‘They Come With a Big Tar­get’

Ex­ec­u­tives Wary of Ex­pec­ta­tions on Her­alded QB Prospects

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Morning On The Air - By Mark Maske

They ar­rive in their new cities with huge amounts of money and hope in­vested in them. They in­spire vi­sions of Su­per Bowl vic­to­ries and Hall of Fame in­duc­tion speeches.

But quar­ter­backs se­lected with the first few picks of the NFL draft are far from sure things. So as this week­end’s draft nears and tal­ent eval­u­a­tors marvel at the skills of quar­ter­backs JaMar­cus Rus­sell of Louisiana State and Brady Quinn of Notre Dame, the savvi­est ex­ec­u­tives in the league re­mem­ber not to get too car­ried away just yet.

“Those guys that get picked in the top five, the ex­pec­ta­tions are re­ally un­fair,” Dol­phins Gen­eral Man­ager Randy Mueller said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence last week. “They need to be off the chart men- tally, have thick skin and some tough­ness, to en­dure the crit­i­cism. Let’s face it: They come with a big tar­get on them. Ev­ery­body has kind of be­stowed the keys to what­ever city they come. . . . Most guys don’t get to sit like [San Diego Charg­ers starter] Philip Rivers for two years. That’s op­ti­mum con­di­tions. Most of the time, they’re thrown out there and have to carry a team, a fran­chise and a city right away, and that’s a lot. . . . Ask David Carr [the for­mer top pick of the Hous­ton Tex­ans]. Ask some of th­ese other guys. They didn’t know.”

Even so, Mueller and oth­ers around the NFL re­gard this as a promis­ing draft for quar­ter­backs. Rus­sell is a top can­di­date to go first over­all to the Oak­land Raiders. Quinn will be in play from the sec­ond pick on­ward. Scouts say they ex­pect Stan­ford’s Trent Ed­wards to go early in the sec­ond round, and GMs are ex­cited about a hand­ful of other quar­ter­backs as well.

“I think it’s a re­ally good group,” Mueller said. “I think there will be some guys picked prob­a­bly even out­side the first round who end up be­ing play­ers in this league. Other than that, ev­ery­body has a dif­fer­ent fla­vor they like. That’s why Bask­inRob­bins has 31 fla­vors. . . . There are five or six guys who are prob­a­bly first-day wor­thy. All have abil­ity to play in this league. I think the hard­est part is sort­ing out the in­tan­gi­bles, and we’ve spent a lot of time on that.”

Said Charley Casserly, the for­mer gen­eral man­ager of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins and the Tex­ans: “There’s some depth. There are some sec­ond-round guys and some thir­dround guys there.”

The glitz fac­tor, though, comes from hav­ing quar­ter­backs come off the board early, and this draft has that. Rus­sell is phys­i­cally im­pos­ing and has the sort of arm strength that Raiders owner Al Davis al­ways has cov­eted.

“There isn’t a throw that he can’t make,” said Lane Kif­fin, the Raiders’ first-year coach and for­merly the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “Some of the throws he can make, I don’t know if any­one else can. He can go way over here and throw a ball 70 yards back over there. But how many times a year does that hap­pen? Maybe two times a year? You have to go deeper than that. He’s a unique leader. He’s dif­fer­ent, not very vo­cal. But you go to their pro day and you watch the play­ers around them. I saw that with Vince Young. . . . JaMar­cus is like that. You can see the play­ers re­spond to him.”

Young, af­ter win­ning a na­tional cham­pi­onship at Texas with a scin­til­lat­ing per­for­mance against USC, be­came a win­ning quar­ter­back al­most in­stantly last sea­son as a rook- ie with the Ten­nessee Ti­tans, even if his pass­ing was less than pol­ished. The teams that draft Rus­sell and Quinn on Satur­day un­doubt­edly will dream of them ex­celling just as quickly. It might hap­pen, but his­tory says there’s a good chance it won’t. Red­skins Coach Joe Gibbs said that quar­ter­back is the tough­est po­si­tion to judge in the draft.

“Ev­ery­body has a ten­dency to look at the arm,” Gibbs said, “and the arm, re­ally, is prob­a­bly dead last. . . . It’s all the other things, re­ally.”


LSU’s JaMar­cus Rus­sell, a po­ten­tial No. 1 over­all pick, leads what is con­sid­ered a good crop of quar­ter­backs.


Brady Quinn of Notre Dame could go as early as sec­ond, where “ex­pec­ta­tions are re­ally un­fair,” one GM said.

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