It’s not hard to see why being a quarterback is near impossible. Think about all the things a quarterback must do. Diagnose coverages, set up protection on audibles, call out blitzes, get his receivers set, throw with accuracy, throw with enough arm strength, go through progressions, play under pressure, fit passes into tight windows.
As a result, we get a landfill of bad quarterback prospects come every draft. The next best thing for these quarterbacks is trying to land a spot as the backup. That itself is not an easy task either, obviously because the competition for backup is as great as the competition for being a starter.
This is the situation Tennessee Titans quarterback Luke Falk finds himself in. Out of Washington State, Falk was drafted by the AFC South New England Patriots at the exact same spot (199th) Tom Brady was taken at in 2000. No one has shut up about this fact.
So, how is Falk as a prospect? Pretty bad. It’s not surprising that he got selected where he was at, because he doesn’t look like a starter at all. But that’s not what I’m debating here. Is Falk good enough to be the second string quarterback to Marcus Mariota? To dispute that, we must look at what he does and how well he executes what is asked of him.
For the most part, the execution is not there.
Falk wasn’t drafted low for nothing. His arm strength is weak and his accuracy is also lacking. His inability to diagnose coverages is another strike against him. He often locks down on his receivers and throws late. Other times he’ll just blindly throw without diagnosing the secondary, as seen above. The safety has his eyes on Falk all the way. The quarterback locks down on his receiver though, and the defensive back picks up an easy interception.
Falk also got away with a lot of dropped interceptions last season. He lacks refined footwork, so under pressure he’s always backpedaling or making ill advised throws into impossible windows. With a bigger arm, he might be able to get away with that, but his lack of arm talent means he constantly forces the ball into defenders’ hands.
Falk makes this throw from an off balance position. He does a nice job of stepping out of the pocket to buy time, as he’s capable of extending plays. But Falk doesn’t plant his feet, instead firing from an awkward angle, nearly watching his pass get picked off.
Falk’s play under pressure is abysmal. As aforementioned, he constantly backpedals without naturally reacting to the pressure coming towards him. Quality play under pressure should equal playing with a metaphysical state of being, where you understand you’re going to take hits but you need to take shots, keep your eyes downfield, and take hits in order to maximize the results of the play.
Falk is a quarterback that does keep his eyes downfield, but he’s clearly afraid of getting hit, so his mechanics and processing under pressure are sloppy. He’s clearly trying to throw the ball away in the vicinity of the receiver, but that nearly results in a pick six. His awareness on this play is horrible.
Fortunately, I found one positive trait from watching Falk. One of my biggest pet peeves with quarterbacks is when they don’t get the most out of clean pockets, often running out of them because the first read isn’t open. Few quarterbacks in the NFL are masters of enhancing clean protection.
Surprisingly, Falk’s pocket patience is phenomenal. He’ll maximize a clean pocket in order to get the most out of his routes, and he’ll make subtle movement around the pocket to put defenders out of position. That’s an invaluable trait for a quarterback to have in the NFL. If you can prevent yourself from wasting your pass protection as a backup, you have a greater chance of making a successful pass play.
Falk is bad, but he was drafted in the 6th round, so it’s hard to get mad at the pick. Current backup Blaine Gabbert is ahead of Falk for the time being, and that has to be demoralizing regardless of if you were just drafted.
All jokes aside, in conclusion, I don’t think Luke Falk is the answer at backup quarterback for the Titans. For now, anyway. Matt LaFleur has a lot of work to do if he wants to develop Falk’s accuracy, decision making, and mechanics, because they are all severely flawed. If he can polish them up to an extent, Falk’s excellent pocket patience gives him somewhat of a foundation in case Marcus Mariota goes down again.
Does Falk have a shot at being the longterm backup in Tennessee? It’s possible. Time will tell if the rookie out of Washington State has a legitimate case at being in the NFL or not, but Titans fans seem to like him. I just don’t think he’s ready to make his case just yet.