In a prior generation of football, it’s conceivable that Jalen Hurts would have already been written off by the NFL’s decision-makers, something former scout Matt Manocherian explained to SI.com’s Eagles Today.
“Going back to when I was first coming in as a scout [accuracy] was a hard-and-fast rule,” Manocherian, a former scout in Cleveland and New Orleans, said while appearing on JAKIB Media’s BIRDS 365 show. “I think most teams pretty much had that as a hard-and-fast rule – you need to be accurate. You can’t teach accuracy.
“The one thing that a quarterback needs to be able to do, period, is put the ball where he intends it to go.”
Coming into the league, accuracy was not considered to be one of Hurts’ strengths as a second-round pick out of Oklahoma via Alabama.
Nick Sirianni, meanwhile, has ranked the four traits he needs in a QB in the following order: accuracy, decision-making, movement skills, and arm strength.
The Eagles coach has noted that Hurts obviously checks the box when it comes to making things happen with his legs and while not Brett Favre or John Elway, reaches the threshold when it comes to making NFL-caliber throws on a consistent basis.
That leaves the two most important aspects of the job as open-ended moving forward but decision-making has long been regarded as an evolving trait with young QBs that often improves with experience.
That leaves the elephant in the room and the old-school sentiment on accuracy was instilled for good reason, according to Maoncherian, the current VP of football and research for Sports Info Solutions.
“That seemed obvious and it really matched a lot of what we saw in terms of what was making successful quarterbacks there weren’t a lot of examples of successful quarterbacks that didn’t have high-level accuracy,” he said.
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That has changed in recent seasons with the fulcrum to that being Buffalo star Josh Allen.
A standout athlete, the biggest knock on Allen coming out of Wyoming as the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was his control and sure enough, that showed as a rookie with Allen connecting on a dismal 52.8% of his passes. Two years later after some fine-tuning to his mechanics, Allen was a superstar completing nearly 70%.
“The last couple of years, a couple of these players have come around where we’ve seen improvements in their accuracy,” Manocherian said while pointing toward Allen, LA Chargers young star Justin Herbert, and former Baltimore MVP Lamar Jackson.
The improvements of those players have forced the scouting community to reevaluate how they typically graded players at the most important position in sports.
“All of a sudden we’ve got to think as a scouting community this trait that we used to think was unmovable – you came in with a level of accuracy and that was going to be your level of accuracy – well now, if there’s a chance for us to develop that maybe that changes the sorts of players that we can bring in,” Manocherian explained.
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The former personnel man compared it to the explosion in the three-point shooting in the NBA.
“A great example that I think is a comparison that you’ll probably remember is Jason Kidd as a shooter. Jason Kidd most of his career, he’s one of my favorite players growing up, this guy couldn’t shoot a lick,” Manocherian said. “That was the one real thing in his game that wasn’t there. All of a sudden by the time he leaves the NBA he’s like the all-time leader in three-pointers made.”
Kidd actually got as high as No. 3 overall in NBA history when it came to long-distance shooting and is still No. 12 overall even with the explosion of threes over the past decade, an amazing evolution from when he entered the league as a sub-70% guy at the free-throw line and a 27.2% three-point shooter in his rookie season of 1994- 95.
“Obviously he learned how to shoot,” Manocherian said. “That part of his game changed and now look at basketball, everybody’s shooting threes like crazy. That’s become something where lots of people have realized, seven-footers have realized, that they can learn that skill over time.
“Maybe passing is like that.”
The jury is still out, though, according to Manocherian.
“I don’t think we have enough data yet,” he admitted. “We’ve seen that kind of play out in basketball but it seems possible that some of the new techniques, some of the new technology – not technology to measure stuff – but technology to help players develop [is there] to help quarterbacks improve.”
Sirianni mentioned earlier this week that Jalen Hurts is working in Southern California which leads to the cutting edge of what Manocherian was describing, the 3DQB program headed by former Major League pitchers Adam Dedeaux and Tom House.
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A former Eagles personnel executive still familiar with the team’s thinking noted that the belief is “Jalen’s trying to synchronize his feet to his vision so he can kickstart the mechanism as he progresses through reads and just tighten up his motion a bit.”
For Manocherian, what was once a lost cause has been replaced by potential for improvement.
“It seems like Josh Allen is really the example,” he said. “Lamar Jackson is another example of a guy who’s actually improved in that category and if that’s true – that you can improve inaccuracy – well then let’s look at those other traits that are the ones that we really care about.
“Let’s find guys who are great leaders, find guys who know how to process quickly, find guys with nice big bodies and good athleticism to move around in there and that can keep their eyes downfield.”
Maybe guys like Jalen Hurts, who already went from 52.0% as a rookie passer to 61.3% in Year 2?
“All of a sudden if you have all of [those other traits],” Manocherian said, “but you don’t have the high-level accuracy. Well, maybe we can teach you the accuracy.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube. John is also the host of his own show “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen