football Edit

Ask Farrell: Is the "system" QB label still an NFL red flag?

Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes (AP Images)

“System quarterback” is usually a derogatory term to describe quarterbacks who can thrive in a specific college program but mainly because the team throws the ball all the time and it might not translate into success as a pro.

Oklahoma quarterbacks have been described by that but then Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray not only won back-to-back Heismans but they were also back-to-back No. 1 picks in the NFL Draft.

Through two seasons for Mayfield with the Cleveland Browns and one year for Murray with the Arizona Cardinals, both looked like solid picks who could lead their franchises for years.


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Patrick Mahomes was considered a system quarterback at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders threw the ball all the time when he was in Lubbock as Mahomes had more completions during his college career than Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa had attempts.

Mahomes completed 857 of 1,349 passes for 11,252 yards with 93 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in three college seasons. Tagovailoa only threw 684 passes. LSU’s Joe Burrow, expected to be picked No. 1 overall, threw 945 passes at Ohio State and LSU combined.

If Mahomes’ reputation as a system quarterback was listened to by the Kansas City Chiefs then who knows where he would be playing these days and if he would be a Super Bowl champion.

A "system quarterback" might have been a negative label in past years, but not anymore when QBs are being considered for the NFL Draft.

Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma – no surprise – could be considered one but he performed well at the combine and could be a steal in the draft.

Anthony Gordon is another quarterback who could be labeled as playing in a favorable system under Mike Leach at Washington State but Gordon also threw for 800 more yards this past season than Gardner Minshew did two years ago in Pullman.

We ask Rivals National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell whether the term “system quarterback” should actually be worn as a badge of honor instead of something that should be a red flag when it comes to the NFL Draft?


Jake Fromm
Jake Fromm (Radi Nabulsi)

“I don’t think system quarterback will ever be a favorable or complimentary term for any quarterback and those who have overcome the label will be deemed as missed evaluations. I thought Mahomes was a system quarterback and look how amazing he has been. Alabama has had a ton of system quarterbacks up until Tagovailoa and they all won in college but didn’t do much in the pros.

"To me a system quarterback is someone who can only play one style of football and the players named above all proved a lot of people wrong. Would I take a system quarterback if I’m an NFL general manager? More and more we are seeing that the answer to that question is yes. Because what may look like a system quarterback could turn into a superstar.

"This year, that guy to me more than any other is Jake Fromm. He’ll slide into the second round but watch out for him.”