The comparison between the two quarterbacks is an apt one, says Troy Taylor, a former Cal QB and Browning's high school coach.
Troy Taylor has mixed emotions about Saturday’s Washington-Cal game. He has long been a mentor to Jake Browning, the Huskies’ prized freshman quarterback whom Taylor says is like a son to him.
Taylor, who has coached Browning since the quarterback was 10 years old, has watched every snap Browning has taken in his first three games with the Huskies. He is not surprised in the least at what the young QB has done so far. Same old Jake, really.
Taylor’s connections to Cal run even further back: He was a four-year starter for the Bears from 1986-89 and held the school’s career passing record for 26 years — until last Saturday, when Jared Goff broke it against Texas. Taylor wasn’t surprised by that, either.
“I’m just surprised it lasted that long,” he said with a laugh.
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Like most of quarterbacks’ throws, the comparisons between Browning and Goff are pretty on point, Taylor said. Both quarterbacks are decisive, anticipate well and have a quick release.
“I think it is a good comparison,” said Taylor, a Cal assistant coach from 1996-99 and now the co-coach at Folsom High School, where Browning guided the Bulldogs to a 16-0 season and a California state title last year.
“The one thing they’re very similar at is their pocket presence and their feel of the pocket. A lot of (quarterbacks) look great in 7-on-7 and they can throw it 60, 70 yards down the field. But the one-in-a-million guys — Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers — have a feel for the pocket. They move their eyes down field, and they move over just six inches and make the throw. Goff is same way. …
“Rodgers is great at that, and that’s the guy Jake reminds me of. Aaron isn’t a super athletic guy, but he makes plays on the move. Jake is similar in that way.”
It was Taylor who first reached out to Chris Petersen, then the coach at Boise State, about Browning after Browning’s sophomore season at Folsom. Petersen had fielded such calls before: We’ve got another Kellen Moore here. You have to come check him out.
Petersen would usually roll his eyes at such a comparison, but he trusted Taylor, and he was intrigued. In February 2013, Petersen went to a Folsom workout and watched Browning throw.
“Wow, this guy’s good,” Petersen told The Times last year about his first reaction of Browning.
Since Browning’s arrival on the UW campus in January, Petersen has mostly tried to downplay the expectations surrounding the young quarterback. The hype — and the hope — is starting to escalate now, three games into the quarterback’s career.
“It’s tough not to get really excited about this kid,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “(But) it’s three games. And we’re going to have some ups and downs still.”
Smith acknowledged that Browning’s successful scrambling was unexpected. Behind a brand-new offensive line, UW coaches in fall camp initially figured they would be better off with either Jeff Lindquist or K.J. Carta-Samuels, two mobile quarterbacks who theoretically could move away from the rush. They didn’t know Browning would be able to do that as well as he has.
“Everybody is surprised by his mobility and his ability to avoid sacks,” Taylor said. “But that was one of his strengths here (at Folsom). We used to joke that the first (pass rusher) never got him, and it’s still happening there. He’s deceptively quick on first move. … He may not be as quick as other quarterbacks, but he sees things slower, and he’s patient and can move around and still make a really good throw.”
Browning’s most impressive play through three games? For Taylor, it was a third-quarter pass against Utah State, when Browning stood in the pocket, took a shot on the chin from a defensive end and still yet delivered a beautiful throw to tight end Darrell Daniels to the left sideline for a 22-yard gain.
“That,” Taylor said, “was a special play.”