Interview with PFF Senior NFL Analyst Steve Palazzolo

In a rare English post on our blog, we’re delighted to have the opportunity to talk to PFF Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo about the new Falcons OC Zac Robinson. We discuss Robinson’s time at PFF and the outlook for the 2024 Falcons with him at the helm of the Kirk Cousins-led offense.

Q: Zac Robinson spent three years at PFF as a senior analyst, primarily grading Quarterbacks at the pro and college level. What was your initial impression of his background as a player and how it influenced the type of work he could do at PFF when he joined?

A: At the time in which Zac joined the company, PFF was in constant contact with former players and coaches. While most were helpful, not all former players and coaches were good fits to join the company and become one of our analysts. Zac immediately stood out as inquisitive about our system and willing to learn our rubric and terminology. His background as a successful college quarterback with experience in multiple NFL systems was instrumental in his ability to quickly become an analyst with the responsibility of reviewing final grades on quarterbacks and receivers. 

Q: During his stint at PFF he initially learned your grading system, which speaks for Robinson’s adaptability. Later on, you mentioned on the PFF Podcast that he improved it. Can you give us any insight into what kind of improvement he provided? Was there any particular aspect of the QB-game where he showed an exceptional or particularly insightful viewpoint?

A: Any improvement to the system was at the play-by-play level rather than anything holistic. Zac helped with identifying quarterback reads within route concepts and ensuring we had the proper expectations for what they could accomplish within a play. One of the most difficult parts of grading every play is when there are gray areas regarding communication between the quarterback and his pass protection and receivers. Zac helped sort out those questions as they arose.

Q: Robinson famously was a big Mahomes guy, when not everyone was so high on him, and you once told a story how he compared Mahomes to Sammy Baugh. That’s pretty archival knowledge for a draft comp. How nerdy is Zac Robinson?

A: Ha! Not really that nerdy, but that comparison stood out. He was more about identifying players who could play both within structure, but also with the natural playmaking that is needed to react to the game on the fly. Mahomes’ playmaking was evident in college and I think that was why Zac had to go back to archives for that comp.

Q: Robinson’s time at PFF was primarily focused on QB-grading, what other aspects of coaching that PFF deals with did he have contact with during that time? Do you remember any insights or discussions when it came to questions of positional value or neutral pass-rate?

A: Zac and I co-hosted a podcast called the “Big-Time Throwcast” for one season. We broke down recent QB performances in depth and discussed anything QB-related. He was also a part of our content team once we started a youtube channel, so much of his analysis is available from several years ago. One thing that stood out in my discussions with Zac was how well he understood what made a QB perform well or poorly, to the point where I believe he’d be an asset to a defensive coaching staff looking to attack opposing QB weaknesses. 

Q: In LA, Robinson was under a play-calling HC and mostly working with established, veteran QBs where he had to adapt to someone else’s offense. Now that he is the main bus driver of an NFL offense under a predominantly defensive HC, how do you think he will approach this new level of responsibility? What do you think does The Zac Robinson Offense(™) with Kirk Cousins under center look like?

A: Coaches are always thinking ahead about what they might do with full control and I believe Zac is no different. He’ll take the best of what he learned from Sean McVay and add his own wrinkles that he picked up along the way. In Atlanta, the big thing will be allowing an experienced quarterback in Cousins to get the ball to a strong group of playmakers. I believe that simple approach will prove effective. 

Q: And finally, moving away from Robinson, what’s your personal outlook on the 2024 Falcons? 

A: The Falcons were a solid team in 2023 that just needed better quarterback play to make a playoff run. The offseason additions on defense improved that side of the ball and they should be good on that side of the ball once again. Offensively, Cousins has always had a good group of pass catchers, and this year should be no different. I expect him to spread the ball around and have one of the better offenses in the league by the end of the year.

Thank you for your time!

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