How Does Marrone’s Relationship with Nassib Affect Bills Draft Plans?

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Updated: April 14, 2013
marrone nassib

This year’s quarterback class provides plenty of prospects who have plenty accompanying question marks about their pro potential. Geno Smith is projected as the top quarterback, but it’s far from a consensus opinion. Greg Cosell, Mike Mayock, and Russ Lande all have Smith either not in the top 20 or another quarterback ranked higher. This point becomes more interesting when you see two of the aforementioned pundits have the same player above Smith: Ryan Nassib.

Nassib is a tough guy for me to evaluate on a few levels. As a fan of Syracuse Football, I’d always thought Nassib did a solid job, but his senior season he took it to another level, leading the Orange back from a 2-4 start to a Pinstripe Bowl birth and eventual win, against none other than Geno Smith. Relative to where the expectations surrounding Nassib were his sophomore year, this was truly remarkable; it wasn’t hard to see why the quarterback was shooting up draft boards.

The problem is that as much I liked the offense as a Syracuse fan, is the same head football coach, same offensive coordinator, and same quarterback going to work in the NFL? On the other hand, it worked to a degree for Miami with Ryan Tannehill following Mike Sherman as his OC, and I’d much prefer Marrone and Nassib to those two.

In any event, quarterback is the most abstract of all the positions to evaluate, so depending on what intangible variables an evaluator puts emphasis on, two different observers could come away with vastly different opinions. I think that’s what were seeing from the observations in this years draft class. Usually, it’s just a simple talent x performance record= prospect ranking function that determines where the quarterbacks are slotted. This year, most of the 8 or 9 draftable quarterbacks have big holes in their performance somewhere in their careers, and other than maybe EJ Manuel (who had maybe the spottiest collegiate performance of all), none are athletic specimen. So what’s really separating these guys are the details.

And that’s where you start to see how Nassib could be looked at as the top guy depending on what you value. For one, Nassib’s anticipation of route development was excellent, and along with Matt Barkley, is one of two quarterbacks who look like they are pro ready in that category (largely because they are the two quarterbacks who played in West Coast, i.e. pro, offenses in college). Nassib moves through his reads very quickly, and that’s something that was both required by Marrone’s offense in college, and will absolutely still be critical to success in HCDM’s pro offense.

Another area where Nassib looks good on tape is his handling of pocket pressure. All of the top NFL quarterbacks play the game a little bit differently, but one thing they are all excellent at is how they manage a collapsing pocket. Tom Brady is no nimble Nicholas, but I’m sure you can recall countless instances where he seems to bend over to form a 90 degree angle to escape a pass rusher before standing back up with the pocket behind him to deliver the throw cleanly. No matter if a QB’s team has a dreadful offensive line (Arizona) or one of the better ones (San Francisco), a quarterback must be able to move around and avoid pressure at the NFL level.  Of all the quarterbacks this year, Nassib looks the best at handling a would be sacker.

A common dissent against Nassib from Bills people is that those two of Nassib’s attributes, along with leadership, work ethic, and MOXY, were also possessed by Ryan Fitzpatrick, and look how that turned out. My response is that Fitzpatrick had horribly restrictive physical limitations that don’t apply to Nassib (or even Barkley, for that matter). Fitz’s frame and short arms required a monumental body half heave in order to throw a 15 yard out, and when a player has to exert 90% of their throw power to make sure the ball gets far enough, it becomes a huge challenge to also make the throw accurate. This was Fitzpatrick’s essential shortcoming, and it was not enough enough to overcome all the stuff that Gailey loved about him (intelligence, quick reads, etc). It, pretty clearly, does not apply to Nassib. The Orange QB may not be Jeff George, but neither is Tom Brady. See below:

But perhaps the strongest reason to believe that Nassib is a leading candidate is the simplest; Head Coach Doug Marrone would know exactly what he’s getting. A GM once noted that the draft evaluation process is essentially an effort to remove doubt. Prospects appear, and it’s the team’s job to gather as much information and eliminate uncertainty, so that they can make sound evaluations. Questions about work ethic, leadership style, personality, and mental capacity, due to their ambiguity, are often very difficult to ascertain about a college prospect (look at the disagreement about Geno Smith), yet at a position like QB, they are imminently important. Nassib, on the other hand, is the player Marrone has worked with directly the most over the past 3 years, so the Bills have close to perfect information regarding Nassib.

However, there is a grittier, uglier side to that relationship, that perhaps Marrone’s (hypothetical) enthusiasm about Nassib’s intangibles could overshadow physical limitations, especially switching back to the bigger, faster pro game. Also, as a Syracuse fan, I loved what the Orange built offensively over the past 3 years. However, if you asked me this past fall if  I loved it so much that I would want the 3 biggest elements (or more, if the Bills draft Alec Lemon or Marcus Sales) to have the same positions in Buffalo, I would have cackled at you before realizing that it may be far better than the trio of Gailey, Modkins, and Fitzpatrick.

All things considered, Marrone’s direct relationship with Nassib is more of an advantage. Remember, Marrone worked with Drew Brees previously, and Greg Paulus  after that, so he’s seen everything from a Hall of Fame shot caller to an underwhelming Duke point guard. Marrone should have a pretty good idea of where Nassib fits on the spectrum.

When you further consider that Marrone’s offense will require high level coverage reading, anticipation, and quick decision making, it’s much less far fetched to thing Ryan Nassib is in play at pick number 8.