The great Bill Parcells spent 30 plus seasons in the NFL as a coach and front office executive. What he took away from his time in coaching and player evaluation by that merit alone makes him one of the best football minds ever. While he never coached a Hall of Fame quarterback, nor should he be particularly seen as a whisperer for the position, there is always the interesting Parcells manifesto to apply to for passers in that regard.
Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, has seven rules he once said should be followed when handing over the keys to your franchise. What should be noted is that some of his benchmarks have nothing to do with film or evaluation, but rather intangibles and maturity in carrying the burden of being the face of an NFL franchise. Obviously, that’s opening a huge can of worms and would assuredly never fly in most sane NFL front offices. There are a lot of underlying traits to gauge from this kind of work, after all.
When it comes to quarterbacks, it’s an inexact science. And while the more proven methods would be to view every nook and cranny of a prospect, Parcells’ methods bring up an interesting query in a crucial upcoming franchise decision for the Chicago Bears.
Since the Bears are no doubt on the market for their franchise guy at some juncture in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, here’s the Hall of Fame coach’s barometer on the key traits of a drafted quarterback:
1. Be a three-year starter
2. Be a senior in college
3. Graduate from college
4. Start 30 games
5. Win 23 games
6. Post a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio
7. Tally a completion rate of 60 percent or higher
Now, there is an aspect inherently flawed from saying that wins are somehow all on the quarterback or that he must specifically meet a specific bar in started games, but nevertheless, these are Parcells’ principles. Meeting total validity across the board is a different discussion still, but the message is strong: You want a mentally tough passer who is accurate, a good decision maker, is used to the pressure, and finishes what he starts.
Let’s see how the top four quarterbacks in the 2017 class stack up to the former coach’s ideal.
- In actuality, Watson started just under two and a half seasons with his truncated five games in 2014, so he misses the three-year mark.
- Watson is a junior in playing experience in college after an early redshirt season.
- Yes, Watson graduated and earned his degree in communication’s from Clemson this past December.
- Across his two and half seasons, Watson started 35 games for the Tigers.
- Watson went 32-3 as a starter in college, well surpassing the wins mark no matter how you see it.
- The career touchdown to interception ratio of Watson is 90 to 32, almost three to one, so it’s safe he’s set here. Most notably as a detraction, 17 of those interceptions came in his final season in 2016.
- How Watson accrued his high completion percentage in Clemson’s offense is another argument, but he’s well over 60 percent with a 67.4 percent mark. He never dipped below 67.
Final tally: Meets five of seven rules
- Kizer was only a two-year starter at Notre Dame after he seized opportunity in the midst of injury in South Bend during his 2015 sophomore season.
- Currently, Kizer is only a junior in college and was a redshirt sophomore before declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft.
- Obviously in that light, Kizer has not graduated from school yet.
- In his roughly two seasons, the inexperienced Kizer started only 23 games for the Fighting Irish.
- Kizer went 13-11 as a starter, falling dramatically below the wins mark.
- As far as doubling a touchdown to interception ratio, Kizer just inches above this scale with a career 47 to 19 benchmark.
- Team quality, scheme, and inexperience with a bad Notre Dame team no doubt played a factor here, but Kizer still had a career 60.7 completion percentage. However in 2016, and possibly alarmingly, he dipped below the standard operating procedure with a 58.7 percent output.
Final tally: Meets two of seven rules
- Trubisky did not start a game at North Carolina until 2016 and by virtue, was just a one-year starter.
- Trubisky is a redshirt junior and gave up his final year of playing eligibility for the upcoming Draft.
- No, the 22-year-old Trubisky has not graduated from North Carolina to this point.
- Since he has only one year as a starter, Trubisky started just the 13 games for the Tar Heels in 2016. Less than half of the original 30 games bar.
- In his 13 games, Trubisky went 8-5 in the games he started, or about a little over a third of winning 23 games.
- Here, and partly due to small sample size, Trubisky eclipses the rest of his counterparts with a 30 to six touchdown to interception ratio. An impressive 5:1 for the prospective passer.
- As far as completion percentage, Trubisky completed 68 percent of his passes in 2016, showing off great accuracy even with that lack of seasoning.
Final tally: Meets two of seven rules
- Like Watson, Mahomes just misses here. He started roughly two and a half seasons at Texas Tech after a four-game stint in his freshman season.
- Mahomes isn’t a senior as the true junior has foregone his final year of eligibility to prepare for and enter the NFL.
- There’s no true confirmation, but as a true junior, it may be safe to assume the second team Academic All-American has not graduated from college yet.
- Mahomes just misses 30 games started with 28 games as the primary signal caller in his college career.
- The only one of the big four passers to technically not be a winner in any vain as an amateur, Mahomes went just 13-15 as a starter. Team quality did not help the 21-year-old.
- Over the extended period he had as a starter, Mahomes crushes it in touchdown to interception ratio with a career 93 scores and just 29 picks. His last season at Texas Tech saw a monstrous 4:1 efficient, explosion with 41 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
- Mahomes had a career 63.5 completion percentage at school. Most encouragingly, in each year at college, he improved with a slight uptick in accuracy.
Final tally: Meets two of seven rules
Of course, remember that NFL evaluators don’t use this as gospel or primary directive, nor should they necessarily use Parcells’ thoughts as a reference point at all. It’s just another perspective of a former respected football mind in regards to American sports’ most difficult position.
Anyway, as it appears, it looks like Watson has the clear edge in these guidelines.
However, the ways Watson distinguishes himself from his competition in graduating or overall playing experience, you have to discern academic factors and minute differences in games started. That’s where nuance comes in. The inexact science meets another fascinating case study with a solid core that’s still imperfect overall.
What’s most important for each of these four, is that all had a solid touchdown to interception ratio and were generally accurate as amateurs. Whether that translates to the NFL is a different story, but at least the cream of this class was able to perform and meet this criteria in evaluation. If you can’t be accurate and make solid decisions at the college level, how will you do it as a professional?
I still like Watson the best of this bunch, but would have no problem with any of these passers being Chicago’s quarterback of the future. For the Bears, their homework to pick the right guy of this mix potentially along this model and so many more tools is no doubt only beginning to intensify with the Draft now officially on the horizon.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer of the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.