NEW YORK — Dan Fouts thinks the most important trait a quarterback must possess to succeed with the Buffalo Bills is the ability to throw with and against the wind.
"They'll never have another Jim Kelly," the Hall of Fame quarterback and NFL game analyst for CBS said during a recent media gathering at the network's headquarters. "But that's the prototype — the strong arm, tight spirals that can cut through that wind."
Fouts isn't predicting that rookie Josh Allen will join him and Kelly with a bronze bust in Canton.
However, he did see Allen conquer the winds he faced in college well enough to believe the Bills were wise to make the former Wyoming star the seventh overall pick of the draft.
"So, from that standpoint, I think it's a perfect fit," Fouts said. "He, having played in Wyoming, knows all about wind because the wind blows in Wyoming."
Fouts, who played from the San Diego Chargers from 1973 to 1987, addressed a variety of topics related to Allen in a conversation with The Buffalo News:
On the way fans and media have swung from positive after his first two preseason games to negative after his struggles against Cincinnati. "They expect too much from a 22-year-old kid. And the difference between preseason football and the regular season is so drastic and dramatic that you learn very little about how to play the position in the preseason. It's just a glorified practice, really. You're not really game-planning, all those things.
"So the fans are going to be fans and the ownership's going to demand the kid plays, and (some) fans are going to clamor for it, so it's tough. I was lucky to be a third-round pick (from Oregon) where nobody was expecting me to play at all (as a rookie), and we also had picked up Johnny Unitas and he was the guy that was going to play. Well, at 40 years old, he couldn't do it and so I got pushed in there and struggled like crazy, man. It was horrible. That's the way it is for most rookie quarterbacks.
"The other thing about playing the position is that you've got to have two reservoirs: one full of success and one equally full of failure. That way, when you have your success, you can draw upon that experience and know how to deal with it. What happens is that the scales are usually like this (holding his hands to show success higher than failure) with most of these kids. They were the best player in high school, the best player in college. They get to the NFL, they've got all this (lowering the hand showing success while raising the other), so when they fail there's nothing in there to draw from."
On whether having a powerful arm can work against Allen. "A lot of times strong-armed guys fail because they don't anticipate. Take a guy like Joe Montana. His anticipation of where his receivers were supposed to be overcame the fact he didn't have a real strong arm. So what happens is the strong-armed guys think they can jam it in there. They're waiting for it to come open instead of knowing it's going to come open, anticipating that throw. I think one of the toughest things for any quarterback is anticipating against a zone that that route's going to be there."
On Allen trying to improve his throwing mechanics, with particular attention to his footwork. "Johnny Unitas told me one time about spirals and end-over-end passes. He said, 'It doesn't matter. If that (receiver) catches it on the other end, that's all that matters.' So that's kind of my answer whenever I talk or hear talk about mechanics. Does the guy catch it? If he doesn't catch it, you'd better fix the reason why.
"Now, (current Chargers QB) Philip Rivers has the worst throwing motion ever. Coming out of college, (the critics) were ripping him on his throwing motion. Then I looked at his stats and it said 70 percent completion. What's wrong with that?"