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How To Scout a QB Pt. 1: Does the NFL CBA mean the “Parcells Rules” need to be updated?

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The infamous “Parcells Rules” are considered a benchmark for QB scouting for many. But are they too outdated for the new NFL?

NCAA Football: Camping World Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Virginia Tech Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it’s that time of the year again.

The NFL Combine is in full swing and as usual, there are a plethora of blogs and articles across the internet breaking down the “rules” that Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells infamously clung to.

What are those rules, you may ask?

For those not familiar, Parcells publically used a set of requirements in the quarterbacks he scounted in order to help grading and paint a picture of what level of success a QB had in college football to project their ability at the pro level outside of film or “contextual” statistics. They are:

  • Be a three-year starter
  • Be a senior in college
  • Graduate from college
  • Start 30 games
  • Win 23 games
  • Post a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio
  • Compete at least 60-percent of passes thrown

So do these rules still apply? First, let’s take a look at some of the issues with these rules in today’s present NFL before taking a look at how this year’s top 10 quarterbacks fit into these metrics.

Parcells violated his own rules

The fact is, looking at the quarterbacks Parcells drafted, some of them didn’t hit is metrics. So it’s not a “commandment” so much as a benchmark.

What’s the point of the rules, then?

It’s about a philosophy, rather than locked-in-place or an “all or nothing” standard for quarterbacking.

Looking at the list of his rules, Parcells clearly favored three sorts of philosophy: starting experience, wins, and decision-making.

For the last point, getting a college degree was a big part of his mentality as it showed commitment, being able to complete a degree and having the smarts to do so. This is debatable but at minimum, it’s a hard data point.

So, what’s changed?

The NFL CBA changed everything about how college quarterbacks viewed these rules.

The NFL CBA when Parcells was making decisions was totally different, as it scaled to much higher guaranteed contracts for draft picks.

Notably, Senior QB Sam Bradford coming out of Oklahoma received $50 million guaranteed money before he ever took an NFL snap. With that much money at stake, it paid off for players to go back to college to raise their draft stock by a round, or to increase their number of reps at the university level to gain more experience and work more on their body so they can start in the NFL sooner, which leads to a higher draft spot.

However, this ended up backfiring.

Teams ended up having to commit a wealth of their team’s cap space to young, unproven players and thereby wouldn’t be able to surround them with talent to succeed early on, and owners didn’t like the fact that a “bust” taken in the top 5 would set their franchise back impossibly. So, they drastically scaled back the rookie wages.

This had, shall we say, unintended consequences:

  • There was no “rookie payday” for prospects when they compared their first NFL contract to the 2nd contract for the mega-million.
  • Spread concepts took over where players could execute productive offenses by running plays quickly with great athletes resulting in less “pre-emptive” mental acuity and more athletic delivery simply by scheme.
  • Additional medical information and improved pressure in college to perform also led to more major injuries happening each year while players weren’t making a dime for putting their bodies and minds on the line.

As a result, college underclassmen are leaving in DROVES in order to get to their second contract as quick as possible.

This has led to far less experience with players leaving for the pros.

Including quarterbacks. Mitch Trubisky left after just a year of starting at QB (and still went #2 overall despite a lack of experience). And a guy like Connor Cook who hit each of the Parcells measurables went in the 4th round and struggled in the NFL despite these metrics. It’s become totally irrelevant under this current setup.

Which leads to the third point...

Under the current NFL CBA, there’s incentive for Quarterbacks who don’t go in the first round due to the 5th year option

This is perhaps the most interesting of the unintended consequences of the new CBA. The NFL giving a “5th-year option” for first-round picks that teams can choose to pick up or not definitely does benefit quarterbacks who were taken in that range. Just look at Blake Bortles getting $19 million guaranteed money this season.

But as rounds outside of the first having standard 4-year deals, quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and soon, Dak Prescott, are all beneficiaries of their teams stumbling onto these starting quarterbacks in later rounds.

The reason is because they get to have their big payday one year EARLIER than their peers who were taken in the first round. Sure, the 5th year option is big with guaranteed money but it’s the signing bonuses for long-term deals that are lucrative. Take a quarterback who enters the draft at age 21 who ends up going in the 2nd and starts for their team for 4 years. If they stay for a year and enter at 22, their big “pay day” comes as they approach 27 years of age.

For that lucky QB who went in the 2nd round on a 4 year deal? At age 25 they get their payday, almost a whole 2 years earlier, and with more guarantees to stay around longer with their current team.

Now it’s not perfect—after all teams will likely commit much more to a quarterback they took in Round 1 versus a more “expendable” one in a later round. But if the player performs, they maximize their earning potential OUTSIDE round 1.

This means that quarterbacks benefit more from declaring for the draft sooner, even if they could stay to become a round 1 guy, than they do if they stay.

As long as they become a franchise quarterback, that is.

It’s a slippery slope, as a guy like Jerod Evans declared last year and became a UDFA quickly and saw few teams committing to him, but it’s led to more and more guys like Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston, and this year’s Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson declaring almost as soon as they were 3 years out of high school.

This means less and less quarterbacks will “hit” the Parcells rules, and less of them will be the top-ranked quarterback due to the fact that once a quarterback is “good enough” to be drafted, they will leave if teams value them as a first-round pick.

