Saturday, April 28, 2007

This Slide Saved Brady Quinn

I'll be honest, the title of this post is a little hyperbolic. Quinn wasn't resigned to failure if he ended up with Miami or Minnesota or was Cleveland's first pick. That's not what I'm saying. I guess what I'm saying is that I was prepared to hate Brady Quinn before today. And now... well, I'm pulling for the kid; and I think a lot of people are pulling for him with me.

Quinn was the golden boy before this draft and for those outside of the 10000 mile reach of South Bend fandom, Brady Quinn represents all that is wrong with the world of football ratings. First, he comes from Notre Dame. Notre Dame is like Duke, the Yankees, the Cowboys and the Lakers. If you're a sports fan, you either love or hate those teams. There is no middle ground. But nationwide, there's a bit of a love affair with Notre Dame. It is because of this love affair that some Fighting Irish prospects in the past have been rated higher than they deserved solely because of the name on their jersey (See Rick Mirer). The Irish usually play an ok schedule, but they also play a ton of cream puffs. So when you look at the overall stats of any Notre Dame player, they are usually inflated compared to players from better conferences. Yet every year some Notre Dame player gets taken too early (last year it was Maurice Stovall but the list is endless) and still the following year we get drawn back into to their Siren song because they are Notre Dame. Notre Dame prospects, more than any other school, climb the charts due to their "intangibles" and "coachability" and "poise" and some other some other immeasurable that only Fighting Irish players seem to possess. If these players came out Purdue, they'd be 4th and 5th rounders. Now clearly since Notre Dame is able to recruit better talent than those other schools, it is reasonable to surmise that all things being equal, the Notre Dame players were at one time more highly rated than players from a crappier school, so there is some reason to the rhyme. But by and large, Notre Dame gets way too much love.

The result of all of this irrational love is that Notre Dame isn't the most sympathetic of teams and neither are their players. So being that Brady came into this draft the 4 year starting QB for Notre Dame, and he is a dead ringer for an Abercrombie model and he's not measurably better than any of the quarterbacks after Jamarcus Russell yet was projected to go in the first 6 picks, he wasn't the most sympathetic character coming into the draft. It didn't help that when Quinn's agent, Tom Condon, realized that Quinn was sliding, possibly as far as 9th, he shipped Brady out to the Sports Talk Show circuit in a cheap attempt to create enough fan groundswell from the Browns, Vikings or even Lions to grab him ahead of Miami. It was this straw that broke the camels back for many people who already thought Brady was too highly rated. It's one thing to not be good enough to be a top ten pick but be rated as one. It's a whole 'nother ball game to not be good enough and to go from place to place explaining to fans why you are good enough. That's just pathetic. It was because of this display that there were people, myself included, who were hoping he would slide out of the top ten to show that teams are smarter than that and these cheap PR stunts don't work.

When Minnesota passed on him at 7, I thought "good for them." And I was not alone. EVERYONE I know was hoping Brady would fall. They all had their reasons but it was generally similar sentiment to mine. So it was a little surprising that Brady Quinn became the most sympathetic figure of this or any draft. If you had told me two months ago that he was going in the 20's, I would have thought it unthinkable. If you told me this on Thursday of last week, I would have smacked you right in the scrotum. So it was even more surprising that this fall was the best thing that ever happened to Quinn. Here's why:

1. The Browns fans didn't want him at 3. They recognized he was a reach and they've reached too much. Plus they've done well recently in drafts. Wimbley is a stud, Braylon Edwards can play and if Winslow didn't get in that motorcycle accident, he'd be a top 5 pick. They didn't need to reach for a QB this year, they needed the best player. Most people thought that would be Adrian Peterson, but Joe Thomas is a great pick for them. You can't be upset about it. So Browns fans had to be satisfied that their team actually had a plan and were making strides toward building a decect team (around a very good defense). You figure they would grab a QB in the second round, maybe Stanton, Edwards or Beck and move on conservatively from there. But then Brady starts falling, and falling, and falling. And by midway through the second round, you start to realize that it makes sense for the Browns to move up and grab him. In the 20's, Brady Quinn isn't an overrated reach from an overinflated program, he's a potential star who's inexplicably slid too far and HAS TO BE the best player left on anyone's board, and is only available because no one else needs a QB. At that point, you do what it takes to grab him because someone else will and you'll be stuck with second round QB when you could've grabbed the "2nd best QB" in the draft for a pick next year when the QB crop is no better than this year. So in terms of becoming popular in Cleveland, at 3, Quinn needs to produce and is heavily scrutinized. At 22, the Cleveland Browns fans are ecstatic to have him on their team.

2. For the fan without a stake in the Brady Quinn sweepstakes, it was clear that he was way overrated. No one could explain why he was any more sound than any other QB in the draft. When asked why he was better than Stanton, Edwards or Kolb, the answer was "well, Brady Quinn is more poised and confident and he's a leader and understands the game...." but when you compare the stats and stats against good teams, Quinn looked beyond pedestrian. He looked average. When players are irrationally rated higher than their peers despite the stats or reasoned explanation, those players usually bear more criticism than their peers (see Derek Jeter and Tom Brady). Quinn was one of those guys. I couldn't WAIT for him to fall. I was tweaking my final draft this morning and finished the first round before realizing that I had left Quinn completely out of it. I didn't think he would fall so far, I just liked how the other players fit with the teams in the first round. Since I was trying to predict what teams would actually do, I put Quinn back in knowing he would eventually be picked. So when he started falling, I rejoiced (see my draft commentary). I did so because I figured there was no way Miami would pass up on him. But then Miami made one of the worst first round picks in the history of any sport ever, and Quinn started falling way too far, and he started talking to the reporters, and he made a joke about ordering pizza... you just started feeling bad for him. As much as I wanted NFL GMs to teach him and his agent a lesson, I didn't want to embarrass the kid. Plus, he's not that bad. So then you start pulling for him. Your mindset changes. You go from hoping a team won't take him to wondering who can move up to take him and what team he'd be best for and essentially you start to hope he gets put in a position where he can shine. I've never wanted anything positive for Brady Quinn in my whole life and now I'm hoping that when the Dolphins come to Cleveland on October 14th that he kicks the ever loving shit out of them. And in talking to friends of mine, they felt the same way. Because of his day on Saturday, Brady Quinn has been knocked off his high horse and now people want to see him get back up. It's such a compelling story regardless of whether or not you liked him to begin with that while he may have proved his critics right by falling so far, there are few people who after seeing him fall don't now want to see him do well.

So all-in-all, Brady's fall was the best PR stunt he could have pulled. And the Browns coming back into the first round and grabbing him--almost in disbelief that it would even be possible to get such a player at 22--is storybook stuff. I said in an early post that I have a hard time feeling bad for Brady Quinn, and that's the truth, but I feel a lot differently about him today than I did 4 days ago; and I would wager that I'm not alone.

1 comment:

rstiles said...

I live near Cleveland and I agree, most of the Browns fans did not want Quinn at #3...but when he started to slide and they realized they could walk away with Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn - Phil Savage had to go and get him...