Trigger Warning: I’m about to discuss the 2017 NFL regular season matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins.
Now that you’ve been warned, it’s appropriate to describe the setting. On Tennessee’s corner, you had Matt Cassel — more famous for being the only argument against Tom Brady as the G.O.A.T. than his actual play. On Miami’s corner, you had Jay Cutler — who had retired during the offseason and was set to begin his career as an analyst before his wife convinced him that, what the hell, maybe he should give football one last shot.
The Dolphins edged the Titans, 16-10. Cassel threw for 141 yards on 32 pass attempts. Cutler tossed the pigskin all over the field for 92 yards on 26 attempts. Watching this game was like teleporting back to the 1930s, an era where the forward pass was considered a radicle concept.
What did Cassel and Cutler have in common? Besides being utter trash, both were backup quarterbacks. Cassel was filling in for a hampered Marcus Mariota, while Cutler took his talents to South Beach after Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending injury during training camp.
The point is this — backup quarterbacks are important, people.
A backup quarterback just won the dang Super Bowl, and if a franchise lacks a serviceable backup quarterback, then there is no Plan B. There’s only Plan A, and if Plan A gets hurt, then your season is over.
The Tennessee Titans have been in that boat for the last three seasons. Although Mariota has only missed six full games, he’s missed parts of other games due to several lower-body injuries. Mariota is the future, so long he stays healthy, but the Titans entered this offseason in need of a respectable insurance policy at backup quarterback.
Jon Robinson’s first move was signing Blaine Gabbert. The former top-10 pick flamed out in Jacksonville, mostly because he was over drafted, and the team that over drafted him was Jacksonville. As a backup quarterback to Mariota, Titans fans can live with that for the time being.
However, Robinson still felt it was appropriate to use one of his four draft picks on another quarterback — Washington State’s Luke Falk.
Falk was drafted in the sixth round, 199th overall, which is known as the “Tom Brady pick.” It’s more likely than not that Falk won’t turn into Tom Brady. That’s not the concern for Robinson and the Titans.
Instead, the franchise wants to know, is Falk capable of filling the role as Mariota’s long-term backup?
Production at Washington State
Very few quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL draft class put up bigger numbers in college than Falk.
In 42 games at Pullman, he completed 68 percent of his passes, threw for nearly 15,000 yards, and tossed 119 touchdowns compared to only 39 interceptions.
While those numbers are impressive, they’re inflated for two reasons — 1) Almost no Pac-12 team plays any defense, and 2) Mike Leach’s Air-Raid offense is a dream come true for quarterback statistics.
Luke Falk, the Quarterback
More important than the numbers are the traits Falk possesses. According to NFL.com’s scouting report, Falk graded out as a 5.59 out of 10. How they were able to calculate the .59, who knows, but they labeled the Pullman product as a “potential NFL starter.” That’s not a beaming review, but for a backup quarterback, it’s exactly what a franchise wants.
A few positives of Falk’s game include his height, quick release, and accuracy on short throws. He doesn’t that Josh Allen rocket arm, but its adequate enough to make throws in tight windows and while his feet aren’t set.
While the last throw was on the money, Falk’s lack of torque in his throws is concerning. He places all of his weight on his left foot, yet the ball still floats and doesn’t arrive on a zip. This is a classic case of where lack of arm strength is an issue.
But where Falk struggles the most is in his lack of natural feel for the position.
On this play, Falk holds onto the ball way too long. There’s an open receiver right in front of him, but at that point, he had waited too long in the pocket, allowing the pass rush to penetrate the backfield.
These next two plays highlight Falk’s tendency to stare down receivers. One results in a missed touchdown opportunity, while the other results in an interception.
Falk is a project, hence his draft position.
Keeping him in the third-string role initially is the correct move at this juncture. Although he won’t receive a ton of reps, he’ll act as an understudy to Mariota and Gabbert, and once Gabbert transitions out of Nashville, Falk should be prepared to take on the role of Marcus Mariota’s backup quarterback.
Featured image courtesy of USA Today