Hall of Famer Bill Polian rants about the NFL’s problem with evaluating quarterbacks

Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian knows a thing or two about the drafting process in the NFL and even though he hasn’t been deep in a war room since 2011 with the Indianapolis Colts, he has strong opinions about the way things are currently in the NFL, especially with the evaluation of quarterbacks.

That phenomenon is central to how the draft will unfold for the Arizona Cardinals next Thursday. Sitting with the fourth overall choice in the first round, general manager Monti Ossenfort will likely be a busy man when they get on the clock.

Will quarterbacks be selected with the first three choices? There appears to be a good chance of that, even though it probably shouldn’t happen. If it does, will another team want the fourth signal caller enough to give the Cardinals what they want for that choice?

That’s the question that no one can answer now and that likely includes the teams.

With Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy in mind, Polian insists that “there are not four quarterbacks who are better than everybody else in this draft.”

But desperate teams do desperate things and they don’t want to pass on a guy who winds up playing at a high level for another team.

Never mind that recent history is littered with high-drafted quarterbacks that failed to live up to expectations. Teams with a need can’t wait to get their hands on a new toy.

During an interview on the Pro Football Hall of Fame radio show of which I am a co-host on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Polian explained, “First-round quarterbacks now don’t carry a price-tag penalty with them,” Polian noted. “Once we got the rookie wage scale (in 2011), the price-tag penalty went away. The system was upside down (before that) where players became the highest-paid players in the league and at their position.

“Now you can gamble on a quarterback up high because you’re not risking all that much money. If it’s the first guy in the draft, it’s a hefty price tag, but at three, four, five, it’s not terrible. So they get pushed up.”

What’s totally out of whack are how quarterbacks and other players are viewed by what Polian refers to as the Draft Industrial Complex.

He said, “What’s so pervasive today is that the ignorance of the so-called experts in the media is breathtaking, No. 1. And No. 2, they fail to tell their listeners or readers that they don’t have at least 45 percent of the information that the clubs have. They don’t have the medical; they don’t have the psychological; they should not have, unfortunately too many get it, snippets of the intellectual testing and they absolutely don’t have any readout on the visits that the players make and the interviews that they have with the coaching staff.

“So that’s 45 percent of the grade and in the case of quarterbacks, it’s almost 60 percent of the grade. So they have no idea what we’re seeing and doing and they’re painting a false picture. It’s entertainment. As long as fans recognize that it’s entertainment and not information, then everything will be fine. The problem is that some people in that business take themselves seriously and they get upset if you did something that they didn’t anticipate. Then, it’s a reach, then it’s terrible, you don’t know how to manage the draft; this GM’s terrible.”

Asked what that 60 percent for quarterbacks consists of, Polian explained, “The most difficult thing you have to judge with a quarterback is a) his ability to recognize defenses, b) his ability to process it quickly, c) his ability to know where to go with the football and d) the ability to do it accurately under pressure.

“Notice, nowhere in there did I say making off-platform throws, escaping, all that stuff. If a player has that, if it’s (Kansas City quarterback Patrick) Mahomes or a player like that, that’s wonderful. But it’s not required. The other four things are required. How do you measure that? Well, it’s hard to do. There are tests that purport to do it; I don’t have a lot of faith in them. They haven’t proven to be in my view, anywhere near appropriate.”

That’s why those team visits are so important.

“You have to do that by sitting down with your quarterback coach, your offensive coordinator, your head coach,” Polian said. “Putting a guy on the chalkboard, taking him through film, trying to make sure that he can explain to you what he’s looking at on the film. What he was seeing. And then you do it in a way that’s really fast; almost like a high-octane quiz (snapping fingers). Pop clips up there, what defense is this? Pop another one up there. What defense is this? Here’s this play. Who do you go to there? Take him through that. That’s part of what the quarterback candidates do when they come and visit. You can’t do that at the combine. That 15-minute, 18-minute thing at the combine; that’s hello, goodbye. There’s no substance to that.

“But the real substance comes in the facility and only the clubs have access to that information because it’s proprietary. And each one’s different.”

Most important, he said, is that “three clubs could look at the same quarterback entirely differently.” Just as they do for other players.

It’s always a reminder of what former Saints and Colts head coach Jim Mora once said to the media, “You really don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t know and you never will.”

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Story originally appeared on Cards Wire