Talking Sam Darnold with former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 28: Sam Darnold #14 of Southern California looks to throw the ball against Arizona State during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 28: Sam Darnold #14 of Southern California looks to throw the ball against Arizona State during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns have a choice to make at quarterback, but former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky believes the obvious pick is USC’s Sam Darnold.

It was hard to see at the time, but there was a silver lining in the 2017 Cleveland Browns becoming just the second team in NFL history to finish a season at 0-16.

That mark landed the Browns the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, a pick they will most surely use on a quarterback.

There are five quarterbacks potentially in the mix for the Browns, but the choice will come down to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold.

All three have their issues and all three are divisive in their own way.

In two years as a starter for the Trojans, Darnold pass for 7,229 yards, completed 64.9 percent of his passes, and threw for 57 touchdowns. He also turned the ball over 35 times, which is a number that should give general manager John Dorsey pause during the team’s evaluation of Darnold.

But if you ask former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, there is only one choice for the Browns at No. 1 and that is Darnold.

Orlovsky spent 13 years in the NFL as a quarterback, playing for the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams. He is currently looking to transition into the media world or working for an organization within its front office.

Orlovsky respects Darnold’s game, so to learn a bit more about the player who might be the Browns next quarterback, we reached out to Orlovsky for a quick Q&A on Darnold.

Question: What are Darnold’s biggest strengths?

Dan: Sam Darnold has two strengths that truly set him apart from everyone else in this class, and potentially a lot of the recent QB prospects.

First, he has the ability to be incredibly creative. I have deemed it “magically sloppy.” Everything Darnold does is sloppy. Now, this sloppiness leads to bad plays at times, yes, but it also affords some amazing plays. The great thing is that this isn’t a trait you can teach a quarterback. The magic he is able to create is something he was born with and has really grown with over the years. (As for) the sloppiness that leads to the bad stuff, you can coach and work on with him to refine that more.

The second strength is that he can be very, very accurate without his feet being in the perfect throwing position. A lot of quarterbacks can be accurate with perfect feet and the perfect pocket, but the NFL pocket doesn’t afford that, so to have the trait to be accurate without clean feet is such a strength of his. Overall, his game is highly accurate, and there’s no drop off when he has imperfect feet.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns /

Question: Aside from turnovers (35 in two seasons as a starter), what does Darnold need to improve on?

Dan: The turnovers will be the biggest focal point, but I have little concern over them. Turnovers happen for many reasons, and watching the tape, you understand that the majority of them were not a solo act by Darnold. The fumbles are easily fixable.

The most important person for Darnold moving forward is his quarterback coach, who must make it part of Darnold’s daily process of drill work to value the ball in the pocket more, and that’s all about basics and fundamentals.

I have seen guys in the NFL work at this and get better at it, guys like Matthew Stafford (of the Detroit Lions) and Matt Ryan (of the Atlanta Falcons) both focused on this flaw, and have really diminished it from their games.

Question: Some analysts believe that Darnold’s throwing motion is too elongated. Is that something that can be fixed and, if so, how?

Dan: Darnold’s motion is elongated, yes, but it’s natural. The natural part is much more important. When watching tape, early on the “fear” of that elongated release gets washed away when you watch him be forced to get a ball out quickly and watch how fast he’s able to get it out.

Changing a release is incredibly difficult, I don’t know if I have really ever seen it done successfully, and I wouldn’t tinker with it. I believe its a non-issue.

Question: As a follow-up to the previous two questions: Do the Browns have the proper people in place to help Darnold succeed at the NFL level?

Dan: Todd Haley will work wonders with Darnold. I have referenced Darnold to Big Ben (Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) many times, and I can see Haley utilizing him the same way.

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Ken Zampese coming in as quarterback coach is good for Darnold because Zampese believes in the fundamentals of the position. Having worked with Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton, two guys who have good fundamentals, should transfer well. Also, having a relationship with head coach Hue Jackson will allow Zampese to feel comfortable in his room and to truly be able to push Sam on a daily basis on those little things that will, in turn, become big things.

The biggest challenge for Darnold would be the fundamental growth. I would like to see the Browns add someone a little bit younger, who may hone in on those things, be able to push Sam a little more on a daily basis, and stress those aspects.

Question: Darnold only played two years at USC. How important is it for him to sit and learn the game before being thrown onto the field?

Dan: It is important for so many young quarterbacks to come in and sit. Very rare is a guy ready to go play, mainly with the maturity aspect of it. I think that’s why it was smart of the Browns to get Tyrod Taylor, to have a guy that can play, and not feel rushed to play your young guy. I say this all the time, “more young quarterbacks in the NFL are ruined then they are made.”

Next: Browns Twitter reacts to Sam Darnold's Pro Day

Question: What should make the Browns think twice about selecting Darnold?

Dan: I don’t believe the Browns should think twice about drafting Darnold, it’s on them to make sure they handle him the correct way, and support him with a team.