Practically since the Louisville season ended, the debate began over whether Lamar Jackson would become a franchise quarterback in the NFL. Before continuing that debate, though, it’s worth asking what makes a great NFL quarterback.
Is it arm strength? Pocket presence? Athletic ability? Something else?
In the arm strength department, for every Brett Favre, there’s seemingly a JaMarcus Russell. And while Russell Wilson was able to use his athleticism to become a Pro Bowl quarterback, Tim Tebow wasn’t able to do the same.
Nobody has really been able to figure it out. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t one sole thing that makes a great NFL quarterback. And lot of times, it’s up to a coaching staff to bring out a quarterback’s best attributes anyway.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit argued Tuesday that NFL coaches have done a better job of not pigeon-holing quarterbacks into one system. Not every great college quarterback comes into the NFL ready to run a pro-style offense, but that doesn’t mean they can’t experience success in the league.
“What I’m seeing, especially this last year, more and more NFL teams saying ‘Man, why are we doing this? Let’s take these quarterbacks that we’re inheriting from the college ranks, this is what they know,'” Herbstreit said Tuesday during a conference call. “Instead of saying ‘this is the way I run my offense, I’m in the NFL. Let’s try to adjust our scheme to his strength.'”
“Whether it’s Philly, what did last year, or the Rams with Jared Goff, I think the NFL is doing a better job of adjusting to what they’re inheriting the last couple years and moving forward. (That’s better than) trying to figure out how to deal with a spread guy trying to come in and learn an NFL system.”
Don’t forget Deshaun Watson in Houston. Bill O’Brien ran basically the same offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage as the Texans starting quarterbacks from 2014-16 with marginal success at best. Then when Watson began playing last fall, all the sudden, the Houston offense contained bootlegs and other plays enabling Watson to use his legs. It all led to Watson setting NFL rookie records in his first six games.
Now, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a learning curve. Herbstreit pointed out that a quarterback will see 4-5 different types of coverages in a typical college game while an average NFL contest will feature three times that amount. In some ways, scouting a quarterback should be more about determining how quickly they can process information as opposed to just physical gifts.
Regardless, Herbstreit’s argument supports the notion that under the right coach, Jackson can be a star in the league. Jackson played in a pro-style offense at Louisville, so he’s already ahead of some other talent signal callers that have come out of college in recent years. The next step is for him to keep developing as a pocket passer while continuing to use his athleticism to make splash plays.
Whether its with the New England Patriots — Bill Belichick has been better than anyone at capitalizing on his player’s strengths and hiding their weaknesses — or some other team, the former Heisman Trophy winner has the talent to excel at the next level.
And not at wide receiver. If he isn’t pigeon-holed into just being a pocket passer, the sky appears to be the limit for Jackson at quarterback.