Kartje: Right coach, system can change trajectory of an NFL QB’s career


The jersey sits in an upstairs room in his home near the Rams’ facility. Inscribed inside the jersey’s number is a message that Sean McVay, the team’s first-year head coach, holds dear. “I owe you my career,” it reads.

The jersey is from Kirk Cousins, Washington’s quarterback and McVay’s former protege. Under McVay, Cousins went from a fourth-round surefire career backup to leading the NFL in completion percentage in just one season. With Cousins, McVay showed the NFL that he might be the league’s next offensive mastermind.

As Washington’s offensive coordinator, McVay had a knack for understanding Cousins’ strengths and amplifying them in his gameplans. Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards in his final season with McVay, and in his first without him, Cousins stands to make almost $24 million. Next spring, when he’s likely to hit the open market, he’s likely to yield one of the largest free agent contracts in NFL history. Without McVay, it’s possible – likely, even – that none of that would have come to fruition.

It’s the sad reality about NFL quarterbacks. The toughest position in sports is so difficult to master that merely being drafted into the wrong situation, with a staff that doesn’t understand how to develop you, can doom a career. And as more young quarterbacks make the switch from college spread offenses to pro-style NFL ones, it’s as crucial as ever that they’re surrounded with coaches who understand how to navigate such a transition.

Talk of a quarterback shortage has been looming for years, as front offices across the NFL continue to decry the lack of pro-ready signal callers declaring for the draft. Before the draft in 2015, Rams general manager Les Snead said the lack of pro-ready options at the position would mean “doomsday, if we don’t adapt and evolve.”

These statements from concerned coaches and front office executives almost always shift blame elsewhere, either to the college game or the college coaches and players, themselves. Rarely, however, do irritated NFL personnel acknowledge that too many of them and their fellow coaches are either ill-equipped when it comes to developing modern quarterbacks or too inflexible to adjust their schemes to their skillset.

Dak Prescott, last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, came from a spread offense at Mississippi State and translated that to tremendous success in his first NFL season, thanks to the job Jason Garrett and his staff did…



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