Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan had a unique way of communicating, often coming across as gruff but folksy.
To me, Ryan was just fun, and one of his more famous quotes is one that has stuck with me for years, “If you listen to the fans, you’ll be sitting up there with them.”
The intimation there is obvious, but it also reaches far beyond a coach being swayed by a fan base, it’s about the mentality of showing the courage of your convictions no matter what others think.
As the draft approaches, a groupthink mentality often seeps through the NFL, and many fall in line without even realizing it.
DeShone Kizer, the former Notre Dame quarterback, was once regarded as a potential No. 1 overall pick and now stands as the most likely of the top four signal callers to slip out of the first round.
There are reasons for that, starting with Kizer’s poor showing at the combine. There, he struggled throwing the football, something the player himself blames on trying to overemphasize mechanical adjustments he was being asked to make.
And then there was his slipshod accuracy at Notre Dame under a taskmaster of a coach, who tried to push Kizer by inventing a competition with the limited Malik Zaire.
Needless to say, that didn’t work for coach Brian Kelly, and Notre Dame’s awful 2016 season didn’t help Kizer one bit, as many in the industry forgot what the draft really is. It’s not about patting Deshaun Watson on the back for what he accomplished at Clemson, it’s about projecting which players have the ability to excel the most at the next level.
At quarterback, that has always been Kizer, a player whose frame and skill set is tailor-made for the NFL.
What clinched it for me, though, was the same thing that many around the country were laughing out loud about, Kizer’s claim that he could be a combination of the best traits of Tom Brady and Cam Newton:
“No one else can do what I can do,” Kizer boasted. “…I’ve truly figured out in this (draft) process, if I can maximize all my potential in every aspect of the game – this is bold – I do have the ability to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. Imagine taking (Tom) Brady’s intellect and Brady’s preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton’s body. Why can’t I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me. That’s what’s driving me now.”
While many started sprinting away from Kizer after reading that, my inclination was to move even further toward validating him.
Ever meet an NFL quarterback?
With the good ones, cockiness and swagger are part of the package. They believe in themselves, and the ones that don’t are littered on the side of the road as the MVP types such Brady and Newton speed along down the highway.
Kizer’s words are either those of an alpha-male destined to lead an NFL locker room or an unhinged lunatic.
Considering he’s 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds with a big arm and dual-threat ability, the logical bet is on the former.
To me though, the most important part of the equation is what set Carson Wentz apart from Jared Goff last year. The one positive thing Kelly did for Kizer when it comes to the NFL was giving the young QB some significant autonomy at the line of scrimmage, whether it was killing a play or adjusting protections at times.
True spread QBs such as Watson and Patrick Mahomes will be behind the curve when it comes to that, and we’ve seen how tough those growing pains can be.
“Name a college quarterback who goes into the game-plan meetings on Monday and throws his notes at the coaches,” Kizer said. “No one else game plans the way I do. No one else prepares the way I do.”
And with that, it’s time to show the courage of my convictions. No matter what you hear, Kizer will ultimately be the best QB coming out of this draft.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, CBS Baltimore, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.