Film Review: Shea Patterson and What It Would Mean for Michigan

I’ve fielded a few questions about my thoughts on the Shea Patterson situation. I did something similar for Jake Rudock when he transferred from Iowa to Michigan, so I figured I’d take a brief look at what he would bring to the table. In doing so, it is essentially not to just look at highlights, but also look at his weaknesses and his worst performances.

Let’s make one thing clear, the primary reason, above all other reasons, that Michigan is looking to bring in Patterson is because he is incredibly talented. His game is far from without flaws, but in my opinion, bringing him in is much less about the current roster and the staff’s trust in that roster and much more about what Patterson potentially brings to the table. Let’s take a look, and hopefully this isn't all for naught.

Photo: AP

Patterson has a nice understanding of the concepts he runs. He understands how a concept is supposed to move a defense, and where he has to look to open up the coverage.

Here, provided a wheel route off of a toss fake, he uses his eyes to hold the safety inside and then throws the wheel on time, as the receiver is breaking over but before the safety can get over the top:

Here, he gets a quick drop by the CB and demonstrates a quick read and release to get the ball out to his receiver. If the first read is clear, he does have a quick release and does a good job getting the ball out on time:

Patterson can push the ball down the field and does a good job putting the ball in position to allow his receivers to make plays (two plays):

He can also put the ball on a line to fit into tighter coverage underneath (two plays):

And I love this throw on a line vs Cover 2:

He can alter the pace and trajectory of his throws well. While he tends to prefer to put zip on it, he can let up.

Here, on PA, he throws a ball into the seam above the LB level and drops it below the safety. This angle and this throw is incredibly difficult, and he makes it look easy.

Patterson isn’t a true dual-threat QB, but he is a good athlete for a QB, shows he isn’t a weak runner, and has good enough awareness to generally make a guy miss. He can run away from most DL and even LBs once he is able to break the pocket. This allows him to extend plays and occasionally pick up yards on designed runs.

Here is a designed pass, but he feels LB pressure off the edge, immediately sees a crease in the DL, and hits it quickly. He is able to run away from the LB and pick up a nice chunk of yards with his legs:

Here’s another one where the play is completely covered, but he can make plays because he’s a good athlete and hard to track down for a defense:

Here he is extending a play long enough because he knows the design is working. That extra time allows him to throw a nice touch pass to the wheel route.

Patterson demonstrates very good mechanics when on the move. Ole Miss rolled Patterson a ton because he throws a really strong and accurate ball when moving either right or left. Rolling him out limited the number of reads he had to make and generally made those reads initially easier.

Here he is, play action from under center, and rolling left. Look how well he gets his left shoulder up field, his feet gathered and under him, and has the arm to put the ball on a line 30 yards away. This is a clean read and gives the receiver the ability to make the catch and then gain bonus yards because the ball is there on time and with good pace:

What Patterson is probably best known for is his ability to “make plays”. While rolling out generally makes the initial read easier, it does condense the field and if the ball doesn’t come out quickly, it leaves you with limited options. But much like Johnny Football, where most of Patterson’s playmaking comes from is his ability to defeat the initial rush, extend the play, and then utilize his athleticism to give receivers an opportunity to come open. And he does a great job keeping his eyes downfield at all times when he’s scrambling.

This is the highlight I’ve seen most floating around the internet from Michigan fans, but it’s far from an isolated instant. The first read is a little open, and on third and 3 you may be able to fit that throw in, but for the most part the CB has outside leverage and is ready to break on the throw, so it isn’t a throw you want to make. Patterson extends the play, beats the backside pursuit, moves back to the far side of the field and finds a wide open receiver that snuck away from coverage. Not exactly how you draw it up, but a nice option to have:

Patterson isn’t always accurate. He is a shorter QB, and tends to utilize upper body torque to put the ball on a line. And again, he doesn’t like to throw when pressured, so he’s rushing here; in essence, he gets sped up and either drops his eyes or rushes the ball out in order to avoid hits. This can see the ball get away from him a little bit, typically missing high and to the left when he doesn’t set his feet. Isn’t always accurate.

This isn’t the worst throw in the world, and is the correct receiver. But the CB is over top and working inside the receiver, so this slant needs to be on the back hip. Instead, he throws it high toward the front shoulder, and even then misses by about a foot. The CB does a terrific job raking the WR’s arms and then making a play (this is a 1 in a hundred INT), but this is a poor decision that will typically lead to an incomplete pass:

And sometimes he just makes bad decisions. I don’t think he sees the CB sitting underneath, or expects him to be run off. But you just can’t make this throw. It happens:

Tends to stick on his first read, disrupting timing of play. This will have a bigger impact in a west-coast based passing attack, where progression timing is key. It is important that he does tend to move on in the progression, providing the pocket is clean, but it often times takes him too long which can lead to the pocket collapsing.

