Boomer On Burrow: 'Not Anything This Kid Can't Do On The Field'

Joe Burrow heads into the second half of the season with the Bengals trending up.
Joe Burrow heads into the second half of the season with the Bengals trending up.

Boomer Esiason, who in his first eight pro starts had a better passer rating than Drew Brees and Andrew Luck, more touchdown passes than Ben Roethlisberger and the same yards per attempt as Tom Brady in their first half of an NFL season, told you so.

When it comes to Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, Esiason told you so before the last Super Bowl. Never mind the draft.

"Remember what I told you?" Esiason is asking last week. "A hundred percent. You know it immediately. There are certain guys you can tell immediately and he was one of those guys.

"A can't-miss guy."

Esiason, the Bengals' NFL MVP quarterback, greatest locker-room leader in franchise history and now a ubiquitous voice of the 21st century game as a long-time CBS studio host for "The NFL Today," won't hide it.

He's a big fan.

In his first NFL season as a grandfather (Esiason prefers to be known as "Boompa," these days), he's peering over his glasses and likes what he sees from his latest striped descendant.

He admits he's a bit stunned at how quickly Burrow has emerged. But he saw it coming.

As a player, Esiason compares him to Andrew Luck, the overall No. 1 pick of 2012. But when he's talking about the impact Burrow is going to have on the league, he can go back as far as the No. 1 overall pick the year before his own draft in 1984.

"He's a pocket passer. He doesn't run as much as Andrew Luck, but his assimilation to the game, his mindset, his thought process, his ability to make plays reminds me a lot of Andrew Luck," Esiason says. "Andrew Luck was considered a can't-miss player. John Elway was a can't-miss player. Peyton Manning was a can't-miss player. I think the jury was out on Kyler Murray when he was drafted just because of his size. But he's now obviously a can't-miss player.

"Joe going into this was a can't-miss player. I think playing at Ohio State and LSU and being the all-state point guard, he was ready. He was ready for this. His success has shocked me a little bit. But as I watch each and every week, he just picks himself up and gets right to it."

 He's also a big fan of Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. Until he casts his votes for NFL Rookie of the Year.

"There's nothing better than seeing a young quarterback, actually these two kids, how they have done it. The way that you're supposed to do it," Esiason says. "In the pocket, throwing the ball down field and, yeah, they run around because they probably miss a read here and there, then they let their athleticism take over. I mean there's not anything this kid (Burrow) can't do on the field."

That's why Esiason makes Burrow his ROY: "He's started every game. From game one on, man. And Herbert is spectacular, too. Maybe if he had started game one, I don't know."

He also can't get enough of another Bengals rookie, wide receiver Tee Higgins. Maybe because like Esiason himself, he doesn't know how he lasted until the second round.

"They've got this thing going on. It's really amazing. It's like Andy Dalton and A.J. Green all over again," Esiason says. "I knew Tee Higgins was a good player. I don't know why he fell to the second round, but they hit on another second-rounder. They've missed on a few first-round quarterbacks, but they've gotten a bunch. They hit on Carson (Palmer). They hit on, obviously, Joe. But the receivers, man, that kid looks great."

 Esiason didn't start an opener until his third season, but as good as his first eight starts were that he made over his first season and a half, they don't match Burrow. They had the same number of touchdowns and interceptions (11 touchdowns, five picks), but Burrow's completion percentage (67) is more than ten points higher, his yards per attempt is longer (6.9-6.6) and his passer rating of 94.1 tops Esiason's 83.3.

And that doesn't even get into all the rest.

"If I compare it to me, I was completely lost my rookie year," Esiason said. "This kids looks like he picked up the playbook right from LSU and brought it with him."

Esiason says the most impressive thing he's seen is what Burrow hasn't done since the Oct. 11 loss in Baltimore.

Reel.

After the worst outing of the season with yearly lows 19 completions of 30 passes for 183 yards and a 66.6 passer rating, Burrow hasn't missed in the next three games with nearly 1,000 yards passing on a 99.2 passer rating. Esiason recalled how Mark Sanchez, then a second-year quarterback for the Jets, was handled by head coach Rex Ryan after a disaster against the Ravens and how Burrow has responded under head coach Zac Taylor.

"(Sanchez) had the wrong coach," Esiason said. "'I don't know if it goes back to Zac coaching him and the way he's handling him this year, but he got his ass beat in Baltimore ... and he came back the next three games and he played like that game didn't exist.

"That's the great thing. There are going to be times in his career things aren't going to his way and he's going to get his butt beat and he's going to have to pick himself back up and go back out there and prove it. He's already shown the capability to do that. He's hit every mark that I fully expected him to hit when we spoke prior to the draft."

If anyone can sense a player's confidence, it is Esiason and not because it oozed through his pores and streamed into his huddle. It is because he knows how hard it is to get and that's why he's got a lot of admiration for Burrow and Herbert.

"They look so calm and poised. The hardest thing to get to is just to believe in yourself on the field and if you have good players surrounding you, it helps," Esiason says. "Certainly both of those players have good players around them so you can trust them. You can take a shot down the field. Both he and Justin, they're hitting the deep balls, they're seeing the blitzes. (Burrow) can run. He's a really good athlete."

Esiason knows all about intangibles. Those and his brains made him a three-time Pro Bowler. He can see Burrow's stepping up in the pocket.

"He's got the mind of a point guard and he has the athleticism of a great basketball player, but he has the intangibles to play quarterback," Esiason said. "That last week against Tennessee with all those (offensive) linemen out, I thought it was going to be one of those games and it wasn't. He was great."

If anyone can judge personality in this league, it is this guy. No one had a bigger personality than Esiason when he wore the striped No. 7. He set a tone for his franchise and his town. After eight games, the halfway point for the Rookie of the Year, he thinks he's got Burrow's number.

"I don't think he's a big personality," Esiason says. "(But) I think his personality on the field is probably big."

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