TEMPE, Ariz. — For maybe the first time all weekend, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was honest with the media.
Asked about his comments Friday, when he said he liked the three quarterbacks on his roster when explaining why the team decided to pass on taking one in the draft’s first two rounds, he was very blunt.
“I lie pretty good,” he said to laughter.
Arians went on to say that nothing is being handed to Logan Thomas, the team’s fourth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, and that the rookie is going to have to beat out Ryan Lindley to be the team’s third quarterback.
“It’s a competition; there’s nothing being handed to this guy,” he said. “He’s not the quarterback of the future until he earns it. He’s got to beat out a pretty good guy to get that number three spot. The number two spot ain’t changing.
“So it’s just a matter of can he beat out Ryan? It’s going to be a healthy competition, starting this weekend.”
Thomas would seem to be a good bet to do just that.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he is fast and has a cannon for an arm. Big, strong and athletic, he has every physical tool you could want in a quarterback.
“The one element that he brings to the table that we don’t have on our roster and a lot of teams in this division do have is when things break down for a young quarterback, he can make things happen with his feet,” general manager Steve Keim said. “For a 250-pound man, he ran a 4.58 (40-yard dash). And when you watch him on tape — there’s some games like the UCLA game where he breaks out on the perimeter and he’s got about eight guys on hi back and he carries them about 10 more yards.
“There’s some stuff he does that’s pretty impressive.”
The fourth-round pick spent on Thomas is the highest selection the Cardinals have used on a quarterback since taking USC’s Matt Leinart 10th overall in the 2006 draft. Of course, as GM Steve Keim said Saturday, if the team saw a franchise quarterback on the board, they would have taken him in the first round.
“If you think a guy can be a franchise quarterback you take a chance later in the draft,” Keim said. “There was one guy in this draft that I was convinced was a franchise quarterback.”
Keim was probably referring to Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, who was the only QB off the board when the Cardinals were originally on the clock at 20. But with him gone, the team decided to take a flyer on Thomas.
“But this guy we think could develop into that type of player, and that’s why we took a chance in the round that we took him in,” the GM added.
So while Thomas may eventually become that franchise QB, there is no expectation of him being that right now, which contributed to the team’s willingness to take a chance on one of the most athletically gifted, yet unrefined players in the draft.
“When you’re talking about a developmental quarterback — and in these rounds, that’s what they all are, they’re developmental guys for a reason — you want a guy that’s got all the tools,” Arians said. “I’ve watched Logan as an alumnus and been following that program for a long time.”
The second-year coach pointed to Thomas’ intangibles along with his tools as reasons for making the pick. He is not the only one holding that opinion, as the coach said there were a couple of teams who were ready to take Thomas if the Cardinals did not.
Of course, detractors will point to Thomas’ career completion percentage of 55.6 and 53:39 touchdown-to-interception ratio as reasons to doubt the player’s chances of being the long-term answer for the Cardinals.
But Arians is resolute in believing that time, along with better coaching and talent around him, will allow everyone to see a different quarterback.
“He has had accuracy issues, but it’s all footwork, it’s easily correctable stuff,” the coach said. “Put him in with these guys and let him compete and learn.”
No doubt there is a bit of arrogance in the coach’s words, but it’s the type you’d expect. Every coach worth his salt believes he is the guy to “fix” a prospect, and if ever there was a passer who needed some repair, Thomas is it.
In Arizona, once upon a time it was Ken Whisenhunt who attempted to do it, failing with both Derek Anderson and John Skelton. Ultimately, his struggles to mold a quarterback cost him his job.
There is no such pressure on Arians — at least not yet — and the fact that Thomas was taken with the 120th pick in the draft means significantly less will be expected of him compared to first-round picks Blake Bortles (Jacksonville), Johnny Manziel (Cleveland) and Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota) early in their careers.
Arians said skill-wise, Thomas is ready to play right now, but he won’t hit the field until everyone is comfortable in his overall readiness.
And of course, with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton atop the depth chart, the Cardinals shouldn’t need anything from Thomas anytime soon, which is part of the reason the team was willing to take a chance on him.
“That’s the exact reason you take a guy like this, because he has such a huge upside and there’s no timetable,” Arians said. “There’s no rush for this guy to get on the field. Just come in and learn how to play. Relax, become a pro.”