publication - 800 of those pages are checklists with play-by-play notes of every player I evaluate, which is on par in length and format for what I've been doing for the past seven years - is where this information and work comes from.

37
by usernaim250 :: Mon, 04/23/2012 - 11:07pm

But it's not like he's throwing to D1 receivers who are massively outplaying inferior competition. It's true there are some throws he won't be able to make in the pros because of closing speed, but that's true for Andrew Luck too. It's usually very easy to throw away from NFL prospects in a college secondary no matter who you play for. All QB's will either learn that or not. But Cousins was not even able to elude the closing speed of Big 10 corners, so why would you think he could do it in the pros? Cousins looks like a poor man's Rex Grossman to me.

40
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 9:00am

And he may well be. I've only ever considered him a mediocre QB (in the NFL sense of the term, where that might still make you top-50 on the planet at throwing a football).

I was just curious why Wilson and Coleman got evaluations that excused their flaws, and Cousins got two weeks of comments excusing his strengths. Michigan State isn't a Florida or Oklahoma -- it doesn't have the massive talent disparity in which many prospect QBs flourish. MSU has benefited from OSU having a down period and that they match up well with the flaws of Wisconsin. Cousins' success has been more like Griffin's success than Bradford's or QB Oregon's. MSU has good receivers, but arguably some of that is Cousins.

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by Matt Waldman :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 9:53am

Ok, I think I understand what you're asking here...

I think fundamentally what you might be missing is that I'm highlighting particular aspects of a player's game. I'm not giving a full evaluation of these players. My complete evaluations are in my publication. I'm just highlighting information that I think jumps off the page about a player that's positive or negative as a launching point to discuss certain techniques. I will offer some broader conclusions on a player, but that's based on complete study of the player and not everything you're going to see here.

I thought Wilson's height issue was a good one to discuss and show how he makes difficult throws that should translate to the NFL if he gets a chance. I felt Cousins gets a lot of love for what are known as intangibles, but he has some fundamental issues with how he uses his feet that need to be addressed.

I could definitely talk about Wilson's tendency to leave the pocket earlier than he needs to in certain situations and conclude that if he doesn't get that together he'll never maintain a job as a starting quarterback, if he even earns one in the first place.

However, what I think we need to clear up here is that I'm giving you snapshots of certain factors that I see in a player.

Otherwise, I'm going to be writing 10-15 pages on a player and provide multiple game examples. You're not getting extensive scouting reports in this column, you're getting snapshots with highly specific examples of a few aspects of a players game. If one seems inordinately positive or critical, understand that context. I usually provide this explanation as an intro to pieces I post on my blog. Probably a good idea to do the same with these.

Thanks

38
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 3:11am

"Actually, there's no difference. Either you can do it consistently or you can't."

If there's NO difference, then wouldn't we be getting evaluations of D-II and D-III QBs? A lot of QBs at lower levels use great mechanics and make great decisions.

39
by Matt Waldman :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 8:41am

No, because a lot of these players lack enough of something in their games to be D-II and D-III players.

When you project to the NFL level you have to have look at the game with a higher standard. For instance, accuracy and decision-making. A QB is generally "accurate" in college because he simply threw a ball that a WR caught. However, apply a higher standard and grade the QB so that "accurate" is hitting a receiver in stride with ball placement near the face, the front shoulder, or the back shoulder based on the route and coverage, and suddenly your 70 percent throwers in college aren't accurate by NFL standards.

A college QB who scrambles around and throws the ball across his body for a completion between two defenders, made a "good decision" because he got away with the outcome. However, that's not a good decision in the pros because the likelihood that a player gets away with that type of throw shrinks with that transition.

And when I say college QBs, I'm actually referring to D-I players. You have to remember that there are a greater variety of offenses in college that are matched to the talent level of players.

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by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 12:04pm

"However, apply a higher standard and grade the QB so that "accurate" is hitting a receiver in stride with ball placement near the face, the front shoulder, or the back shoulder based on the route and coverage, and suddenly your 70 percent throwers in college aren't accurate by NFL standards."

There are D-II and D-III QBs that can locate the ball. You've made the arbitrary decision that those guys can't get it done in the pros because of the level they play at. That's fine. But it implies there's a difference between hitting the 35 yard out against Texas A&M--Commerce and Mary Hardin Baylor and say Georgia.

