School Two: Supercomputer Point Guards
By no means does Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow have the strongest arm in the NFL. In fact, that’s the one thing draft scouts criticized him for the most. And yet, he just keeps winning games, even leading Cincinnati to a Super Bowl in just his second season. So what’s going on here? It’s obvious.
Not every team wants to wait around for the next athletic freak, extremely physically talented, one-in-a-billion prospect to roll around. Would you? After all, they are one in a billion. There’s only about eight of them on the entire planet. What there are, by comparison, a lot more of, are really smart quarterbacks, like Joe Burrow for instance.
Burrow as a prospect was touted for two things: off-the-charts intangibles, and a football IQ that would rival even the strongest cults of personality in the NFL already. His best traits, both in college and the pros, make him an absolute lightning rod that his teammates consistently rally around. They also make him an extremely intelligent football player.
Burrow is obviously not alone in this “second” archetype of young star quarterbacks. Instead, he’s just become the poster boy for it simply by being so successful at such a young age. The New England Patriots have made the smart-not-strong quarterback archetype work for over two decades, first with Tom Brady, and now with second-year signal-caller Mac Jones. Brady and Jones had far from rocket arms, but they were both extremely smart, and have helped account for nearly 25 years of sustained success, which is practically unheard of in pro football.
Burrow and Mac have essentially become the football equivalent of point guards. And this is the key difference between the two of them. The receiving corps that Cincinnati has built for Burrow to throw to is, in my opinion, absolutely phenomenal. Tee Higgins is a great power forward to continue the basketball metaphor and Tyler Boyd has become Mr. Reliable. Ja’Marr Chase, easily the best of the trio, blossomed into an NFL superstars as a rookie.
The Patriots have not supplied Jones with quite the same caliber of help. Quite frankly, wide receivers have never been a New England strong suit under Bill Belichick. I would go as far to say that scouting wide receivers is Belichick’s biggest blind spot, in the entire game of football. Maybe DeVante Parker blossoms into something with the Pats? But as a receiver who has been in the league since 2015, I doubt he’ll make the jump now.