LA Chargers News

The Chargers’ curious case of the Stick Man

By Dennis J. Hassell
IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 17: Defensive end Anthony Nelson #98 of the Iowa Hawkeyes grabs the ankle of quarterback Easton Stick #12 of the North Dakota State Bisons in the second quarter, on September 17, 2016 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 17: Defensive end Anthony Nelson #98 of the Iowa Hawkeyes grabs the ankle of quarterback Easton Stick #12 of the North Dakota State Bisons in the second quarter, on September 17, 2016 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
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Of all the Los Angeles Chargers’ 2019 NFL draft picks, the strangest pick is the Stick.

Quarterback Easton Stick is the one pick that does not line up with the playoff-primed Chargers.   And let’s acknowledge this somewhat green Stick is a project and thus a risk — a small risk.  With huge possibilities.

Some are Nimble, some are Quick, the Kid that’s both is Easton Stick.

At 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, Stick went 49-3 as the starting quarterback with the North Dakota State Bisons, a school record.  He was starting quarterback for three of the school’s last four championships.

If Stick is truly a possible replacement for Philip Rivers as starting quarterback, the Chargers are not looking for another Rivers. Rivers is a wonderful drop-back pinpoint passer, but as mobile as his mansion. Stick currently throws,  (and overthrows) slightly wobbly balls  — but the kid is as fast and aggressive on his feet as a mongoose.

Five clues to the mystery man

Number One:  The kid can run. The first reason for taking a flyer on Stick in the fifth round?   Patrick Mahomes.  Can you imagine if Phil the Thrill had legs like Mahomes?  Or Ravens phenom Lamar Jackson? When a quarterback is aggressive with his passing, he risks interceptions.

However, when a quarterback is aggressive with his running, he risks serious injuries (Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson). Ironman Rivers hasn’t missed a game since there was a Roosevelt in the White House. Teddy Roosevelt. But Big Daddy too often forces the ball (interceptions), holds on too long in the pocket (sacks),  and is zero threat to run.

So there’s a choice to be made in style; and the Chargers may be looking at all options for their quarterback future, through creative Stick-handling.

In addition to owning the school’s passing yards (8,693) and passing touchdowns (88) records, Stick left NDSU as the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s all-time leader in rushing yards (2,523) and rushing touchdowns (41) by a quarterback.

Because the game is always changing, you need a game changer. 

2.  The kid did not top out in college. Everything I’ve read and heard about Stick’s college performance suggests his flaws are correctable and his abilities are nowhere fully developed. He did not just play behind Carson Wentz, he succeeded  Wentz. College program-wise, Easton comes from “a good family”.

3.  The kid is a Winner.  49-3 as a starter. Think about that.  He sticks it to his opponents.  He manages wins, steals wins, grinds wins, manufactures wins, improvises wins, and stares down defeat. He was the unmistakable leader of his college teams. Combine stats pale compared to won-loss stats.

On broken plays, Stick fakes it til he makes it.

4.  The kid is a Whiz. Easton might be one of the smartest professional athletes since Mo Berg, the MLB catcher who played from 1923 to the start of World War Two. Berg was a Princeton scholar, spoke seven languages and served as a secret agent in Europe and Japan (see Netflix movie, The Catcher Was A Spy).

Stick wowed Chargers coaches when asked to draw up a few plays from a portfolio they sent him.   Not just because he memorized the plays but because he understood the plays, down to the sub-atomic level (Coincidentally, in the movie, Berg is played by Ant Man star Paul Rudd).

Probably the smartest guy I’ve ever been around, and I coached Carson Wentz as well.                                                                                                                              —   Head Coach Chris Klieman

5. The kid has time.  It may be two years before Stick has to even be the No.1 backup. Tyrod Taylor will be an excellent backup (and not a poor copy of Rivers: TT can run). Stick is a project, and while he develops, his skill set, so different from Rivers, might be used in games as a change in play that baffles opponents.

BOLD PREDICTION

The Chargers will cast Stick in Stranger Things  

The Chargers, like the Netflix hit show Stranger Things, could present to their opponents The Upside Down.

Let’s be frank: if the Chargers carry three quarterbacks, the third-stringer can risk getting banged up; can risk rushing plays and stunts.

More from Bolt Beat

Remember Chargers’ backup Charlie Whitehurst running for a touchdown as a field-goal kick holder? Starting in exhibition perhaps, Stick might be a field-goal placeholder and other Special Teams, and sub in for Rivers on some third-and-longs, and change-up specialty plays.  In the Chargers’ Marvel Endgame, Easton will be fresh-faced teenage Spider Man.

What if he played in front of the punter as second-line blocker, able to run or pass on a fake?   In the Wildcat formation, Rivers would stand helplessly near the sideline, the Chargers’ best player not in the action. What if you swapped Phil out from time to time and let the backup Stick run a play the opponent has not prepared for nor even seen?

Talk softly and carry a big Stick.

                                                 — **President Teddy Roosevelt

The Chargers will hide the rookie (maybe with a Mexican wrestler’s mask?  “El Palo Magnifico!”) until he is fully weaponized.

(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Another immediate use for Stick is to play fleet-footed opposing quarterbacks against the Bolts’ defense in mock scrimmages. Sure, he might be on the practice squad, but any team that wants to steal the kid has to sign him to their regular roster.

The mystery around this draft pick boils down to this: remember the name Easton Stick. Because it says here that the kid stays in the picture. And he may be useful sooner than you expect.

The Chargers will stick with Stick.

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