Quinn’s Pro Career at a Crossroads

Brady Quinn - Broncos QB
Brady Quinn is staring down a crowded depth chart in Denver as his NFL career reaches a critical juncture. (Photo - Icon SMI)

The last Notre Dame team to appear in a BCS Bowl game was the 2006 squad that suffered a defeat at the hands of the LSU Tigers in the Sugar Bowl. That team featured numerous pro prospects that were drafted into the NFL – Brady Quinn, Victor Abiamiri, and Trevor Laws among others. Being that it has been a few years, and these players have had a chance to get acclimated to the pro league, we have a decent grasp on how their careers will play out.

For the next few weeks, we’ll look back on some of these players. We’ll see who has panned out, and who hasn’t. We’ll also talk about their future; what is expected of them in their pro career going foreword? With the help of Tommy Lawlor, who writes a weekly column for the Philadelphia Eagles, runs Scoutsnotebook.com (a site dedicated to the NFL draft and player scouting in general) and was also trained by a former NFL scout in player evaluation, we will look into what has made and broken these players’ careers so far, and what roles they may take on for their perspective teams in the future.

It’s only fitting that we start out with the heart and soul of the 2006 squad – Brady Quinn. Quinn started three and a half years for the Irish and took them to two BCS bowl games. Between single game, single season, career, and other miscellaneous stats, Quinn broke 36 Notre Dame records while on campus. Needless to say, it was hard to find a Notre Dame fan that did not love the guy, and personally, I had high expectations for him entering the draft.

I told anybody that would listen that Quinn was the next NFL star. And was I so crazy to think so? Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves. But even putting numbers aside, he showed an NFL arm, decent mobility, and the knack to rise up and play huge in big situations. We all remember his 4th quarter go-ahead drive against top ranked USC back in 2005, as well as marching the Irish 80 yards in the final minute to beat UCLA in 2006. Then when you throw in the fact that he ran a pro-style offense under a coach that mentored Tom Brady, there wasn’t much not to like.

Thought to be a top 10 pick in the 2007 NFL draft, Quinn fell all the way to #22, when the Cleveland Browns moved up to take him. Most thought that with the coaching he received in college, Quinn would be able to ride the bench for a year, and then take over as the starter his sophomore season. But then, something crazy happened. Little known Derek Anderson, who appeared to just be keeping the seat warm for Quinn in 2007, emerged out of nowhere to put up pro-bowl numbers. He threw for over 3,700 yards and 29 touchdowns. This earned Anderson another year on the job for 2008, which meant Brady would be holding a clipboard yet another year.

“Most people expected Anderson to build off his great year” Lawlor said. “Instead, he flopped mightily. Four different quarterbacks threw at least 21 passes for Cleveland in 2008, including Quinn.”

Gee, not quite the way you would want to go about grooming your young quarterback for the future…

“He failed to impress in a big way, but did offer some hope as he started the final 3 games of the season.”

Quinn would go on to win the starting job in 2009, and as Tommy put it, many thought he would finally show the talent that got him drafted in the first round.

“Didn’t happen.” Said Lawlor. “Quinn was bad and the offense was just as bad, putting up just 29 points in the first 3 games.”

At that point, Cleveland continued their game of musical quarterbacks and inserted Derek Anderson back into the starting lineup, only to have Quinn take the job back late in the season. Quinn showed some life in the last few games of the season, passing for over 300 yards and posting a 133.1 quarterback rating in a loss at Detroit, and playing well enough to net himself a 95.7 rating in another loss against San Diego, but at that point, it seemed like Cleveland had given up on Quinn becoming their next franchise quarterback. He was traded to Denver before last season, and did not attempt a pass last year.

As mentioned above, Quinn seemed to have the tools to be a starter for years at the NFL level…so what happened? Tommy took a shot at explaining.

“Mike Maycock made an interesting point prior to the 2007 NFL Draft. He said Quinn didn’t seem like a natural quarterback to him.”

Wait. What? The guy had played quarterback his entire life and shattered records at Notre Dame, what do you mean he wasn’t a “natural quarterback”?

“What Maycock meant was that Quinn had made himself into a college quarterback with hard work, but that he wasn’t necessarily born to play the position. That can catch up to you in the NFL. Decisions have to be made in seconds, you need instincts to make them, Quinn was lacking in that department.”

Oddly enough, the more I thought about Tommy and Maycock’s theory, the more it seemed to make sense. It’s common understanding that in college or high school, you can plug a smart, athletic kid into the quarterback position and he will thrive. The game is slower, and more simplistic. However, at higher levels of play, and as the game speeds up, the old “athlete who happens to play quarterback” usually does not turn out well.

What does Brady Quinn’s future hold? As an Irish fan who loved watching Brady on Saturday’s, it’s tough to say but it seems as if Quinn will be a career backup. The fact that he did not throw a pass all season last year is a very telling sign, especially considering the Denver quarterback situation is far from stable, and you have to think that if they had any confidence in Quinn, he would have at least gotten a chance to play last season.

“He still has the ability to be an NFL quarterback.” Lawlor claimed. “He just needs to find the right situation and take advantage of whatever playing time he gets.”

Only time will tell if Quinn ever does find that situation, but seeing him buried behind two names on the depth chart in Denver makes me think he will go down as the latest great college quarterback who just didn’t translate to the NFL.

We still love you Brady.

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  1. Brady IS a very good quaterback. Give him the the kind of offense Tom Brady enjoys and other successful QB’s in the NFL and you would see Brady put up some serious numbers. The Browns sucked when he was there. Totally sucked. Hence, they cleaned house, fired the coach, etc. I was glad he went to Denver but it’s hard to ignore the hype that Tim Tebow brings wherever he goes. I don’t know why Brady has taken a back seat to Tebow but I wonder if he was ever really given the chance last year in Denver. Hang in there, Brady. If not the Broncos, maybe you are a better fit elsewhere and they will have the offense to compliment your skills.

  2. I remember when he was at ND he could throw a pass down field and place it in the receivers hands but had difficulty completing a simple screen pass. He did much better with Weis but still struggled with accuracy.

  3. No mentor, a bad team, and an injury does not help your chances. He’s better off behind a top QB and learning what it takes to be a pro QB.

    1. You hit the nail right on the head. Even though the NFL game has become much more sophisitcated, coaches are still lug heads.

      Quinn needs a coach who believes in him, but also is building an entire team.

      No QB has made it in the last 30 years without a very good team around him and a coach who knows both leadership and good X’s and O’s.

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