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March 29, 2017

Jake Peetz

Welcome, everybody, to the Carriker Chronicles! The people’s show where I’m bringing you the pulse of Husker Nation every Monday, Wednesday, and Fast Friday. Today with me I have a very special guest. One of my former Husker teammates and one of the new Oakland Raiders Head Quarterbacks Coach but one of only 32 men on Planet Earth who is in charge of coaching an NFL quarterback. And David Carr—the guy he’s in charge of coaching—one of the top ten or 15 quarterbacks in the NFL. So…let me bring out Jake Peetz! Jake, how ya doing today?

Jake Peetz: I’m doing great, Adam! Thanks for having me.

Adam Carriker: Thanks for joining me. So, some Husker fans may be familiar with you, some Husker fans may not. But let’s do—cuz I know a lot of people are not familiar with the journey you have taken to get to where you’re at. So let’s remind people. I’ll let you chat cuz I’ve got written down here you’ve been to 9 different locations—9 different teams, so to speak, and you’ve had 13 different coaching positions to ascend the ladder to where you’re at. So I’ll kinda let you tell the story how this all happened.

JP: Well that sounds like a lot more than I actually thought it was! The scary thing is is you’re right! Yeah, I was really fortunate that Coach Callahan—when we were together with him—identified that he thought I’d make a good coach and helped get me get involved in the profession. I started out actually while I was still playing. I volunteered to work at UCLA high school camp, which was great! Got out there and met that staff. Upon graduation, my first coaching job—after doing a quick internship in Phoenix—was at Santa Barbara City College, where I coached the defensive backs and was the head strength coach. And then actually after that season I had a chance—based on the internship I did prior—I got a call from the Indiana Pacers. And was an assistant strength coach with them that season. It was something where I was single, 21, 22 years old and kinda neat to branch out and try something new. And after that one season which was a great experience, I knew that I wanted to be in football. And so fortunately, I didn’t have to skip a season. Basketball was in the off-season of that (football) and I went to UCLA as a grad assistant and started on defense. Then with Karl Dorrell. Then when Rick Neuheisel came, I had the great opportunity of getting to know Norm Chow, who is a very well known offensive mind. Great person, great coach and he—after a pretty neat evening with him—in the office that just kinda occurred at random, the next morning I was working with him with the quarterbacks so getting the offensive side of the ball started with him.

And shortly after that, Jacksonville Jaguars had somebody that I’d met. They needed a young guy to come in and grind so they called me, interviewed me, offered a position. I came in there in scouting initially, did some work with the coaching staff as well. Did that for four years. Then the 5th year I was there I moved into the quarterback room and was the assistant quarterback coach for Greg Olson which was a great opportunity. We were actually fired after that year which led to probably the greatest opportunity for me at that point. I went to the University of Alabama and was there in 2013 working for Coach Saban and Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier who is now the offensive coordinator at Florida. He’s become a great mentor to me, a great friend. Somebody that really invested in me, so I had the chance to work with a great staff there.

Then after that year I had a chance to go to the Redskins. They had a position that was a move up for me, it was back in the NFL, it was really hard to leave Alabama. But again, being in the NFL was something I really wanted to do (was) get back into the league. So I took that opportunity and it was a great blessing to work with Jay Gruden and Sean McVeigh. Sean is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Getting a chance to learn offense from those guys was special. Got to reunite with Randy Jordan, who was coaching both of us. He was our running backs coach (at Nebraska) and I actually overlapped three weeks with Coach Callahan. He came in as our offensive line coach, and it was especially hard to leave Sean and Jay, and Bill, who got me into the profession. But even Bill advised me that the plan I described to him that Jack Del Rio told me when he had a plan for me (he) thought it would be a good opportunity. So I took it and went to the Oakland Raiders and a couple years later I’m coaching—I know you brought up his brother who was the first pick overall, David—but I actually coach Derek. Derek is the quarterback.

AC: Thank you for the correction. My bad.

JP: It happens a lot, but Derek is a great young man. He’s a very very special person and as great of a player he is, he’s even a better person. Which, you can work with a guy like that. You played in the league at a very high level for a while so you know what it’s like when you get around especially a quarterback of that caliber. It’s very special so we’re very blessed. I know that’s a lot of different places but I think the common thread to all of them is there were great people—fortunately I was around a lot of smart people—a lot of great people and they all took time to invest in me. Which you know, that’s pretty special to have great coaches around that really wanna maximize you and try and help you along. I think that’s a big key why I’ve been able to ascend to where I’m at.

