The NFL Lens: Anticipation and Touch with Drew Brees

Photo by Keith Allison

The only facets of ideal quarterback play where I couldn’t use Drew Brees as a model are a rocket arm and height. I have a much broader range of acceptable traits with my quarterback scouting than most. Learn why. 

Quarterbacks are time travelers. The ball represents the present. Where they want the ball to go is the future.

Anticipation is the intersection of past (thought), present (action), and future (result). Touch is the time-traveling device.

Depending on how fleeting the past was and how urgent the present is, the setting for the time travel device may have a higher priority on reaching the targeted coordinates than the quality of its arrival. When this happens, it’s a sign that the time traveler hasn’t given much forethought to or lacks the awareness of his surroundings to create a smooth landing in the future.

Good time travelers think ahead and it affords them the added safety and style of an easy arrival. It also lessens the potential for disrupting future events as envisioned.

Drew Brees is one of the great time travelers of the game. This touchdown pass is a short route but it illustrates what I laid out perfectly.

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A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp)

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A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp)

Anticipation and Touch require vision and execution. It’s the on-field manifestation of preparation, technique, and in-game awareness. It’s a physical manifestation of leadership.

It’s something that was lacking when Brees fell to the second round in the NFL Draft and few teams wanted him after a Pro Bowl season with the Chargers.

Sure, there was risk with the shoulder injury, but I bet if Brees was built like Josh McCown they’d take a chance. Remember, the Houston Texans didn’t even visit with Brock Osweiler in person before signing him to a huge contract.

Most companies I’m familiar with meet in-person with potential employees who will have a large leadership role with its firm.There are NFL teams filled with the smartest, wisest, and most visionary, but I’ll let others romanticize the idea that they are actually in true decision-making roles.

It’s easy for those who missed on Drew Brees and Russell Wilson to say that these quarterbacks are the exception to the rule and go about making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Most NFL owners have little patience for building. There is no specific incentive for scouts, coaches, and general managers to get things right when it comes to scouting quarterbacks.

Fortunately, there is the luck factor. The Saints lucked out when Drew Brees fell into its lap at the same time it hired Sean Payton. Imagine if Payton was in his third season with a loser that needed a quarterback and there were bigger, taller, stronger free agent options wanting to play for them?

I wonder how much push-back Payton would have earned for wanting Brees in this scenario.We don’t have to ask that question for the Saints but we do for most teams searching for a quarterback.

I’m sharing this because the point of the posts in The NFL Lens is to provide some gained wisdom about scouting talent. Perspective and vision are as important to how you scout quarterbacking as it is to the way the position is played.

The way the NFL thinks about quarterbacking is one of the biggest reasons why scouting the position is so difficult. If you try to scout quarterbacks with the same mindset as NFL teams, you’ll eventually become more aligned with their thinking and draft-day decisions. If you’re trying to get hired by a big media outlet that values the perception of “credibility”, then it’s the best path.

But if your only desire is to understand good quarterbacking, mimicking the NFL process is limiting. You won’t see potential as broadly and if you lack perspective about what good quarterbacking can be, it can make you close-minded.

The Ron Jaworski’s and Greg Cosell’s of the analysis spectrum are realists about quarterbacking and the NFL culture. If you want the party line, those guys offer a good frame of reference because they represent what a lot of the NFL thinks about the position. It may not making them close-minded individuals, but their analysis of the position is the most conservative.

I suspect analysts like Lance Zierlein and Russ Lande are pragmatists. They understand what the NFL looks for and, at the end of the day, will weigh an evaluation within the scope of what “most teams” will consider—even if you notice that they understand there’s a possibility of something greater with the proper fit.

I’d say Emory Hunt leans towards the idealist spectrum of quarterback evaluation. He also knows what the NFL seeks, but he cares more about showing you talent and potential—even if it means damning conventional thought on the position.

I’m somewhere between pragmatist and idealist. If you keep these perspectives in mind when reading quarterback scouting reports, you’ll appreciate the range of philosophies more and the stances that analysts take.



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