November 02, 2011
It's basically a fait accompli that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft should he choose to declare for it, and there are those who believe that Luck is the best college quarterback prospect in years — maybe since Peyton Manning(notes), maybe since John Elway.
But one analyst who's not necessarily over the moon with Luck's rare combination of poise, football acumen, ability to read defenses, and playbook intelligence is former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms. Tuesday, on Sirius NFL Radio with Adam Schein and Rich Gannon, Simms said that while Luck does have some positive attributes, he's not buying in just yet.
[Related: Luck, Stanford handle adversity at USC]
"I think the hype is a little too much," Simms said. "I feel bad for him in that respect. I mean, [how's] he going to do to match what they say he can do? There's a lot to him. I think his best quality, by far, is that he's big and strong and he's going to be able to move and run in the NFL. There's no question. I mean, this guy is strong. The throwing? He manages a game. I see all that.
"But the one thing I don't see, I just don't see big-time NFL throws. I don't care what anybody says. I've watched a lot of him. He never takes it and rips it in there. And you can say what you want but, man, you've got to be able to crease that ball every once in a while. We see it every week in these games. Hey, he can develop it but even in the USC game, you know, he's very careful with it, guides it a lot. That's what I see.
"There's not a lot of rotation on the ball and there's not a tremendous amount of power. Not that you need to have that power arm. I'm not saying you've got to have that exclusively but, man, it sure helps when you can do that because there's four or five plays a game it is about arm strength. And sometimes quarterbacks who don't have it, they pass those plays up. Why? Well, they go, 'I don't know if I can make that throw,' so they throw it short. That's why I'm a little more reserved in my judgment than everybody else."
So … basically, Simms isn't on board the Andrew Luck train because of a few plays he apparently can't make in a game? Well, the numbers seem to run to the contrary, especially when you factor in Luck's extraordinary accuracy. Right now, Luck ranks fifth in the NCAA in yards per attempt (9.2 YPA, tied with Michigan's Denard Robinson), and he's improved his YPA every season he's been in college.
Another aspect of the college game Simms is either ignoring or obfuscating is that in certain offenses, the idea is for the quarterback to make high-percentage throws out of a more advanced route tree. Luck doesn't throw out of a typical spread offense with a bunch of option routes or a three-vertical system; he's more of a West Coast-style thrower with the ability to make and process multiple reads quickly. We may very well find out that in the pros, depending on the kind of offense he's in, Luck will be asked to display more of the deep arm he does show from time to time.
But, hey — if you don't believe us, check out this throw against Oregon State in 2010:
Thirty-five yards downfield without a serious windup? Yeah, he's dinking and dunking all the way. Looks like a "big-time NFL throw" to me. Try again, Mr. Simms. We're thinking that when he needs to make those throws, he'll find a way to do it.
Or, how about a 50-yarder while he's being taken down in the pocket? Admittedly, it's not as splashy as Kyle Boller(notes) throwing footballs 70 yards from his knees, but unlike Boller, Luck seems to be able to make plays when he's on his feet as well.
Of course, the last time we saw Simms opining about college quarterbacks, he was threatening to do so with his fists after ESPN college analyst Desmond Howard said that Simms' son Matt was one of the worst quartebacks in the SEC. Perhaps Phil's just unhappy that his own kin's ability to make those big-time throws continues to go woefully unrecognized.
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