Quarterback Logan Thomas, the Cardinals' fourth-round pick, throws a pass this week during Phase 2 work.
George Whitfield has known Logan Thomas since Thomas was the star-in-development following a stellar sophomore season at Virginia Tech.
Whitfield, the noted quarterback guru who has tutored Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel among others, knows the questions – the doubts -- that come with his Cardinals' pupil. He heard a lot of the same ones with Newton.
"I smile because (the critics') vantage point is different than our vantage point," Whitfield said. "If you know Logan and have intimate knowledge of what is happening and you can see what is on the way, and you are behind the scenes, you can see what happens.
"(His issue) could be accuracy, but that route he threw expecting the receiver at 18 (yards), the receiver ran it at 22. Four yards deeper, of course he's going to go down in the dirt to go get it. Yeah, there were times when Logan was high or outside or short, but there are a lot that goes into those shortcomings. I don't mind the noise. If he goes out and does what he is capable of doing, he can smile a lot later. Just like Cam is doing now."
Thomas was officially introduced at a press conference Friday, a few days after beginning his on-field work with his new
team. The fourth-round draft pick has been on the field plenty already since playing in January's Senior Bowl, working with Whitfield to correct the technique issues that have caused him problems.
His accuracy is at question, after completing only 56 percent of his passes as a senior. His huge arm could use improved touch. His footwork has improved, after Whitfield figured out Thomas – who stands 6-foot-6 – was going up on his toes to throw, inevitably causing inconsistencies.
Better footwork and touch, Thomas figures, will aid his accuracy.
"I don't think it's because I'm not accurate. I think it's because I put myself in bad positions," Thomas said. "I know I have corrected a lot of the mistakes that I have. It's from repetition. It's been an uphill battle but that's what it takes."
Whitfield said he celebrated "like Logan went number one overall" when he heard the Cardinals were drafting Thomas. Whitfield's philosophy – the one he sold to Thomas and Manziel and Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd before this year's draft – is that it doesn't matter when a quarterback is drafted as much as where.
For Thomas, to land with Bruce Arians and Tom Moore and even Carson Palmer was perfect in Whitfield's judgment.
"(Arians) is one of the best teachers of not just the game but the quarterback position that we have," Whitfield said.
Arians and Whitfield have a history. In 2010, when Roethlisberger was suspended from the Steelers while Arians was offensive coordinator, Roethlisberger worked with Whitfield and Arians believed it aided Roethlisberger's fundamentals.
Arians said he already sees fundamental improvements from Thomas from the spring work with Whitfield. Thomas thinks he's already made strides just since the Senior Bowl.
Whitfield just sees a quarterback who is still so young in his development. Unlike a Luck or Manziel who spent their childhoods behind center, Thomas basically played one year of quarterback before getting to Virginia Tech. Then Thomas had three coordinators in college, akin to making Thomas learn three different languages and stunting his growth.
It's about "sustainable mechanics," Whitfield said, which should come under Arians' tutelage.
Whitfield has built his quarterback coaching teaching a player to deal with "chaos" and the idea that half the time, a quarterback must make immediate adjustments in the pocket to pull off a play. He sees Thomas – playing for an offensively talent-challenged team at Virginia Tech – in the same vein as Jay Cutler, who didn't have a lot around him in college at Vanderbilt.
"Logan knows the water gets choppy," Whitfield said. "I think that bodes well for him.
"The Cardinals had Matt Leinart down there. At USC, there wasn't a whole lot of turbulence there, not much chaos. Tough to really know if you have that type of resolve if you've never seen it. Logan has it."
Thomas has no timetable for when he expects to be playing. Like anyone, he wants to play now, although he acknowledges that may be unrealistic. Anyone doubting him he waves away, because he figures he controls his own fate.
But with Whitfield's help and now the coaching he will be getting in Arizona, Thomas is clearly confident – like Whitfield – this story is going to have a happy ending.
"I think I'm a lot more ready that people think," Thomas said. "I think people that label me as a project simply off of stats, which I can understand what they see and what they think, but I don't think I need as much work as people think.
"When you say 'project' you think of building from the ground up. I feel I have a (base). Everyone has something to work on. I don't think (my issues) are as crazy as people make it out to be."
The Cardinals continue their on-field work in Phase 2.