Ask anybody what makes a successful NFL quarterback, and you are likely to get a variety of answers, but high on the list will be accuracy, decision making and leadership. Height isn’t going to come up until way down the list, but height seems to be the only thing that’s holding back former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.
You couldn’t ask a quarterback to do more on the football field than Moore did. He broke the record for most wins by a collegiate quarterback, going 50-3 as a four-year starter. He never threw for less than 3,400 yards, and finished his collegiate career with 14,667 yards and 142 touchdowns. His senior year, he completed over 74 percent of his passes.
Those are all first round numbers. You would think that Moore should have been in the conversation with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top of the draft. But did Moore go in the first round? Second? Third? No – Kellen Moore was undrafted through all seven rounds and signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent.
And what was the reason. It was his height. Moore stands 6-foot-nothing. He doesn’t have blazing speed, like Griffin. But he’s got the brains and the accuracy to be successful in the NFL.
An NFC personnel director said of Moore, “He is a horrible athlete, but he might have the best mind in draft. He has amazing accuracy. He’s more accurate than Luck.”
More accurate than Luck? Actually, his numbers are better across the board when compared with the number one pick in the draft:
Luck completed 71.3 percent of his passes for 3,517 yards with 37 TDs and 10 INTs
Moore completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 3,800 yards with 43 TDs and 9 INTs
And yet Moore didn’t get selected at all. The Lions, however, are excited about their find, and don’t seem to have any doubts about Moore’s ability. “You like to get guys who don’t have to develop as much in the mental game,” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “Kellen has some physical things he will have to work on, shore up, adjust. But the guy has what it takes, the ‘It’ factor or whatever people want to call it, to get it done.
“He has a really good understanding of football. He controls the whole system they ran in college. You aren’t going to last long as a quarterback in the NFL if you don’t have it upstairs. That won’t be an issue for him.”
Head coach Jim Schwartz backed up his offensive coordinator. “He’s not here to help out the meeting room,” Schwartz said. “He’s here to help out on the field and to develop as a player. We don’t know how that is going to work out. We like a lot of things about him. He’s a smarter player, a very experienced player.”
And what is the issue with height? Well, the argument is always that they will have all their passes batted down as the line of scrimmage. Looking at numbers from the Stats Ice system, only five of Moore’s 439 pass attempts were batted at the line. Luck only had 2 passes batted at the line, but Robert Griffin III had nine, and Ryan Tannehill had 19.
Moore has been compared with Drew Brees, who also stands 6-foot-0, but hasn’t really been held back by his height. Brees is unquestionable one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the league, and owns the record for the most passing yards in a season. In fact, only four players have broken the 5,000 yard barrier, and Brees is the only one to do it twice.
While Moore won’t be starting as long as Matt Stafford is healthy (Stafford who joined Brees in the 5,000 yard club last season), hopefully he’ll get enough of a chance to prove he has what it takes to be an NFL starter.
There have been other quarterbacks that were given short shrift for similarly flimsy reasons. Doug Flutie (who stands only 5-foot-10) was used primarily as a backup in the NFL. He racked up over 40,000 yards in 8 seasons in Canada, but was never given a serious shot in the NFL.
And then there was the quarterback in the 2000 NFL Draft who was judged to be a poor athlete who couldn’t run and looked like he’d never seen the inside of a weight room. He had a great football mind and great accuracy, but the knocks against his “athleticism” dropped him to the sixth round. And Tom Brady turned out ok.