Brian Baldinger of NFL Network believes in all the hype surrounding Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, specifically regarding his football acumen and unique, humbling journey that launched him to swift NFL stardom.
Baldinger appeared on Big Daddy & Friends with Rich Salgado and spoke about Burrow’s injury-shortened 2020 season, and how he was able to have an immediate impact on a losing Bengals franchise.
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Brian Baldinger: How LSU prepared Joe Burrow for NFL
In referring to Burrow’s season-ending knee injury, which may keep him out for part of the 2021 campaign, Baldinger praised how well the rookie played amid adverse circumstances in Cincinnati.
“It’s unfortunate what happened, because he was having a fantastic season, and he’s the real deal,” Baldinger said.
Burrow completed 64.8% of his passes for 2,688 yards to go with 13 touchdowns, five interceptions, and an 88.9 passer rating during his maiden year with the Bengals. Considering his horrendous pass protection and absence of a viable rushing attack or defense to complement him, it was pure genius and preternatural ability that kept Burrow in action even for that long.
One notable point Baldinger raised was how LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady catered to Burrow’s skill set during the QB’s electrifying Heisman Trophy campaign, which also resulted in a national title. The Tigers’ offense often went with empty formations, giving Burrow the chance to identify the best matchup among his five reads in a progression, and simply exploiting the best one.
“Brady realizes, within days, the strength of Joe Burrow is how fast he can go through a progression,” Baldinger explained. “Let Joe figure out, ‘Where’s the best option?’ And that’s what they did in Cincinnati…[Burrow] really knows what he’s looking at, and where to go with the ball.”
Brian Baldinger breaks down Joe Burrow’s underdog story
Prior to landing at LSU and becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, though, it was anything but all roses for Burrow.
“What’s interesting about Joe Burrow was, he’s ‘Mr. Ohio’ in basketball and football in Athens, Ohio. He goes to Ohio State and doesn’t win the job. He gets humbled early. That doesn’t always happen to guys [who are] 5-star recruits.”
Indeed, when Burrow was in Columbus and couldn’t beat out another future first-round draft choice in Dwayne Haskins — who threw 50 touchdown passes in his only year as a starter with the Buckeyes — he took his talents to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
But even when he transferred and won the job at LSU, the bar for quarterback play wasn’t set super high by any of Burrow’s recent predecessors. With a 57.8% completion rate, 16 touchdown passes, and five interceptions in 2018, NFL scouts were barely considering Burrow on the radar to be drafted, much less explode for 5,671 passing yards, 60 touchdown passes, and a Heisman-national championship combo.
Baldinger is spot-on in explaining how Burrow had the talent, evident in his decorated prep career, yet needed the adversity in college to push past his perceived capabilities. In all likelihood, all that will only help Burrow crush his knee rehab, and return stronger than ever to become the Cincinnati Bengals’ franchise savior and an elite NFL quarterback.