The original title of this article, as I had it drafted, was this: “Jake Browning: A Fine College QB, But A Bad NFL Prospect.” I got, I’d say, about 40% of the way through it. I had clips cut up to serve my points; made considerations for how the Washington offense works within his limitations.
I scrapped that article and started fresh on this one. It will be as unapologetic in evaluating Browning’s pro projection as the original; but it will also take no quarter on Browning’s college ability as well.
Jake Browning struggles as a quarterback, and he limits Washington’s offense tremendously. With the firepower and coaching they’ve had over the past two seasons, it’s really quite despicable that they only made one run into the playoffs and got lambasted by a (relatively) great, not amazing Alabama team.
Now, I don’t think anybody is pushing Browning as a top-flight NFL prospect. On paper, he doesn’t hit any of the key NFL benchmarks: he has never cleared 9 Y/A in three seasons of play, and his TD/INT ratio fell off the cliff after losing John Ross III in 2017. He is generously listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. His arm strength is visibly poor.
But if we are to indeed scout the process over the results, we have to consider the possibility that Browning is a high-volume nickel-and-dime passer (completion percentage climbed from 62 precent to 68 percent) who can keep an offense on schedule. He could be a rhythm thrower with excellent accuracy and ball placement who can take what the defense gives him and avoid bad or risky plays.
Browning is none of these things.
The footwork and timing between Browning’s drops and his receivers’ routes are all over the place. Browning regularly cuts the last step of his drop short, which puts him in a throw-ready position too early relative to the route concepts. It also limits his ability to transfer his weight and generate power, which he desperately needs.
On that first rep, he’s off of that read before the WR even breaks, despite the fact he has a clear throwing window. On the second, he gets to the read on the time, but he takes an extra hitch for God knows why, allowing the corner to close and affect the catch point.
But one may feel tempted, on the third rep, to say “Hey! Hey internet scout guy! Look at how long that throw was! And it was a completion, too! Where’s your bad arm strength now?”
That was a garbage throw. Browning waits an extra whole second to watch the receiver clear the coverage before launching the ball, which speaks to his inability to anticipate breaks. That ball should hit the receiver somewhere downfield, between the hashes, that he may continue pushing vertically downfield and race to the end zone; instead, it is late and flat, pulling the receiver downfield and into the far third of the field, which makes him far easier to tackle.
Process over results.
These timing issues could be solved if Browning learned how/when to hitch and climb the pocket. He could extend plays by the half-second necessary to get the ball out but still evade the rusher; he could generate more power on his throws.
But instead, he does not do this. He tippy-taps his feet in a perpetual state of duress, highly uncomfortable hanging in the pocket. That onset of frantic escapism comes so quickly for Browning — his internal clock is maybe 1.5 seconds long, and then he’s bailing. And when you combine an unwillingness/inability to throw with timing and anticipation with a sense of panic, you get reps like this one.
The interesting thing about this rep is how bad it is. Browning has little to no activation in his lower half, so he’s not building up power in case he needs to throw. He doesn’t dovetail his drop more towards the center of the field, to get closer to the eventual throw he has to make to the sideline. The corner started eight yards off the ball; I don’t know what else he needs to throw this route.
Then he bails. He might not have been able to make it up that alley — there was a defender closing in — but there is so much space to work up the ladder, scramble left (where you have three receivers, not one), dump it off to the halfback, slide for three yards. Anything but spinning 10+ yards out of the pocket to a receiver you already chose not to throw the ball to when he was open.
I have compiled a 71-second video of Jake Browning panicking over the course of two games. I think it’s important to watch it all. He has no discernible ability to detect from where pressure may come pre-snap, nor does he have the awareness and self-control to identify his hot route and get the football out of his hands. When he feels hits coming, his throwing motion is drastically affected, even if the pressure is afar off.
Let’s acknowledge that there are a few plays that result in positive gains — the first rep and the last, for examples. Let’s also acknowledge that, had Browning’s process on those reps been as expected of him — quick, decisive, risk-averse — then we wouldn’t have gotten to those scrambles, those chaos plays, that did indeed end up positively.
“Well hey, you internet scout, you! I thought when Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes thrived off chaos plays, that was a positive! Huh? What’s up with that double standard?”
Jake Browning is not good at football; Baker and Patty are. Baker and Patty have excellent arm talent and mobility; they have excellent field vision; they are risk-prone and dangerous. Jake has poor arm talent and average mobility; he has just atrocious field vision; he is risk-prone and dangerous.
Indeed, that’s the last straw for Browning. On top of all of the jumping at the slightest hint of pressure, the fear of playing from the pocket, the poor drop footwork and unwillingness to hit timing routes…he’s not even risk-averse! He’s not even safe with the football! And it stems from those two points: Browning has poor arm talent, and he has no idea what he’s looking at.
No look off of the safety, no checking the cornerback’s leverage. Nothing. Just sits on the double move and send the rainbow. Easy play for the free safety.
Please wait for the end zone view, however, to fully understand just how long it takes Browning to get this ball 40 yards down the field, to the sideline.
Lord forgive me, but the first time I saw how long that ball was out of the screen, I busted out laughing.
Browning can’t test the sideline down the field. He simply can’t. He can throw with touch, and has several real pretty bucket throws down the middle of the field against split safeties. But when he’s trying to fit a ball against the boundary before a safety closes, there’s just no prayer. He cannot push the ball hard enough, fast enough, and at flat enough of an angle to beat coverage.
Add in the fact that he doesn’t even check the safeties (!!) and here we are.
Whaaaaaaat are you looking at my guy? What is happening here?!
This is an inexplicably poor decision, with explicably poor mechanics, and again, a result (INC) that does not indicate the quality of the process (trash).
Before the snap, you’re hoping that the split-zone action from the H-back, along with the play-action fake, will draw that safety into the box, and you can drop it over top of him. But when that does not happen, you have to see that and adjust accordingly! Come to your second read (who uncovers); extend the play like you do on every other rep. I just can’t parse out what the thought process was here, so I have to attribute it to two factors: he can’t process the defense outside of pre-snap expectations, and he panics.
I get upset watching this tape. It unjustly oppressed an offense that could have been impossibly explosive in the past couple of seasons, and all signs indicate it will again. Even with a rather pedestrian WR corps, the talent around Browning will likely buoy his raw stats and keep Washington’s win percentage competitive. But Browning’s tape — unaware of scoreboard and box score alike — simply does not pass the sniff test on each and every level. He should not be considered an NFL prospect.