As many of you know, my other football passion is the Ohio State Buckeyes, who beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl last night. This story isn't about that game, although I wouldn't mind writing about it some more--it was a great game for the Buckeyes and the Big Ten.
No, this story is about their opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Well, it's not even about them, it's about the quarterback for the Razorbacks, Ryan Mallett. He's a redshirt junior is is draft eligible, and the consensus is that he will declare for the NFL draft, although he has not officially said he will.
Ryan Mallett is a protoypical NFL quarterback. He's tall, and he's strong. He's not a running quarterback, but has enough mobility to step up in the pocket and buy some time. He has a rocket arm, and he has pinpoint accuracy.
And I am begging the Minnesota VIkings: Please...PLEASE don't draft Ryan Mallett if the opportunity presents itself.
I've watched Mallett play two plus games this season--against Alabama, Auburn, and Ohio State. In each game, Mallet showed an ability to make throws that I'm not sure any other NCAA quarterback could make. His accuracy can be uncanny, and he has all the phsical skiils that make NFL scouts drool.
But throughout his career Mallet has consistently made the most absolute, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad throws at the singularly worst times. When it comes down to crunch time, Mallett has a penchant for folding like a wet cardboard box, every single time.
Every single time.
Last night was the first time I really, really paid attention to Mallett, and when he is under a lot of pressure, he makes terrible throws. In college, being under constant pressure isn't something that a lot of big time college quarterbacks experience week in and week out. The talent gap can be enormous when a very good team like Arkansas plays lesser teams. And when Mallet has time to throw, he's deadly.
But in the NFL, being under pressure constantly comes with the territory; there are no 'gimmes'. Last night TV analyst Todd Blackledge called these 'uncomfortable throws', because the QB is feeling the heat on almost every play and has to make quick decisions. Depending on how the Vikings address the issues on the offensive line, the next quarterback could very well be running for his life more often than not.
When Ryan Mallett feels pressure, he is terrible. He has no strength to his throws, and they always seem to do a 'Tarvaris Jackson'. That is, they hit the ground about five feet in front of the intended receiver. Ohio State made Mallett uncomfortable all night, blitzing up the middle and from the edge, and Ohio State's defensive line, especially DE Cameron Heyward, was constantly harassing Mallett. And Mallett did what he always does when he feels pressure--he folded.
The key moment came late in the game, with it all on the line. When the Arkansas special teams had set the offense up to steal a win by blocking a punt inside the Ohio State 20, Ryan Mallett made what is arguably the worst throw during the bowl season, throwing to a thoroughly covered receiver, and the ball was intercepted.
Game over, thanks for coming. Please drive safely. No S-E-C chant for you tonight.
Mallett strikes me as a guy that has a lot of talent, and will pile up a lot of stats, but when the pressure is squarely placed on his shoulders to make a play to win a game, he will fail.
And I've had enough failure as a Vikings fan in my lifetime, thank you very much. Now, I'm not saying the Vikings don't need a quarterback, they do.
Just not this one.