So how do the traditional Parcells rules stack up? I took a look but removed the TD/INT ratio and completion % as I will be focusing on those in a later article. Let’s JUST look at the games they played and degrees earned:

2018 QB’s-Traditional Parcells

Name Senior? 3-Year Starter? Graduated? Started 30 Games Won 23 Games
Name Senior? 3-Year Starter? Graduated? Started 30 Games Won 23 Games
Baker Mayfield Yes Yes Yes 48 39
Josh Allen No No No 27 16
Josh Rosen No Yes No 30 17
Kyle Lauletta Yes Yes Yes 40 24
Lamar Jackson No Yes No 38 24
Luke Falk Yes Yes Yes 41 27
Mason Rudolph Yes Yes Yes 41 32
Mike White Yes Yes Yes 43 21
Sam Darnold No No No 24 20

When you color code based on which quarterbacks pass/fail Parcells’ traditional metrics, you get a great glimpse that there are four QB’s this year who hit his metrics: Baker Mayfield, Luke Falk, Mason Rudolph, and Kyle Lauletta.

Some other takeaways from these rules?

  • Outside of Mayfield, none of the other 1st/2nd round quarterbacks became seniors, and the #1 overall quarterback on many’s board in Sam Darnold didn’t hit a single one of Parcells’ metrics
  • Josh Allen has a big lack of experience and Josh Rosen, despite starting for 3 years and 30 games, hit only the minimal amount. Allen and Darnold don’t hit a single metric of Parcells’.
  • Mayfield and Rudolph have a TON of experience playing quarterback in college and would be the “Parcells guys” here despite the fact they are rated below the others

So clearly, given the national perspective on how Darnold/Rosen/Allen are the top 3 quarterbacks in this year’s class, experience doesn’t seem to matter to NFL teams so much as maybe some of the traits.

But...

What if we were to take some of these Parcells’ rules and adapt them for today’s NFL and the current CBA in which players leave sooner?

I’ve put together a few changes and additions to adapt these scouting rules to the current NFL, in an area where it still focuses on experience and winning despite a lack of starts. Here are the changes:

  1. Three year starter has been changed to two years
  2. Considering most major college programs play 13 games in a season you’d want to see at least 23 games started as a minimum.
  3. Won 60% of their games (Parcells’ rule of winning 23 games of 30 started as a minimum is 60% so simply scaling down should still apply)
  4. Number of starts replaced by the metric “Starting Percentage” or SP% with a baseline of 70%.

Starting percentage is somewhat my own metric, but it’s used by professional teams to know how often a player was a starter. The NFL values this because to be a starter, you have to not only beat out all the other players behind you and hold onto that spot through playing well, but it means that you are reliable and a contributor to your team. It also indicates if there are games missed to injury or a lack of reliability.

Note: I did decide to make a slight adjustment from last year’s Starting Percentage standards that I had set: I had counted redshirt years and transfer years “sitting out” as a negative. My reasoning had been that if a player “wasn’t good enough” to start as a freshman or couldn’t beat out a starter and transferred, this would be factored in as a negative, which would have unfairly hurt some quarterbacks. So I am only grading that SP% based on games they were eligible to play in, and raised the cut-off point to 70% of games since I would no longer be factoring in redshirt/transfer years.

As a result, I have adjusted starting % and I believe this won’t “knock” guys like Josh Allen, Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield unfairly while propping up Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson.

Here, below is my new, updated Parcells rules for the 21st century, with a color coded version below.

2018 QB’s-Updated Parcells

Name 2 Year Starter? 23+ starts? Won 60% of games? Starting % (Over 63)
Name 2 Year Starter? 23+ starts? Won 60% of games? Starting % (Over 63)
Baker Mayfield Yes 48 81% 90%
Josh Allen Yes 27 59% 69%
Josh Rosen Yes 30 57% 76%
Kyle Lauletta Yes 40 60% 85%
Lamar Jackson Yes 38 61% 97%
Luke Falk Yes 41 65% 79%
Mason Rudolph Yes 41 78% 79%
Mike White Yes 43 49% 83%
Sam Darnold Yes 24 83% 85%

Now look at the difference that makes. There are a lot more “viable” quarterbacks under these new standards.

What are some of the standout points?

  • Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Mason Rudolph won almost 80% of the games they played in, while Josh Allen and Josh Rosen did not hit 60% (interesting as Allen is called a “winner”
  • Mayfield also stands out in the fact that he started 90% of his games that he was eligible to play in and won 80% of them.
  • There’s a TON of experience in this year’s QB class with a lot of senior quarterbacks in addition to the top 3 prospects reaching the minimum number of starts
  • Lamar Jackson started 97% of the games he was eligible to play in, while Josh Allen had the lowest starting percentage.
  • Allen has some injury concerns and missed time but still was the entrenched starter when he was there. Problem is, he didn’t start 70% of his games and that could play into the fact that he while he did play at a community college he still doesn’t have a lot of starting reps and likely is a bigger project than many of these other quarterbacks.

All in all, there’s a lot more optimism this year and some depth as far as finding some decent high-end options as well as some later ones this year if these metrics hold up.

Now, there are a lot more data points to get into as far as how the NFL scouts quarterbacks but I believe that this is much closer to how they will look at areas now. I’ll be reviewing those post-combine into how the NFL looks at those stats from the same “pass-fail” metrics that Parcells uses.

What are your thoughts?

Are the Parcells Rules for quarterbacks outdated and should be changed?

Or are they still valuable in today’s NFL? Sound off below in the comments section!

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