PHILADELPHIA – The quarterback factory’s new spring line includes a throwback.
Stanford’s Tanner McKee, the Eagles’ sixth-round pick at No. 188 overall on Saturday, is an old-school, 6-foot-6, 230-pound pocket passer set to arrive on a team with a distinctly new-school offensive approach based on Jalen Hurts’ dual-threat abilities.
Too many assume that the Eagles want to always mimic the traits of the starter with the backups, however, something bolstered by the arrival of veteran backup Marcus Mariota, who has a long history in RPO and zone-read offenses, as well as third-stringer Ian Book, who also has some of those skills dating back to his days at Notre Dame.
Head coach Nick Sirianni, however, has tutored many styles of quarterbacks over the years and one of his favorites was Philip Rivers, a traditional pocket passer if there ever was one.
“Intelligent, really knows his offense and made good, quick decisions with the football [at Stanford],” Sirianni said of McKee. “So, we think he’s a great decision-maker, has a big arm, and we think he’s accurate. The things you look at with a quarterback, the first couple things that ever come to your mind when evaluating a quarterback are those three things I said and then the ability to extend plays.
“He definitely has those first three things, and we’re excited to work with him.”
While Hurts, the MVP runner-up last season, and Mariota, who has extensive experience as a starter, are locked in at the top of the depth chart, McKee is expected to compete with Book for the developmental role.
Book, a fourth-round pick by New Orleans in 2021 was claimed off waivers from the Saints before Week 1 last season so both he and McKee will be going through training camp for the first time with the Eagle.
“[The drafting of Mckee was] no indication of anything with the room. We’re excited to work with the entire room,” Sirianni said. “I’ve got a lot of high hopes for Ian Book, too. That’s why we brought him in here, and it’s going to be good with Ian, he did a lot of scout team reps last year. We have a good developmental program where he gets some reps, as well, there, but it’s going to be good to see him in the off-season, as well, but looking forward to working with all four guys.”
Book was mentored by Sirianni’s good friend Tommy Rees while at Notre Dame and the now-Alabama offensive coordinator gave Book a great recommendation to the Eagles so Sirianni’s words are not lip service.
In fact, it’s not inconceivable that the loser of the McKee-Book battle in camp lands on the practice squad if they get through waivers. San Francisco’s bad luck in the NFC Championship Game reminded many that the more competent arms you have the better.
McKee, meanwhile, is excited to be in the same room as Hurts, a player he first met while being recruited by Alabama.
“I got to learn a little bit from him just for a few days, so I’m excited to actually be in the same quarterback room and to learn a lot from a guy like that,” McKee said. “… I know that he has a lot to bring to the table, especially for a young quarterback like me. I’m excited to be a sponge and learn a lot from a guy like that who’s had success at such a high level and so recently.
“I’m super excited to learn from him.”
McKee will bring along an interesting history with him to Philadelphia, including a Latter-day Saints mission to Brazil and the life-altering bout with skin cancer he beat while in high school.
“It was, overall, a great experience, a lot of things I got to learn from,” McKee said of his mission. “I would say the biggest thing for me in being a quarterback was just being able to take people from different backgrounds and different cultures and bringing them together for one common purpose, and that’s a lot of what you have to do as a quarterback.
“You’re in the locker room, whether that’s college or the NFL, with a bunch of guys that come from different backgrounds and have different cultures, and you have to bring them together to go out and fight as one. I felt like that was something that I got to work on on my mission and can ultimately help me become a better leader and a better teammate, just as I step in the locker room.”
The cancer was caught early when McKee was in high school in his native California.
“Thankfully we caught it super early so nothing spread to any organs, so after they cleared the borders and took out some lymph nodes and everything, everything was good,” he said. “Now I wear bucket hats. I’m good with sunscreen, but ultimately, very thankful to have a good perspective on life and just really thankful for all the doctors and everybody that’s been part of the process.
“But I’m fully healthy, and I feel great right now.”