Identifying Quarterback Talent

As I'm checking NFL news on Yahoo! Sports just now I came across an article titled "Sunday Blitz" written by Dan Pompei from with the lead story revolving around where Nnamdi Asomugha will end up as a free agent. I would love to have Nnamdi on our team, but the price tag would just be too much when we have multiple roles to fill with our scheme changes.

What really caught my attention with this article though is when Pompei referenced Leigh Steinberg, a popular agent of players like Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe, Warren Moon, Steve Young and others. Steinberg doesn't claim to be a scout by any means, but he's been around the business long enough to know what some of the basic necessities are to identify quality talent in young quarterbacks. Here's what Pompei dissected from his conversation with Steinberg:

Accuracy is an absolute necessity – and not just accuracy at the college level. A quarterback’s accuracy has to be able to project to the NFL level. Without it, a quarterback has no chance. For instance, even though Andre Ware was a Heisman winner at University of Houston, Steinberg learned Ware would have no chance at the pro level as a 51.6 percent passer.

The ability to stay healthy is critical. “You have to look at the injury history,” Steinberg said. “The ones who make it tend to have amazing resiliency. They can take contact, somehow avoid major injuries to their key joints – knees and shoulders. They have incredible pain tolerance, incredible ability to rehab rapidly. I visited Troy just after his disc surgery, and he was up and walking around. I asked him if the doctor said it was okay. He said, ‘No, but isn’t it great?’”

A quarterback has to be able to be able to elevate his play in the clutch. Steinberg talks about wanting his QBs to have a “quiet mind” when the volume is turned up. “Most games are close,” he said. “They often come down to one drive. When a quarterback has thrown interceptions, his team is behind, and he has to be perfect on a final drive, what does he do? That’s so important. You want a quiet mind. I used to see Ben Roethlisberger multitask – he would watch TV, take five phone calls, be on his computer. But he could tune out every extraneous thing, and focus on task at hand. He has a quiet mind.”

The will to be great matters. In 1998, Steinberg, on recommendations from then-Washington State coach Mike Price and Bledsoe, signed Ryan Leaf before Peyton Manning(notes) decided on an agent. He thought Leaf was going to be an NFL star. Steinberg might not have ever had a shot at Manning, but in hindsight he calls this the worst evaluation mistake of his career. “The reality is Manning is not the most physically gifted quarterback, but he has the Joe Montana qualities,” Steinberg said. “His work ethic, his desire and his intensity are all incredible.”

Strong roots make for sturdy branches. In 1993, Steinberg was in the pole position to land Rick Meier. Then he met Bledsoe. And he met Bledsoe’s family. Bledsoe’s father Mac especially impressed Steinberg. As a result, Steinberg chose to pursue Bledsoe instead of Meier. “I saw the stability and security from that family, and how his father was a great motivator,” Steinberg said. “We look at that aspect of a player’s background, his bloodlines. When I met Jim Harbaugh’s father, I knew what we had there. Steve Young’s father [LeGrande] played at Brigham Young and his nickname was “Grit.”

Willingness to be a role model reveals character. Steinberg only wanted players who would give back. “If they are interested in retracing their roots, they tend to be of high character,” he said.

The reason I bring this up is because I personally feel like Colt McCoy falls into a lot of these great characteristics. The only thing someone could really argue out of this list against Colt is his durability concerning his health. As far as I know, Colt has only had that one major injury from his final bowl game in college. Last season he had some ankle and shoulder issues, but I don't think that's enough to claim Colt "injury prone." Although this article doesn't prove anything, I simply enjoyed how encouraging this is for our young guy behind center.

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