McClain: It’s not a coincidence C.J. Stroud’s game is similar to Warren Moon


(SportsRadio 610) - Warren Moon, the greatest quarterback in Houston pro football history, might not be president of the C.J. Stroud fan club, but he may be enthusiastic enough to be a vice president.

Moon, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 -- his first year of eligibility – and is part of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024, has been watching Stroud’s career since he became the starter at Ohio State in 2021, his redshirt freshman season.

“I love the way C.J. throws the ball,” Moon said during a recent trip to Houston from his home in Seattle. “He’s a pure passer, and he’s going to get better and better. And that’ll be scary.”

During his 10-year career with the Oilers (1984-93), Moon was known as a pure passer whose coaches and teammates loved the way he threw the ball.

Stroud has a lot of the same characteristics as Moon. He was 6-3, 221 when he played for the Oilers. Stroud is 6-3, 215. During games, Moon was always calm during chaos, seldom showed emotion and never lost his poise.

But, according to coaches, teammates and opponents, the most impressive thing about Moon as a nine-time Pro Bowl selection was the way he threw the ball – perfect spirals whether he was protected in the pocket or was forced to throw on the run. His mechanics were flawless. It’s not a coincidence that Stroud throws the ball a lot like Moon – tight spirals with mesmerizing touch and placement.

“My dad used to make me watch Warren because he was such a pure passer,” Stroud said. “He wanted me to work on trying to throw the ball like that. I watched a lot of his games with the Oilers.”

Stroud said he hasn’t met Moon but would like to. Moon spends so much time in Houston visiting his four children and eight grandkids that he’s bound to meet Stroud soon.

“I started watching C.J. when he played at Ohio State,” Moon said. “He had to wait his turn as a freshman because (Justin) Fields was the starter. At first, I wasn’t sure about how good he’d be in the NFL because he played with three first-round receivers in his first year as a starter (Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njiba, all first-round picks). As a sophomore, he played with another great one, Marvin Harrison Jr., who’ll be a high first-round pick.”

Last season, Stroud and Harrison were the best quarterback-receiver combination in the country. Another of Stroud’s receivers, Emeka Egbuka, also could be drafted in the first round.

“When I watched C.J. at Ohio State, he was a great passer,” Moon said. “He mostly threw from the pocket with great accuracy. But I didn’t know if he moved around enough for today’s NFL to be successful. Today, you’ve got to have some movement skills. Then, against Georgia (42-41 loss in playoff semifinal), he showed he does have some athleticism when he needs it.”

In that one-point loss to the Bulldogs, Stroud ran 12 times for 34 yards. In a victory over Northwestern, he ran six times for 79 yards. It wasn’t a lack of mobility that kept him from showing his mobility. As he pointed out at the scouting combine, Stroud had so many outstanding receivers getting open he would have been selfish – not to mention foolish – to run rather than getting them the ball.

Since he arrived in Houston, Stroud has proved his mobility by running when he has to. He had double-digit rushes in back-to-back games before running for an 8-yard touchdown in the victory at Cincinnati.

“When he came out for the draft, I knew he was the top passer,” Moon said. “He had a strong arm, and he was accurate. C.J. had the best pure arm of the group, and he’s been showing that since he’s been in the league.

“I’d still like to see them get him on the move even more and let him throw outside the pocket because, at some point, defensive players are going to know where he is. And you know how defenses are in this league: They figure out what your strengths are, and they’ll do whatever they can to try and take that away from you.”

Moon, who threw for 527 yards – second-most in NFL history -- in a December, 1990 victory at Kansas City. He battled rain, wind and freezing temperature in his three-touchdown, no-interception performance. Moon marvels at Stroud’s last two performances in victories over the Bucs and Bengals.

In the 39-37, come-from-behind conquest of Tampa Bay, Stroud threw for 470 yards and five touchdowns without an interception, including the game-winner to Tank Dell with six seconds remaining.

“I was surprised, and I was even more surprised because it was against a team like Tampa Bay, which is known for their defense,” Moon said. “(Head coach) Todd Bowles is known as one of the better defensive coaches in this league. For C.J. to be able to do it against Bowles was so impressive.

“Watching him go down the field for the winning touchdown, very surgeon-like, he showed no nerves. He was cool, calm and poised.”

Just like Moon used to be when he led the Oilers to the playoffs for a league-best seven consecutive seasons.

“I like the way C.J. has handled the offense, in general,” Moon said. “Most rookies usually have a tough time getting the play calls and getting the guys on the line of scrimmage while the clock is ticking, which can lead to delay-of-game calls, but nothing seems to faze him.

“His team’s doing a lot better than people expected, and C.J. is capable of being one of the top-five quarterbacks in this league. A lot of people are talking about him being MVP when you see how the team’s doing and you compare his numbers to the numbers of the most elite quarterbacks in the league.”

As general manager Nick Caserio and coach DeMeco Ryans continue to add players to the offense, just how good can Stroud be?

“He’s balanced a couple of games when he’s had less than 200 yards with some really big games,” Moon said. “He doesn’t have the greatest talent around him, but as they surround him with more talent, what he’s going to be able to do is going to be scary, scary-good.”

John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on SportsRadio 610 and Monday, Thursday and Sunday on Texans Radio, also on SportsRadio 610. He writes five columns a week and does three Houtopia Football Podcasts for

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