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How To Scout A Quarterback (Part One): Do The “Parcells Rules” Still Matter?

NFL: Combine-Connor Cook Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter the NFL offseason, which is the precursor to the NFL Draft season, it’s important to go over looking at the upcoming prospects and evaluating and grading them.

But one of the most important things to help determine the quality of a player vs. where they will be taken in the NFL Draft is to view prospects as the NFL TEAMS would view them.

This is the first part in a three-part series—looking at the 2017 list of QB’s and how NFL team scouts THEMSELVES would view them and process them.

For some background, I was a former scouting intern for an Arena Football team and had the privilege to work under someone who spent time working as an NFL scout for teams like the Dolphins, Giants and Raiders, and got to pick his brain into how he thought and how teams would think.

One of the ways that has been done in the past, is by simply checking boxes of requirements for a Quarterback. If they check all the boxes, they are seen as higher. If they miss on two or three areas, it could indicate potential weaknesses or even drop them altogether. The first area we’ll look into is the so-called “Parcells Rules” for QB scouting, as popularized by Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Parcells

What Are The Parcells Rules?

  1. Must be a Senior.
  2. Must be graduating or have already received their degree
  3. Started for at least 3 years
  4. At least 23 collegiate wins

The main idea amongst these rules is that you must have reps to progress as a Quarterback, have played at a high level as a starting Quarterback to keep your job and have the commitment necessary to succeed in life, not just in football.

These rules have become pretty widespread in terms of evaluating quarterbacks and while they aren’t ironclad rules, there is a good correlation between them and many of the top Quarterbacks playing now in the NFL. For example, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Dak Prescott were all seniors when they were drafted, and all had their degrees, were 3 year starters and hit that number of wins.

In fact, AZ’s own Carson Palmer hits all four of Parcells’ benchmarks. So are these rules going to be prime indicators of Quarterback success?

Well...yes and no. In some cases, as we see above, a good portion of the top Quarterbacks in the NFL do hit these rules, but players like Andrew Luck only started for two years, and a QB like Jameis Winston and Cam Newton wasn’t a senior, didn’t even graduate at the time, nor had three years as a starting QB.

Last year Connor Cook was the ONLY top-ranked college quarterback who hit each of the “Parcells Rules”. How does this year’s class fare?

Parcells Rules: Top 10 2017 QB’s

Name Senior? 3-Year Starter? Graduate? # of Wins?
Name Senior? 3-Year Starter? Graduate? # of Wins?
Brad Kaaya No Yes Yes 23
Chad Kelly Yes No Yes 14
CJ Beathard Yes Yes Yes 21
Davis Webb Yes Yes Yes 11
DeShaun Watson No Yes Yes 32
DeShone Kizer No Yes No 14
Jerod Evans No No ? 10
Mitch Trubisky No No No 8
Nathan Peterman Yes No Yes 16
Pat Mahomes No Yes Yes 16

Big Takeaway:

First of all, if NFL teams hold to the typical ideals, it’s no wonder they “hate” this class. The QB’s here such as Kizer, Trubisky and Mahomes simply don’t have a ton of wins. Outside of DeShaun Watson, that is.

Quite a few of them have transferred or have been or sitting behind other Quarterbacks for a season or two so there isn’t a lot of experience to go around especially after the top 3-4 guys.

What’s interesting about Watson, Kizer and Mahomes? All aren’t seniors....but they already have their degrees.

That, to me, says something about their intelligence in addition to their football savvy, and NFL scouts could see that as a positive.

The biggest standout names here for hitting Parcells’ marks is Watson, but also Beathard and Kaaya as they were all 3-year starters who amassed a ton of reps at the position and played in a ton of games and got their degrees. For many NFL fans who can’t seem to comprehend why Beathard and Kaaya are seemingly beloved by scouts, this is a good indicator of why: experience matters.

That said, it’s important to note some of the bigger names of QB’s such as Kizer, Mahomes and Trubisky, all have a very low total of wins, despite the fact that Kizer and Mahomes both started for 3 years.

These are all factors scouts must take into account. That said, the fact that the top Quarterback prospects of the past few years? Zero drafted in the first round who have hit 4/4 for the Parcells rules, and the last one who did, Connor Cook, went in the 4th round.

What Changed?

Answer: the NFL CBA.

Originally under the time the Parcells rules were being used, the top drafted players in the first round would get HUGE deals, with a lot of guaranteed money. Sam Bradford, memorably, received $50 million from the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams for being the #1 overall pick.

Makes sense now that if you wanted to get the most guaranteed money, you’d do everything you could to get experience and show teams you were worthy of as high a pick as possible.

That motivation to go back to school to push your draft stock up further is a big part of why the top quarterbacks were able to get to three-years starting and 23 wins.

Today’s NFL?

Not the case.

Nowadays, the best Quarterbacks are NOT the ones who stay and develop until they are Seniors but rather the ones who are good enough to leave school early knowing they will get drafted high to start the process for their SECOND NFL contract more quickly.

These are the Quarterbacks who get a ton of reps despite being at a very young age--see guys like Jameis, Mariota Teddy Bridgewater and even Christian Hackenberg, all who had three years of reps and started as either a Freshman or Redshirt Freshman, and all were taken in the top 40 picks.


This may be partially my personal opinion, but I believe that the NFL, currently, still holds the principles behind these rules in high regard.

And with good reason.

Many of the top Quarterbacks drafted check these boxes (see: Carson Wentz last year and a player with three of the four traits in Dak Prescott) and there are plenty others with these qualities who demonstrate elite success in the NFL. Quarterbacks do need a good number of reps at the college level to avoid being a “flash in the pan” or not being able to develop experience.


The times have somewhat changed in the league thanks to the new CBA and with accelerated degree programs, and I don’t believe that being a “Senior” Quarterback is as important as being a 2-3 year starter. Degrees might not even be as important, but if it’s possible to get a degree in three years, I agree it should count as a good mark but it isn’t as vital as it used to be.

All in all, “rules” is not the correct term for Parcells’ standards.

The correct term is “guidelines”.

Those guidelines come from principles versus simply checking off boxes. The principle is that what you want in a quarterback is experience, commitment and leadership. Those are the traits that we don’t just see in the majority of highly drafted quarterbacks, but also the traits of elite NFL Pro-Bowlers.

If we can adjust these principles with the times, I think that Parcells gave scouts and evaluators an important metric to add to the many that should go into defining a Quarterback.

In short:

The Parcells rules are guidelines for ensuring that a QB prospect has gotten enough physical, mental and commitment “reps” to proceed at the next level.

To apply them stringently, however, is a mistake and fans and evaluators likewise should proceed with caution.


Thanks for reading—we’ll be following up this evaluation next with with a statistical analysis of the top Quarterbacks using what stats pro scouts actually believe is important for success at the next level.

You can follow @blakemurphy7 at Revenge of the Birds and on Twitter.