It’s hard to gain confidence from your teammates when they can tell you aren’t confident in yourself.”
It can’t be faked. The other faces in the huddle can see through you — especially at quarterback. It’s almost impossible to find success when the players looking to you to lead hear you bumbling through play calls or see your head spinning.
“If they look at you and you’re not really confident about what you’re doing, then they’re not going to be confident in what they’re doing and they’re not going to be confident in you,” Saints backup quarterback Luke McCown said.
That’s where Garrett Grayson was at this time last season. He struggled calling the plays. The playbook was still new to him. Things were happening faster than he could process them. It was rough.
In other words, he was enduring the bumps and bruises that rookies are expected to endure. Still, that didn’t make it easy. But after spending a year in the classroom and learning under McCown and Drew Brees, Grayson has returned to the Saints a more confident player.
His head isn’t spinning. He understands what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s confident in the huddle. He’s ready to take charge of whatever group of players he’s leading during practices.
”I want to take command of the guys,” Grayson said. ”That was something I don’t know if I necessarily know if I did the right way late year because I didn’t really know the offense that well. I don’t want to say I was timid, but I wasn’t really commanding guys like you should.”
It took Grayson a while to get to that point. He wasn’t there the last time anyone outside of the organization saw him on the field. Even last preseason, when he completed half of his passes for 334 yards with zero touchdowns and a pair of picks, he was still trying to figure things out.
It wasn’t until about the midway point last season that he started feeling confident with the system, and he continued to work at it throughout the offseason. He said each day he’d pick a play, concept or defense and spend a day dissecting it until he understood everything about it.
Beyond gaining a better understanding of the playbook, Grayson also worked on his game. He flew out to Arizona during the offseason to work on his footwork, which he felt was one of his weaknesses last season.
”There’s so many different drops and things in a pro-style system,” Grayson, who operated out of an offense with spread elements at Colorado State, said. ”You have to kind of figure out and have your own way of doing it. That was something I really tried to hone in this offseason. If your feet are right, everything else is right.”
It’s helped. Instead of worrying about what he’s supposed to doing if this happens or that happens, Grayson can go out on the field and show what he’s capable of doing. It showed up during Thursday’s practice that was open to the media, particularly on a throw up the seam to Josh Hill over the hands of a defender, and his coaches also see a difference.
”Yesterday, I would say that he had one of his better practices since he’s been here,” coach Sean Payton said. ”But again, we’re really three days in. He’s been real attentive. He’s in good shape and I think the biggest thing is just the mental element of the process happening quicker and him knowing where to go and not spending so much time worrying on how to call it.”
Getting the playbook down is one piece of the puzzle, but it has to translate to the field and produce results.
Payton made it clear on Thursday that nothing is guaranteed to anyone. Maybe Grayson will be the backup. Maybe it will be McCown, who signed a two-year deal this offseason. Maybe both will be on the team. Maybe both won’t.
It will be left up to the players to create their own destinies. It’s too soon to tell right now.
”I think the preseason will be important this year,” Payton said. ”I think we’ll receive a good evaluation as to how he’s doing.”
Grayson is aware that he needs to earn his keep. He heard the rumors this offseason about the Saints scouting quarterbacks and their reported interest in selecting one during the draft. Whether that was ever true is up for debate, but it was a reminder of how things work in this league.
Given that he was a third-round pick and was given a year to get up to speed, Grayson is going to have to show some type of growth this offseason if he wants the team to continue investing a roster spot in his growth.
It sounds like he’s in a better position to achieve that goal. He’s also grateful that he was given a red shirt season and believes that has helped him become a better player.
”You’re not just thrown into the fire, you’re able to learn from (Brees), how he handles things, his film study,” Grayson said. ”I’m watching everything he does. I really do appreciate it.”
The heat is going to start turning up come training camp. But it sounds like this version of Grayson will be looking to compete, not just prove that he’s made some growth.