Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke is taking his time considering his NFL options in search of the best fit, but former second-overall pick Ryan Leaf has some suggestions.
The infamous NFL Draft bust knows all too well what the wrong situation can do to a quarterback’s career and weighed in with a few schematic fits for the CFL sensation during an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show on Thursday.
“Probably, I would say the Dolphins in what they do and how they spread the field out, maybe the Chiefs,” Leaf said.
“Because the field is so spread out there at the CFL level, also they play with the extra player. You have to have that understanding when you get to the NFL, it’s hard to spread the field around because the hash marks are so darn close. That’s a big part of it, not like in college. So those are a couple teams I would think of.”
Rourke did not visit the Dolphins as part of his 12-city NFL workout tour but did perform for the Chiefs on January 9. He also worked out for the Las Vegas Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, and Cleveland Browns.
The native of Oakville, Ontario is reportedly searching for a situation where he can compete to be a number two quarterback in his first season, with a path to the field long-term. Both Miami and Kansas City have established young starters in Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes, while veteran backups Teddy Bridgewater and Chad Henne are on expiring contracts.
The B.C. Lions’ signal caller is coming off a sensational season in the CFL during which he completed 78.7 percent of his pass attempts for 3,349 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran the football 39 times for 304 yards and seven scores, becoming the first quarterback to win the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian award since 1980.
The 24-year-old went 8-1 as a starter before undergoing surgery in August to repair a Lisfranc sprain in his foot. Though the injury was originally thought to be season-ending, he was able to return for the final week of the regular season and play the first quarter of a meaningless contest against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
He started the West Semi-Final the following week and threw for 321 yards with two touchdowns in a 30-16 victory over the Calgary Stampeders. He and his team were eliminated from postseason contention against Winnipeg the following week after he threw for 300 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a 28-20 loss in the West Final.
While Rourke’s meteoric rise came as something of a surprise after the Lions selected him 15th overall in the second round of the 2020 CFL Draft, Leaf was supposed to take his own league by storm. A sensation at Washington State, he was taken with the second pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 1998 NFL Draft after months of speculation over whether he or future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was the top quarterback in the draft.
Leaf was cut by the Chargers after three tumultuous seasons in which he routinely clashed with teammates, staff and the media. He later spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks, but was out of the NFL entirely by the end of the 2002 season. His post-playing days were marked by several high-profile arrests and legal issues, but he has since rehabilitated his image as a member of the media and a college football analyst.
Though Leaf never attempted to revive his playing career in the CFL, he has followed the league for another reason.
“I know the CFL pretty well. Dave Dickenson, who was just an absolute stud up there, … he grew up a block from me,” Leaf explained. “We used to play football together my whole life. Growing up, he was my hero. Played quarterback ahead of me at my high school. Love that guy. Craig Dickenson, his brother, who’s been a staple up there too. Just so proud of those guys watching them.”
“So I have a pretty good feel, I spent some time in Vancouver watching the B.C. Lions go at it too. The CFL, I’m a big fan of it.”
The pair of Great Falls, Montana natives have established themselves as respected CFL head coaches with the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, but neither succeeded in containing Rourke in his first — and potentially only — year as a starter in the league.