I can’t say I’m surprised that it took the NFL about, oh, 30 seconds to swoop in and sign St. Louis Battlehawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
But I’m pleasantly surprised by the NFL coach and team that made the quick decision to get Ta’amu under contract. Of course, I’m talking about the Kansas City Chiefs and their head coach Andy Reid.
Ta’amu had only five games to showcase his talent before the XFL shut down its rollout season in the necessary response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But five games was enough of a look for Reid. The NFL’s most astute quarterback evaluator saw all that he needed to recruit Ta’amu to Kansas City.
If Andy Reid coveted Ta’amu, that’s all we need to know about the young QB’s talent and potential. And Ta’amu, still only 22, couldn’t have picked a better situation.
1. Ta’amu has an opportunity to join a championship team with a winning culture. It’s just a great place to be at his stage of his career.
2. Ta’amu has the chance to be taught and developed by Andy Reid. If Ta’amu has what it takes to grow into an NFL starter, Reid will get him there.
3. Ta’amu is a fit for Reid’s creativity and enthusiasm for dynamic playmakers. In theory Ta’amu has the natural RPO skills (run-pass option) to evolve into a new toy for the Chiefs’ offense. Under the right circumstances, can’t you envision Ta’amu being deployed as a change of pace for a special package of RPO plays?
4. OK, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Ta’amu will have to make the Chiefs’ roster and earn Reid’s trust to have a non-emergency role in the Kansas City offense. But this isn’t about Ta’amu becoming a starter in KC. The Chiefs are led by the No. 1 quarterback in the world, Patrick Mahomes. But that’s a plus for Ta’amu. He can watch, and learn from, from the best. Not just Reid … but Mahomes as well.
5. And that’s the point, right? Ta’amu can benefit from being in the Kansas City system, without having immediate pressure to play. Reid is taking the long view here. He can sculpt Ta’amu. There is no rush. Ta’amu won’t be thrown to the wolves by a bad NFL team with an idiot head coach. He has plenty of room to grow in a positive environment.
The Chiefs recently extended the contract of veteran Chad Henne to stay on as the No. 2 QB behind Mahomes. The Chiefs’ third quarterback is former Vanderbilt starter Kyle Shurmur, an undrafted rookie in 2019.
If Ta’amu does enough to warrant a roster spot for the 2020 Chiefs, he’d eventually get a shot at moving up to No. 2 on the depth chart.
And if he Ta’amu gets the chance to play — even as a non-starter — other NFL teams will take notice. If Ta’amu continues to develop, there will be a market for his services. Via trade, or free agency. Reid was smart to make this investment in the Battlehawks’ best player.
I’m a Ta’amu fan … but no fan boy. I believed he’d draw interest from the NFL, and that happened in short time.
But toss my opinion to the side.
Let’s go with the analysts at Pro Football Focus instead.
Through five XFL games, Pro Football Focus rated Ta’amu as the league’s No. 1 passer — giving him the top passing grade at 82.8. Using the PFF evaluation scale, that 82.8 put Ta’amu in the “high quality” category.
That’s the second-highest classification. “Elite” is PFF’s top level, and it goes to quarterbacks that are rated at 90.0 or better.
Ta’amu had exceptional accuracy with a PFF completion percentage of 72.4%. That was No. 1 among XFL quarterbacks that had at least 100 dropbacks this season.
Ta’amu efficiently passed for 1,050 yards and boosted the Battlehawks’ offense with 217 yards rushing.
Ta’amu came to St. Louis and the XFL after a challenging experience at Ole Miss in the SEC. The Rebels were dealing with a coaching change and NCAA problems but that didn’t stop Ta’amu from setting a program record for most 400-yard passing games in a career.
By the time he left Oxford — and despite less than two seasons as the starter — Ta’amu ranked sixth in career passing yards in Ole Miss. And he rushed for 342 yards and six touchdowns as a senior.
The XFL vows to return for a 2021 season. The Battlehawks were the league’s most successful franchise in 2020, drawing the largest home crowds and the biggest TV ratings. The Battlehawks won over the St. Louis sports community and provided terrific entertainment.
The classy and gracious Ta’amu was a leading man in the Battlehawks’ popularity.
Selfishly, we’d like him to come back. But the best XFL players won’t stay in the XFL. The NFL will scout them, find them, and sign them. That’s how it’s supposed to be — so get used to it.
The XFL’s two top quarterbacks were signed by NFL teams on Monday. Ta’amu is on the move to Kansas City. Houston’s P.J. Walker agreed to a two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers and their rookie head coach Matt Rhule, who coached Walker in college ball at Temple.
Congrats to Jordan Ta’amu. And a sincere thank you to Ta’amu for making the Battlehawks’ first season a special experience in St. Louis.
We should be happy for him.
Hell, at least the Rams didn’t sign him.
Thanks for reading …