43
by Matt Waldman :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 2:21pm

Absolutely, there are guys at D-II and D-III that can do those things, I haven't made that arbitrary decision at all. You've chosen to attribute those words to me and twist the argument to an incorrect conclusion because I mentioned that there are a lot of D-II and D-III guys that can't. There are also a lot of D-I guys that can't.

I don't care what division they are, I'm just looking at behaviors. If I get a chance to watch a player from D-II and D-III then I'll grade them the same way I grade a player from UGA, SMU, or FAU.

44
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 4:31pm

Apparently this got off track:

Someone above wrote "There's also a difference between sticking a 35-yd out into a window against App State and doing it against Georgia or ND."

You stated in your next comment that there is no difference. At what point does the level of competition matter? If it doesn't, then why aren't NFL teams drafting D-II and D-III QBs?

45
by tuluse :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 4:53pm

Because those QBs can't stick a 35 yard out?

At least not with the velocity required in the NFL.

46
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 9:10pm

How do you know? Have you ever watched a D-II/D-III football game?

Most can't. A few can.

47
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 11:28pm

I know some Div-II kickers who can nail a 35-yd FG Alabama's kicker couldn't hit. =)

48
by tuluse :: Tue, 04/24/2012 - 11:42pm

I guess I don't know, but I assume that NFL teams do their due diligence.

50
by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 04/25/2012 - 9:20am

"Most can't. A few can."

In fact most can, but most can't be be bothered. I'm lucky I live in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins plays it's games two blocks from my house. Stevenson College is about 25 minutes away. McDaniel and Bowie State about 50 minutes. The vast majority of Americans living in the lower 48 are with 45 minutes to an hour of a Div I/II teams.

51
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Wed, 04/25/2012 - 10:02am

Uh, you do know that most deep outs are at 15-18 yards, right? That's a hard throw at the pro level because of the power, velocity, accuracy, and timing with the receiver.

In this write up, it's a 35 yard deep out, so VERY few college QBs can make that kind of throw. I might go so far to say few pro level QBs can make that throw (Cutler, Palmer, Rodgers, and Boller, but Boller isn't a starter). I'm not sure Tony Romo (who came from a I-AA school) can make a 35 yard deep out consistently and I'm pretty sure that's not a staple of the Cowboy's offense. What D-II/D-III schools are you watching?

52
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/25/2012 - 1:14pm

A 35 yard out isn't even a route, is it? Can any quarterback at any level get the protection they would need to wait for a receiver to get 35 yards down and make a break (what, five seconds at least)? And could even Cutler throw the ball hard enough that the pass wouldn't have to be released -before- the receiver made his break (which would defeat the purpose of the route)?

Now, I know you can show me game film where a pass is thrown outside a deep receiver from the opposite hash mark. But that's not the same as "sticking a 35 yard out". I don't think any offense relies on its quarterback making 35 yard timing throws outside the numbers. The problem there isn't just arm strength, it's physics and timing.

A deep out is a route beyond the 10-12 yard mark intended to pick up a first down (maybe after a loss) in one go. It's a 30-35 yard throw (thank you, Pythagoras). A 35 yard out is a 50 yard throw. I don't think anyone wants to be expecting their quarterback to make that throw consistently.

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by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Wed, 04/25/2012 - 1:39pm

EXACTLY! It's not a normal route, but Coleman has the ability to make that throw.

My point was that not many QBs can make that throw, even at the pro level. So if there's a bunch of D-II/D-III QBs that can do that I'm sure everyone would like to know who. Heck, I'd like to know, so I can draft him in my Dynasty League.

54
by MCS :: Sun, 04/29/2012 - 9:58am

When i first read this article, i thought that Coleman would be a good candiate for McCarthy's QB school. With a strong arm and a good work ethic, Coleman caan develop. I am glad that TT took a chaen this kid.

55
by Matt Waldman :: Sun, 04/29/2012 - 3:20pm

Apparently Packers GM Ted Thompson told Mike McCarthy that Coleman will be the best pick they've ever made. If know know anything about Thompson, he is probably the most diligent GM when it comes to scouting players and has a scouting background so that's saying something.

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by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sun, 04/29/2012 - 5:17pm

This story has been warped. Coleman is the one who said he would be the best draft pick they ever made. Original tweet on this was here https://twitter.com/#!/TyDunne/status/196378583093088256


McCarthy says that B.J. Coleman was the most excited draftee he talked to on the phone. QB told him he'll be the best pick he ever made.