Scouting QBs: Separating the Dark From the Dark

Being wrong about Gabbert far hurts the ego, but helps my process. Photo by PDA.Photo.

Being wrong about Gabbert far hurts the ego, but helps my process. Photo by PDA.Photo.

After spending an insane amount of time during the last decade studying players, talking with scouts, and paying attention to history, I have learned three things about evaluating football talent:

  • Scouting and quarterbacking are about detail and nuance.
  • Experience matters, but not like you think.
  • Quarterback remains the untamed wilderness of football evaluation.

These are my personal lessons. No one shared these three points as teachable nuggets from the book of scouting. The last two insights are unintended consequences of professionals making opposite statements.

After 10 years of studying football games, I have gained enough experience to see that I’m not an expert. As the great poet Philip Levine wrote, I’ve “begun to separate the dark from the dark.”

Today, I’m sharing these degrees of darkness about scouting quarterbacks. The hope is that separating the dark from the dark may one day provide a process that is a more reliable way to find the light.

Detail and Nuance

During one of our frequent phone conversations, co-owner Sigmund Bloom and I concluded that the simplest way to describe good quarterbacking is to compare it to another job. Cooks and musicians offer good parallels, but the best is that of a skilled craftsman.

I used to build sets at a theater. I learned how to use a wide variety of tools. I even gained some welding experience.

Give me directions and materials and a garage full of tools and I can assemble something bought at a store after I’ve taken it apart at least once. But I’m not the guy you want to help you with a home improvement project or a repair. Unless it’s the simplest of tasks, I’d be pulled from the job within an hour.

On the other hand, give my wife Alicia a small toolbox with half the tools and she’ll not only have the job completed with time to spare, she’ll also have spotted and addressed two other problems around your house that you didn’t know about. She didn’t start working on houses until her early 30s, but within three years she owned her own remodeling company and did everything but electric and plumbing.

You need tools to do a job, but nuance to do the job well. I had all the tools, but none of the nuance. Alicia had half the tools and a ton of nuance.

Good quarterbacking is craftsmanship. There are a basic minimum of tools (details) to complete the job: height, weight, speed, arm strength, accuracy, etc. However the craftsman integrates the tools, his knowledge, and his experience to execute at the highest level of performance.

Read the rest at Football Outsiders

Categories: 2014 NFL Draft, Matt Waldman, Players, QuarterbackTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. How about sharing how it was you were way out in front of Russell Wilson? No one else even scored him a potential starter, and you had him pegged as a potential star. Howz zat?

    • I think it’s about being willing to divorce your evaluation process from the business/current reality of the NFL. If you play the odds, I would have been wrong on Wilson. However, I try not to allow the common perception of what the NFL likes “right now” into what I study. If the skills match my expectations, I go with it.

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