AC: Now, going into your senior year at Nebraska, you were going to have an opportunity to play. Unfortunately, your brother became sick. But you were also a baseball player at Arizona for a little while. You play, when I first met you, you were one of the strength & conditioning coaches at Nebraska. You’ve coached offense. Now like I mentioned, you’re one of only less than three dozen human beings walking the face of the planet earth in charge of coaching an NFL quarterback and one of the best ones in the league—Derek Carr. So, I’m not going to put you on the spot about Derek Carr—your own quarterback. But let’s talk about the Husker quarterback battle that’s going on right now between Patrick O’Brien and Tanner Lee. Now we’ve got an older guy in Tanner Lee versus a younger guy in Patrick O’Brien. Tanner Lee’s a little bit better in the pocket, Patrick O’Brien’s a little more athletic outside the pocket. Tanner Lee’s got the stronger arm, Patrick O’Brien’s got a little more touch on the ball. Like which of those things stand out to you? What’s going to be the key to determining who wins this quarterback battle for Nebraska?

JP: It will be real interesting, Adam! I don’t know a lot about these guys. What I do know is they have great leadership in Coach Riley and I’ve known Danny Langsdorf. I met him when he was recruiting a couple guys from Santa Barbara City College when I was there. And I’ve stayed in touch with him and known him about ten years. The great thing about that situation is they have great leadership. They’re gonna have a lot of great minds coming together, figuring out who’s the best man to win games. And that’s what you’re looking for in this competition. Which one of these guys has the leadership capability? Which one of these quarterbacks can digest the system? Like you said, maybe it’s a different type of offense for each one of these young men. They have different qualities, different traits.

I’m looking at Patrick O’Brien up here to familiarize myself on the computer. He’s a big kid from San Juan Capistrano. He went to a good high school down there in Orange County—I’m very familiar with that area. And Lee—I’m a little bit familiar with him cuz he played with my brother in-law who’s playing at Tulane right now. But they’re two leading guys—what system do they feel like they want to run with these quarterbacks? Which quarterback grasps it? Which quarterback can show through the spring practice that they not only understand the system but they understand the answers based on what they see from the defense? Which one of them shows the ability to maximize their teammates? Cuz that’s a big part of it—they can know everything and get out there and understand the reads, the progressions and put the ball in the right place but if they can’t elevate their teammates, then you’re going to be playing from behind. So it will be interesting to see who they feel fits that bill. But it’s really a very large dynamic Adam in that you have to have your leader, you have to have your football intelligence, but who has the moxie too that when they have the scrimmages and then the spring game—which one of these can not only do it in the practice but in the live scrimmage.

AC: So as far as a quarterback coach yourself in the league—the keys you look for: the mental awareness, the mental understanding, the leadership and the intangible things. Now let’s talk a little about the physical qualities. Do you value a stronger arm? Do you value accuracy a little bit better? And if you could give these guys one piece of advice that you think could help tip the scales toward one of them winning the quarterback battle, what would that one major thing be?

JP: Well it’s interesting to ask that because even though we have one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL, I’m evaluating every guy coming out right now—for the draft and for free agency after the draft. So I’m evaluating all these college kids kinda based on what you’re talking about here. What do I look for in these guys? Arm strength is a big component we like to see because you want to be able to throw to all parts of the field—especially in college when the athletes are so wider—so much wider! As you know from playing defensive line, you’re playing lateral down the line of scrimmage, especially in Washington when you get their zone scheme and you get one the field, there’s a lot of ground to cover! You have in college—the hash (mark) is so much wider so sometimes, some quarterbacks can’t even throw to the perimeter. Across the hash is what we call it in college. So, can they make that throw? If they don’t have an elite arm, can they throw with anticipation? You saw it—Chad Pennington is the example the kids brought up, just like Drew Brees is the example of every 6’1” aspiring quarterback. Chad Pennington didn’t have a great arm at Marshall, but he had great anticipation and it carried him through not only a great career at Marshall but in the NFL. So, if they don’t have a great arm—do they throw with anticipation? If they don’t have a good arm and they don’t throw with anticipation, then it’s an issue.

