The Tennessee Titans sent the internet into a frenzy when they selected former Kentucky quarterback Will Levis with the No. 33 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Levis was the most polarizing quarterback in this year’s draft class, with believers touting his rare arm talent worthiness of the No. 1 overall pick, to doubters wondering if he should be taken in the first round at all. The NFL appeared lower on Levis than most pre-draft reports indicated, as his draft-weekend landslide shockingly lasted until the second round.
As for Levis’ trusted quarterbacks coach Jordan Palmer, you can count him among Levis’ supporters. Palmer is a quarterback consultant for QB Summit. A former NFL quarterback himself, Palmer has flawlessly transitioned into quarterback training, where he’s worked alongside the likes of Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson. Levis’ pre-draft development was partially placed in Palmer’s hands.
Palmer recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports. Palmer discussed Levis’ development, where his star pupil needs to improve, why the Tennessee Titans represent an ideal situation for Levis’ maturity as a quarterback, and the fit between Levis Mike Vrabel. Palmer made several intriguing points throughout our conversation.
JM: How do you like the overall fit between Will Levis and the Tennessee Titans?
Jordan Palmer: I thought Tennessee always felt like one of the best fits. That’s regardless of what round it occurred in. I’m talking about a team fit. That’s the team [Titans] we talked about from the very beginning.
I wouldn’t even say it was for one reason. It was for a bunch of reasons. It starts with Mike Vrabel. I played in the NFL. I’ve played for a lot of coaches. Every one of them had different styles. Every coach was different.
I don’t know Vrabel very well. But he seems like the kind of coach that’s going to build a championship team at some point. They’ll go on a championship run. He’s won everywhere he’s been. He wants things done a certain way. He’s a dog.
That dynasty they had in New England, it happened with a bunch of great players. There were a lot of alphas in that room. I’m talking about Tom Brady, Willie McGinest and Teddy Bruschi. That’s a lot of alphas, right? From what I’ve heard, Vrabel was THE alpha (laughs).
That’s really high praise. A young guy, especially a quarterback, going into this league, it would be pretty cool to play for someone who did at the level Vrabel has. He knows how to win and develop players.
There’s a lot of reasons why I like Tennessee as a landing spot. The main one was because I think the world of Mike Vrabel. He’s a young head coach that Levis is blessed to play for.
They’ve been really good in that building. They were the No. 1 seed in the AFC two years ago. You don’t hear about it nationally. I live in California. I don’t see many Titans fans walking around. You haven’t heard about it nationally, but they’ve been pretty good under Vrabel, wouldn’t you say? They’ve been in the mix.
That’s because Vrabel has done the right things. I think of Nashville and that part of the market and it just fits Levis to me. My entire family lives in Nashville. I love Nashville. I like the fit for a lot of reasons.
I was very pleased. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen at No. 11 overall, or later on. That’s the part I’m not really involved in. I’m very pleased to see Will Levis play for the Tennessee Titans.
JM: That’s a terrific breakdown. I want to get more into the weeds of Will Levis as a quarterback. A lot has been of him playing in a pro-style offense at Kentucky and how that will help his transition to the NFL. Do you agree with that belief?
Jordan Palmer: I think it’s an easy topic to misunderstand. I’m not talking about Levis at Kentucky. I’m talking about any quarterback.
Whether it’s Hendon Hooker playing in Josh Heupel’s offense going into the NFL. I can remember being on the set of NFL Live with Todd McShay and Bill Polian. I was in Indianapolis for that Deshaun Watson draft.
Bill Polian just couldn’t understand my point. We went back and forth about spread quarterbacks. It’s just not going to work, Polian said. Look at Marcus Mariota and these other guys. Wait until everybody is running spread, right?
Whether it’s spread to pro style or pro style to spread, all of these offenses are just different versions of the same thing. There is no west coast system anymore. You can find elements of the west coast system in a lot of systems.
It’s never about what system they played in. It’s about, can they learn it quickly? And is this place good at developing and teaching? You know what I mean?
