Yesterday, in our discussion of the 2023 QB draft class, UACardinalsFan reminded us of Brett Kollmann’s excellent video of “Why Only 30% of 1st Round QBs Succeed.”
After reflecting on why a number of his pre-draft evaluations turned out to be inaccurate, Brett came to a realization that he had to move away from the three traditional pillars he had been applying to QB evaluations:
- Polished Mechanics
- Pocket Passing Prowess
- Air Raid QBs Don’t Work in NFL
With the way in which NFL offensive coordinators have adopted and embraced the RPOs (run/pass options) that college programs have popularized, Brett came up with three new pillars that he is now applying to college QB prospects:
- Tools over Mechanics
- Coach-ability over Polish
- Destination Matters
Brett makes the salient point that while he made the mistake of rating Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen higher than Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, the fact that Allen and Mahomes were drafted by teams with winning records and were paired with offensive coaches (Brian Daboll and Andy Reid) who already had a background in coordinating spread RPO-style offenses gave them a distinct advantage coming into the NFL over Darnold and Rosen who were drafted by less talented teams with less adaptable coaches.
Thus, today I thought I would piggy-back on UACardinalsFan’s reference to Brett Kollmann’s video to see how, by my own assessments, Kyler Murray stacks up.
Brett’s Traditional Pillars —-
- Polished Mechanics —- Kyler’s are impressive. Grade; A
- Pocket Passing Prowess —- while Kyler’s height limits some of what he can accomplish from the pocket, he has the arm strength and accuracy to produce at a high level, given adequate pass protection. Grade: B
- Air Raid QBs Don’t Work in NFL —- Kyler is one of there main reasons why that stigma has changed. Grade: A
Brett’s Modified Pillars —-
- Tools over Mechanics —- Kyler’s tool kit as a dual-threat passer/runner is about as nifty as it gets. Grade: A
- Coach-ability over Polish —- the fact that the Rams’, 49ers’ and Seahawks’ offenses feature more bootlegs, waggles, pocket shifts, direct snaps from center and sprint outs is mind-boggling, seeing as Kyler is best equipped by far to use his superior feet to create “chunk yard” plays. There is not a coach on the planet who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the kind of pressure that Kyler can create using his feet, rather than standing too often on a stationary spot in the shotgun. Kliff has yet to make Kyler budge. Plus, Kyler saying, “running is now a luxury for me” is a conspicuous misunderstanding of what defenses fear the most about playing against him. Grade: C
- Destination Matters —- being drafted by the worst team in the NFL was going to be a challenge for Kyler or any QB, for that matter. But, to land in basically the same offensive system that he was running since high school was a boon for Kyler, especially when paired with one of the most knowledgeable and creative spread offense coaches and QB gurus in Kliff Kingsbury. Grade: A
In my opinion, the key developmental step for Kyler and Kliff is to tap into how Kurt Warner meticulously prepared for opposing defenses, particularly down the late-season stretches and into the playoffs.
What Warner did requires astute and highly detailed film study.
Late in the season and into the playoffs every defense in the league, by virtue of injuries and fatigue, has its vulnerabilities.
Kurt Warner was the master of identifying on film (as well as on the field) where defenses were most vulnerable at each position. Warner studied the opponents’ defensive personnel so assiduously that going into each game he has already coordinated in practice which man and zone matchups he and his receivers could exploit —- not only for the top receivers, but for the 3rd, 4th and 5th receivers.
For example, will you ever forget how Kurt Warner handled the last game of the season in 2009?
The Cardinals had already clinched the NFC West and were assured of a first round home playoff game the next week.
They were home against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Back Packers —- the very team they would be facing at home in the playoffs the next week.
In this last game off the regular season, the Cardinals were listless —- Rogers was on fire —- and by half-time, the score was 26-0 Green Bay.
There was no sense keeping Kurt Warner in the game for the second half.
But, what did Warner do during that second half? He stood at full attention on the sidelines taking copious notes about the Packer’s defensive schemes and personnel.
Anyone who watched that game was extremely apt to believe that the Packers were going to roll over the Cardinals again one week later.
I distinctly remember that the only Arizona or national sportswriter who picked the Cardinals to beat the Packers a week later was Dan Bickley. I have always appreciated Bick for that.
The game plan that Kurt Warner devised for that playoff game —- knowing fully well that he was going to have to out-duel Aaron Rodgers in a high scoring affair —- was about as brilliant as any game plan ever conceived.
Kliff often talks about “commanding the details.”
Well, Kurt Warner put the details to the test during the week in practice and then went out and performed the near “perfect game”:
Warner: 29 completions in 32 pass attempts for 379 yards, 5 TDs, 0 ints. 1 sack, 154.1 QBR
Rodgers: 28 completions in 42 pass attempts for 423 yards, 4 TDs, 1 int., 5 sacks, 121.4 QBR
Watch these highlights! Watch Kurt Warner exploit the coverage mismatches that he and the offense prepared for.
Offensive Balance: (Note: Anquan Bolidin was injured, DNP)
- RB Beanie Wells: 14 rushes for 91 yards
- WR Stevie Breaston: 7 receptions for 125 yards, 1 TD
- WR Larry Fitzgerald: 6 receptions for 82 yards, 2 TD
- WR Early Doucet: 6 receptions for 77 yards, 2 TDs
- TE Ben Patrick: 3 receptions for 42 yards
If you recall, the Packers tied the game at 45-45 with 1:52 left. They won the coin toss in OT. Yet, the game ended when CB Michael Adams, on an edge blitz, induced a strip sack of Rodgers and LB Karlos Dansby scooped up the ball and ran it 17 yards into the end zone. The play;
Cardinals won 51-45.
Here was a smidgeon of the euphoria felt by the Red Sea:
Watching the Cardinals on offense down the stretch the last two seasons, it was striking to see how often they ignored obvious mismatches, as if it didn’t even matter what defensive players were on the field.
Conversely, opposing offenses appeared to know exactly where the mismatches were at CB and at LB. We saw the opposing offenses exploit those mismatches time and time again.
This is where the Cardinals need to flip the script.
If Kyler and Kliff start taking a page out of Kurt Warner’s book, there could be a whole lot of red rain showering down on the Red, Red Sea at State Farm Stadium this time around.