During the Denver Broncos end of the year press conference, Head Coach Vance Joseph had an interesting quote that stuck with me for a few weeks.
#Broncos HC Vance Joseph on Josh Allen & Baker Mayfield: Allen’s got a big arm.. a special arm. And Mayfield came off the plane right to practice & performed today. He’s got “it”. You can see it. #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/lXpEZEVp1S— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) January 24, 2018
General Manager John Elway was asked about how hard it is to evaluate college quarterbacks with them coming from college spread offenses that do not prepare them for NFL offenses. Elway went on to talk about how many haven’t played under center and making the transition from college to NFL isn’t easy and evaluating that isn’t easy.
“That’s the hard part because they’re all coming out and a lot of them haven’t been underneath the center. That’s a big part of it because there’s a difference between throwing the ball from shotgun and throwing the ball from a five-step drop or seven-step drop. It’s a huge difference. It’s much easier to see when you’re in shotgun than it is when you’re taking that five-step drop, taking hits and getting rid of the football. Those guys are big up front. It’s a big thing. Not only that, but you’re talking about trying to evaluate an offensive lineman. That’s another big thing because they don’t run the ball much anymore and when they do it’s a lot of zone stuff, so you don’t see the power of them coming off in gap schemes. The college game has made it much more difficult to evaluate and, again, it goes back to the same thing as far as how we adjust our game in the NFL to take advantage of what those guys can do. Can they be taught different things to be able to do in the pro game that you really need? You have to be under center more; you can’t be in shotgun every down. The defense and the athletes are too good, so you have to be able to do it from underneath. Can a guy who’s not used to that get used to that? Throwing from a pocket that’s coming out from underneath is much more difficult to see. It gets harder and harder. Again, I talked about the coaching side of it. To be able to teach those guys when they come out because there’s not as many ready-made products on the offensive side coming out as there used to be that would come in and fit in to what we’re used to doing in the NFL. That’s run the ball and come out play-action from underneath. That’s all part of the evaluation and trying to figure out if those guys can make that transition.”
Here is what stuck with me. After Elway’s long and informative answer to that reporter's question, Vance Joseph spoke up after Elway finished without being asked anything and said something that really stuck with me.
Vance Joseph, on how pro coaches/tactics must evolve to adapt to college players/skill sets coming in: "You look at Philly, you look at Kansas City. We have to adjust as pro coaches … what we draft them for, we have to play to their strengths…we have to evolve as pro coaches."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 2, 2018
He went on about hows they need to start adjusting their offenses to fit their quarterbacks/players strengths and weaknesses and not the other way around.
“I’ll say this about the college game and the pro game: You look at Philly and you look at Kansas City—we have to adjust also as pro coaches. We’re drafting these guys for their skillset that we see on tape. So we can’t take these guys and assume they can do something else. What we draft them for, we have to play to their strengths. You watch [Chiefs Head Coach] Andy Reid over the years, he’s evolved from being a typical West Coast [offense] guy to almost a straight college guy. You watch Philly. So we have to evolve as coaches also, take these kids’ skillsets and put it to work. So what we see in these players that we love, we have to apply to our game. It’s simple as that in my opinion.”
The first thing that popped into my head after he spoke up and said this was “who do they need to change their offense for?” Paxton Lynch comes to mind but that ship has likely sailed. You can run a traditional offense with Kirk Cousins, and rookie prospects like Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Sam Darnold all can play in pro-style offenses, so who is it?
The answer to that question is Baker Mayfield.
The game plan that Philly used to dismantle the Vikings relied heavily on RPO style concepts...As the league utilizes those concepts more, guys like Mayfield will have higher value than 5-10 years ago...Mayfield was the best RPO passer in our sport— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) January 24, 2018
I may or may not be reading too much into this, but if they want to adjust as coaches like Doug Pederson did in Philadelphia or like Andy Reid did in Kansas City, we could see Baker Mayfield on the Broncos roster.
Mayfield runs the RPO’s(Run/Pass option plays) perfectly which is run in the shotgun and requires a quick release which he has as well. The same stuff we saw Nick Foles do this past weekend when he threw for multiple touchdowns against the tough Minnesota Vikings defense. This is Mayfield’s bread and butter.
Agent for @baker_mayfield6, Jack Mills, tells @alexmarvez & @Gil_Brandt that the #Broncos requested Mayfield to be on their team for the @seniorbowl— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) January 23, 2018
And of his Draft potential:
"I'm thinking top 10 & I'm not just saying that to try and promote him, I think that's realistic"
Add in the fact we have the Broncos requesting to Phil Savage who runs the Senior Bowl that they want Mayfield on their team and you can start connecting the dots. Many people are hearing the Broncos have a bunch of interest in him as well.
That quote from Vance Joseph which he said without being asked really stuck with me and all this interest in Mayfield just made my feelings about this even stronger.
Joseph continues to emphasize "players first, scheme second" says that to take a guy out of a spread scheme and then ask him to do something totally different "makes no sense. We have to change as coaches."— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) January 23, 2018
Additionally, Jeffrey Essary had a chance to ask Joseph at the Senior Bowl his thoughts on Mayfield specifically coming out of a spread system and if they wanted to see him work under center during this week:
“That is always a concern with college guys that have been in the spread. Obviously we’ll have some under center things for those guys. In my opinion, we have to take what those guys do best and kind of put it in our plan. We can’t watch those guys on tape for four or five months and then draft those guys and ask them to do different things. What they do best, we have to do with those guys. Obviously you want to be under center some, but if they are a spread guy, we have to implement spread concepts for those guys to be successful on our level.”
I believe Kirk Cousins might be “Plan A” this offseason but Mayfield is certainly in the running with the Broncos.