He didn’t go in the seven rounds of the NFL Draft, but former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett got some interest in the free-agent market and eventually landed with the Saints. He’ll have to beat the odds yet again.
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J.T. Barrett Has Uphill Battle With NFL. What Else Is New?
NFL Draft weekend didn’t go exactly as J.T. Barrett wanted. There were several mock drafts that had the former Ohio State quarterback that rewrote a slew of Ohio State and Big Ten record books going late in the draft.
But at the end of the day, that familiar No. 16 wearing Scarlet and Gray didn’t get a phone call. At least not during the draft.
He did however get a couple after all the smoky haze lifted from another media bonanza that is the annual NFL draft hoopla. And those two calls came reportedly from the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.
Barrett ultimately went with the Saints — signing a standard three-year deal — and will be faced with doing what he’s done seemingly his entire football career, face an uphill battle to gain playing time in the game that he loves.
It’s going to be a grind, but despite the long odds, there’s hope coming from Mount Doom.
First and foremost, we have to get the obvious out of the way. It is very, very uncommon for a guy to fall out of the draft, sign an undrafted free agent deal as a quarterback and find his way to significant playing time when the bright lights are on. Barrett is already walking up the wrong way of the NFL escalator, and it’ll be a rare and glorified story if he battles his way up and catches on with the Saints.
But hey, this is J.T. Barrett, remember? He’s cut out of a cloth a little different than your average height restricted, inconsistent passing QB. And let’s be honest, that’s the label that has been stamped on him by the folks that matter, the scouts and executives in the NFL paid to make these sorts of decisions.
But before we chalk this up to another cautionary NFL dream run over by the standard quo, let’s remember that there’s some things to allow a right of passage not afforded to others in his situation.
There was interest in Barrett. He promptly got two calls (that we know of) directly after the draft. My gut tells me that the risk/reward of a guy like Barrett was just too great to take in the draft, but that he’s the type of guy you’d love to have on your team. The type of guy that you just have to pull the string on in a safe bet scenario.
You want him because of what he exudes, even if only watching him in pixelated form. It is by now clearly apparent that Barrett is a leader among leaders. He’s a guy that’s never shied away from the spotlight, never been too small for the moment, and never, ever been one to sit in the background and let the river take him where the rapids go.
Against The Odds Before
Let’s not forget that Barrett came to Ohio State with little fanfare. There were a lot of the same labels put on him coming out of high school as there is now. Too thick in the legs, too short, too inconsistent in the passing game.
To make matters worse, Barrett suffered a season ending injury his senior year, and was an unknown commodity at best.
But a guy by the name of Tom Herman saw enough to believe in him. Herman, formerly the Ohio State offensive coordinator and now current Texas head coach got in Urban Meyer’s ear and convinced him that Barrett had the traits and abilities to play in the offense that Meyer and Herman were formulating for the Buckeyes. According to Meyer, he agreed sight unseen based on Herman’s recommendation.
We know what happened from there. Barrett was buried on the depth chart at quarterback behind all-everything Braxton Miller and backup Cardale Jones. Then, just prior to the season in 2014, Barrett surpassed Jones as the backup. Miller got hurt and was lost for the year — and all of a sudden — this kid from Texas that nobody knew anything about was thrust into a glamour position at one of the blue bloods of the college sport.
Time to jump into the fire and start firefighting young man — ready or not.
To say that Barrett was amazing is an understatement. There was the obvious learning curve that came in a loss to Virginia Tech at home early in the season, but as the year went on, Barrett began to run the offense with efficiency and showed a toughness and composure extremely rare for a redshirt freshman. And the team followed where he was leading.
Barrett became a Heisman contender in 2014 and likely would have been in New York if not for the well-chronicled broken leg suffered in the season finale against Michigan.
Ohio State went on to win the national title in storybook fashion with a third-string quarterback, but they wouldn’t have been there save for Barrett’s exploits leading up to the postseason.
Toughness, heart and determination.
The rest of Barrett’s career was perceived as up and down with the highest of highs (Penn State last year), and the puzzling inconsistency through the air (Clemson 2016).
The Leadership And Toughness
But one thing remains for Barrett when all else fails. He is a leader and a tough nut to crack (pardon the pun) when the chips are down.
All you need to do is look no further than the Big Ten Championship game last year. Barrett had been dealing with a nagging knee injury, and it simply gave out against the Maize and Blue, requiring a scope procedure. Anybody else would have rehabbed and been a foregone conclusion of missing the next game.
Not Barrett. In fact, him coming back just six days after having surgery on his knee probably should have gotten more publicity than it did. The kid went out and played solid, not great, but solid enough to win and give Ohio State another Big Ten title.
The fact that he played as well as he did when still dealing with the after-effects of an invasive procedure should be mind-boggling to say the least. If not celebrated.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
But it’s not only toughness. Though the game film and chatter among experts point to Barrett’s inconsistency in throwing certain pass patterns (real concerns to be sure), he still put up a slew of numbers and broke countless records for rushing and passing at Ohio State, and in the Big Ten.
His INT to TD ratio is crazy. For his career, Barrett threw for a staggering 104 TDs to just 30 interceptions. He accounted for another 41 touchdowns on the ground, and most of them in grind-it-out fashion. He won thirty-eight games in forty-four tries.
He was the Big Ten quarterback of the year three times, and the Silver Football Award winner that goes to the best player in the conference once. He rewrote 38 records (the best we can count) total between Ohio State and the Big Ten.
That’s a whole lot of elite play folks.
The Experience And Competitiveness
Then lastly, and perhaps the biggest of all, is the competiveness and experience that Barrett can draw from. He’s been through the fire and been burnt a few times, but he’s always come out on the other end. He fires up his teammates, speaks when he needs to, yet encourages at other times. He’s got a permanent place at the dinner table at the Meyer household and is as competitive as a guy as you’ll ever meet.
Ohio State has been in a bushel of big-time games, and despite what the pundits say, he’s won his fair share. Yeah there was the debacle against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl in 2016 when his O-line and receivers did little to help him out, but there were plenty of big time wins.
How quickly people discount wins against Michigan four times, top ten wins against Michigan State and Penn State, and bowl victories over Notre Dame (Fiesta Bowl) and USC (Cotton Bowl) last year.
If you play the game long enough — and it seems as though Barrett should have a doctorate degree from Ohio State by now — you’re going to have your share of valleys, just as you do moments in the bright and glorious sun.
Here We Go Again
So here we go with the next sequel of the dramatic series that is the career of J.T. Barrett. He’s got his three-year contract with the Saints, and he’s already buried on the depth chart, but there is a light shining through the pile.
Drew Breeze is in the twilight of his career, and despite the apparent fascination of current third-stringer Taysom Hill by head coach Sean Payton, there is unproven abilities there beyond Breeze. Tom Savage is the current backup.
And if there’s a place that understands that size and measureables are just part of the equation of a signal-caller, it’s the Saints organization. After all, they took a chance on a 6 foot nothing QB when others couldn’t see beyond the stereotypes and tradition of the position, and it has worked out pretty well.
Barrett passed Drew Breeze in many record books in the Big Ten, and now he’s got a chance to pursue him again in New Orleans with plenty of work to do and hardly anyone giving him a chance. It’s one Texan, trying to lasso the other down on Bourbon Street against all odds.
The more things change, the more they stay the same for Joe Thomas Barrett IV.