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Josh McDaniels changing approach to evaluating quarterbacks

HC talked about size requirements and mobile QBs at the combine

NFL: Combine
Josh McDaniels, NFL Combine 2023
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – The Las Vegas Raiders and head coach Josh McDaniels are in the midst of a franchise- and career-alerting journey, searching for the Raiders' next starting quarterback.

To a certain extent, finding a franchise quarterback is a lot like dating in that everyone has a “type”. The player (or partner) has to be a certain height and weight and meet a handful of other requirements that fit the pursuer’s liking. For McDaniels, that’s typically a passer who is at least 6’2 and 215 pounds.

For example, Tom Brady is 6’4 and 225 pounds; Kyle Orton, 6’4, 228; and Derek Carr was one of the smallest QBs McDaniels has worked with at 6’3 and 215 pounds. The coach’s draft picks follow the same trend; Tim Tebow (6’3, 255 lbs), Jimmy Garoppolo (6’2, 225 lbs), Jacoby Brissett (6’4, 235 lbs), Jarrett Stidham (6’2, 218 lbs) and Mac Jones (6’3, 215 lbs).

However, one of, if not the top signal-caller in this year’s NFL Draft class, Bryce Young, is expected to measure in below the six-foot and 200-pound marks at the NFL Combine. While history tells us that Young’s stature will take him off the Raiders’ draft board, McDaniels appears to be changing his approach to evaluating the position.

“The only thing I would say about [smaller quarterbacks] is if the durability part of it was a big concern,” McDaniels said during his press conference at the combine. “And so far with Bryce, that has not been [an issue].

“There are different ways to throw. And so, if you lack height, you have to find some windows sometimes. And, really, it’s about their ability to see through the rush into the defense and read the coverage properly. I’m not sure anybody’s done it better than Bryce in college football.

“So height is not a prerequisite. ... I mean, look, Russell [Willson has] had a great career. Kyle Murray has been really good for his short time in the league. There are other really good players in the league that lack the ideal 6’4” height that we used to have.

“College football is different [now compared to 15-20 years ago]. It’s producing a lot of different types of players. ... So, to me, when you’re watching the tape, if the height doesn’t impact his ability to find open receivers, throw the ball well and accurately, and his body size hasn’t been a problem relative to overall durability, then I think you just got to evaluate the player.”

But it’s not just size thresholds that the coach is adjusting when it comes to assessing the most important position on the field. Minus Tebow — who never made a start for McDaniels in Denver — all of the quarterbacks listed above fit more into the “pocket-passer” type rather than the “mobile QB” category. However, McDaniels seems keener on the latter than he has in the past.

“You can be served well if you have the ability to [make plays with your legs] at quarterback now. We’ve seen that now. I don’t feel as a coach that my job is to put all the pressure on the quarterback by not doing a really good job of designing what we’re doing so that he has to move around the entire game because there’s nobody to throw to.

“So, as coaches, we always want to give our players good options so they don’t have to do that. But, certainly, there are guys in our league that can extend plays and add time to the passing game, create loose plays, or make yards with their legs.

“In general, those are all tough guys to defend. We’ve played a number of them and they’re not easy guys to, you know, put the clamps on.”

The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator isn’t completely inexperienced at operating with a quarterback who is also a rushing threat. He worked with Cam Newton — 6’5 and 245 lbs, for those curious — in 2020, and Newton had the second-most rushing attempts at the position with 137, just 22 fewer than Lamar Jackson.

Cam also ranked third among his peers with 592 rushing yards and was atop the charts for rushing touchdowns (12). The latter figure was also good enough to tie with running backs Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb for fourth across the entire league, regardless of position.

A couple of traits that the coach is not wavering on though are leadership and toughness.

“I think you start with leadership. You just saw our championship game played a couple weeks ago and two incredible leaders [Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts] of their football teams. And I think that’s very consistent among the best players at that position.

“You got to have a great leader, who’s got to be able to have mental and physical toughness. No question about it.

“There’s going to be a ton of adversity in a National Football League season. And whether it’s physical things you’ve got to have to battle through or the mental toughness to endure a couple of losses and keep going. And those kinds of things are always going to be prerequisites for us.”

At the end of the day, the Raiders and McDaniels are just looking for their quarterback of the future, and fitting into a specific profile is less important.

“I think there’s always urgency at that position. The goal for us eventually is to have somebody that’s going to be here for a long time. ... You see the teams that are having success right now in our league, I would say in our conference, and specifically in our division. They’re young players that were drafted by their clubs and they’re being developed there under the same continuity.

“...So we’re going to do everything we can do to evaluate every player at that position, both in the draft and free agency, and try to do what we can do to improve the room. ... But the goal eventually is to try to have a young player here that’s going to be a Raider for a long time.

“There’s a lot of different people that can fit that — those traits and qualities. And I think we’ve seen in our league the last so many years, you know, the requirements have changed. ... There are certain people that can do things with their legs that other guys can’t. Big arms, [or] less than that. ... So it’s not one-size-fits-all. But I think there’s a lot of things you’re looking for if you’re going to commit to him.”

Who it is the organization and coach will commit to remains to be seen, and the options are clearly wide open.