DuckSportsAuthority - Joe Moorhead, Anthony Brown and the search for a Turing Quarterback Test
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Joe Moorhead, Anthony Brown and the search for a Turing Quarterback Test

Most preseason evaluations talk about Oregon's "question mark" at quarterback, ignoring all the ways Anthony Brown has already provided an answer.
Most preseason evaluations talk about Oregon's "question mark" at quarterback, ignoring all the ways Anthony Brown has already provided an answer.

There is no such thing as a Turing Quarterback Test, but coaches would pay a fortune if some genius succeeded at inventing one.

In the 1930s British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing proposed an experiment designed to determine ⁰whether an artificial intelligence was capable of thinking like a human being."

The website techtarget explains:

Turing proposed that a computer can be said to possess artificial intelligence if it can mimic human responses under specific conditions. The original Turing Test requires three terminals, each of which is physically separated from the other two. One terminal is operated by a computer, while the other two are operated by humans.

During the test, one of the humans functions as the questioner, while the second human and the computer function as respondents. The questioner interrogates the respondents within a specific subject area, using a specified format and context. After a preset length of time or number of questions, the questioner is then asked to decide which respondent was human and which was a computer.

Much in the way Joe Moorhead has to put four quarterbacks in a room and on the practice field and determine which one of them is the starter.

The football challenge is an inexact science, large parts art and intuition, occasionally guesswork.

Which of the terminals are human beings and which is the computer? Which quarterback gives you the best chance to win?


The analogy takes on a particular resonance because over the last 20 years, quarterbacks have become more programmed and robotic.

Young QBs are identified in middle school with ambitious parents sending them to camps, clinics and private tutors. They are all taught to hold the ball at the collarbone with their elbows out, drilled on arm positions at release and made to shuffle through cones and blocking pads.

They make thousands of throws against air, get hundreds of reps in shorts and shoes without a pass rush.

All the instruction overloads their heads at times. A great quarterback has to be able to kick ass in the chaos, make plays when everything breaks down and the competitive situation is nothing like those hours on an empty field in the middle of summer. Eighty thousand people are screaming. The play is late from the sideline. The right guard whiffs on his block. Whaddya gonna do?

Having Steve Clarkson wave a broom at your knees doesn't adequately prepare you for what actually happens.

In the last decade Oregon has had a handful of quarterbacks from this industry, the quarterback training factory. Four-star prospects and graduates of the Elite 11 like Jake Rodrigues, Travis Jonsen, Morgan Mahalak and Tyler Shough were all busts.

Meanwhile, the Duck QB who won a Rose Bowl and a conference championship, the one who went on to have one of the most prolific rookie seasons in NFL history, was a local kid who grew up fishing, playing no-blood-no-foul basketball in the driveway with his brothers while competing year-round in every sport in season.

Justin Herbert didn't attend camps and didn't take $3000-a-weekend lessons from a quarterback guru. He pitched in the state championships. He was an all-league basketball player.

The sample is small, but it suggests that learning to compete and handle pressure is far more effective in making a quarterback than endless dry reps in sanitized conditions.

Teaching a quarterback how to lead a team and win games is a much more human and organic process.

Sometimes, it takes half a season to find the right guy.

Expectations at Oregon are too high to wait that long. The rest of the roster is ready right now to win 11 games.

If Turing or anyone else were to crunch the numbers on Anthony Brown, they'd discover something interesting, something vital that suggests his future just might be better than his past:

Anthony Brown made dramatic leaps of improvement every season he's played the position in college.

That isn't always true for quarterbacks. Most of them are static. They are who you think they are. Their record is their destiny. Brown is different. His growth is exceptional, particularly when you consider changing head coaches and coordinators and working, at Boston College, with an inferior supporting cast.

Five-star quarterbacks leave after three years. Brown has been in development for six.

