Brett Hundley and Instant Gratification

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UCLA head coach Jim Mora told NFL Network at the Bruins’ pro day Tuesday that quarterback Brett Hundley may not be ready to take over an NFL huddle immediately.

Now, such an assessment would hardly be groundbreaking. I remember Peyton Manning coming into the league in 1998 and his assuming the starting job for the Indianapolis Colts was something of an exception.

But in the years since, and especially in the last half-decade, the expectation of instant gratification evident in other facets of life are clearly applied to rookie quarterbacks.

A steady stream of first-year quarterbacks have been thrust into starting jobs; many were quickly exposed as ill-prepared. Given the win-now mentality and emphasis on quarterback play so prevalent in the NFL today, few of these first-timers are afforded the patience they need to develop.

Take Matt Stafford; I have a hard time envisioning many franchises enduring a 13-touchdown, 20-interception first year and injury-plagued second season to allow him to shine as he did in 2011 and beyond.

Considering the career arc Brett Hundley followed at UCLA, it would seem evident to anyone who followed him that he’ll need time to develop.

Rick Neuheisel saved his redshirt despite UCLA’s 2011 struggles. And while doing so may have cost Neuheisel his job, Brett Hundley was a better player in his debut for it.

Hundley led UCLA to one of the most successful three-year stretches in program history. For the third and final, I was on the beat covering the Bruins firsthand.

Watching him every week, there were obvious facets to his game in need of development. He gets jumpy in the pocket at times, especially under duress — which came plenty, as UCLA had serious offensive line woes.

But his intelligence, dedication and charisma also made him the kind of leader his teammates seemed to genuinely rally around. Once the other parts of his game come as he grows accustomed to the NFL, Brett Hundley can be a successful pro quarterback.

No one followed Hundley as closely as his own head coach, Jim Mora. And few have knowledge of Hundley’s strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to the NFL quite like Mora.

Given Mora’s entire coaching career prior to coming to UCLA in 2012 was the spent in the NFL, one might assume the man knows what the hell he’s talking about.

Hmm. Stuart Smalley at 4:21 here is spot-on about assumptions.

From Brandt’s NFL.com colleague Chase Goodbread, Mora’s assessment draws parallels to a sore subject for many in Southern California.

If that sounds a bit familiar to Pac-12 fans, it should.

It’s not unlike the way Pete Carroll, then the coach of USC, reacted to quarterback Mark Sanchez’s decision to leave college early for the NFL.

Goodbread immediately walks back the comparison, as Carroll was vocally critical of Sanchez’s decision to leave. Mora isn’t criticizing, but rather stating what should be an apparent fact.

But while touching the comparison, Goodbread fails to hit on the one facet in which Brett Hundley and Mark Sanchez can be fairly compared. Sanchez was not ready to take over as starting quarterback in a high-pressure situation.

Yes, in his first two seasons, the New York Jets made the Playoffs. They even came a win away from the Super Bowl.

But as the defensive and run-game elements that made those Jets teams began to fall away, Sanchez was not well-positioned to succeed.

Mark Sanchez has overcome the odds insomuch as his NFL career continues despite two years of persistent ridicule in New York. However, he’s also the consummate butt (quite literally thanks to ESPN’s constant replaying of the “Butt Fumble”) of quarterback jokes.

Perhaps Mark Sanchez was destined to flounder in the NFL. But being thrown into the starting job before he was ready, and leading an organization in progressively worse disarray, certainly did him no favors.

A similar situation is hardly ideal for Brett Hundley. But with NFL fans and GMs’ demand for instant gratification, the UCLA star is hardly guaranteed an ideal situation.