"So many times, you're evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count. They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball," Arians said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "That ain't playing quarterback. There's no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind."
It's a hot-button issue leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft because Florida State's Jameis Winston is viewed as a pro-ready quarterback while Oregon's Marcus Mariota has been denounced as a spread-protected passer tasked with little beyond quick bubble screens.
Spread quarterbacks have not only been slow to master the difference between "college open" versus "NFL open" receivers, but have also struggled to process information before and instantaneously after the snap.
What separates the best NFL signal-callers is the capacity to pick up on subtle patterns in the defense as well as their receivers' routes. It's what analysts in all sports refer to as a "feel" for the game or "seeing" the field.
Arians' point is that spread quarterbacks haven't developed that feel for the game because they aren't asked to calls plays, master the opponent's changing personnel and nuanced tendencies and, perhaps most importantly, use field intelligence to perceive exactly where each defensive back and wide receiver is on every play.
Playing quarterback is about taking the theory of the playbook and putting it into action on the field. That takes repetition, single-minded pursuit of incremental improvement.
When the spread-offense quarterback enters the NFL, the complexity of that improvement increases against a steep learning curve.