When people say “pro style”, I don’t see that as a type of offense. It means they had more verbiage and they asked quarterbacks to understand more things than they would in a simpler spread offense.
In relation to Will Levis, I can confidently say he’s used to dealing with a lot of information. That will be very helpful for him. In theory, it will help him transition faster.
But when it comes to that spread versus pro style debate, they’re all different versions of the same thing. I have NFL clients who run what you would call a “spread offense,” but it has a ton of verbiage.
Does that make sense?
JM: It does. So how would you compare the challenges of running a system with a ton of verbiage in the SEC like Levis did, to some of the more spread-style offenses that a Hendon Hooker or other quarterbacks ran?
Jordan Palmer: I don’t know. I don’t really see it as an advantage or disadvantage. It always comes down to a quarterback’s ability to develop and process information quickly.
I’ve had the last two Clemson quarterbacks. I had Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson under my wing. They have a new coordinator now, but they ran a very simple system [at Clemson] in terms of what they asked the quarterback to do. The amount of responsibility they gave those quarterbacks [Lawrence and Watson] wasn’t very much.
I got a lot of questions about them both throughout the pre-draft process. Can they learn it? Can they really do it? It was exhausting. Both Lawrence and Watson both picked it up immediately. Boom, it was instant.
Jarrett Stidham is another one. Stidham played in Gus Malazhan’s offense, which unless it’s changed since then, very few elements of that offense at the time translated over to the NFL.
They use numbers instead of letters. A lot of it didn’t carry over, but Stidham immediately went to back up Tom Brady, who was in Year 19 of that system (laughs). Who knew a system better than Brady in New England? They trusted Stidham to be the No. 2 quarterback that year because he picked it up immediately.
It would be easy to say, he runs this system, I don’t think he can learn something else. We talk about pro-style systems in the media, but it really comes down to the player’s ability to learn it, and the team’s ability to teach it. That’s all.
I don’t really care what system they played in. How quickly can they learn? Where are they going? Are those people good at teaching it?
When you’re going to college, there’s a difference between Harvard and UTEP, right? Because of what they teach you and how they teach it. It’s more expensive and harder to get into Harvard. There’s a reason for that.
Going team by team, there are teams that are better at teaching it and developing players than other teams are. It changes every year, right? One guy leaves, another comes in. It’s not set in stone. Coaching turnover makes a difference. It varies.
Will Levis has an extremely high football I.Q. He has a very high buy-in level. He’s a “high attention to detail” worker. I know that Will Levis can learn very quickly. Based on what I know about Tennessee, it sounds like they do a great job of developing and teaching. That’s why I like the fit.
JM: This has been excellent. I’ve appreciated your time. As of today, what are the things Will Levis does best, and what does he need to work on?
Jordan Palmer: He has an incredibly strong arm. He processes an abundance of information really well. That’s his No. 1 strength in my opinion. He had a ton of protection responsibilities. He had the 3-ID MIKE’s for protection.
He had to read a ton of things. They lost some great players and had to figure out a way to manufacture chunk plays. I think he was very opportunistic in that area. You have to be opportunistic as a quarterback. It’s an underrated trait.
He’s an excellent leader. I would also add his attention to detail and work ethic. That’s just who he is and what he wants to be. He’s a worker. There’s a reason he had a 3.99 GPA and then got his Master’s. He’s used to working very hard. He doesn’t know how to turn it off.
He needs to work on what every rookie quarterback needs to work on. You can always process things quicker because everything happens faster in the NFL. Once you get to the NFL, you’re going to learn new footwork and new drops. You have to learn that footwork and how to develop your accuracy throughout those first couple of years.
Too many people think you’re either accurate or you’re not when you go to the NFL. I’ve never agreed with that. It’s never too late to learn. I have plenty of clients who became more accurate after going to the NFL.
Learning the footwork and mirroring that with continuing to develop his accuracy is big for every rookie quarterback. They all need to learn how to do that at the NFL level. Those things come to mind.