Smart Football has moved!

Please check out the new site, All future updates will be made there.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A few thoughts on Greg Paulus

The story that has dominated the past week: Greg Paulus, former Duke point guard, is plotting a return to football. He worked out with the Green Bay Packers, and, for a brief moment, the buzz was that the University of Michigan offered him a scholarship. The Michigan angle is now dead, he's not going there.

Apparently Paulus was a sought-after recruit coming out of high school -- Tom Lemming ranked him the #1 QB in his class. So all these shenanigans aren't completely out of the blue. The blogosphere has gone bananas over this story, but what is Paulus doing?

Let's take a step back. Paulus, who has spent the past four years at Duke playing basketball, is in many ways simply another graduating senior in this crazy economy who doesn't know what he's doing next year. (His bio lists his major as "[P]olitical science with a certificate in markets and management studies." I'm guessing "markets and management studies" isn't quite as marketable this year as it has been previously.) It's pretty obvious after his senior-season demotion to the bench that the NBA is not in his future; I don't know what his options are regarding playing basketball in Europe, which actually pays quite well.

So he's exploring this football thing. The reports could be misleading, but it appears that the Packers approached him. And for some college, I don't really see the downside with letting the kid at least walk-on. You might as well bring in a guy who has some innate talent and let him prove himself. (Most all D-1 walk-ons tend to be "preferred walk-ons" who get recruited by the coaches -- walk-ons are very rarely of the "Rudy" cariety), And all the talk by some Michigan fans that it would somehow scare off their other QBs seems bizarre to me. But I guess that's moot now.

But what's realistic? I think it's rather unlikely that Paulus would get drafted -- at most he could hope to be invited in as a free agent. As a result, if he's serious about football, I'd recommend the option of taking a year in college pursuing an advanced degree while trying to improve as a quarterback, even as a backup. There's always Matt Cassel and Brad Johnson as your models of guys who never started in college. And it's not like Paulus would be brought in on Matt Ryan terms to be the guy right away anyway; he'd be looking at a few years in the pros as a backup as well. (This is why I recommend the opposite for Paulus than I did for Tim Tebow.)

Now this assumes someone wants him. David Cutcliffe, Duke's head football coach, said no way to Paulus as a QB. Yet, again, I don't see the downside with letting him walk on, and many teams have an open scholarship spot or two because of players let go for disciplinary reasons; unless you desperately need it why not?

Part of this deal is, as I said, Paulus is yet another college senior heading into a crazy job market with uncertain employment options. In five years, even if he made the NFL or NBA, he might still be out of work and then what? So another year getting some more job skills, on top of his Duke degree, is a good idea.

But here's a crazy idea: how about he goes to the Arena League for a year or two before trying for the NFL? While the Arena League hasn't done much for a lot of skill players or linemen, it has been of some help to quarterbacks because of the league's frenetic pace that requires accuracy and quick releases, not to mention hordes of passes. The average salary for an Arena League player is about $85,000, and many Arena League players work second jobs or go to school while they play. [Update: Some readers point out that the Arena League is taking next year off due to the economy (yikes). But that still leaves the CFL and some other possibilities.)

So maybe if Paulus can't be the next Tom Brady, maybe he can be the next Kurt Warner? And if that doesn't work out, maybe he'll have a good fallback plan.


BigWorm said...

i agree that it doesnt seem plausible for him to seriously play football this year but i think Weinke was out of football for a longer period of time and he seemed to get the hang of it back quickly when he rejoined the FSU team. I would've liked to see what he could do at a big school like Michigan.

Anonymous said...

The arena angle is moot as well since as you mentioned the economy, they have canceled this season as a cost cutting move. Not cutting back on salary, or not having cheerleaders or something. Canceling the season, in the name of the long term life of the league. Thats like the farley skit on snl where he drinks the tub of nyquil to pass out for the whole cold and flu season.

squirrelyearl said...

Good analysis. I'm surprised the Michigan thing fell through since they're really struggling. I agree completely about pretty much any D-I school being willing to take a look at this kid. I mean he was good enough to be on the Duke Basketball team, that says a lot about his athleticism not to mention his past football accolades. I don't get the Duke Football coach, he seems so elitist. It's Duke Football, it's pretty close to the worst D-I program in the nation and he's not willing to give the guy a shot at QB? That really confused me when I saw that on ESPN.

