To the outsider’s eye, even those keenly aware of the inner-workings of the NFL, the third-string quarterback on an NFL team can be the invisible man, someone who seeps into the woodwork, prone to get lost and only arise when summoned by the coaches or yanked into a mundane chore no one else wants to do.
Kyle Lauletta made sure he wasn’t ghostly. The 2013 Downingtown East High graduate and former University of Richmond star wanted to make himself tangible, as the New York Giants’ fourth-round pick in 2018. Backing up Eli Manning and Alex Tanney, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback was the unofficial greeter to any new skill position player on the Giants last year, and there were many.If a new wide receiver came in, or a tight end or running back were just signed, Lauletta would be the one pulling them aside to see if they needed someone to throw to them, or quiz them on the offense on his own time. He created a role for himself by filling out self-scout reports for Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula, showing the Giants’ offensive tendencies that opposing teams may try to exploit.
Lauletta, 24, who lives in Exton, (in Chester County) dressed for three games his rookie year, appearing in one, and finished 0-for-5 passing with an interception. He, regrettably, received more attention for something off the field last October than anything he did on it.
In many ways, Lauletta learned a great deal. He had his character questioned, he learned patience, time management away from the field, and how to break down film and see the nuances NFL defenses pose through the eyes of one of the true masters of the game, future Hall of Famer Manning.
“Last year was a challenge in a lot of ways,” said Lauletta, who shredded the Richmond record book, passing for a school-record 10,465 career passing yards and 73 touchdowns, and a single-game record six touchdown passes in Richmond’s 68-21 win over Howard in 2017. “I enjoy feeling part of the team, whatever my role will be this season. I want to continue contributing to our success.
“I know as a third-string quarterback who was hardly active, that was obviously tough. But it’s why I took so much pride in watching and breaking down film. It’s why every single week I did a self-scout report for our coaches, basically showing what a defense may be seeing in our offensive tendencies.“It was my way of contributing to our team every week. With Eli, I want to help him as much as I can, and that means helping everyone around Eli learn what they have to do. If it means going over basics, I did it and I’ll continue doing it. To be a good teammate, I have to be more proactive doing that next season.”
Teaching them helped Lauletta, too.
“People say the biggest difference is the speed of the game, but for me, the most demanding thing was protections because of the complex NFL defenses,” Lauletta said. “As far as the Xs and Os, that was it for me, being able to command the line of scrimmage and who’s protected and where. Eli has done that flawlessly throughout his career. In college, the protections are pretty basic. It gets much more difficult in the NFL, because there are so many different variations on the fronts. The defenses try to confuse you as to who the down rushers are and who’s dropping back into zone coverage.
“Some teams design certain blitzes where they can rush five guys into a six-man protection, with your running back still getting eaten up in protection. Protections are what I asked Eli and Alex Tanney the most about, and those two are as smart as they come. They saw so much and they’re so experienced. The closer your offensive line and quarterback can be, the more successful you can be in the NFL. With the Tennessee Titans, for example, it was difficult pre-snap to know who was coming. If you don’t know the protections, you’re lost.”
From March 17 to April 10, Lauletta has been spending time in Los Angeles, California, near UCLA’s campus, working out with NFL Rookie of the Year, Giants’ star Saquon Barkley, and receiver Sterling Shepard. Lauletta had a small surgical procedure done on January 4, scoping out his right knee, and for the first time is 100-percent healthy in a year.
“I feel great and I had a strong last month,” said Lauletta, whose mechanics have sharpened under the eye of his former IMG quarterback coach, Adam Behrends. “I’ve spent three months rehabbing and I feel really good. My legs are great and I haven’t started really throwing until I got out here working out. I got a good opportunity to throw to Saquon and Sterling, and some of my old Richmond teammates.
“I would say this is probably the biggest and strongest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m still making strides on getting my explosiveness back. That’s what was missing last year. I’ve been working hard to recover from the surgery.”What’s really improved is Lauletta’s hips. He’s improved his balance, staying upright and not leaking toward the left. He’s in pursuit of the effortless throwing motions you see from Baker Mayfield and Aaron Rodgers, snapping the hips, unwind and torque.
“Those guys are great at it, I mean Aaron Rodgers doesn’t even look like he’s trying, he doesn’t reach the ball back very far. He just has very violent hip torque, and that’s the motion that I’m trying to get,” Lauletta said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better just by being out here a few weeks.”
