SEATTLE – On social media, Washington’s football program uses the same hashtag – #ProDawgs – to reference its many players who have succeeded in the NFL.
But at one particular position, #NoDawgs might be better.
Since 1993 – when Billy Joe Hobert and Mark Brunell were both drafted, and Brunell embarked on an accomplished 17-year career – just five Washington quarterbacks have been selected in the NFL draft in 27 seasons.
The aforementioned five – Brock Huard (1999), Marques Tuiasosopo (2001), Cody Pickett (2004), Isaiah Stanback (2007) and Jake Locker (2011) – combined to start just 31 career games, compiling a 9-22 record while throwing 33 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions. That’s despite Locker (eighth overall pick), Tuiasosopo (59th) and Huard (77th) being selected in the first three rounds. To be fair, Locker voluntarily cut his career short, and Stanback was immediately converted to wide receiver, where he recorded just six catches in 22 career games.
The best of the bunch was never drafted at all. A career backup, Damon Huard made the most of his opportunities – winning a pair of Super Bowls behind Tom Brady in New England and finishing 15-12 in 27 career starts across 12 NFL seasons.
Still, it’s been nearly three decades of NFL insignificance under center. And it’s possible that Washington will finally snap that streak this week – but only if Jacob Eason is selected by the right suitor.
“He’s just going to have to find the right fit, as much as anything,” said Brock Huard, currently a college football analyst for Fox. “I don’t think he’s a fit for 32 teams and 32 different systems, and that’s OK. That’s most quarterbacks.
“I think this will be about finding the right fit at the right time, with a staff that really believes in his skill set. His skill set does need work and does need continued development, especially the processing end of things vs. pressure and his pocket awareness and feel and movement and instincts in that pocket. I think those are areas where there’s got to be some real growth if he’s going to be a starter in the NFL. But I really believe, come Thursday or Friday, the fit of where he ends up will be a huge part of his trajectory.”
Granted, Eason isn’t the only Husky who could hear his name called this week. Center Nick Harris, tight end Hunter Bryant, offensive tackle Trey Adams, defensive back Myles Bryant, wide receiver Aaron Fuller and running back Salvon Ahmed could also be selected in the 2020 NFL draft – which takes place Thursday (first round), Friday (second and third rounds) and Saturday (rounds 4-7) on the NFL Network and ESPN.
As for Eason, he completed 64.2% of his passes, throwing for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his lone season as UW’s starter. And, though there were bouts of sustained brilliance, he was frustratingly inconsistent against top competition. He has the size (6-foot-6, 231 pounds) and arm strength but also some glaring issues.
Which is why, when you ask the experts, he’s not a projected first-round pick.
“I think he’s a second-rounder,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a teleconference last week. “That’s where I projected him, going to Indianapolis, where he’d be a very good heir apparent to Philip (Rivers) – learning behind Rivers for a year or two, and then have a chance (to start).
“What he has to do is become more consistent from quarter to quarter. I had made a note during the year: Oregon, Utah, fourth-quarter leads at home, didn’t get it done there. That completion percentage was 73% in the first quarter. It dropped to 58% in the fourth quarter. It was actually 59% as well in the whole second half. So after teams made adjustments, he was contained. I think that’s the concern with him – the levels of inconsistency. But with his talent, with his size – he’s got arguably as good of an arm as any kid to come out in recent years – to work behind Rivers would be a good thing for him.”
Likewise, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah dubbed Eason “a polarizing player, when you talk to people around the league. I love the arm strength that he has. I love the flashes. You talk about sometimes just grading the flashes of a player. If you look at him at his best, there’s a lot to be excited about with the way he throws the football. He’s a really good athlete. It doesn’t always show up when you’re studying in terms of the awareness and the ability to escape. But when they get him on the move, you can see, he can move for such a big man.
“But he’s got some bad habits that he’s got to clean up, in terms of trying to spin out of pressure. He takes a lot of bad sacks. He forces throws. He locks on. The touch is an area that needs to be improved. So he’s my 64th player. I expect him to go somewhere in the second round.”
Maybe, in retrospect, those bad habits are explainable. Huard did acknowledge that “he goes to Georgia and he has a first-time head coach in Kirby Smart, and he comes to Washington and he has a first-time OC in Bush Hamdan. And if you’re going to make the case for Jacob, I think those are the things you say. He had a lot of coordinators, a lot of change, a lot of things going on. There was not a tremendous amount of stability for him. He’s going to need that, I believe, at the next level.”
Let’s say, for a hot second, that he gets it. That Eason is drafted by the right team at the right time. That he learns from an established starter, wins a job and eventually, he excels. That all that talent is unleashed on overmatched opponents. That a Husky signal caller finds consistent NFL success for the first time since Brunell (and before that, Chris Chandler).
Well, even then, it’s not a total win for Washington.
“Over my 13 years of doing college football,” Huard said, “I know that every single season, somewhere along the college football road, I will have a coordinator say, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy has a chance to go to the league and be a whole lot better, and it’s going to look really bad for us. Because he’s a super talented guy.’ If the light goes on, people are going to go, ‘What the heck was wrong with name-the-school, or name-the-coach? Why couldn’t they get that out of him? Why did it take the NFL for him to become a star?’
“I do think there’s that possibility (that people will say), ‘Geez, why couldn’t it have happened at Washington? Why did he flourish in the NFL?’ Because there are just some God-given talents, and he’s got a tremendous arm and he’s got tremendous size and I think he’s got a lot of toughness. There’s certainly some traits there.”
When it comes to UW quarterbacks, will Eason’s considerable traits be enough to buck the trend? To flip #NoDawgs into #ProDawgs?
That’s anybody’s guess.
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