NFL prospects for Boise State's Kellen Moore; more Mailbag
Kellen Moore doesn't fit the NFL prototype, but he compares well to Drew Brees
In a fleecing, LSU and Alabama will spend $1 million on BCS tickets for their bands
'Bama didn't win its division, but neither did the Packers, Mavericks or Cardinals
|The Mandel Initiative Podcast|
|Stewart and Mallory examine Ohio State's sanctions and Matt Barkley's decision to return to USC and offer their predictions for upcoming bowl games, lightning-round style.|
Ten bowl games have been played since the last Mailbag, but there's only one I regret not commenting on until now: The Boise State-Arizona State Las Vegas Bowl.
On the surface, it was nothing special. The Broncos rolled. Dennis Erickson oversaw one last personal-foul fest. Yet for anyone who's followed college football these past four years, the game definitely felt like a piece of history. It marked the end of the Kellen Moore era at Boise State, during which time the southpaw won 50 games, lost just three and helped redefine a once disregarded program.
But just as we settled in to enjoy Moore's swan song, an ESPN PR person tweeted that Mel Kiper and Todd McShay -- our nation's most trusted determiners of a player's NFL draft stock, even though no actual NFL teams employ them -- "say Moore should be a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick."
Of course they do.
With all the experts analyzing the potential of college quarterbacks in the NFL, I have never heard a single mention of Kellen Moore. Do you think that there is no chance of him making it at the next level?
-- Peter Ashley, Indio, Calif.
As we know well by now, if a quarterback doesn't fit an exact prototype (6-foot-3 or taller, classically trained drop-back passer, rocket arm), NFL types are instinctively trained to dismiss him. Remember, these are the same people who convinced themselves JaMarcus Russell was the second coming of John Elway and Blaine Gabbert was a "safer" pick last year than Cam Newton.
While I wouldn't expect the sub-6-foot Moore to be a first-round pick, I don't understand the massive discrepancy between Moore and the similarly sized Drew Brees, the first pick of the 2001 second round. Both are insanely accurate. Brees played in a tougher college conference, but his 132.5 efficiency rating was pedestrian in hindsight compared to Moore's 169.0. Furthermore, Moore plays under center more often than Brees did in Joe Tiller's Purdue offense, and Moore throws downfield far more often. Neither played in an NFL system, but Boise's is closer to a traditional run-based attack than Tiller's "Basketball on Grass." And yes, I've heard the knocks about Moore's arm strength, but that's always such a nebulous thing to assess. Ask Georgia's coaches if they think Moore can zip a tight pass between defenders.
I'm not saying Moore is "the next Drew Brees," I just don't get the gaping disparity. It matters, too. If Moore gets drafted that low, the team that takes him won't treat him as a priority, lessening his chance to even get a start, much less develop into a star. Of course, the process hasn't even begun. Teams will get a close-up look at Moore at the Senior Bowl and in workouts. They'll interview him at the combine. As we've seen with Tim Tebow, it only takes one team seeing what the rest of us have been watching the past four years to decide to make an investment. As best as I can tell, the only inarguable knock against Moore is that he's not tall. Why that trumps all the other skills one needs to play the position is beyond me. But hey, that's why NFL GMs get paid big bucks to rank sculpted but unimpressive college quarterbacks like Gabbert and Jake Locker ahead of four-year standouts like Moore and Andy Dalton.
When will the schools say enough is enough and put a stop to having to buy all the unsold bowl tickets for their trips? Only a handful of schools break even on their bowl trips. When the schools get tired of shelling out for these trips to far away exotic locales like Mobile and Boise, we will be a step closer to a playoff.
-- Skip Wagner, Tulsa, Okla.
It's not the trips to those third-tier bowl games that cost the most money; it's the big ones. Clemson and West Virginia are both going to take a bath on unsold Orange Bowl tickets (they both sold about half their 17,500-seat allotment, due to much cheaper tickets available on the secondary market), and West Virginia's athletic director, Oliver Luck, says he's just trying to keep the program's overall losses under $1 million. It was reported this week that it's going to cost LSU and Alabama roughly $1 million between them to bring their bands to New Orleans, in part because they have to buy $350 game tickets for all 500-plus members. It's an absolute fleecing.
And yet, the schools keep signing up for it because ... what choice do they have? LSU and Alabama aren't going to turn down their title-game invites because it costs too much. West Virginia isn't going to deny its players a trip to the Orange Bowl because it finds the ticket burden unfair. Even if they wanted to, their conferences -- which actually sign the partnerships with the bowls and collect the paychecks -- would surely overrule them. And even though it's such a blatantly outdated and fiscally irresponsible business model, no bowl or conference official I've spoken with has expressed any sense of urgency to change it. They point to the fact that the schools' share of the leagues' BCS payouts ($22 million for an AQ berth, $6 million for an at-large) ensures no one actually loses money in the end.
Still, can't they come up with something less clunky? ESPN is paying the BCS $125 million a year to televise five games. Both the network and the games sell sponsorships on top of that. The bowls all have massive reserves. Surely they could afford a ticket for LSU's tuba player.
Hey Stewart, given all of the head coaching vacancies at larger programs, do you think that Gus Malzahn is selling himself a bit short by taking the Arkansas State job? Or, do you think it's a wise move for him to start with a smaller program and give himself a chance to adapt to a head coaching role?
-- Louie, Pittsburgh
It'd be one thing if Malzahn jumped at the first school to give him a look. He didn't. He initially accepted a lucrative offer last year from Vanderbilt before changing his mind and turning it down. Coming off a BCS title and having just coached a Heisman winner, he presumably believed better opportunities would arise. Instead, a year later, North Carolina and Kansas both looked at Malzahn and passed, turning instead to guys (Larry Fedora for UNC, Charlie Weis for Kansas) with head-coaching experience. Perhaps his stock dipped with Auburn's production this season. Perhaps, as some have speculated, schools were scared off by a bizarre video (since removed) of controversial comments his wife, Kristi, made at a church function. Either way, it wasn't happening this year.
With all that in mind, I think this is a great move for Malzahn. The guy's an Arkansas native only six years removed from coaching high school ball there. Reserved and generally media-shy, he gets to hone his head-coaching skills away from the spotlight with a team that won 10 games this year. (Also note Malzahn is replacing a guy, Hugh Freeze, who left for Ole Miss, a school one would have thought would fall all over itself for Malzahn a year earlier.) If Malzahn has success similar to Freeze's, a more high-profile program will likely jump at him in a year or two. In the meantime, Malzahn will hardly view Jonesboro as coaching purgatory. On the contrary, it's an ideal spot for him.
Stewart -- just a quick question. Does the SEC pay you more than SI does? I ask, because every article you write is so biased I quit reading them after the first five sentences. I get it, the SEC is great. The nation gets it, the SEC is great. Does that mean you have to be their personal cheerleader? No, it doesn't. Since you are, though, it means they must be paying you (very well).
-- Jess, Seattle
Indeed, Mike Slive was cutting me a nice little check on the side until I, um, relentlessly pushed for Oklahoma State over Alabama a few weeks back. They didn't view that as acceptable cheerleading.
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