Here, we see an instance where a receiver is open for a long time, but is the second receiver in the progression. He’s blindly wide open because the CB vastly over reacts to the run fake, but this ball should be out a beat early, but Patterson is stuck reading the defense deep waiting for the slot to come open. He needs to get off it sooner and get the ball into the receiver’s hands. In many cases, his window would have closed (this is a highlight big play, but it's fairly easy to translate it to other plays and see where it won't work out because of a flaw):

His eyes also tend to drop when the rush comes. He doesn’t like to throw when pressured. While he keeps his eyes downfield once he breaks pressure, pressure can disrupt the timing of a play.

Here is a “highlight” where the play should be successful as designed. The slot receiver gets outside leverage and clear separation from a safety on a corner route. But the defense gets a delayed rush that gets into Patterson’s vision and Patterson brings his eyes down. In this instance, he defeats the rush and then finds another receiver open, but you want your QB to first be able to get you the success you design into the play. This ball should be out of his hand when the rush is still 6 yards from him:

Here’s an instance where he drops his eyes and trust his leg too much. He’s trying to work forward through a pocket where there isn’t a crease to move forward through. Meanwhile, he has an open relief option that could gain a nice chunk back. There is a time to take off, and there is a time to realize your legs can’t get you out of everything and you need to work the play design. And on the next play tries to take off again where there isn’t an opening and gets stripped (two plays):

Because he sticks on his first read too long, it often leads to second read going away. This leads to him bailing on the pocket early in an effort to “make plays” when the play was there to begin with.

Here, Texas A&M brings a 4 man pressure vs a 5 man protection. The receivers haven’t even gotten fully into their routes, and Patterson has just completed his drop, but the perception of rush has already caused him to start bailing on the pocket. While this pocket isn’t perfect, there is a clear area to step into and reset, instead, he starts scrambling and takes off. He makes up for it by making a few tackles miss and driving for the first down, but this is often an instance you want him to trust his pocket and trust his receivers will get open and give them more of an opportunity to do so, much more than it is “see and opening and know you can get 1st down yardage”:



  • Good ball speed/pace, can push ball downfield or put it on a line
  • Good athlete for position that can pick up chunks on the ground (designed or scramble)
  • Does well to extend plays and keep eyes downfield
  • Good mechanics on roll out
  • Play maker
  • Sometimes has accuracy issues due to avoiding pressure
  • Will drop eyes when facing pressure
  • Will get stuck on first read too long, disrupting the timing of the progression (but does move on in progression)
  • Will have an over-reliance on legs at times

Personally, I really liked what I saw from Peters in his limited time. I think he needs improvement on reading coverage and needs to improve the timing slightly off of that, but he showed promise and showed a good arm. I think if he was the starter next year, you could expect some good growth from a RS SO and an opportunity to really turn the corner as a RS JR. Patterson, for his part, I don’t think would walk directly into a starting position. I do think there would be a legit competition, if anything because Peters has a better grasp of the offensive system and the timing required within that system.

But Patterson has undeniable talent. He has a live arm, can put the ball on a rope, and generally makes some really good throws even against tight coverage. And when plays breakdown, as they likely will with Michigan’s pass pro, he can still make plays and get you out of jams. Plays don’t always work as designed, sometimes the defense wins, it’s nice to have a really good option back there in the event that happens.

In Patterson’s case though, he tends to over-rely on that playmaking ability. Ole Miss didn’t do him a ton of favors though, relying heavily on roll outs and 5 man protections and saying “if you can’t get the ball out quickly, make hay yourself.” How much does he change in a more structured scheme, with more protections, or how much do the schemes have to change if he is what he is and doesn’t play as well within the structure. His timing getting off 1st options could bog down in a WCO at times, where timing is essentially to moving the ball through the air. Does he more than make up for that by “making plays”, or does it bog down too much to be of benefit within what the offense wants to do? It’s hard to know immediately how much of his play (good and bad) and how it fits at Michigan (good and bad) is a product of him vs a product of the Ole Miss scheme.

But the talent is obvious, the upside is potentially significant if it all comes together, and if he can play immediately, that provides an additional bullet (a particularly talented and high upside one) in Michigan’s chamber going into 2018.


  1. Another bullet in the chamber? Shea Patterson is a top ten pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Brandon Peters is not. Patterson leads Michigan to the playoffs. He also brings two others with him. Natural born leader and extremely liked by teammates which is a key factor in football especially at QB

    1. I disagree. If I had to guess, I would say that Patterson wins the starting spot, but he does have some flaws to his game. In no way, when I watch him on film, do I see anything near a top 10 pick. I know some places have mocked him in that area, but I do not see that because he needs drastic improvement in areas critical to NFL success. And while he has a very good arm, there are QBs in his same class with better arms.

