Hawaii QB must adapt to succeed
The Arizona Republic
May. 1, 2005 12:00 AM
Timmy Chang traveled 2,900 miles for the chance to continue his football career, but his ability to traverse just seven yards will largely determine his success in the NFL.
At Hawaii, Chang directed coach June Jones' run-and-shoot-style attack from the shotgun formation. The results shattered records.
Chang threw more passes (2,436) for more yards (17,072) in his career than anyone else in NCAA history.
Yet, Chang went undrafted, and there are several reasons. He has average arm strength, and he's just 6 feet 1. But the biggest knock on him is the thing that contributed most to his success: Hawaii's system.
"People felt it was little bit more of an offense that wouldn't be suited to the NFL," Cardinals coach Dennis Green
said, "so it was hard to project him into the National Football League
The biggest challenge for Chang in the NFL won't be reading coverages or understanding protections. He learned much of that in Jones' sophisticated system. It will be seeing the football world while under center, instead of seven yards back in the shotgun.
"It's kind of like being in a foreign country," Cardinals quarterbacks coach Mike Kruczek said.
The Cardinals aren't expecting Chang to learn the language immediately. They've started his career slowly, and so far he hasn't taken any snaps from center during team drills at minicamp, which started Friday and concludes today.
That's by design. Most of his progress will come later this month during rookie camp.
"I'm not going to put him in a position to fail and get him upset," Kruczek said. "I'm only going to go when he feels comfortable with it."
After being bypassed in the draft, Chang received several serious offers from teams. He determined that the Cardinals offered him the best opportunity, even though their top three quarterbacks seem set.
Kurt Warner is expected to be the starter, with Josh McCown as his backup and John Navarre as No. 3.
A fourth quarterback, Chris Lewis, is a backup in NFL Europe, which doesn't put him on the fast track to the Cardinals roster. Chang could challenge him for a spot on the practice squad.
Chang and his agent also probably noted that Warner and McCown are due to be unrestricted free agents after this season.
But you get none of this analysis from Chang, who chooses his words carefully and uses them sparingly.
When asked how he would respond to people calling him a "system" quarterback, Chang replied: "I won't. That's people's opinion. I'm just going to go out there and play football, and that's my job."
In the space of just a few minutes, Chang used the word "opportunity" four times.
And when pressed about what other teams showed interest in him, Chang smiled and said: "Arizona is my team."
To make that a long-term relationship, Chang must prove his gaudy statistics weren't just a product of a passer-friendly system. That's difficult to overcome, and with good reason, Kruczek said.
"Everybody says, 'Well, they can make the transition,' " he said of quarterbacks in passing systems. "That's not always the case. Some guys can. And the only evaluation I have of Timmy is at the (scouting) combine, where he had to work under the center and throw to a receiver. I could tell he didn't exist in that environment for four years."