I hadn't thought about the Arena angle, that is good as well. Although, the actual AFL is taking the year off so that does make things difficult, however, I know there's also the AIFL so that's an option. Also, there's always Canada. Anyway, if this guy wants to take a shot I hope he's given one and that he takes it. I'm a recent Political Science graduate myself so I can relate to a lot of the difficulties of the current job market.

Walk On Boy said...

Another well thought out, completely rational post. Which means it has very little likelihood of coming to fruition.

Actually I'm very surprised that Duke is not taking a more serious look at him since it seems that it is little more than a low-risk high-reward type of situation. Or that the Blue Devils staff haven't thought of this sooner. Even one to two years of spring ball or even attending meetings would expedite the learning curve dramatically with little risk of him being injured {for basketball reasons} due to the nature of a non-live practice quarterback.

DoubleB said...

Duke arguably has the best QB returning in the ACC this year. Thad Lewis is a senior and his backup, Asack, just got moved to safety. So if your Cutcliffe, who do you want taking backup reps? The guy who's not going to be in your program in 9 months or an underclassmen who will take the reins in 2010?

Richard said...

For the Michigan gig there is also the not-so-minor consideration that an NCAA waiver is needed to play post-graduate after having 4 years of participation in varsity sport (a waiver usually based on injury or other calamity causing a missed season).

It also requires that the school receiving the transfer offer a post-graduate degree not available from the prior institution AND for which the player is eligible to enroll. Soon after Urban Meyer came to Florida, one of his better DB's (Ryan Smith) transferred to UF grad school from Utah and played another year of his two remaining years eligibility. (He got two years because he finished undergraduate early with an accelerated class schedule.) Don't know what graduate major UF had that was not available at Utah but that's probably an easy requirement to dodge with all the niche degrees available.

I think Chris is right in saying that Paulus' diminishing basketball marketability and undergrad degree left him kind of high and dry. But that's an experience many of his peers have every year. Numbers don't lie (until they grow into statistics).

Unknown said...

The talk I had heard was that Paulus was going to try out as a wide receiver at some place or another, figuring that it's just too late to develop as a quarterback since he's been away from football for 4 crucial college years.

I don't watch much college basketball, but I remember when LSU played Duke in the NCAA Tournament back in, oh.. 2006? Paulus was the point guard. He just could not keep up with LSU point guard Darrell Mitchell, and Mitchell wasn't even a true point guard. He was a shooting guard playing PG by necessity. Paulus wasn't quick enough to guard him without hand checking. If the refs had called hand checking, he would have fouled out in 10 minutes.

The point is, Paulus is just not that athletic. I guess he's a smart player. Others say that and I don't have enough knowledge to dispute it. There's no way he could possibly play a high-athleticism-required position like wide receiver or defensive back, and I can't imagine there's a school out there that he could win a job at quarterback at considering there's a long learning curve at the position and he hasn't played since high school.

It would be like a true freshman coming in and winning a job after having missed his last couple years of high school with injuries. I don't think even an FCS team would be interested except as a novelty.

Anonymous said...

Michigan Fan here, this whole Paulus thing was blown out of proportion, ESPN was primarily to blame as they went apeshit with quotes and misquotes. Rod never promised him a scholarship or a shot at starting.

Also, is he that good of a player?? He played HS ball in a weak NY HS league (correct me if i am wrong) and was exposed in the 05 Army AA game, both during practice and game. He is not that elite of talent in football and made the wise move of playing college BBall.

Plus he has been out of football since late 04, i mean he hasn't even practiced football, very different from Cassel or Brad Johnson who were backups and ran practices.

Giving him a walkon spot is acceptable but only if you have like one scholarship QB on your roster, else Paulus brings nothing.

Anonymous said...

And we are doing fine at QB, Forcier is a good talent and a better fit for this O that Threet, plus the OL is coming along real well after being green last year. Also Minor and Brown are healthy (cross fingers) and teh O in general is more experienced. Plus Sheridan should be back from his broken leg and Denrad Robinson is coming in fall.

