By Casey Gisclair
As the Sports Editor of an award-winning Louisiana newspaper, the host of a talk radio program, and the frequent guest of many others, I’m blessed with a job that allows me to hear lots of opinions from lots of different folks.
Some opinions are genuine and legitimate—the ones that I appreciate the most when they come through my radio speakers. Others are just hot takes from individuals trying to invoke anger in readers and listeners (a tactic that works, because every statistic shows that we spend more time reading or listening to what makes us angry than what does not).
With that caveat, I want to warn all New Orleans Saints fans at home that I am not intentionally trying to invoke anger or rage in you with this column. The words I’m saying to you today mark 100 percent legitimacy into how I really feel.
So here goes.
I think there’s a pretty good chance Saints’ third-round draft pick, quarterback Garrett Grayson, is never going to be an NFL starter. I’ll even go so far as to say that, if given betting odds on whether Grayson or current Saints’ backup Ryan Griffin will be a better player three years from now, I’d probably take Griffin—and feel comfortable with my selection.
If you can hold onto the egg you’re about to sling toward my face for another five seconds, I have some facts that can make my case.
See, I’m a film nut. This past week I bought a Colorado State football online access pass and watched every Grayson snap from the past two seasons.
Grayson’s stats are good. The intangibles are good. Heck, I even can go so far as to say that the kid seems to be a good leader, a quality teammate, and an even better all-around person.
But when the pressure is on and the competition is at its finest, Grayson wasn’t always at his best at the college level.
Colorado State plays in the Mountain West Conference—a league that is akin to competing against the bottom-half of the NBA’s Eastern Conference in the grand scheme of things.
When given a chance to shine against inferior competition, Grayson did exactly that. His powerful, accurate arm sparked a program resurgence at Colorado State this past season—a 10-win season for the Rams. However, when up against BCS conference foes or top-notch programs in the Mountain West, Grayson’s numbers were not what one might call NFL-caliber.
This past season, Grayson was dominant on paper, completing 270-of-420 passes (64.2 percent) for 4,006 yards, 32 touchdowns and just 7 picks, but a lot of the feast was against non-conference creampuffs and some of the worst teams in the Mountain West.
In the 2014 season, Colorado State squared off against Colorado (PAC-12), Boise State (MWC contender), Boston College (ACC), Utah State (MWC contender), Air Force (MWC contender) and Utah (PAC-12).
Grayson’s magic wasn’t nearly as prevalent in those six games. Against the above-mentioned opponents this past season, Grayson completed 134-of-233 passes (57.5 percent) for nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
Colorado State had just a 3-3 record in those games; the only losses the Rams suffered on the season.
Reviewing the tape, it seems that Grayson’s problem is two-fold.
First, Grayson was obviously the most talented player on Colorado State’s team. He was the victim of drops, poor blocking, missed assignments and other things that derailed Colorado State’s efforts in big games.
That is of no fault to Grayson.
But second, he just seemed to be a bit overwhelmed at times. In some of the big spots against stiffer competition, Grayson did not look as comfortable or as poised as one would like their franchise quarterback to be—the likely reason why he slipped to the third round in the first place.
Grayson would often hold onto the ball a split second too long and try and force passes into tight windows to try and make the home run play.
Of course, there’s still time.
Being under the tutelage Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees for a few seasons will be a Godsend for Grayson, a situation that would make anyone better over the long-haul.
If Grayson can absorb as much knowledge as possible from Brees and Saints’ head coach Sean Payton and break someone of his bad habits, there is a chance that he can be an immediate fit in Payton’s high-powered offense.
But a lot of work has to be done to get to that point.
Grayson is far from a sure thing—especially at the next level when ALL games will be played against top-flight competition.
I’ve seen all his games. I’ve studied all of his throws.
There’s lots of good, but there’s also some bad, too.
Don’t crown the heir apparent to Brees just yet. Let’s watch and see how this thing unfolds.