Retired Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians probably will not be on an NFL sideline this coming season. But there is apparently one thing that can get him to at least jokingly consider it: the possibility of the Cards drafting Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, and pairing him with dynamic running back David Johnson in the backfield.
"Oh, baby!" Arians said, when asked that exact question by the Arizona Republic.
Arians is a known quarterback savant, and he elaborated on what exactly he likes about Jackson and his skill set.
"That's one guy I really am intrigued with because he can spin it and he's been in a pro-style offense and he's been hard coached by Bobby (Petrino)," he said. "He brings that unique skill-set, and it makes me look back at Vince Young. Vince could beat you and he was a heck of a leader. I don't know why it didn't work out for him, but listening to him now, telling his story, he's like, 'I didn't put the time in.' I think Lamar puts the time in. He's going to get better, and he just brings that unique ability to break the game open with his legs."
Jackson isn't necessarily the kind of player you'd normally associate with Arians, given his teams' emphasis on statuesque passers with huge arms, but Jackson does have experience throwing downfield and, crucially for Arians -- who has emphasized the importance of this in the past -- played in a pro-style offense under Petrino.
"He sits in there and flips it up the field," Arians said. "He's been in a pro-style offense. He's more of a scrambler with designed runs. I don't think I'd design runs for him. I would just let him, a la Russell Wilson, take what's there, and whoosh, take off running."
The Seahawks certainly design plenty of runs for Russell Wilson on zone-reads and such, but Wilson has become known for his ability to scramble away from pressure and make a play down the field. Jackson has the same skill in his bag, and he also has the ability to make defenses pay on designed runs. He is several inches taller but somewhat slighter of build than Wilson, but he showed throughout college the ability to handle the hits he takes when running. He's an intriguing quarterback prospect, and with the Cards picking in the middle of the first round, a definite possibility for Arians' old team.