Skip to content

For quarterbacks, no one knows if they can do it until they do it

Brady Getty Images

As the weeks of throwing footballs against a defense made up of Lennay Kekua and 10 of her family members yields to throwing footballs with a red no-touchy jersey against a bunch of other rookies and assorted slappies to throwing footballs with a red no-touchy jersey against veterans, rookies, and assorted slappies, we’re no closer to knowing whether any of the rookie quarterbacks can play effectively at the NFL level.

That point was reinforced last night upon tripping over the excellent NFL Films documentary regarding “The Brady 6″ — the six quarterbacks drafted in 2000 before the Pats scrawled Tom Brady’s name onto the 199th card submitted.

The chip that blossomed on Brady’s shoulder was nurtured in part by underwhelming performances at Michigan, which opened the door for Drew Henson to take reps during Brady’s senior season, and pre-draft workouts from a slow, ungainly athlete who did nothing to stand out.  But when it was time to play against live NFL competition, as the calm eye in a storm of bodies and movement and drawn-up plays that disintegrate when exposed to a full-speed defense, Brady didn’t simply survive but thrived.

Others couldn’t.  The much-hyped Giovanni Carmazzi, taken by the favorite team of Brady’s boyhood, flamed out for the 49ers.  Former coach Steve Mariucci attributed the failure to Carmazzi’s first NFL appearance, coincidentally against the Patriots in the Hall of Fame game, as planting the doubt that resulted in Carmazzi never playing in a regular-season game.

Ditto for Tee Martin, the Peyton Manning successor who never was able to do enough with his limited opportunity to catch the eye of the coaches in Pittsburgh.  In the end, Brady became the latest Hall of Fame quarterback the Steelers could have snatched, but didn’t.  (They once cut John Unitas and passed over hometown hero Dan Marino.)

But it’s hard to blame any of the teams that passed on Brady.  There was scant evidence that he’d perform at a high level at the highest level of the sport.

And that makes this year’s — and each year’s — class of quarterbacks inherently intriguing.  While it’s easy to lament the absence of can’t-miss prospects like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III from the 2013 collection of signal-callers, there could be one of more Russell Wilsons lurking among the likes of EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, Zac Dysert, or any of the undrafted players.

We simply won’t know what they can do until they do it.  Which will make things interesting not in May or June but in late July, August, September, and beyond.

There’s definitely a Carmazzi and Martin among that group.  But there also could be a Brady or a Wilson.

Permalink 39 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Home, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rumor Mill, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
39 Responses to “For quarterbacks, no one knows if they can do it until they do it”
  1. runtheball says: May 13, 2013 2:00 PM

    Brady would not have had the career he has if he was drafted anywhere else. He is a product of Belicheat.

  2. biscojay says: May 13, 2013 2:01 PM

    Profound

  3. thestrategyexpert says: May 13, 2013 2:05 PM

    Could be a Wilson in that group? No there absolutely is a Wilson in that group!

  4. auroraborealisfan says: May 13, 2013 2:06 PM

    “…But when it was time to play against live NFL competition, as the calm eye in a storm of bodies and movement and drawn-up plays that disintegrate when exposed to a full-speed defense, Brady didn’t simply survive but thrived.”

    Now I am NOT comparing Tebow to Brady but it would seem that based on his winning record in Denver and his performances (especially during the 4th quarter), you could insert Tebow’s name here and it would make sense. Too bad he wasn’t a 199th draft choice that the Media didn’t love to hate.

  5. CKL says: May 13, 2013 2:13 PM

    I don’t know that he had underwhelming performances that led to Henson’s splitting time with him. My understanding is that Henson was the star recruit and playtime was promised to him. If I remember right, TB helped lead a lot of comeback wins in his split time with Henson.

  6. bdnnbd says: May 13, 2013 2:23 PM

    You’ve GOT to stop using that Kekua joke.

  7. PeterKingLovesCoqAVin says: May 13, 2013 2:23 PM

    Would Brady have been as driven to succeed if he had been drafted in the first or second rounds? Would he have had as big a chip on his shoulder? Would he have been so determined to take Drew Bledsoe’s job if it had instead basically been handed to him?

    Basically, does Tom Brady turn out to be Tom Brady if another team drafts him much sooner than the 199th pick?

  8. milkcan44 says: May 13, 2013 2:28 PM

    The whole state of Michigan and UM alumni all over the country were lobbying for Henson to play. Brady was a California guy without a local support group.

  9. mendenhallfumblemachine says: May 13, 2013 2:28 PM

    The Lennay Kekua jokes make me laugh everytime, never gets old

  10. dennisatunity says: May 13, 2013 2:29 PM

    What an excellent article. You are absolutely right. A lot of people are good in college. But we don’t know if they can do it in live action in the pros. Even more are great in practice, with nothing on the line, no crowds, and it’s “just pretend.” But can someone come through with the speed and the danger and the pressure? Can’t do it until they do it.

  11. Joemontanaflacco says: May 13, 2013 2:29 PM

    Why is this news? Everyone knows the Steelers’ front office is nothing short of a three ring circus. This team has been staggering around ever since the Packers knocked them out cold in SB XLV.

