Jordan Palmer believes he has a path for quarterback prospects entering the NFL draft that can help them well into their careers. And the journeyman hopes the work he has been putting in since early January helps him land back with the Bears.
A lot of quarterbacks hit the golf course or do something else to get away in the offseason before they dive back into football. Palmer is the quarterback coach at EXOS, a pre-draft training center in Carlsbad, Calif., where he has been working six days a week since the season ended with prospects, most notably Central Florida's Blake Bortles, a possible No. 1 overall pick for the Texans in May.
Palmer, 29, spent the final nine weeks of the season on the Bears' roster after Jay Cutler suffered a groin injury Oct. 20 at Washington. He was called on after a short but successful stay with the team in the preseason. It's possible Palmer will return to the Bears, particularly if Josh McCown doesn't re-sign. With the Bears set to pay Cutler $22.5 million this season, McCown might find a more lucrative offer elsewhere.
Bortles, Wyoming's Brett Smith and Washington's Keith Price have been working with Palmer in advance of the NFL scouting combine, which opens Thursday in Indianapolis. Palmer also has worked with David Fales of San Jose State. The goal is not only to prepare the quarterbacks for everything they will face at the combine, but also to coach them for success to start their careers.
Palmer designed a playbook and is putting in six-hour days on the field, in the classroom and in the weight room with the players. He's believed to be the only quarterback active in the league last season who is deeply involved in pre-draft training.
"I played in five NFL offenses and learned five systems," Palmer said. "I have taken the universal concepts, universal protections and formations that you will find in any NFL offense, and I built an offense. I am installing it, not just to learn the offense, but to teach them how to learn an offense. What you don't do when you are learning an offense is stare at the playbook and try to memorize it."
Palmer, who has coaching experience from the Elite 11 quarterback competition, combined 25 common passing concepts, the five most common protections and 20 formations in building the playbook. With all the variations, it has the basics the prospects will need.
He didn't hand them the playbook, which Palmer worked on during his personal time late in the season, and tell them to memorize it. He handed them notebooks to begin.
"You have to learn how to take notes, learn how to study, learn how you learn," Palmer said. "That can be more valuable than teaching them anything else at this point because at no point in my career has that not been absolutely imperative."
Palmer displayed that when he signed with the Bears during the third week of the preseason and played seven days later at Oakland. He showed enough in that brief period for the Bears to put him at the top of their emergency list.
When a need arrived, he returned, but it was during the open date when everyone was gone for four days.
"They handed me a pile of information, and I went through that process," he said. "I was ready to play (the next game) against Green Bay if I was needed, and it is not because I am really, really smart. It's because I have a really good process for how I can go through and soak up this information and own it and then feel confident calling it, running it and playing with it."
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Bortles has been compared to the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and came on during a strong 2013 season that culminated with the Knights' upset of Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Some think the Texans will choose him over Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and other top prospects.
"I am not an expert on where he is going to go and what team, but I just know what I see," Palmer said. "He is a very, very good player and he is going to be able to do whatever he wants in the league. He's got all the intangibles. He is big. He is a way-above-average athlete for being 230 pounds and has a big arm. He is a mentally tough guy. He has all the tools to have a great career."
If everything goes as planned for Palmer, the offseason will be a springboard toward continuing his career.
"My No. 1 objective is to play this year, and I want to play for the Bears," he said. "I wanted to do this (draft preparation) because I am passionate about it. I am pushing myself and getting more reps and spending more time in football than I ever have in an offseason, and I like to think I am a hard worker.
"There are a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL that are way smarter and have been exposed to more football; I played with two of them this year. What those guys don't have is the reps coaching. I have a lot of reps of explaining this stuff and breaking it down, so it allows me to be really efficient with these quarterbacks and get right to the point."