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Get to Know Sean Mannion; An Interview with Building the Dam

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Who is Sean Mannion and just what are the Rams getting in the former Beavers QB? I have a sit-down with Andy Panda to find out.

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To get a better sense of the Rams' 3rd round draft pick, I spoke to Andy Panda from Building the Dam, SB Nation's community for fans of the Oregon State Beavers.

So just who are the Rams are getting in Sean Mannion? How high is the esteem Oregon State fans hold for him?

St. Louis is getting a prototypical pro-style quarterback, one who is very adroit at making his pre-snap reads, dropping back, making his pre-throw reads, and delivering the ball on target, and into a pretty small window.

The Rams are also getting a dedicated, hard worker. He’s a coaches’ son, and it shows. He’s known for spending many hours on film study and play book study, and endless hours on individual and small group reps. He’s legendary for throwing by all estimates well over 1,000 balls to Brandin Cooks in "extra" practices over the spring/summer before Cooks’ All-American season in 2013 that led him to his success in New Orleans.

He’s held in pretty high esteem by Oregon State fans, as someone who holds the all-time record for career passing yardage in the Pac-12 should be. But if there is anything that tempers it, its those who wish he were something he isn’t, specifically a more mobile quarterback. That’s partially because mobile quarterbacks are widely regarded as the solution to all offensive problems, and partially because since he isn’t mobile, there have been times, possibly ones that might have actually directly altered the outcome of the game, he didn’t try to make the kind of play that a mobile quarterback would have.

Some Rams fans are not stoked about this pick. They preferred a more mobile and athletic quarterback, such as Hundley or Petty. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead made it pretty clear before the draft that they wanted a quarterback who ran a pro style offense. What are the key skills he excelled in that made him such a coveted prospect? What comparisons, if any, would you make to past or current NFL quarterbacks?

Sounds like a lot of those Beaver fans I was just referring to.

Mannion’s forte is making the right throw, on target and on time, when he has the time to do so. And when he has the time to do so, if his receivers are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there, it looks like he’s throwing darts.

The proof of that is the long, very long, list of Pac-8/10/12 quarterbacks that have very good, and piled up very large numbers, that did not throw for the yardage Sean did. And while some of them played in systems that throw less, this is the conference where the "Air Raid" is and has been in use for some time now, and is the home of every variation of the spread/fast break offense imaginable.

Drawing comparisons to existing quarterbacks can be tricky, because, for example, a lot of quarterbacks haven’t been as successful as Tom Brady, but are similar in style, and how Brady plays is a style most fans can readily visualize. Do people have a similar vision of Philip Rivers? Or a prejudice based on his relative success?

For those who go back a ways, Mannion reminds me a lot of Troy Aikman, both at UCLA and Dallas. I’m not saying he will be as successful (unless the Rams can replicate the Cowboys Aikman had around him), but both his playing style and his relatively quiet team leadership style are similar.

The din about quarterback mobility is constant these days among fans and at least a sizable segment of the media, and is often perceived as an issue, but you won’t find any of Mannion’s teammates who had any problem with how he played or led the team.

What's your favorite moment of Sean Mannion as a Beaver?

The game at Arizona in 2012. And it was actually about 20 minutes. It was a night game, so starting after 10 PM in the east, and on the then very fledgling Pac-12 Network that almost no one got then, so almost no one saw it. But Mannion brought the Beavers from behind 3 times down the stretch, with 3 touchdown drives. He threw for a then record 433 yards (since surpassed several times, but that was pretty spectacular at the time), capped with the game winning touchdown throw to Connor Hamlett with 1:09 left that finished off a 75 yard drive.

He suffered the knee injury that plagued him the rest of the season in the next game, against Washington St., but that was when Mannion first appeared as the gunslinger quarterback that could bring his team back by winning a shootout.

A close second would actually be considerably less than a moment, when he cleared the fingertips of a Utah receiver by a fraction of an inch to hit a leaping Cooks for the game winning touchdown in overtime at midnight in Salt Lake City in 2013, winning a game that had taken 4 hours, but came down to a fraction of an inch in a matter of a couple of seconds.

Both of those episodes are typical of why the phrase "In Sean We Trust" came to be often used.

What is something you didn't expect of Sean Mannion, taking over as starter in 2011? His "regression" last season has been a bone of contention recently, could you elaborate on exactly what happened?

Everything was unexpected about Mannion taking over. Ryan Katz was coming off a decent year and had looked ok in pre-season camp. It was a pretty controversial move, but then head coach Mike Riley had seen something that prompted him to essentially sacrifice that season as a learning period for the future.

Mannion was already a well known quantity, from seeing him in practices in his redshirt freshman season, and spring and summer ball, but was still very inexperienced.

He learned and his second season was off to a good start until he suffered a knee injury that didn't end his season, but certainly derailed it. Once healthy again (and in 2 years, there have been no lingering affects of the injury), he had a huge junior season.

His senior year was seen by many as a regression, and statistically and w-l wise, it was. But it really wasn't in terms of his performance, as he continued to refine his game.

But Marcus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks had graduated the last 2 years, and he had to train an essentially brand new group of wide receivers. He also had to do it behind an offensive line that changed its makeup sometimes on a daily, never mind weekly, basis, due to injuries and illnesses. That's never a recipe for success.

But by the end of the season, Jordan Villamin was becoming a dangerous weapon, and Victor Bolden was beginning to fill the Cooks' shoes pretty well.

At the same time, Oregon St. at times made a concerted effort to run the ball more, under criticism of having given up on the run too soon too often the year before, relying on Mannion to beat 7 and 8 man coverages. This reduced his raw numbers, and also was less successful than hoped, but that too was a predictable consequence of a constantly changing offensive line.

Despite being an NFL blogger and a Sooners fan by choice, I am also a crypto-Beavers fan as a substantial portion of my family are alumni. With your starting quarterback now off to the NFL, what does next season hold for the Beavers? Since 3/4 of the Ducks starting roster got drafted, how do you like the Beavers chances in the Civil War next year?

Actually, the Beavers had as many players drafted as the Ducks, 5 each. Nevertheless, I still expect the new Oregon St. spread offense under new head coach Gary Anderson to be had pressed to keep up with the talent and speed Oregon has on hand to reload with.

Especially so because almost all the players of significance, including 4 draftees, are gone from the defense, and the Beavers will be playing a true freshman at quarterback, unless he gets hurt, in which case a red-shirt freshman will be playing.

There is some hope coming out of spring ball though; that continually changing cast of offensive linemen settled on a group of 5 who were healthy, and all playing the same position, all fall.

Had that happened last year, I suspect the Rams, or anyone else for that matter, would not have been able to get Mannion in the 3rd round.