      You're bringing up a lot about born leader and liked by his teammates, but despite his stats he never accomplished a great record at Ole Miss. Certainly that isn't all on him, but I think we need to step back off superlatives and see him for what he actually is: a very talented QB with some flaws to his game that need to be corrected and improved about for him to grow into the Michigan offense.

      I also wouldn't come down on Peters after only seeing him in his RS FR year. Peters arm talent is significant as well.

    2. A great record? Didn't he only play like five games as a freshman before the injury? Pretty unfair to say he didn't have "accomplish a great record" at Miss. He never had a chance to do that.

    3. He started 3 games as a FR and went 1-2 (in those games they scored 29, 17, 20). He started 7 games as a SO, in those games they went 3-4 (in those games the offense scored 47 (S. Bama), 45 (Tenn-Martin), 16, 3, 23, 57, 24). It's not a long track record, but it is his track record. If the claim is "he's a natural born leader and extremely liked by teammates", and that's supposed to trump other aspects of his game, then the evidence should back that up, and it doesn't.

      I'm not saying he won't be a good player, I'm saying there are flaws to his game that don't make him a slam dunk. I provided evidence of that. If you disagree, fine, that's up to you. But a point is better served when there is evidence to back it up, which there currently isn't evidence to suggest his leadership outweighs some of his flaws.

  2. Great breakdown, thanks for doing this.

    I agree with everything you list. I have some concerns based on watching some of his games and not just the highlights, and I think you covered them all. My biggest concern is a comparison to O'Korn. I know that's not fair since they are two different kids, and as far as recruiting ranking go, not close. Plus you could counter point with with the turnaround from Rudock under Harbaugh. However, I see someone who has the ability to extend plays and doesn't always keep his eyes down field. Which can work at times, and coming out of the SEC it's not as if he hasn't seen the athletes that the BIG will throw at him. But from some accuracy issues, locking onto his first read and happy feet, I am not as hyped as most people seem to be.

    I am not saying that he won't be awesome or that Peters is the second coming of Luck, but I thought Peters did very well during his playing time and with his understanding of the offense and his pocket presence, I feel good rolling with him next year. I think Patterson is great to bring in for competition and maybe he wins the job, but overall, besides QB depth as an issue, I just am kinda blah about this.

    Am I off base and being too critical with some O'Korn shaded glasses?

    Thanks again for the write up, awesome work as always. Love this site and your breakdowns.

    1. I don't think you're entirely off base. He has some of the same weaknesses as JOK, though I think JOK's were more severe (for instance, I think Patterson does a better job getting his eyes back down field once he avoids the rush, or eventually getting through a progression if he has time). You also brought up the competition that Patterson has already had success against, and I think that's a big advantage for him to avoid the JOK comps.

      That said, yeah, I feel a little the same way. I don't think this is the thing that gets Michigan over the top (honestly, the safety from Ole Miss may be the bigger target, he'd fit well at the SS spot). And I also liked what I saw from Peters last year. It wasn't perfect, but it looked like some good clay to continue to mold. If Peters is ok with it, then it's fine. If Peters is going to be unhappy about it, I'm not sure it's a significant benefit overall.

    2. Nailed it SC. How much do you think the staff will allow Peters' opinion play into the decision given (the rumors) that there may have been some personality issues with Peters early on?

  3. wtf film did you watch papa bear? This kid is head and shoulders above any qb at michigan in quite some time !

  4. Great write-up as always! I think my biggest question would be playing from under center. There always seems to be some adjustment time needed for guys who played purely (mostly) from shotgun and I'm curious as to your thoughts on Patterson with respect to that?

    I do like the confidence Patterson seems to play with and am curious to see how Peters responds to the competition, particularly as it relates to the knock on his demeanor (begging too quiet).

    1. I'm not as concerned specifically over his capability to work under center. Michigan right now is probably 30-40% gun as it is, and they can do a lot of the things they like to do from gun or pistol, similar to what Harbaugh did with Kaep. Furthermore, I think a lot of the PA schemes and rollouts can help with some concerns about vision from under center or trying to see more of the field from an under center drop back. He did take a few snaps under center at Ole Miss, so he isn't unfamiliar with it.

      In general, I think they will gear the offense more to his strengths. He is a bit shorter, so they may have to do somethings to help him out from under center in that regard. He won't be your traditional drop back passer, certainly. I would guess an offense with him at Michigan would be closer to 60% gun/pistol oriented though.

  5. Thank you sir for this break down. I wish the entire Michigan fan base could read this and come to their senses. The kid has talent that is obvious, however he's flawed. People naming him the starter already is just silly to me. The kid has to learn a completely different offense and beat out a guy who's just as talented and who has been in the system for over two year.


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