INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Arians uses the word “grit” when talking about the good quarterbacks he has coached and the ones he wants to coach.
The Cardinals’ head coach watches the video – it’s still the games that matter the most – but he notes the QB must do well with his brain and his heart, and that’s not always so easily measured.
Arians comes to the Scouting combine looking for the Cardinals’ next quarterback. There is no set plan at this point of who that will be, nor if the Cards can finally track down the first long-term answer at the position since Kurt Warner retired.
But Arians believes his years developing quarterbacks will help him sort through this year’s crop of potential draftees. “I have seen enough fail,” Arians said.
“I have seen enough guys that come out of offenses that have never called a play, never used a snap count,” Arians said. “It’s ‘Dude, you can’t really play quarterback, because you’ve taken out the number one thing, and that’s leadership.’ ”
That is a common theme about the position from Arians, seeking the intangibles from his signal-caller and frequently ranking it higher than other attributes. That might help in a year when options seem limited, both in free agency and the draft, and decisions have to be made with the contract – and future -- of Kevin Kolb.
Arians had Andrew Luck waiting for him in Indianapolis last year, and there isn’t anyone considered a Luck this year, or a Robert Griffin III or even Russell Wilson, although Wilson was a third-round pick with few expectations himself at this time last year.
Some draft pundits don’t believe there is a quarterback worthy of a first-round pick, although history has proved quarterbacks will always rise regardless because of the importance of the position.
“"Those guys changed expectations for many quarterbacks let alone rookies,” said West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, one of those considered the top QB in the draft. “Those guys stepped right in and were leaders most of all from day one.
“They set the bar very high.”
Arians does believe people are expecting much more from young quarterbacks. Even before he has delved into them too deeply, he said he thinks there “are some good ones in this class.”
“Whether or not they are an Andrew or Robert or Russell Wilson, who knows?” Arians said. “We will evaluate them, study them, find out if there is one that’s got the grit, what makes them tick and see if that is a viable option for us.”
Veteran names on the market, either by trade or free agency – Alex Smith or Matt Moore or Matt Flynn or Drew Stanton among them – don’t engender tremendous promise. The potential draftees like Smith, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, USC’s Matt Barkley , N.C. State’s Mike Glennon and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib have holes in their game.
Then again, the same was said of Wilson a year ago.
“You never look at a player and say, this is a consensus decision,” general manager Steve Keim said. “It’s a player that is your personal opinion as an evaluator. Go back to Russell Wilson. Some liked him and obviously some didn’t, which is why he was there in the third round.
“Whether it’s the first round or the fifth round sometimes you see guys with qualities that you can live with, at that position more than any other. It’s hard to find those guys, and when you see those traits, especially smarts, mental toughness, physical toughness, accuracy, some of those qualities, you can never have enough.”
Keim has made it clear he wants to go after multiple quarterbacks until he can find one that works. That’s why, regardless of what happens in free agency and trades, it will be an upset if the Cardinals do not draft one at some point.
“It’s on you to find the next guy, to find the next Kurt Warner, the next Peyton Manning, the kind of guy who can be your quarterback for the next 10 years on your roster,” Keim said. “That’s the challenge. There are only a handful of them. When you find that guy, it’s a liberating feeling.”