Mark Schofield’s RSP Scouting Lens: Nate Stanley (Iowa), Henry Jones and Self-Reliance

RSP contributor Mark Schofield breaks down the game of Iowa QB Nate Stanley and in the process, reminds us that he’s a child of the 1980s.

Twitter, when taken in small doses, can actually be a very enjoyable part of life in the digital age.

In between the various online feuds, endless brands trying to push their products, world leaders moving markets with a few taps of the keyboard and of course some crazed football writer carping on about Toto, there are tweets that break through the noise and cause you to think. One such tweet was circulated recently that asked what movies people would stop and watch every time they came across them on TV.

For me, that is a long list, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is certainly on it.

From some of the back story to Indiana Jones (including how he obtained his trademark hat) to the scenes of Venice, an awkward run-in with Adolf Hitler and of course the mythology of the Holy Grail, Crusade is an enjoyable movie every single time I watch it. But perhaps the best elements of that movie come in the interplay between Indiana—obviously portrayed by Harrison Ford—and his father Henry Jones, portrayed by Sean Connery. From their stumbling escape from a Nazi-controlled castle through their pursuit of the Grail, these two actors are a joy to watch.

If I had to choose a favorite scene with just these two men, it likely takes place shortly after that run-in with Hitler. Having secured a valuable diary of Henry’s that contained all of his Grail-related study from Berlin, the two men are on a zeppelin heading out of the city. They then have a somewhat awkward and tense conversation about Indiana’s upbringing:

My favorite line is from Henry: “I respected your privacy. And I taught you self-reliance.” Delivered in Connery’s somewhat thick accent, it is one of his lines from the movie that I still find myself quoting from time to time. The other, of course, is “I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne. Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky.” Delivered after Henry used an umbrella and a flock of gulls to take down a Nazi jet fighter…

That brings us to Nate Stanley.

The Iowa quarterback enters the 2019 campaign as one of the senior signal-callers to watch. Most recently longtime NFL mind and new Hall of Famer Gil Brandt listed Stanley as one of his top five senior QBs. Stanley may very well belong on such a list, but as I watch him in the season ahead, self-reliance is an area I’ll be keeping a close watch upon.

Why? Last season Stanley enjoyed having not one, but two first-round tight ends in the huddle with him: T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Having weapons like that can help a player…until he starts to rely on them to his detriment.

Let’s look at two plays from Stanley’s 2018 game against Northwestern. On this first play, the Hawkeyes face a 3rd and 4 early in the contest, and they run a mirrored curl/flat design out of a three tight end package. Stanley (#4) immediately locks onto Fant (#87) on a curl route, who has tight coverage on him:

Later in the game, the Hawkeyes run a shallow crossing concept with Fant running the crossing route and Hockenson (#38) running a curl route over the top of Fant’s crosser. Here, Stanley focuses his attention on both his tight ends and comes off them very late to try and throw the check down to his running back out of the backfield:

By the time he comes off his tight ends, it is too late and he is sacked.

When a quarterback has tremendous talent around him, and especially mismatch players like Hockenson and Fant, the QB can begin to rely on them too much in the passing game. With Stanley, these two plays are examples of him focusing on the tight ends, and to his detriment.

When he starts to look elsewhere, Stanley can deliver on some pretty impressive throws:

Here Stanley gets a rotation in the secondary, as the Iowa State Cyclones blitz a cornerback off the edge and drop into a zone behind the pressure. Stanley reads this perfectly – taking advantage of what appears to be a bit of a bust in the secondary – and throws the post route over the middle with good placement and velocity. Looking at the throw, you can see how the QB gets this over the retreating defenders and away from the safety. Perfect play and impressive throw.

Henry Jones believed that by leaving his son alone, he taught him privacy and more importantly, self-reliance. Reliance is a double-edged sword when it comes to the quarterback position. There are times when having great talent around you can help your development as a QB, but sooner or later a quarterback needs to be left to his own devices to show growth as a passer. Perhaps in the year ahead, with both Hockenson and Fant honing their craft in the NFL, Stanley can use one more season to grow as a passer and learn the pivotal art of self-reliance.

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