Had Terrell Owens played in the 2020s, he’d have been a walking meme machine. Even all these years later, the internet has fun with his emotional “That’s my quarterback” defense of Tony Romo after the Cowboys’ disappointing end to the 2007 season.
What Owens did was memorable in part because of how rare it was. No longer. As a new crop of young NFL quarterbacks struggles to find their way, they have plenty of friends in their own locker rooms boosting their confidence.
NFL quarterbacks have their own hype men in 2022
The time for talking the talk is over. With all 32 teams in training camp by week’s end, it’s time to walk the walk.
We’ll soon find out how much of the praise showered on a handful of mid to bottom-tier passers — most of whom have never really accomplished anything at the professional level — was warranted, and how much was simply hot air during the hope-filled dog days of the NFL offseason.
Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill on Tua Tagovailoa
Full disclosure: We’re writing this largely because Tyreek Hill’s summer-long cheerleading reached absurd heights on Monday. Tua Tagovailoa, according to Hill, is now not only more accurate than former Chiefs teammate Patrick Mahomes — which Hill said on his podcast a couple months back — but more accurate than anyone in the entire league.
Appearing on “First Take” Monday, Hill had this to say when asked about deciding between the Jets and Dolphins in his shadow free agency back in March:
“Zach Wilson is a dog, but I’d rather play with the most accurate quarterback in the NFL.”
Hill clearly believes he owes the Dolphins more than on-field production after they gave him a four-year, $120 million extension. He also wants to be a leader and elevate those around him. That starts with Tua, whose confidence wasn’t great after spending two years under Brian Flores’ thumb.
But let’s clear something up: Tua isn’t the NFL’s most accurate quarterback. He might not even be in the top five.
Tua in 2021 was 13th in completion percentage over expectation (1.9), 10th in bad throw rate (16.3%), and fourth in on-target rate (80.1%). Of course, those rankings are nothing to be ashamed of. But they’re also due in no small part to Tagovailoa’s per-attempt intended air yards average (7.0, which ranked 30th).
Las Vegas Raiders’ Davante Adams on Derek Carr
Another top-five pass catcher who was dealt and given big-time money this offseason, Davante Adams has plenty of financial motivation to build up Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. But he also has a personal affinity for his new QB.
They were college teammates at Fresno State.
But Adams took things a step too far earlier this month when he said this about leaving Aaron Rodgers and the Green Packers for Carr and the Raiders:
“Any time you change quarterbacks from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer … it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment.”
Adams is half-right. Rodgers — a four-time MVP — is going to the Hall. Carr, meanwhile, needs to seriously up his game to get there. Carr has never been an All-Pro, let alone the league’s player of the year.
Adams wisely later sought to clarify those remarks:
“I do think Derek’s career is Hall of Fame worthy, and why not? People can say that about this guy or that guy,” Adams said. “What I would say, does he have the MVPs right now? No. Has he won the Super Bowl? Not yet. That’s obviously what we’re chasing.”
New York Jets’ C.J. Uzomah on Zach Wilson
Why stop at NFL MVP? C.J. Uzomah’s wardrobe as he reported to Jets training camp Tuesday indicated that his quarterback, Zach Wilson, should get consideration for the world MVP.
Uzomah sported a custom-made tee shirt of Wilson’s face on Time magazine’s Person of the Year cover.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) July 26, 2022
Wilson, whose personal life has been the subject of much social media attention this offseason, was statistically one of the worst passers in football his rookie campaign — although the Jets have high hopes for him in Year 2.
Coach Robert Saleh tried his best to temper expectations in the spring, saying: “He doesn’t need to be Tom Brady this year. Now, if he ends up being that, that’s awesome. But that’s not the expectation. The expectation is for him to continue to climb that mountain that’s quarterback play in this league.”
Saleh’s right. Wilson doesn’t need to be Brady. Brady has never been named Person of the Year.
Chicago Bears’ Darnell Mooney on Justin Fields
Wilson’s 2021 draft classmate Justin Fields had a similarly shaky rookie season. Fields completed less than 60% of his passes and threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (seven). And unlike Wilson, the Bears didn’t open up the coffers to get him receiving help the last offseason.
But he’s still got Darnell Mooney, who eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and averaged 13 yards per catch in 2021. Mooney seems to expect an even splash in 2022.
“He wants to take over the league,” Mooney said of Fields, per ESPN. “He’s already Justin Fields. He wants to be the best quarterback in the league. He’s taken the stride to be there. I got unbelievable faith that he will be there, and his success is my success. So, as long as he’s doing good, I’m doing good, we’re all doing good.”
New England Patriots’ Jakobi Meyers on Mac Jones
The best quarterback of the 2021 class might end up being the fifth one off the board. While Trevor Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields struggled (and San Francisco’s Trey Lance hardly played), Mac Jones got his Patriots team to the playoffs.
To be sure, Jones still has plenty of doubters who think his success was a function of the talent and coaching around him, but there’s no arguing the kid can play.
Of course, nuance isn’t always a strength when it comes to teammates talking up teammates. Take, for example, Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who had this to say about Jones in June:
“Has he taken control of the offense? That’s just a capital Yes — exclamation mark, exclamation mark,” Meyers said, via NESN. “He’s the real deal. Just kinda what he sees, we’re all just trying to catch up to his mind, his vision. I know him and the coaches have been doing a great job of relaying information to us, but ultimately when we’re out there, he tells us. And we ask him like, ‘How do you want it? Where do you want us to be? When do you want us to be there?’
“He’s been really adamant about what he says. He has a clear vision in his mind. It’s real easy to work with him because he puts us in the right direction, and we’ve just gotta catch the balls he throws.”