Completion %
Year Status Result

2017

Redshirt freshman

51.9%

2018

Sophomore

55.4%

2019

Junior

59.1%

2020

Senior

65.2% (+13.3%)

2017-2019, Boston College, 2020 grad transfer at Oregon
Yards per attempt
Season Status YPA

2017

Redshirt freshman

5.3

2018

Sophomore

7.4

2019

Junior

9.1 (+3.8 YPA)

2020

Senior

7.1*

*23 pass attempts, disproportionate number in Red Zone situations or trailing by three scores. Bet that the YPA increases significantly throwing to Redd, Williams, Franklin, Hutson, Webb and JJIII over a full season.
TD-INT ratio
Year  Status  TDs-INTs Ratio

2017

redshirt freshman

11-9

1.2

2018

sophomore

20-9

2.2

2019

junior

9-2

4.5

2020

senior

2-0

"Infinity"**

In the limited sample, a perfect result in football terms. The precise mathematical calculation of divided by zero is one for the Turings of the world, but it does tend toward infinity.
Passer Rating
Year Status Rating

2017

Redshirt freshman

103.5

2018

Sophomore

134.8

2019

Junior

154.5

2020

Grad Transfer

153.8

Physical stature 
Year Height and weight

2016 as a recruit

6-2 196

2021 as a 6th-year senior

6-2, 226

A three-star coming out of high school, Brown threw for 33 touchdowns with only five interceptions in his final year at St. John Vianney.

He's a 6th-year senior with a college degree who has had time to mature and develop, physically and mentally.

He's trained in the off season with former Oregon quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Akili Smith (two guys who have done it on the field, thrived in pressure situations and hostile environments), as well as having a full uninterrupted year to absorb the Duck offense and work with his receivers.

As his numbers clearly show, he's capable of continuous and dramatic improvement. His accuracy has improved from a substandard 51% to an acceptable 65% while coming off the bench in a new program with a delayed and interrupted off season. His passer rating climbed from 109 to the 150s. His TD-INT ratio doubled every year.

He's a grown man now, with a starter's swagger and confidence. He knows how to improvise and how to lead.

Another thing to consider in evaluating Brown is the marked difference in supporting cast and coaching he'll have as a super senior at Oregon.

Here's a scan of his starting lineup at Boston College, 2019 against Virginia Tech:

There's one four-star in the entire starting lineup, two two-stars. Dillon was a powerhouse, a 6-0, 247 running back who rushed for 4,382 yards in three seasons with 40 career touchdowns. He went on to play for the Green Bay Packers.

The rest of this group would not make the Oregon two-deep. Many of their backups would not get an offer at UO.

Brown's been thrown into the fire. He's played road games at Louisville, Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech. He's experienced hostile environments. He's come back from ACL surgeries on both knees.

What does it take to win at a high level?


12-win seasons at Oregon
Year Record  Quarterback TDs/INTs Passer Rating

2019

12-2

Justin Herbert

32-6

156.8

2014

13-2

Marcus Mariota

42-4

181.8

2012

12-1

Mariota

32-6

163.2

2011

12-2

Darron Thomas

33-7

158.7

2010

12-1

Thomas

30-9

150.7

With the exception of the Mariota Heisman year, Brown's trend line over his career suggests he's capable of playing at the level Oregon needs to win the PAC-12 in the Joe Moorhead offense. Particularly because he's supported by what looks to be one of the best defenses in school history, a great kicking game and tremendous offensive weapons.

He has a mastermind designing his offense and calling plays in Moorhead.

This year Oregon can get a long field goal before halftime or a clutch kick in the fourth quarter. They have a punter who can flip the field or put a ball inside the ten.

They'll get three extra touchdowns from the return game, give or take.

Brown runs well enough to make the Oregon spread-option and RPO game very effective. At 228 he's built to be effective in the Red Zone and short yardage, to get two, five or eight yards and serve as an effective change of pace.

Add in the coaching staff, facilities and the magic of Autzen Stadium, and their sixth-year starter has a tremendous support system, all the tools possible to exceed expectations.

All he needs now is to stay healthy, keep his mind right and do it.