On my way to NRG Stadium for the first day of the 2014 NFL Draft, I was reading my Twitter feed at a stoplight, ready to turn left down Kirby, a short mile from the stadium. That was the first time I saw what many had speculated for a while.
A Tweet indicating the Texans' interest in Ryan Mallett.
As I got to NRG, the Mallett news filtered to many of my media brethren. So I sat down next to Mike Meltser of Sports Radio 610 and I pulled up the 2011 Sugar Bowl on my computer. Yeah, I have it in my iCloud, so what? Anyhoooo…
I said to Mike: "THIS is why he's intriguing".
Arkansas came out in "12" personnel with the two receivers to the left side and the two tight ends in a Y/wing alignment to the right. Mallett faked a run to RB Knile Davis and took a deep seven step drop. The inside receiver, just recently released Texan Joe Adams ran what appeared to be a deep "bang 8 route", also known as a skinny post. Essentially his aim was to split the two safeties.
Mallett, at this point, is nine yards from the line of scrimmage and then with the flick of his wrist, he fired.
The ball left his hand at the 12 yard line and hit Adams in the hands at the 50. I'll do the math, that's a 38 yard throw. ON. A. ROPE. Adams should've caught it and it would've been a touchdown to start the game.
There aren't five people on the face of this earth that can make that throw and now the Texans have two of them on the roster.
As you'd expect, Mallett displayed moments of brilliance (that throw and a handful of others) and some head scratchers during that same game. That, among other reasons is why the Patriots drafted Mallett in the third round and no team did so earlier.
This was in my piece from 2011 "In defense of Ryan Mallett" - here's a link to the whole piece.
Here's a snippet of what I said:
I will tell you I'm keeping him at #20 in my best available player board and not moving him until he's drafted based on his play on the field. I'm not privy to all the information as scouts are (wish I were), but I know what I saw with my own eyes the past two years: a 6'7", 235 pound stud that succeeded in the SEC against the best defenses in the country. Here was a guy who many thought wouldn't be able to handle the rigors of a Petrino playbook at Arkansas, yet he consumed it to the point where:
- He threw for nearly 3,900 yards with 32 TDs and only 12 interceptions and a 64.7% completion percentage in 2010, and
- he threw for 3,600+ yards with 30 TDs and 7 interceptions with a 55.8% completion percentage in 2009.
*Is his delivery a bit slow? Perhaps. But does the ball come out hot? Yep. Will he force one into coverage? Heck yes. Does that make him a dolt who should drop to the 3rd round because of it? No.
When you talk to scouts, the first thing they talk about is the love of the game. Mallett has that. Last spring, he had to sit out after having surgery on his foot, but he was at every single spring practice, watching, observing, getting the play call, examining what he would do on every single snap—all the while with an ankle boot on his injured leg. It's not always pretty with Mallett, but with continued guidance and hard work—and here's the key—at a game he loves: He's going to be a solid NFL quarterback. What will the off the field issues bring? I don't know and I won't know. But what I do know of what I see: He's not a third round QB. Not this year. Not any year.*
As I look back now over three years later, I don't know that there's anything that I'd change. He's thrown all of four passes over the past four years and many derided him for his supposed poor showing vs. Washington to start this pre-season. But it wasn't nearly as bad as many said; of course, you'd have to put the film on and watch to know that, but I digress.
The Texans gave up a sixth round selection for Mallett as insurance. I'm still convinced with opportunity he could eventually fight through his ups and downs and be a starting NFL quarterback. But he's carried a clipboard the past three seasons behind Tom Brady. So, what have we seen him do over the past three years?
As pointed out by CSN New England’s Tom Curran, he became a professional in every sense of the word, returned to Arkansas for his degree and was far different than he was when he left Arkansas in 2011.
Does that make him the right guy at QB to lead the Texans? No, that's not his role right now. But, I've said many times, he knows this system and this staff would only add a guy that did. Oh, he's got a cannon and some baggage. How much of that baggage remains could determine whether he gets a shot at being The Man in his home state.