Matt Waldman’s RSP Film Room examines two games from 2019 NFL Draft prospect, QB Easton Stick of North Dakota State.
I value intuitive quarterback play. I want passers who are at their best when making decisions within the flow of the game — especially when the game is flowing in a direction that doesn’t appear favorable for the player.
Most offensive coaches want to dictate, which sounds great when you’re a fan, a writer, or an owner of a football team. Dictating and dominating are two words that football people relish the opportunity to use when describing the performance of their teams.
Dictating is an inflexible state of being because its mission is to create scenarios of absolutes. However, few things are absolute in life and football. When you desire to dictate a plan, the blowback of a dictatorial environment is inflexibility.
This inflexibility becomes painful when a team and players aren’t given the opportunity, the scheme, or the skills to react to events that don’t fall within the dictatorial plan. I believe the inherent behavior of offensive coaches unintentionally creates and enforces a dictatorial environment limits the potential players have to react within the flow of the game.
This move away from dictatorial behavior is happening on a limited basis at every level of the game. Dub Maddox’s R4 system encourages more game flow because of the diagnostic language of directions of the process eliminate a lot of “if/then” thinking and truly opens the field for quarterbacks to see the entire field and react to what’s happening quickly rather than dwelling on coaching guidelines that are unintentionally convoluted and limiting.
Concepts like R4, the Air Raid, and the Triple Offense aren’t brand new. However, the easing of restrictions on offenses by changing the rules that used to aid defenses has made these ideas harder to stop in today’s football environment. It’s creating a game that is more like soccer and basketball — free-flowing and reliant on movement and counter-movements that favor in-the-moment thinking that isn’t as heavily dependent on old structures.
An intuitive style play has always been the hallmark of the best quarterbacks in the game but the evolution of the game is heading in a direction where this skill is becoming more of a baseline essential than a feature of elite play.
Easton Stick has intuitive elements to his game that have caught my eye. He has a strong feel for the pocket, has above-average pass placement against coverage, and he’s a versatile improviser when the play breaks down.
Stick’s intuitive play doesn’t make him a superior quarterback prospect. He can misread the coverage and lack confidence with routes that he should target. He also has a ceiling on his arm talent that’s a little lower than what some teams will want from an NFL quarterback (Matt Ryan’s arm is in this range and many teams would gladly work with it).
Still, the intuitive nature of Stick’s game could earn him an extended opportunity to develop his play as a professional. If so, he could eventually surprise as a viable starter on a team that has a scheme and staff that’s looking to the future of the game rather than stuck in its dictatorial past and present.
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