You also want to see, is their accuracy—how is that? Okay, is the accuracy good then we’re good. If the accuracy is sporadic, then where is it coming from? Is it upper body mechanics or is it lower body? If it’s the lower half, that’s something we feel great about fixing. Derek Carr—you look at his ascension I think Coach Todd who was the quarterback coach before me and now is the offensive coordinator, did a great job with Derek’s lower half and that was huge—and Derek will tell you too—for him becoming a much more consistent quarterback. And Todd’s one of the best I’ve been around at fixing the lower half. It’s been great for me to learn from him and that’s something we’ll continue to work with Derek and any other quarterback we have. And as far as these young men competing for this spot—really enjoy this process. I mean, just put in the work. The thing to tell ya—it’s so easy. Handle your business and put in the work. Put in the work so that you can be prepared. Prepare for your meetings. Don’t just be in the meeting to prepare for the practice and the game. Prepare prior to your meeting.

When I coached the younger guys at Alabama, I remember talking to those kids and saying “Hey, don’t let the first time you take a drop be in front of me.” Take your drops in front of your mirror in your dorm room. Do it in the weight room. Make sure the first time you take a drop isn’t on the practice field. Prepare prior to meetings so that when you’re in the meeting you can fine tune everything from your quarterback coach, from the great staff you have at Nebraska, so that when you get on the practice field, you’re ready to go. When you get on the scrimmage field at the spring game, you’re ready to go because as long as you’re prepared, you can put your best foot forward. You can maximize what you’re able to do, then you let it all shake out the way it does. But then you have no regrets, just enjoy that process. Prepare, prepare, prepare. And then maximize yourself when you get the opportunity.

AC: All right, real quick, we got about 2 minutes left. You don’t know these guys extremely well but you have familiarized yourself a little bit with them just for this conversation. If you could compare Tanner Lee to one guy in the NFL, and Patrick O’Brien to a guy in the NFL, is there anyone who pops into your mind—just real quick, got a couple minutes left here.

JP: Aw shoot Adam, I don’t really even (inaudible) know them well enough.

AC: All right, I understand, I understand.

JP: I just don’t feel comfortable doing that cuz I’d hate to paint a guy with a brush I’m not educated enough on. I really want to watch some tape on them. But it does sound—I’ve talked to Coach Langsdorf about Lee, and I know that he was excited when he got him from Tulane. I know this young man from Southern California—he was a big recruit as well, so I think Husker nation will be happy with whatever the coaches decide and the great thing about it is whichever one doesn’t win the role—hopefully they’re a pro about it and can provide really good depth. And as we saw for the Raiders, we had our third guy—started a playoff game for them! He was the first quarterback in league history to make his first career start in the playoffs.

AC: I remember that!

JP: Your number could be called at any time!

AC: All right, so we got time—cuz I love to tell stories on this show…you’re one of my former teammates, you spent a lot of time with me. You got about a minute and a half. You got any quick stories you want to share about me? The floor is completely open to whatever you want to say.

JP: I’ll have to come back on the show at some other point to talk about how you had every college sports football play station game rigged…

AC: Sore loser, folks! Sore loser right here!

JP: Yeah well I won the last game…

AC: Then you disappeared.

JP: And then I won’t play again! So anyway, one of my favorite stories about you and I’ve told you this before is…what year was that that you had your foot in a boot?

AC: It was my redshirt freshman year. Would have been ’03.

JP: That year—’03—I was pretty fresh to the team too, and I remember the quarterbacks boasting about how far they could throw the ball and everything like that. One of the quarterbacks who will remain nameless—but I think the longest throw from any of the quarterbacks was 50 yards. It was something where there was no wind, it was an easy day, I just remember you in your walking boot came strolling off the sideline, you didn’t say anything. You just went and grabbed a ball, you hadn’t warmed up. You kinda looked at it—you didn’t crow hop—they were all taking crow hops like they were throwing from center field. You just one step ZOOM! 70 yards on a rope, you could have killed somebody. And then you just walked off the field, a drop the mic moment if you will.

AC: I remember that, I remember that very well. I want to thank you for sharing THAT story and not some of the more embarrassing stories you could have. Cuz I said the floor is completely open to you. Thanks for joining me Jake. Until Friday, Husker Nation, Go Big Red and always remember…