  12. johnelwayishorsefaced says: May 13, 2013 2:32 PM

    Why do you insist on calling lower tier players “slappies”? Aside from the obvious fact that your’re simply stealing a term from John Gruden it seems pretty insulting and uncalled for. These guys are almost all great athletes who are competing to play in the premier sports league in the world and you want to call them childish names? Any one of them would destroy you with one arm and one leg tied behind their backs. How about showing a little respect?

  13. shaunypoo says: May 13, 2013 2:33 PM

    Why are you comparing a guy who has only had one successful season to a guy who is a first ballot hall of famer? I am not a Patriots fan, but Tom Brady is light years above Russell Wilson. If Russell Wilson does what Russell Wilson does for the next 10 years and wins a Super Bowl or two, then you might have some degree of comparison, otherwise it is apples to office furniture.

    And obvious headline is obvious.

  14. wiley16350 says: May 13, 2013 2:39 PM

    Professional reporters should actually have a knowledge of what they’re talking about so that they don’t sound as foolish as you when they say things like
    “The chip that blossomed on Brady’s shoulder was nurtured in part by underwhelming performances at Michigan, which opened the door for Drew Henson to take reps during Brady’s senior season”

    It wasn’t underwhelming performances by Brady that opened the door for Henson. Brady won 20 of his 25 starts as the starter of Michigan. Brady’s performances are what limited Henson’s playing time. The only reason they tried to get Henson to be the starter over Brady was because of his physical abilities.

    If you read Brady’s scouting reports prior to the 2000 draft you will actually find that they nailed all of his intangibles and mental capabilities. The only reason he dropped in the draft was because nobody was sure if he had the physical abilities to play in the NFL. After being drafted, Brady put a lot more time in the weight room so that he could improve his arm strength, speed and mobility. Nobody knows how he would have done if he had never addressed and strengthened his pre-draft weaknesses.

  15. gobuccs1280 says: May 13, 2013 2:43 PM

    Except for Tebow. He does it in games, somehow, and then gets traded the next season. Then is possibly out of the league the next.
    You don’t know about a QB until they do it, then why when they do it, do you not give them another chance?

  16. crownofthehelmet says: May 13, 2013 2:52 PM

    I think it’d be worse to give your average QB $120M when you’re still not sure he can even get you to the playoffs without a dominant D.

  17. hornet0123 says: May 13, 2013 3:03 PM

    Belichek would not have had the career he has if he had drafted anyone else. He is a product of having Brady.

  18. fwippel says: May 13, 2013 3:07 PM

    I really have grown tired of this story. Like it or not, Brady just wasn’t that good in college. The idea that he should have been offended by being passed over by every NFL team for the first five rounds of the 2000 draft is nonsense.

    Bart Starr was a 17th round draft pick who quarterbacked the Packers to five championships. Where’s his story about being passed over for 16 rounds?

    Yeah, the Patriots struck gold with Brady, and for drafting him, they deserve credit. But its not like this guy was an instant superstar from the moment he took over in 2001.

    Remember Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams? The Patriots held a 17-10 lead with just over two minutes to play, the Pats had the ball with a third down and 7, and the Rams were out of timeouts. All the Pats had to do was make one first down and the game was over. Did Belichick allow Brady to throw for a first down? No. The Pats ran the ball, punted on fourth down, and the Rams tied the game shortly after.

    Brady has been the best QB in the game for the last 9-10 years. However, suggesting that he was great from day one, and that every NFL was stupid for not seeing this while he was at Michigan is just nonsense. Let it go.

  19. thegreatgabbert says: May 13, 2013 3:16 PM

    Brady was rated fairly high in that draft. Second to third round. He dropped a lot further than expected, don’t overlook that. He had a very good two years as a starter at Michigan. Drew Henson was a high school phenom, don’t forget. He came to college as one of the highest rated recruits ever at the position.

  20. doe22us says: May 13, 2013 3:32 PM

    Is that Tee Mart of Dave Chapelle lol, anyhow Lennay Kekua jokes never get old, if you nail it properly.

  21. asimonetti88 says: May 13, 2013 3:35 PM

    As a USC fan, I have big hopes for Matt Barkley.
    As a 49ers fan, I have big hopes for BJ Daniels.
    As an NFL fan, I wish it was football season already!

  22. rottenbellybutton says: May 13, 2013 3:40 PM

    Crown: Are you happy the steelers pay ben 100 million to miss the playoffs with the #1 D? I don’t recall “Jumpball Joe” throwing any pick 6’s to keep the ravens out of the playoffs recently.

  23. grendelg says: May 13, 2013 3:55 PM

    I agree with shaunypoo…. You also don’t know what a guy will do just because he did it once. Just because Luck, Wilson, and RGIII had good seasons doesn’t mean they’ll have great careers.

    Remember when Cam Newton was going to be the best QB of all time?

  24. crownofthehelmet says: May 13, 2013 3:57 PM

    @rotten,

    $100M for 3 SB trips, 2 SB wins & counting – sounds like a bargain.

