The Importance of Patience in Developing a Franchise Quarterback: Lessons from Josh McCown’s Time in New York

In 2018, Josh McCown was popular in New York among reporters. The Jets had just drafted Sam Darnold with the No. 3 pick, and his every move seemed to create a headline. Few spent more time with Darnold than McCown, and few understood the quarterback position better, so reporters pulled McCown aside in the locker room.

They scrounged for his initial impressions, returned for follow-ups and used some of McCown’s words to explain why this highly regarded quarterback prospect was bound to transform the franchise. McCown may have fielded questions from these reporters as a shield for Darnold, a way to prevent the rookie from a daily onslaught.

It’s also possible that McCown shared his thoughts because he felt they were important for everyone — fans, coaches and even team personnel — to keep in mind.

“This time when you’re developing a quarterback is critical,” he told the New York Daily News in May. “Everyone’s different with the pace at which they take in information. It’s wise as an organization to understand that.”

That may sound boring and basic, but it was a dash of sobriety amid the craziness of the organization drafting its so-called quarterback of the future.

“Jets may have a gold mine in Sam Darnold,” read one headline. “Darnold comes back down to earth,” another suggested. Few sports figures provide more hope than a potential franchise quarterback, so it’s hard to keep them on the sideline and allow them to develop at their own pace. McCown understood this and tried to guard against it.

McCown’s efforts may not have helped the Jets, but now they feel relevant again. McCown is the quarterbacks coach of the Minnesota Vikings, a team targeting a quarterback, potentially in the first round of next week’s draft.


Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the QB decision he’s facing in the NFL Draft

The Vikings’ situation seems like a positive one for a rookie QB. They have an offensive-minded head coach, multiple high-end skill players and a capable offensive line. They will also be intentional about how they evaluate and develop whichever quarterback they get in the draft. That’s a good thing — but it’s also a topic worth further exploring.

Mapping out a plan makes sense rationally, but the NFL is not known for being reasonable. Lose, and public pressure mounts. Struggle, and ownership loses patience. Winning might be the only way to guard against irrationality, and that’s why Darnold is so important in all of this.

“The ability to grow (is important),” general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said last week about developing a quarterback. “Not having to have everything on their shoulders right away.”

Adofo-Mensah brought up Kansas City as a point of reference. The Chiefs went 12-4 and won their division in 2016. They then drafted Patrick Mahomes knowing they had a solidly built team with a trusted veteran in Alex Smith who would introduce Mahomes to every aspect of quarterbacking in the NFL.

Mahomes dined with Smith. He dissected film alongside Smith. He observed how Smith treated his teammates.

“That sped up my processing so fast,” Mahomes has said.

Another example exists nearby. The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 in 2019, then drafted Jordan Love. And while Aaron Rodgers may not have shepherded Love through his daily duties like Smith did with Mahomes, it’s impossible to quantify how much Rodgers’ presence mattered in Love’s development. Not only was Love able to watch the work habits of a future Hall of Famer, but he was also shielded from immediately being thrust into action.

Dan Marino benefitted from an already-successful Miami Dolphins team when they drafted him in 1983. Tom Brady joined an ascending New England Patriots franchise in 2000. You can rattle off countless historical data points if you are a committed defender of quarterback nurture mattering more than nature.

Scoop City Newsletter

Free, daily NFL updates direct to your inbox. Sign up

Free, daily NFL updates direct to your inbox. Sign up


“That’s the interesting part,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Everybody talks about the low hit rates (for quarterbacks in the draft), but is that because the player wasn’t good or because the situation wasn’t great?”

Arguments on the nature side of the equation are sensible as well. Last year, the Houston Texans drafted C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 pick, and he excelled immediately. Joe Burrow thrived immediately in 2020 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Peyton Manning showed up to a floundering Indianapolis Colts team and swiftly charted a path toward excellence.

At the very least, Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell seems to share a similar perspective to the one McCown spoke about when Darnold entered the league.

“The timeline of when the young quarterback is reaching the early peak of his rookie contract — when it’s so valuable to have a rookie because of the financial terms — is one thing,” O’Connell said Monday. “But you also want to make sure you’re developing and doing what’s best for the player.”

He added: “We just happen to have a really good situation, in my opinion, with the players we have in that huddle, the guys who are going to be coaching that player, and then ultimately what we hope is a long-term plan to really have a special player at the position.”

The key word there? Hope.

That hope is not just contingent on ownership’s discipline, but also Darnold’s command. The better the 26-year-old plays, the more patient the third-year general manager and head coach can be with the rookie. The longer Darnold retains the starting role and maintains the trust of the 52 other players in the locker room, the more time the young draftee has before he is propped up as the next gold mine, the player certain to lead this organization to heights never before achieved.

(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

2024-04-16 17:06:48
#Sam #Darnold #vital #piece #Vikings #NFL #Draft #plans #quarterback


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *