If/when the Cardinals draft a quarterback while Bruce Arians is still coaching the team, don’t expect the quarterback to come from a college spread offense.
“[T]hat damn sure ain’t what playing quarterback is all about,” Arians writes in his new book, The Quarterback Whisperer. “The most important trait needed to become a QB is leadership. But there is no leadership required of the quarterback in [the college] version of the spread. He doesn’t talk to his teammates in the huddle, he doesn’t change the snap count — hell, he barely even reads the defense. The college spread quarterback doesn’t learn the mental and physical skills needed to execute the intricacies of the NFL game. That puts the college spread QBs who aspire to play and succeed in the NFL at a distinct disadvantage.”
Arians adds that any NFL team drafting a spread quarterback “can expect him to fail early in his career,” which means he’ll need the mental toughness to deal with failure. “Most rookie quarterbacks are going to suck anyway . . . but he’ll really be at a disadvantage if he’s coming from a spread team and has no idea of the pro concepts.”
These passages suggest that the Cardinals would have taken neither Patrick Mahomes nor Deshaun Watson with the 13th pick in round one, if the Chiefs hadn’t sprung to No. 10 for Mahomes and if the Texans hadn’t jumped to No. 12 for Watson. However, Arians claimed to admire Watson’s leadership and his game before the draft; if Watson had still been on the board, who knows what Arians and the Cardinals may have done?
Here’s what we know for now: The Cardinals have no rookie quarterback to develop behind Carson Palmer. Appearing last week on PFT Live, Arians said that Drew Stanton would be the replacement if Palmer retires before Arians does. The coach also expressed positive reviews regarding free-agent acquisition Blaine Gabbert. (Yes, Blaine Gabbert.)
However it goes, one thing is clear about the Cardinals of the last decade. When they have Kurt Warner or Carson Palmer, they contend. Without either guy, the Cardinals struggle.
Of course, that’s probably true for every other team and their good or bad quarterbacks, further confirming the importance of having a guy who can play — and who can lead.