Sheridan is what he is, but the improved and experienced supporting cast should erase some of his shortcomings. So Paulus is not a necessity as some of you have made it out to be.

Chris said...

Anon: First, no one can be "exposed" at the Army All-America game. He didn't play well but I find that rather meaningless. Many excellent players haven't played well; it is, in my mind, less significant than someone playing poorly at say the Senior Bowl, which also doesn't really matter in the long run.

Second, I used Cassel and Johnson as examples of people who have had successful pro careers without starting in college, which would be the Paulus description if he caught on with a D-1 team as a backup for a season (meeting all the requirements Richard said). If you want an example of someone who started in major college football after taking a big break from football entirely, try Chris Weinke, Heisman winner. It can be done.

And third, "[W]e are doing fine at QB." Don't count your eggs before they are hatched. I'm cautiously optimistic about Michigan too, but seriously, Tate Forcier is a 180 pound freshman: don't get ahead of yourself. And even if he's better than Pat White as a freshman (unlikely, though I'm sure he'll be an improvement, and probably has a very, very bright career), his size and everything else implies the risk of injury. And suddenly Sheridan is the answer such that everyone else should be scared away?

I find the argument that "Forcier was blindsided by this news" and all that laughable: if an 18 year old kid is tough enough to be the starting QB for Michigan, he better be tough enough to handle competition wherever it might come from. I thought he looked good at Michigan's spring game, but we're not talking about a seasoned Vince Young here, and again, he could always be injured; I don't remember Michigan fans being content with Sheridan last year (nor should they have been).

Thus, as I said above, as a walk-on -- assuming the NCAA requirements are met -- I don't see how it can be at all a downside for a team like Michigan. Other than people getting irrational about the whole thing.

Unknown said...

I too find the "Forcier was blindsided" business to be baloney. Paulus may have been a highly coveted football recruit, but LOTS AND LOTS of highly coveted football recruits go absolutely nowhere. (Anyone remember Xavier Lee? I thought not.) Many many more highly coveted recruits need a lot of seasoning before they're ready. These two things are especially true at the quarterback position.

The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. Greg Paulus would be like a true freshman quarterback who is never going to be anything other than a true freshman. Once he's not a true freshman anymore, his eligibility is up. What's worse is, he's already missed spring practice. The list of true freshmen quarterbacks who made a big difference to their teams is a short list, and I would venture to say NONE of them had a long layoff from football before their freshman season.

Greg Paulus is not going to be a contributing player for any high profile football team at any position this year. Maybe he can go to another league and develop for a while, but the CFL is not an option. The CFL is a higher level of competition than is D1 college football. Honestly, I have no idea what Paulus could do at this point if he really wanted to pursue a football career.

Anonymous said...

Chris...."try Chris Weinke, Heisman winner"....your argument while true for Chris Weinke is not applicable to everybody, he was an exception. Plus he spent a whole season (97)as a freshman at FSU and they blossomed. So he had the benefit of a year's worth of reps.

I am not questioning your assertion that Paulus will have a future in pro football, if he does good for him, and hope something works out for him since he likes sports so much has spent a long time at it. If not he has a great degree and alumni base to fallback on.

But the assertion that he is of help to M and that we are missing out on something big seems quite presumptive. He is no better that a "preferred" walkon, and we have a kid coming, Nader Furrah, who played right across the big house in Pioneer high.

If teh transferring player was someone who had played QB at another school, BCS or mid-major and who wants to play here because he was injured at his original school or just wanted another chance to impress, by all means offer that guy a scholarship even (M's very own Ryan Mundy exploited a NCAA loophole and had much productive fifth year at VWU in 07 and even got to play in SBXLIII as a seventh round draft choice for the STeelers, he would have never made it had he come out in 06).

I agree with the rest of your points, except the Forcier Blindside stuff never mentioned it so don't use it against me, but the fact is that you are an outsider and might share the faith and,possibly, the irrational enthusiasm of a fan of said school, so our opinions might differ here a little bit.

Also you never included the "improvement elsewhere on O" in your rebuttal, M has always had talent and last year they were raw and were adjusting to a whole new philosophy. This year things are going to be a bit better at least on those fronts.

And i will try to link reports form the 05 AA game week to support my theory that he might have been "over rated" prior to seeing him during practice!!