“System quarterback.” It’s a label that spreads quickly this time of year and sticks to anything caught in its path like an oil spill.
Despite how hard former East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden tries, he has not been able to shed the stigma that comes attached to the phrase.
Carden, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year who in three years as a starter broke every major passing record at ECU, said those who feel his success is a product of the Pirates’ spread offense should think again.
“As far as reads, I would just say watch the film,” Carden told reporters during the NFL combine. “Watch the film. There’s plenty of times when I got to my second or third read or checked it down to a back. … I feel confident about the offense I ran. I was given that offense and I mastered that offense. I can’t help that it wasn’t pro-style.
“There have been plenty of people that ran pro-style offenses that have had trouble in the NFL. For me, I’m just looking forward to getting a new offense and trying to master that.”
Last season, Carden, 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, threw for 4,736 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was intercepted 10 times, leading the AAC with 359 passing yards per game.
He guided ECU to an 8-5 record and since the season ended has been invited to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where hoped to dispel the notion that he was a plug-in-and-play quarterback for the Pirates.
“For whatever reason, ECU’s offense has gotten some kind of thought as being a single-read offense, which is very far from the truth,” Carden said. “We have certain play-actions that are quick reads, but there are a lot of progression reads. There are safety reads.
“… It is simple at times, and based on speed and getting to the line and no-huddle and all that, but being down at the Senior Bowl and seeing those concepts and how similar they are to mine gave me some confidence.”
At the Senior Bowl, Carden completed four of nine passes for 70 yards. His play at the combine was adequate, not stellar.
“I performed well,” he said when asked about his performance. “I missed a couple throws, but was able to come back and make the next one. The process is all about dealing with adversity, and I handled it well.”
Carden is widely projected as a late-round draft pick or possibly a free-agent signee. He has been hailed for his heady play, but knocked for the system he plays in. There is also speculation that his arm may not Sunday-caliber, which is another notion he will look to disprove at ECU’s pro day on Thursday.
While there are plenty of questions surrounding Carden, there’s no doubt he believes in himself.
“My plan is continue to get better and feel that I have completely dominated my pro day when it is over.”