No wonder what’s valued in the process of appraising passers was such an often-discussed subject at the NFL Scouting Combine:
Bill O’Brien, head coach, Houston Texans: “When you’re able to talk to these guys in the room, you’re able to really get; you have 15 minutes, 15 minutes is actually kind of longer than you think. You can get a lot of information out of them.
“You can talk to them about their offense. ‘Hey, what was going on in this game protection-wise? Are you directing the run game? Are you in charge of this? How did you handle this two-minute situation?’
“To me, it’s the interview process with the quarterbacks, just like every other player.”
Hue Jackson, head coach, Cleveland Browns: “There’s no substitute for arm talent. There’s no substitute, can a guy really process what they’re trying to accomplish and then can it fit into the National Football League? I think we all know it’s been tough trying to evaluate that position because it’s so different in college than what it is in the National Football League, but those things won’t change.
“I think there are a couple of key characteristics that you’ve got to have. Can you throw? Can you process? Can you lead your team? Those are three very fundamental things that I think will show from a college quarterback.”
Mike Mularkey, head coach, Tennessee Titans (on what impressed him about Matt Ryan when Mularkey was the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator): “Matt, when he came out, basically we did all six quarterbacks, gave them the exact same tests, the exact same physical requirements on the field. Matt, with the board, came to us the best.
“When he stepped in the huddle and called a play, that hit me. When he stepped in the huddle with the starters, I knew ‘this guy’s got something.’ The way he called a play, it’s got to sound like it’s the best play ever called by a quarterback and it’s going to work. As soon as he stepped in with the starters, I knew we had something special back then.”
John Elway, general manager, Denver Broncos: “To me, when it comes down to a quarterback, it’s competitiveness and it’s toughness. It’s mental toughness because it’s a tough game and a tough position. It’s a great position, but it’s a tough position because of the expectations that go along with it, the pressure that goes along with it and the reliance of a lot of people on you playing well in that position with the control that you have.
“To me, if you have a quarterback that is not mentally tough, not able to come back after a tough game and bounce back after a tough game it’s tough to have success for very long in this league.”
Kyle Shanahan, head coach, San Francisco 49ers: “Tape, by far, is the most important. You want to block out everything else. If you don’t like what you see on tape, nothing else matters. Here (in Indianapolis) I get to know them, go back to watch the tape and if you like the tape and remember liking the guy, then you have to look into all the stuff that’s really hard to find.
“There’s a lot of pressure in this business, especially on the quarterback position. How are they going to handle pressure? How are they going to handle adversity? No matter how good you are, everybody is going to tell you how bad you are sometime during the year. All of that stuff goes into play when you talk about, to me, one of the most-scrutinized positions in sports.”