Name: Cardale Jones
College: Ohio State
NFL games played: 1
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: Cardale Jones was originally an LT and DE before converting to QB, but didn’t win the starting QB job in High School until his Junior Year.
Where to start with Cardale Jones? Everyone knows ‘that’ tweet. Everybody remembers him leading Ohio State to a National Championship in his first three starts, only to get benched the following season. What most people don’t know is how Jones ended up at Ohio State in the first place.
Before Cardale Jones became a national icon, he was just an average High School kid with a troubled background. Born in a single parent home (he doesn’t know who his father is) as one of six children, his mother worked long hours to put food on the table. That left a young Cardale to his own devices, and he’d often be found roaming the streets or sleeping at a friend’s house.
While in High School, Jones would be put in contact with Michelle Nash, who managed a daycare before becoming a mentor to at-risk juveniles. The very first day she met Cardale, she couldn’t help but notice his far-too-small flip flops that were causing his feet to hit the pavement.
Going against her usual protocol, she took Cardale to FootLocker to buy a new pair. Cardale guessed that he was a size 10. He wasn’t. He needed size 12s, but he explained to Nash - with a smile - that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten a new pair of shoes. Nash ran out of the store so Cardale couldn’t see her tears.
Nash also bought Cardale a cell phone, so that the two could stay in touch. She probably wasn’t expecting a call from Cardale a month later at 2 AM, asking her to come and get him. “Ms. Michelle, will you come get me? I don’t want to live like this no more.”
Nash bought Cardale an air mattress, but soon realized it would be a more permanent arrangement, and helped Cardale decorate his bedroom. He happily remarked that it was the first time he’d ever had his own room. Nash ran outside again.
With the stability that Nash brought to his life, Jones won the starting QB job in High School and became a 3* recruit on major recruiting sites. His heart was set on Ohio State. There was a mutual interest there, but the Buckeyes had just signed 5* QB prospect Braxton Miller in the same recruiting class, and it wouldn’t make sense to bring in Jones that same year. Besides, there were concerns that he wasn’t yet mature enough or disciplined enough to buy into the Ohio State vision, and so they decided to ‘Grayshirt’ Jones. He’d voluntarily spend a semester at a military academy, helping him to focus as well as buying him an extra year of eligibility.
‘Voluntarily’ may not be the right word. Cardale went to the military academy, but he pushed the rules to the limit. He’d regularly butt heads with authority figures at Fork Union, and broke school rules by hiding a cell phone - which was forbidden - for the entire semester.
Cardale might have hated Fork Union, but he made it out alive and was heading to Ohio State - without his Fork Union uniform. He threw that in the trash at the airport.
The military academy hadn’t changed the QB as much as the Ohio State coaching staff might have hoped. According to his roommate (and now Indianapolis Colts safety) Tyvis Powell, Jones was essentially addicted to video games, and would regularly skip class to play them. Offensive Coordinator and QB coach Tom Herman made Jones wear a dunce cap in meetings because of his refusal to take his responsibilities seriously. And, of course, there was that tweet:
Jones was suspended for a game for that tweet, which made national newspapers and turned the Ohio State backup QB into a household name. This wasn’t another case of Cardale being Cardale, though. Far from it. He’d studied hard for a sociology test, and only gotten a B - this tweet was just his unique sense of humor on social media coming to the forefront. Ill advised, but not ill intended.
That’s not the only example of Jones’ unique sense of humor on Twitter, either. There was that time he tweeted his intent to transfer to the University of Akron, before declaring the day ‘May Fools.’
But both of those tweets pale in comparison to possibly the greatest tweet of all time:
Man I wish everyone stop saying I beat a kid in the hospital 91-35.... It was 98-35, had 91 with 1:26 left in the 4th pic.twitter.com/TAJxefv5A4— Cardale Jones (@Cardale7_) February 10, 2015
That tweet - again - made national headlines. What people didn’t report was that when Jared Foley (the ‘kid’ who Jones beat 98-35) suffered a stroke, Jones turned up to the hospital as soon as he was allowed to visit, and would stay past visiting hours with him, talking.
Four days after he’d gone to the hospital and beaten Foley 98-35, Cardale Jones led Ohio State to a 42-20 victory over the Oregon Ducks to lift the National Championship. An incredible feat, considering he’d made his first ever college start just two games prior.
When Braxton Miller had shoulder surgery that ruled him out for the season, Cardale Jones became the backup to J.T. Barrett. Barrett would injure his ankle in the fourth quarter against Michigan, making Jones the next man up - and making his first ever collegiate start against Wisconsin (and their #2 ranked defense) for the Big 10 Championship. No pressure.
Ohio State won 59-0.
That took them to the CFB Playoff Semi Final, against Alabama. Jones would lead the Ohio State to 42 points in a seven point victory, before completing the fairy tale against Oregon 12 days later. From an unknown to a national hero, and the most talked about athlete in the country. Jones was on top of the world. For about six months.
He was given the starting job the following season as Braxton Miller moved to WR, but the more he played, the worse he looked and he was eventually benched after seven games. He didn’t get the job back and decided to declare for the draft instead of going back to Ohio State for his Senior Year, being taken in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Jones was inactive for the first 15 games of the Bills season before seeing time in Week 17, going 6/11 for 96 yards and one interception. This year, the Bills drafted Nathan Peterman and signed T.J. Yates as an FA, meaning Jones was fourth on the QB depth chart and the odd man out. The Chargers gave up a conditional seventh to bring the young QB to Los Angeles, and here we are.
Cardale Jones is not going to be the starter at any time this year. He’s not going to start next year, either. This is a long term project, and there’s a heavy emphasis on the word long.
Remember, Jones didn’t start as a QB until his Junior Year of High School, and he only threw 270 passes in the entirety of his college career. He’s extremely raw. The arm talent is there, but everything else? Not so much.
Jones was great in that three game stretch largely because Ohio State had Devin Smith, an incredible deep threat who suited his game perfectly. Jones lacks accuracy, his footwork and mechanics are a mess, and he still needs a lot of work in the film room, but one thing he can do is throw a fantastic deep ball. He’d throw it, Devin Smith would make the adjustment and haul it in for the TD. When Smith left Ohio State for the NFL, the rest of Jones’ weaknesses were magnified.
I know I sound overly negative on Cardale Jones, but it’s a trade I really like. Considering how little he’s actually played the position, it’s not a surprise he’s as raw as he is. Jones has an incredible arm and is a decent runner to boot. (Think of a slower Cam Newton - he’s not going to be pulling out any 50-yard scrambles, but at 6’5, 250 lbs, he can absolutely barrel over defenders and fight for first downs.) Everything else needs a lot of work, but he’s going to be given the opportunity to sit for two years - at least - and learn from one of the smartest QBs in the game. If he doesn’t pan out, the Chargers have wasted a seventh round pick that they would have wasted anyway.
Jones went back to school this summer to finish his degree and graduate, and he did it in the most Cardale Jones way possible:
I like this guy.