With most QBs finally able to show off their arms in 11-on-11 drills, there has been a growing obsession over poor performances in practice, even though it rarely predicts bad seasons.
This week NFL teams have started running full team practices if they hadn’t already started them previously, and with most first-string QBs throwing to receivers for the first time this year, there are more and more reports (like below) coming out about star quarterbacks’ worst pass attempts rather than their impressive throws or where they excelled that day.
This should not surprise anybody who has been a fan of the NFL since they started allowing media, fans, and cameras at offseason practices because it’s been happening for years even though it has been proven time and time again that poor practices early in the offseason rarely precede poor seasons.
The keyword in that statement, ‘rarely’, is only there because there are some rare instances where a bad offseason has led to a piss-poor season but these instances happened to the teams and players that you would expect them from.
For instance, Johnny Manziel (or pretty much any Browns quarterback from 2003-2017) and his sub-par practices that caused the surrounding media hype which eventually led to the bar being set far too high for him to succeed, even from the beginning of the offseason workouts.
Manziel, JaMarcus Russell, and Nathan Peterman are all NFL quarterbacks that had pretty terrible offseasons, or practices, before seasons where they ended up playing just as badly. (Fun fact: all three would eventually get benched or cut from their team by the end of the season)
Those are players that we knew to expect sub-par performances from but the media does this hyperbolic reporting on practices every season and, much like offseason practices in any sport, there should not be an abundant amount of value given to their information about the QB’s offseason displays.
A great example of why bad days, specifically ones filled with interceptions, at offseason practices are not that important is the oversaturated hullabaloo that came about over Patrick Mahomes throwing eight interceptions during a week’s worth of practices back in 2018:
This eventual uproar by fans of the Chiefs, as well as by sports analysts and talk show hosts, came at a changing-of-the-guards moment for Kansas City as they were moving off Pro-Bowl QB Alex Smith after an incredible season and moving forward with an unproven Mahomes–something that we all have seen work out great for Reid and KC–which made the Chiefs’ offseason workouts a major storyline.
Mahomes would go on to throw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in the ’18 regular season, winning MVP by a wide margin on his way to his first of three straight AFC Championship games at home.
So in the end did his problematic practices before the preseason even kicked off matter? Did a few practice interceptions to the likes of Tyrann Mathieu and Dan Sorensen take the air out of Mahomes’ tires? No, they did not.
Another prime example is the media’s reaction (below) to Jimmy Garoppolo’s offseason workouts preceding his 2019 season, a season where he would lead the San Francisco 49ers to a 13-3 record along with a Super Bowl appearance where he would eventually be outdueled by the previous QB mentioned.
As we all know, Garoppolo would end up having his most successful (and injury-free) season that year on the way to Super Bowl LIV, throwing for almost 4,000 yards and 27 TDs during the regular season before eventually coming up short in the big game.
Were the 49ers’ practices overvalued by the fans and the media? Did Jimmy G’s bad practices scare everyone into wondering why the historic franchise went all out for him two years prior? You bet your bottom dollar they did.
But in the end, none of it mattered.
Instead, it could even be argued that the backlash from the poor offseason throws provoked these two QBs–and many others in recent NFL history–to play better in the upcoming season, or at least taught them to better shut out the outside world’s evaluations of them.
So when news comes out like the recent reports regarding Tua Tagovailoa (above) and his five interceptions on the first day of minicamp just remember that the sports media world is simply trying to stretch a singular day of practice into a week’s worth of headlines and that, in the end, these mishaps in practice help shape QBs into a better version of themselves.
Not to mention it could simply mean that the defense on the practice field is playing tough and intelligently because they are the best-of-the-best and good at their jobs.