Quarterback Dan Orlovsky assumes role of player and coach for Rams
In seven of his 12 seasons as an NFL quarterback, Dan Orlovsky did not throw a regular-season pass.
He did not play a single snap in five of those seasons, most recently in 2016 when he backed up Matt Stafford with the Detroit Lions.
Orlovsky could experience a similar fate this season.
And that would be just fine with the Rams, who signed the veteran to mentor younger quarterbacks Jared Goff and Sean Mannion.
Goff, 22, was the first pick in the 2016 draft. His development has been the focal point of every executive decision made about the offense, including the hiring of offense-minded head coach Sean McVay.
Mannion, 25, is a third-year pro who has played in only two NFL games.
So Orlovsky, 33, embraces his role as a sage elder.
“It’s really exciting to be in a quarterback room that’s very ripe,” Orlovsky said. “It’s really cool to have the opportunity to have an impact and kind of be valued in that respect.”
Orlovsky, who signed a one-year contract potentially worth $1.1 million, does have NFL game experience.
He has played in 27 regular-season games, starting 12, during a career that includes two stints with the Lions and others with the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has passed for 3,132 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions.
The 6-foot-5 Orlovsky also has gained knowledge from his time spent around quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Stafford and others.
“He can explain some of the experiences he’s had different than a coaching perspective, but from a player perspective,” McVay said.
Orlovsky has imparted practical advice and wisdom, Goff and Mannion said. He also has challenged, motivated and instilled camaraderie among the quarterbacks.
“He’s brought a lot — just having someone who’s been through years of the NFL,” Goff said. “He has so much knowledge on stuff me and Sean couldn’t possibly have just through the experience he’s had.
“It’s somebody that’s standing right next to you who’s taken shots in his career. He’s done it, so you hear it from him and you believe it.”
Said Mannion: “For me to be able to ask him, ‘Hey, how do you prepare for a game week? What’s your routine look like getting ready for practice or pregame?’ It’s been invaluable to me and to Jared.”
Along with signing a proven left tackle and a receiver to stabilize the offense, the Rams made it an offseason priority to find a veteran quarterback to tutor Goff and Mannion.
Rams executives gave coaches a list of candidates.
Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, a former assistant at Purdue, had recruited Orlovsky as a high school player in Connecticut. Olson also was on the Lions’ staff when they selected Orlovsky in the fifth round of the 2005 draft after a college career at UConn.
Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was on the Texans staff when Orlovsky was on the roster in 2009.
Orlovsky, Olson said, provides Goff and Mannion with “a good sounding board” and “another voice to bounce things off of,” in the meeting room and on the field.
“Dan’s a very competitive player and has great leadership qualities but he understands his role here — and that role is to help develop Jared and Sean,” Olson said. “He understands right now where he is at in his career and it’s all about trying to help in that room.”
It was the scenario Orlovsky was looking for after spending the last three seasons with the Lions.
Orlovsky said he considered opportunities with other teams, but signed with the Rams in July because of the influence he could have on his younger contemporaries.
“If it was my only option, I would have gone to a team where the starter was already a guy and a dude and playing at high level,” he said. “But I really wanted to feel like I had an impact on the younger kids.”
Goff and Mannion have impressed the 13th-year pro, who said both could be “high level” NFL players.
“I’m still taken aback daily that he’s 22,” Orlovsky said of Goff during the second week of training camp. “He’s got really good maturity but he’s 22.
“I mean what were you doing when you were 22? You weren’t the face of a billion-dollar company…. He’s got this really big desire to grow and learn and do it the right way. He just right now doesn’t know how.
“It’s not because of lack of want to. It’s just an innocence. And that’s why we have the staff that we have and one of the reasons I’m here.”
Arm strength and “football intelligence” are Mannion’s calling cards, Orlovsky said.
“He throws the ball a ton,” he said. “He picks up things really quickly.”
Goff played two series in last week’s preseason victory over the Dallas Cowboys before giving way to Mannion. Orlovsky played late in the fourth quarter, completing one of two passes for three yards.
Goff is expected to play through the first quarter on Saturday against the Oakland Raiders, with Mannion and possibly Orlovsky finishing the game.
And though he has not played in a regular-season game since 2015 and could be vulnerable if the Rams decide to carry only two quarterbacks, Orlovsky continues to prepare as if he were a starter.
“I’ve always prepared like I’m going to take the first snap of the season,” he said. “I don’t know how to do it any other way.”
The Rams held their final training camp practice at UC Irvine and began moving to their facility in Thousand Oaks. Practices are no longer open to the public…. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald remains a holdout with no impending resolution. “He’s a very important part of what we want to do,” McVay said. “In the meantime, we’ve got a lot of great guys out here that are working hard and getting ready for this Oakland game and just approaching every single day with the situations that we’re throwing at them.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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