Both the Browns and the Bears have been through several quarterback "experiments" in recent years. For example, in the Bears case it was Jay Cutler and in the Browns case Johnny Manziel. To my untrained eye, I didn't think Johnny Manziel was an NFL caliber quarterback on or off the field. Off the field reasons are obvious. But in terms of on the field, although quick and could pass fine, he wasn't taking a lot of hits in college and that is going to happen in the NFL. So I thought he wouldn't do as well because he doesn't seem to approach (several) things with a lot of intelligence. Getting hit leads to injury, etc. So not NFL caliber in my mind. In contrast, Russell Wilson is an example of someone who displays incredible intelligence as well as character. He's quick like Manziel but brings much more in terms of the mental component. Yet he was drafted 3rd round. I don't understand how NFL teams evaluate quarterbacks. and it seems somewhat haphazard, or at a minimum imprecise.

Is there a known metric or method for evaluating quarterbacks? I'd like to read more about it to see pros and cons of existing scouting methods with particular interest in quarterbacks.

  • On the specific cases you note, Wilson fell to the third round (and was almost a surprise there) because of two reasons: his height (Well below a "real NFL QB" height; being under 6'2" or so makes it hard to see over linemen, and he's 5'11"), and at the time the "Read Option" wasn't something that NFL teams ran; as a pure pocket passer he wouldn't be nearly as valuable. Cutler wasn't really an 'experiment', he was a known factor - a good QB with mental issues - that the Bears thought they could deal with; and despite his mental issues, he's still the best QB they've ever had.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 20:44
  • At the price they paid though, it seemed like one. I never thought it made sense for the money. In that sense it seem like a gamble. Its not like Flaco where at least he lead them to the playoffs Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 20:52
  • Any signing, draft, or trade is a gamble. Cutler was certainly a gamble; but I think 'experiment' is wrong. He's also not done nearly as badly as many in the media claim: he is usually around tenth in overall rating and QBR most years, which is pretty good in my book. He's been done in by a bad defense the last few years and a poor, predictable game plan. He hasn't improved in his weak areas, which is where he is truly failing.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 20:58
  • Big risk with signing a guy to a big contract is it usually happens after a huge season, like when Chris Johnson got his contract from the Titans after his huge season, only to never really look the same after that. Granted it's also theorized that some players play at a high level until they are rewarded, and once they are paid, they just don't care as much. That's just a theory of some people, nothing proven or any type of fact involved though.
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 21:03
  • Idk if I'd go as far as to say Cutler is the best QB the Bears have ever had. Don't forget Luckman and McMahon, granted that's besides the point. Signing Cutler was a huge risk, and a silly one at that, but that's part of sports, taking risks, signing guys to big contracts hoping they continue to be great. The thing about Cutler is I think when they gave him that big contract, they were hoping it'd show how much they "trusted" him, and were committed to him, so he wouldn't have to worry about his contract and maybe jumpstart his play a little bit.
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 21:06

2 Answers 2


There are several categories they scout on:


This is important because NFL defenses are fast, they are going to rush you faster than college defenses, the Safeties and Corners are going to be faster on blitzes, and plays are simply going to happen a lot faster. This is where a guy like Johnny Manziel succeeds. He has a lot of Athleticism, he can make plays with his feet, get out of the pocket, etc.

This also has to do with height, weight and speed as well. A tall, big armed QB is prototypical for an NFL offense, that's why guys like Ben Roethlisberger succeed, but then again, you have guys like JaMarcus Russell who don't, so that can also be a hit and miss factor.

Arm Talent

This is just as it sounds, how far and accurate is a Quarterbacks arm? Can he throw it far, can he throw it accurately, can he hit the small windows that will be in a lot of NFL games. As in the Super Bowl, can the QB make that game ending throw, on target, for the Seahawks to win the game instead of throwing it into the defenses hands, a little behind the WR instead of in front, and the game looks different. Obviously that doesn't mean Wilson can't make the tough throws, but you get the gist.

Pocket Presence

How does a QB play in the pocket, with NFL defenses rushing down your throat, how do you react. Do you get caught off guard a lot? Do you panic when you're getting rushed? Do you make bad passes when you're feeling the pressure? Anything to how you do while you're in the pocket, and waiting for the play to develop. This is very important as it shows your composure in the pocket when you have 2 or 3 350 pound lineman looking to crush you.

Football Intelligence

This goes a long way in recruiting, and as you stated, Russell Wilson has a lot of it. How will they do running a complex offense? How will they do reading different types of defenses to know who they should throw it to, and who is lurking around what WR? A quarterback is asked to do quite a bit in the offense obviously, so he is going to have to be the leader, the guy who knows it all, the guy who can read the defense and tell what passes to make.

Clutch Factor

This is something that might or might not be high on peoples list, but again, goes along with Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl. Although he threw a bad pass, he worked the ball down the field pretty quickly and efficiently(helped a lot by that great catch, but still). Things like that will make a QB more appealing to a scout. How likely is it that he can stay composed to lead you on a 4th Quarter Comeback? How does he play under pressure of being down late in the game? Can he still make those accurate passes? Etc.


This can either be high on a list, or low on a list, do you want a QB that will follow all the rules, be a good person, and win you games? Or do you not mind if they make a few mistakes, party every once in awhile, and still win you games, but has the potential to get in trouble from time to time. This has a lot to do with the coach as well, in a sense of, "Can my coach handle this type of player, and keep him in line?", etc.

This and many other things are what scouts look for in a QB. But you also have to understand, even if a QB has all the right tools, doesn't mean he'll succeed. These things can only go so far in telling what type of QB he'll be. So yeah, teams are going to miss on QB's from time to time, and sometimes they always miss. Take Ryan Leaf for example, huge QB prospect, had all the things you want in a QB, but just couldn't make it work in the NFL. It happens.



Another Great Source

  • 1
    This is a good answer, but it would be improved by adding sources that back up what you say.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 20:42

Addressing the item above in regards to football intelligence, the other key indicator that scouts and general managers use is how the prospect scores in their pre draft Wonderlic test. A sample of those tests that they take is here: http://wonderlictestsample.com/wonderlic-test-sample/. It's fairly fun to take if you are bored at work.

  • Absolutely, although I didn't mention it because it doesn't really show a whole lot. There have been numerous cases of guys scoring very high on the test and being very bad pro's, along with a very very high number of players scoring quite low and being exceptional players. (ie: Frank Gore had a score of 6, great RB...Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the highest at 48, and hasn't been great at all)
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 21:03

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