MOBILE, Ala. -- Unlike Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, nobody would have questioned Georgia’s Aaron Murray if he had declined his invitation to the Senior Bowl.
While Murray is still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury suffered in a Nov. 23 game against Kentucky, he made the trip down to Mobile anyway. He couldn’t play in Saturday’s game or even practice, but the decision was still a very wise one.
The media will always focus on the practices, but what goes on behind the scenes can be just as vital as what happens on the field. Sometimes, as in Murray’s case, it can be even more critical.
After each practice and during various evenings, coaches, scouts and other team officials will spend time talking to various prospects. It’s not unlike the NFL Combine interviews, though far more casual and less pressure-packed.
While Murray couldn’t play, he did have the opportunity to get in front of teams and allow them to get to know him and ask him questions. While the Combine is considered the big “job interview,” the Senior Bowl can be just as important and, given the more laid back atmosphere, allow a prospect to ease into the process with less pressure.
One of the questions facing Murray will be about his height and how he will handle being a less-than-prototypical sized quarterback at the next level.
Some of the concerns were put to rest during the weigh-in on Monday. Many pundits felt Murray would measure in at under 6 feet tall (the low bar most teams look for in a quarterback), but his official results were just over that mark at 6 feet and 3/10 of an inch.
Think that’s not a big deal? Well, let’s look back to the 2012 NFL draft when Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson measured in at 5-feet-11-inches and people go so caught up in that fact that they overlooked what he did well on tape. Wilson dropped to the third round, in large part because he wasn’t the desired size.
Murray could be ranked as a fifth- or sixth-round prospect, in part because unlike Wilson or New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Murray doesn’t set up his passing lanes around his blockers and instead throws too many balls which get batted at the line.
He won’t get to prove he has the same kind of savvy Wilson and Brees have since he can’t practice, so topping the six foot mark could ease some concerns on him. A team might feel that if he’s taller than expected, perhaps fixing the batted passes will be easier.
The key part of that is, of course, using interviews and even casual interactions to show off his knowledge of the game and his overall “football IQ.”
While none of this will take the place of what he might have done had he been able to practice and play, it could very well prompt some teams looking for a mid-to-late round quarterback to take another, closer look at Murray’s tape and perhaps reach out to his coaches.
It may also remind them of all the positives he brings to the table, like his quick delivery, the tight spiral on his throws and the solid, deep passes and throws down the seam. It gives him a chance to remind them that he was the starting quarterback in a pro-style offense for three years against teams in the best conference in college football.
In a week when McCarron has apparently damaged his stock by not going down to Mobile, it seems Murray did the right thing going, even if he never threw a pass or dropped back once.