Lauletta has also put behind him a traffic incident that occurred last October, when he was arrested for various motor vehicle and related disorderly persons offenses in Weehawken, New Jersey. On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, the criminal charges of eluding police and the subsequent disorderly persons charges were dropped in a Hudson County Court, and Lauletta pled guilty to the disorderly persons offense and two tickets for an improper turn and disregarding an officer’s instructions.
Lauletta has no criminal history. In fact, he’s more apt to stop traffic to help an old lady across the street than be arrested for anything. To those that know him, the news was laughable, and met with disbelief. Yet, Lauletta’s character was excoriated by certain media.
Charlie Fisher, now the wide receivers coach at Arizona State under head coach Herm Edwards, the former Eagle and ESPN analyst, was Lauletta’s offensive coordinator in 2015 at Richmond under then-Spiders’ head coach Danny Rocco, now the head coach at Delaware.
“When I heard, one of our younger graduate assistants said, ‘Did you hear about Lauletta? I said, ‘What about him?’ He said, ‘He was arrested.’ I said, ‘Arrested? For what?’” recalled Fisher, who has over 40 years of coaching experience. “I was wondering what everyone was talking about. No one arrests this kid. Then I heard about the traffic incident and I know a little about the scenario, because I work here with (former New York Giants’ linebacker) Antonio Pierce.
“He was a Giant and he knows the traffic in that area is so bad, especially if you’re late. Kyle dropped his shield. I told Kyle that’s really uncharacteristic of you, because he’s always the first one in the building. He would sit and game plan with me at night and he would have a book full of notes. You trace a little bit of that toward the workload of an NFL quarterback and the amount of preparation it takes, and he may have gotten a little mentally tired.
“It was an off-week and he dropped his shield a little bit, but he also told me, ‘Hey coach that will never happen again!’ Anyone that knows Kyle knows that wasn’t Kyle Lauletta. I coached this kid; I recruited him; I know this kid. The way he was depicted by the media was totally wrong. The media tends to overlook a small situation that was way, way overblown. I’ve coached a ton of kids for over 40 years and this kid is as fun a kid as I’ve ever coached. He’s the kind of kid who you would want to date your daughter. Danny Rocco would say the same thing about Kyle. He has a bright future.
“I know the Giants like Kyle a lot. He has the attributes anyone would like in the NFL: He’s tough, and he’s smart.”
“I had Kyle for four years,” Rocco said. “The one thing we’re all so fast to lose today is perspective. Kyle Lauletta is a great character young man who’s from a great family. He cares about his teammates. We’re living in an age where it might look good for some people who appear to care. Kyle genuinely cares.
“Kyle always did everything that was expected of all of our student-athletes at Richmond. Outliers occur every day and that incident was an outlier of Kyle Lauletta. That’s just not that kid. He made a bad decision in assessing that moment, but Kyle is one of those guys who’s able to learn and improve on everything that happens in his life. He’ll move forward and I’m sure he has. I always loved Kyle’s attitude. It was always, ‘Coach what do you want me to do?’
“That moment certainly does not define who Kyle is.”
As for Lauletta, he’s turned the page.
“The people who know me, the Giants, they know what I’m about,” Lauletta said. “The best part of that whole deal was the response in the locker room and reaching out. I was upset. It was a tough time for me. I know that’s not me. I’ve built up my character and who I am.
“One mistake won’t change that. Eli reached out and told me to keep my head up; that it was blown out of proportion. He told me that if I needed him, just let him know. That meant a lot to me.”
With the draft coming up, Lauletta also hears the talk about the draft. The Giants, after finishing 5-11 at the bottom of the NFC East, have the sixth and 17th overall picks, acquired from the Cleveland Browns in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. There is speculation that the Giants may draft a quarterback, with many respected mock drafts having the Giants taking Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the sixth overall pick.
“I don’t really pay attention to any of that talk, unless I go on-line, and remember this time last year, everybody had me going to the New England Patriots and how I’m Bill Belichick’s perfect quarterback,” Lauletta recalled. “That didn’t have any validity. A lot of that stuff is media driven. The media can make up whatever narrative they want.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do with the first-round pick, but who cares? If they draft a quarterback, I have to be better than anyone they draft, so bring it on. If they draft someone, he’ll have my support. He’s my teammate, but it will also fuel me even more and make me work that much harder.
“I’m competitive as hell. If I want to start in the NFL someday, I still have to be better.”