INDIANAPOLIS – The fascination that is Anthony Richardson can be summed up pretty well by listening to Chris Ballard’s most trusted lieutenants.
Initially, Ed Dodds was really skeptical.
Whereas, Morocco Brown was blown away.
The uncertainty with Dodds revolves so much around the unique profile of Richardson, centered around the quarterback’s lack of experience.
“I went down there early in the year, and he wasn’t playing as well,” Dodds said following the Colts selection of Richardson at No. 4 overall. “It’s just a hard study, right? You hit on it, 13 games played total. Last year, I’m talking his sophomore year, he threw like 60 balls. There’s really not an accurate grade on the scale for a guy that, okay, he’s got blue traits, but there’s no resume. Then the very little part that he has, it was a rollercoaster all year. I watched him like four or five times. I was kind of late. I was hard on him at first and then the more I watched – Chris (Ballard) hit on it – poise. I always watch games. I’m kind of old school. I don’t want to watch all these cut ups, I want to watch games. We have a cutup that Stew (Video Director Stewart Cramer) and the guys do that’s like all throws under pressure. That’s where you see, alright the dude has got natural instincts that some of these other guys did not. So, you’re going, ‘Alright, we can fix some things.’ Like the accuracy, I would say a lot of it is his feet. I actually asked him about it one night. I’m like, ‘Hey, what do you think it is?’ I go, ‘Why wouldn’t you have so much time that your perfect protection you’ll just miss one and then when you are under pressure and you have to move up and slide to your left and make the throw it’s perfect.’ He’s like, ‘It’s because I’ve got all these people in my ear talking about mechanics.’ There are like gurus for everything nowadays. I think that just shows he is accurate, he just needs to stop thinking about all this other ancillary BS that all these guys harp on all the time.”
Occasionally, Brown will send Ballard a text if what he witnesses at a practice strikes him as something rare. That was the case last August when he saw Richardson at Florida.
“(Richardson) had like a bounce to him as he was just running up and down the field and rolling out,” Brown remembers. “Whatever he was doing throughout the course of the practice it just had like a different kind of bounce and rhythm to it. Then the ball just came out of his hand, the closest thing I’d seen was maybe Michael Vick. The ball come out of his hand. Everything just looked easy so you kind of take a double take to see like, ‘Man, is this real?’ I’d seen him play in the summer. I hadn’t been just to see him live. That was just at a practice so it was kind of just things like that you don’t see often kind of stick in your head. It was unique.
“I sent Chris (Ballard) just to be funny I was like, ‘Man you could charge admission to watch this guy throw if we were going to practice.’ It would be like a circus just watching him throw. Then his body – it looked like he had the body like a defensive end and just how he moved.”
Brown took in several games of Richardson’s, with Dodds attending the matchup against LSU.
What Brown kept on walking away from, no matter the middling, at best, statistics from Richardson was the multiplicity of his game.
“It’s not even the style, it’s just the arm and the legs,” Brown said. “Like the top-10 pick quarterbacks in the league, they’re dual-threat quarterbacks. So if I’m in the pocket and I have the arm, or if a play breaks down then I can run. When you have that type of high-level talent, you have to defend every blade of grass on the field and you can’t as a defense if I can run and throw.
“At some point – the guy is not a finished product at all, but to have those traits it’s just scary to defend a guy. The one thing for me, out of all the quarterbacks – and I got this from Mike Shanahan back in the day, he would always say, ‘Who would I not want to play against? Who do I want to play against?’ You’re looking at it and you can say who is more polished and who is more this or that? He’s the guy you don’t want to play against because it’s like Steve McNair but faster maybe. Those kind of guys can make one or two plays once they mature and when the game is decided by a couple plays.”
As the Colts started to believe more and more in the on-field molding of clay that Richardson is, the boots on the ground scouting also was needed.
Is this future face of the franchise ready to handle what Jim Irsay describes as potentially $1 billion worth of contract money across a high-level quarterback’s career?
“Genuine person, he’s authentic,” Brown says of Richardson. “I think he’s a kind-spirited human being first and foremost. When you look at his past, some of the obstacles he’s had to overcome. You say, man – it’s the most difficult position to play in sports but if he’s able to fight through some of the things he’s had to in life, he and his family, just to get to where he is now. Then, you want to bet on that type of a person. A lot of the times, if you have the talent, we talk about leadership. Some guys are great leaders, some guys don’t want to do it. When you have that talent that you’re not going to see what every 20-some years and you can put it together, the guys are going to follow you if you’re a good person. So, I think that’s what he is first and foremost. He’s a good guy, good family from a tough situation and everybody you talk to, you know you go through the school, especially like Ed was saying, you’re trying to poke holes anyway you can to make sure you’re not seeing ghosts.
“Like I said, first, quality human being and then the story we just build on it and build on it. He’s kind of passed all those tests all the way to the end where we’ve met with him and then you can feel it when you talk to him.”
Tests to be a Colt, and one worthy of the 4th overall pick, have been passed for Richardson.
Now comes the test of succeeding in the NFL.
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