Looking For Brady

by Tommy Lawlor  –  http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

Eagles blogger Brian Solomon wrote a piece about how to draft a Pro Bowl QB. He has some data worth checking out. Brian wasn’t focused on the Eagles, but just about drafting QBs in general. We’re getting ready to see one of the most interesting QB classes in recent history and where they go. For those of you with short attention spans…draft QBs early if you want Pro Bowl players.

Brian’s post ties into something that has been bugging me since I watched the Brady 6, an excellent ESPN special. I highly recommend watching that. The special looks back at the QB class of 2000 and wonders how Tom Brady fell to the 6th round and had 6 guys go before him. The special interviews a ton of people and all the Brady advocates talk about his heart and toughness and that type of stuff. “There is no way to measure his heart at the Combine”.

Brilliant. Let’s get rid of the Combine and Pro Days and just take guys with heart. Let’s do it. I can’t wait to see the QB battle Michael Robinson and Danny Wuerffel. I watched Robinson carry Penn State on his back at times. He once knocked out a DB who tried to tackle him. That’s toughness, competitiveness, and heart. And Wuerffel put up with Mike Ditka. That shows incredible heart. He had intangibles coming out his butt.

Guess what? Robinson just wasn’t a polished enough passer to make it in the NFL as a QB. That’s no slight on him. He was a terrific college QB and then transitioned into a different role in the NFL. Wueffel had brains and skills, but just lacked the physical ability needed to play.

I had Tom Brady rated as a 2nd round player back in 2000. I still had Gio Carmazzi ahead of him. Chris Redman as well. And all of them were definitely behind Chad Pennington, the only 1st rounder that I saw. I liked Brady a lot. He was pro ready and his ability to lead comebacks was a huge positive in my book. This wasn’t a guy who played with a 3 or 4 TD lead every week (are you listening Andy Dalton?).

The NFL was nervous about Brady because he was so unathletic and because he got such little support from Lloyd Carr. Had Carr told Drew Henson to sit and watch Brady in 1999, Tom would have been a mid-round pick at worst. NFL teams liked Brady, but they’re thinking “Michigan is willing to bench this guy for a Freshman and they’ve been with Tom for years. What do they know that we don’t?”. That scared teams away.

Brady landed in a good spot. He got to sit for a year and learn from a veteran QB and a smart coaching staff (Weis and Belichick). Brady then got on the field with low expectations. Fans/the media weren’t ripping him for every mistake because this was a 6th rounder. Compare that to the scrutiny that Mark Sanchez deals with. Think about the pressure JaMarcus Russell was under. He was brought to Oakland to save the franchise. The attitude when Brady hit the field was “just don’t make mistakes”. The best thing that ever happened to Tom Brady (not involving Bridget Moynahan or Gisele Bundchen) was falling to the 6th round.

I hope people understand what an anomaly Tom Brady is. You don’t develop elite QBs from that late very often. Johnny Unitas had a rough start to his NFL career. He was cut by the Steelers and playing sandlot football when the Colts gave him a chance. Most of your stars (Manning, Marino, Elway, Bradshaw, Aikman, etc. were 1st round picks). Several were #1 overall. Joe Montana was a 3rd rounder, about what Brady should have been. Occasionally you will find a good QB late, but that simply isn’t a position where you can develop guys into top flight starters on a regular basis. Need a MLB or G or C? Go get them late in the draft. QB? You better go early…or hope you landed the lottery ticket.

Taking guys with “a big heart” or “gamers” doesn’t guarantee you anything. Remember Byron Leftwich being carried by teammates up the field? That’s an image that I’ll have forever. He didn’t want to come off the field, but wasn’t able to run so he got carried to the LOS. That’s a warrior. How’d things go in the NFL for him? QB is the toughest position because you need the physical, mental, and emotional ability to succeed in the NFL. You also need the right circumstances. Joe Montana isn’t the same guy outside of SF. He would have been really good, but not a legend. Same for Brady and NE. These guys had the right coaches and players around them to max out their abilities. Listen to Trent Dilfer talk about playing QB for Tony Dungy in Tampa. The system was incredibly simplistic. The offense lacked the creativity or the kind of playmakers who can make a basic playbook come alive. QBs were miserable down there. That changed when Jon Gruden came to town. Suddenly the offense was good enough to win some tough games and they won the Super Bowl.

The QB class of 2011 is highly overrated. There are a couple of 1st round talents, but will probably be 4 or 5 guys taken in the 1st round. Expectations will be high. These guys better hope they land in the right spot or 10 years from now they’ll be used as examples in an ESPN special on how not to draft QBs.

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