    And you probably won’t see many pick 6’s from Flacco – tough to take a check-down or hail-mary back to the house. Can he even throw a 20-yd out?

  25. mistrezzrachael says: May 13, 2013 4:02 PM

    May 13, 2013 3:03 PM

    Belichek would not have had the career he has if he had drafted anyone else. He is a product of having Brady.

    Belichicks defensive game plan vs Bills…goes down right next to Giants vs NE in 2007…best there ever was in the big one…So, that statement is total bs.

  26. rc33 says: May 13, 2013 4:03 PM

    Great read, Mike. Kinda surprised it took you so long to stumble upon “The Brady 6,” which has been around for over a year, I think.

  27. rgoltn says: May 13, 2013 4:14 PM

    “But it’s hard to blame any of the teams that passed on Brady. There was scant evidence that he’d perform at a high level at the highest level of the sport.”

    Brady won 20/25 games at Michigan. If I recall, the Pats were the only team that pursued him. Maybe it is about good scouting.

    In the documentary, Belichick admits that when they watched film on Brady all they saw was a guy who won games. They spoke to the coach of Michigan and asked why he kept putting Henson in and I believe it was about public pressure as he was a Michigan kid. He would not say it was about Brady’s performance. Belichick said they saw Brady bailing out Henson on film.

  28. sameoldstorioflorio says: May 13, 2013 4:28 PM

    Seriously??!! Why do you continue to force a bad Kekua/Te’o joke into all your posts? You really need to freshen up your material. Maybe spice it up with some other overused references to Tebow, Favre and/or Ocho Cinco as a change of pace. Apparently you got some bad poi at one point or had an eHarmony relationship go south. Whatever it was, let it go.

  29. MichaelWrites says: May 13, 2013 4:52 PM

    I’d never draft a guy who wore a helmet that ugly.

  30. cliverush says: May 13, 2013 5:40 PM

    Henson was the home town hero (Brighton, Michigan) and was pulled numerous times with Michigan trailing in favor of Tom. Lloyd Carr was tough on Brady but it paid off for both. As I recall Brady lead numerous come backs for Michigan. It was the QB coach of the Pats, Dick Rehban, who convinced the Pats to select Tom Terrific.

  31. j0esixpack says: May 13, 2013 6:24 PM

    Brady going 16-0 AFTER Spygate isn’t the “proof he cannot win without Belichick cheating” that some numerically challenged fans seem to think it is.

    But to the point at hand, QB development depends on many factors.

    If Sanchez, who’s college coach openly said wasn’t ready for the NFL, had a chance to sit out a season and develop – and his bombastic coach hadn’t added more pressure by guaranteeing a Super Bowl – twice – he might be a very different QB today.

  32. madroaddog says: May 13, 2013 6:27 PM

    I would love to see someone connect the dots to how much a really good offensive line contributed to the growth of those succesfull QBs in the NFL.

  33. bobzilla1001 says: May 13, 2013 7:28 PM

    A quarterback who is drafted by a good team will be a good quarterback. Funny how that works.
    Even Dan Marino was drafted by a Super Bowl team in 1983. It’s no mystery what makes a quarterback good.
    Tim Tebow was drafted by a team that was good enough to go from 7-4 with him but 13-3 without him. Again, no mystery.
    Ben Roethlisberger was drafted by a team that was able to win two Super Bowls in spite of him and go 6-3 the past three seasons without him.
    Except for a precious few, most quarterbacks are simply overrated, over-hyped and overpaid.

  34. greyhawk9 says: May 13, 2013 7:35 PM

    wilson had a far better collegiate career than brady and showed leadership qualities that brady doesnt possess to this day. wilson ousted veteran qbs and wouldnt be denied.. he then backed it up with a stellar rookie season. Russell is off to a far better start than that of brady.

  35. greyhawk9 says: May 13, 2013 7:46 PM

    wilson had a far better collegiate career than brady and showed leadership qualities and grit that brady doesnt possess to this day.

  36. 1historian says: May 13, 2013 10:28 PM

    “no one knows if they can do it until they do it.”

    Wow, Mike – can’t get ANYTHING by you, big fella.

    You talk about sharp, you talk about perceptive – ol’ Mikie boy wrote the BOOK.

    Sigh

  37. Joemontanaflacco says: May 14, 2013 10:53 AM

    Good article. Nicely illustrates the bafoonery that permeates the Steelers FO. It’s a wonder they won those last two rings, tainted though they may be by questionable calls, lucky checkdowns, and desperate hail marys.

  38. crownofthehelmet says: May 14, 2013 11:11 AM

    Joemontanaflacco says:May 14, 2013 10:53 AM

    …..tainted though they may be by questionable calls, lucky checkdowns, and desperate hail marys.
    ————————————————–
    If you just cut & paste those words, most people think you’re talking about the Ravens.

    Questionable Call – no PI on last SF play of SB
    Lucky checkdown – 4th & 29 ring a bell?
    Desperate Hail Mary – is there a Rahim Moore Day in Baltimore yet?

  39. petedutcher says: May 14, 2013 11:19 AM

    To say Brady would not have been successful elsewhere is ignorant. If a team gave him the proper tools and support he would have been.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!