Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Second Opinions: Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton

Hmmm...this place is quickly turning into a Ryan Mallett blog. I need to write about Red Bryant or something, quick.

My opinions aren't perfect, and in this day and age of information overload and relative anonymity, I think it's important for a writer to have accountability. Therefore, you'll often see "Second Opinions" pieces here on 17 Power. Read them as me going "I might have been wrong". This week's lesson is not to take too much stock in what the media says. Yep, pretty basic. I might be a bit of a project as a writer.

I stand by my slight disappointment on Ryan Mallett's Combine interview. I don't think the video shows the "meltdown" that Doug Farrar refers to, but he did flash the petulance that's rapidly becoming his trademark. I think he could have helped himself by avoiding that. It compared poorly to the well-rehearsed, easygoing-on-the-surface interview of media darling Cam Newton and left a lot of people saying that Mallett would have to ace his private team interviews and the throwing drills on Sunday in order to make up for the lost ground.

Well, by many accounts, Mallett did just that. His throwing on Sunday was the best at the Combine, showing great power, accuracy, and ease of throwing. It was enough to remind the league that Cam Newton is still a project as a passer, albeit with stratospheric upside.

And as far as the team interviews go, Len Pasquarelli of CBS Sports reports that Mallett duly impressed everyone he spoke with:

Three teams that met with Mallett at the combine said they had no problems with his responses to the drug allegations or with his demeanor.

"The guy looked us right in the eyes and didn't dodge anything at all," said a high-ranking executive from an NFC team that is considering its quarterback options in the 2011 draft. "If we don't take him, it certainly won't be a reflection of his time with us (in the interview)."

A couple of days prior, Pasquarelli had found himself distinctly unimpressed with the sheen of Cam Newton. In fact, he went so far as to call the Heisman winner's camera performance "disingenuous":

Unfortunately for Newton, the sound most distinguishable during an 11-minute appearance on the podium at the Lucas Oil Stadium press room was the sickening noise usually associated with a couple of fully-loaded rail cars crunching together when the locomotive engineer slams on the brakes unexpectedly. Yeah, it was a train wreck.

If it's true that television adds 10 pounds to everyone, it might have bloated Newton with about 10 pounds of guilt and insincerity. The term "disingenuous" leaps to mind. ... Forthrightness? Directness? Remorse? Most of those things seemed absent on Saturday afternoon. It probably didn't help when Newton, clearly on the advice of his agent or league officials, read a prepared statement attempting to explain his interview from earlier in the week, when he suggested he aspired to be an "entertainer" and an "icon." Again, to his credit, Newton didn't fall back on the hackneyed "I-was-misquoted" excuse. But reading an act of contrition isn't the same as reciting it.

So if you want an independent thinker, we've now established that Len Pasquarelli is a good place to go.

This was backed up by a message board quote I read over the weekend from a guy who's worked as a hiring manager in the Seattle/Portland area for over twenty years. He's interviewed and hired hundreds of people in facilities management and retail - just the kind of character judge who can look at a person and separate polish from sincerity:

Cam strikes me as charming, but as phony as a three dollar bill. It will work as long as he's in a winning situation, but will wear thin if he doesn't succeed quickly and regularly. In short he's an A-Rod. 

Not enough evidence on Mallet yet, but watching the interview did not raise red flags. I did see some signs that maturity could be an issue, but nothing that screamed character flaw.

For all the scrutiny we are still talking about young men with room to grow. IMHO a huge part of what makes a successful franchise is the ability to create a culture that leads to continual growth and improvement as a person as well as an athlete.

Succinct, but very true.

It was important from the beginning to take the entire Combine into account when it comes to these two guys. It's telling that out of all the quarterbacks present at the Combine, Newton and Mallett are receiving by far the most attention. Just their interviews were enough to generate all kinds of buzz. But to ignore the results of the throwing drills and the private interviews - well, for Mallett appearing slightly bullheaded in basically saying "I'll talk to the guys that actually matter about my character", he was right. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. And the throwing drills are going to steady his stock as well next to Newton, who again could have Hall-of-Fame potential as a pro quarterback but who will need time to improve his footwork, accuracy, and NFL decision-making.

In summary, and in a great irony, all the Combine may have done is reinforce what we already knew about these two quarterbacks. Newton is a great face for the league but a work in progress as a passer, while Mallett may be more NFL-ready but is also presenting a certain personality profile that some don't like. The important question is - what do the teams want?


  1. Nice post. I have liked both Mallett and Locker, but not Newton and Gabbert, for a couple of months now. I'm not sure why since the first two really are opposite in some ways, but I think the spread offense of the latter two really leaves me cold. I've been very wrong before, but I really see Mallett as the best of the bunch.

  2. Spread offense is only a bad thing when it causes a QB to ignore developing as a passer. Rob Staton over at SDB swears that Newton looks better than that, but both he and Gabbert have their detractors for sure.

  3. Yeah, my hesitation may not be the spread offense per se, but there is something gut-level that I like about both Locker and Mallett, that I just don't have with the other two.

    I think it will be a moot point, as I firmly believe all of the big 4 will be gone well before the 25th pick. That will leave the Hawks with a tough choice to either wait for round 2 for a QB or jump early on Kaepernick, Dalton, or someone else they like.

  4. Kaepernick is looking a bit more appealing, and honestly may be the best option if Mallett doesn't make it to #17. Which, heck, we might even be able to grab Kaepernick in the 2nd.