Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is one of the main focal points heading into this year's draft.

Non-traditional quarterbacks receive more fame than bias

Jordan Simal | The Breeze

 

Over the years, the NFL Draft has become more than a simple player selection. Like Sundays in the fall, it’s become a nationwide spectacle drawing in die-hard fans of college and pro football from across the country to see the best players in college football possibly join their favorite professional teams.

The Draft also has its share of memorable moments, such as the infamous Eli Manning for Philip Rivers trade in 2004, the Minnesota Vikings missing their pick two years in a row in 2002 and ’03 and John Elway’s refusal to play for the Colts back in 1983.

However, the Draft is about the players going pro. And, of course, the players that get the most attention through the NFL Combine, pro days and the big night are the quarterbacks.

It’s argued that out of the quarterbacks who enter the draft, non-traditional ones receive a certain bias from NFL evaluators. First, rather than standing tall in the pocket as a dominant passer, non-traditional quarterbacks are often defined by their ability to play with their legs and ability to improvise.

If the NFL shows bias to any draft-eligible athlete, let alone high-profile prospects like Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray or Missouri’s Drew Lock, NFL fans are often quick to see it. Analysts, coaches, trainers and other athletes may have their individual opinions, but a league-wide bias coming from the NFL front offices toward a specific player is inexcusable and unprofessional. Usually, non-traditional quarterbacks like Murray — who ran for over 2,500 yards and threw for 63 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons — gain more buzz and excitement amongst the NFL community.

When Michael Vick entered the NFL Draft in 2000, he concerned teams with his run-first style of football but explosively turned into one of the faces of the league at the turn of the decade. Cam Newton entered the NFL Draft in 2011 with many of the same comparative attributes but was still chosen first overall by the Carolina Panthers. It wasn’t necessarily that the league is biased toward athletes who play with this “non-traditional” style, but it could be simply that personnel is intrigued by a brand of football rarely seen played so well by an athlete.

Non-traditional quarterbacks even date back to before the modern era of football with Vick and Newton. Fran Tarkenton of the “Purple People Eater” Minnesota Vikings joined the NFL back in 1961 and finished his career with 3,674 yards rushing before retiring, creating the blueprints of the modern-day “non-traditional quarterback.” He’s regarded as a pioneer for the position and one of the best to ever play the game.

Many mobile quarterbacks who were questioned prior to the draft about their capabilities have become some of the biggest stars of the game during their careers. Current players like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes are already being considered the future of the quarterback position.

Russell Wilson also faced questions when he declared for the 2012 NFL Draft; but doubts about him weren’t primarily about his style of football, but rather his size. Wilson only stands at 5 feet, 11 inches, and had scouts concerned that he wouldn’t be tall enough to effectively play pro football. Now, with a Super Bowl ring through two appearances and the NFL’s highest passer rating in 2015, Wilson is seen as a prototype for shorter NFL quarterbacks.

NFL quarterbacks of the past and present have been questioned over their size, creating another factor in deciding if one is “non-traditional” or not. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is only 6 feet tall and was told early in his career with the then-San Diego Chargers that he was too small. Ironically, his former Chargers teammate Doug Flutie, standing at 5 feet, 10 inches, was his competition on the team.

There’s no specific bias toward a certain “non-traditional” class of athlete; it’s more of a sense of personal questions about them and how they’re individually built for the NFL. The successful careers of Brees and Wilson, as well as the hype around incoming quarterbacks like Murray, prove that “non-traditional” is welcomed in the game of pro football.

Contact Jordan Simal at simaljg@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There's a bias against non-traditional quarterbacks, and it's not good

Andrew Oliveros | Contributing writer 

One might think that the NFL is open to any kind of talent that’s out there, but that’s not the case. There has been plenty of talk about a big-name quarterback in this year’s draft: Kyler Murray, whose clutch throws and consistent runs at the University of Oklahoma have put him in the spotlight. Not only were his numbers consistent, but he possessed a winning attitude  that led him to win the Heisman Trophy in 2018.

He’s not only a phenomenal quarterback who won the highest honor in college football, but he was also a star in baseball at Oklahoma and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the ninth overall pick in the MLB Draft.

“Football has been my love and passion for my entire life,” Murray said in a tweet declaring for the NFL Draft. “I have started an extensive training program to further myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews.”

Murray, who’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the nation, gave a set future of playing baseball away in order to play in the NFL and is doing his best to prepare for it, but by NFL standards, he isn’t a “typical quarterback.”

Many NFL teams noted Murray’s potential attitude problems in their reports at the NFL Combine. Charley Casserly, former general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, has been particularly critical of the Bedford, Texas, native.

“These were the worst comments I ever got on a high-rated quarterback,” Casserly said on NFL Network in March. “Leadership — not good. Study habits — not good. The board work — below not good.”

The question must be asked: is NFL shying away from quarterbacks that come with flair? Other quarterbacks don’t get as much criticism as Murray. Many teams love Drew Lock for his great arm, while Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins has earned high praise from many for his calm presence in the pocket. Every quarterback needs to improve in some way, but Murray gets more criticism than most.

When it comes to players who play the game differently or come from a unique background, teams shy away, even though it’s just a different taste being brought to the NFL.

The NFL always wants to have control of the type of league it wants to be, and when someone comes into the league and who’s from what has been established as “normal,” the NFL feels like it loses control.

Fans don’t care how teams do it, but they want their team to win, and in college, Murray was a winner. The NFL is scared of someone like Murray who will bring this new type of player to the league, but he’s coming, and no one’s going to stop him.

Contact Andrew Oliveros at oliverab@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.