It’s simplistic to say that any particular college’s quarterbacks are or aren’t going to make it in the NFL based strictly on the college they attended. There are cases in which it matters. Circumstances that fall into that category include the super-high powered offenses that can only function in college because of superior personnel and an overly technical strategy that defenses can’t catch up to.
Andre Ware was an example of a college player who benefited from that and was a miserable failure in the NFL. If a quarterback is simply a creation of his system and uses the read-option (the wishbone) and doesn’t have an arm like Robert Griffin III, he’ll get drafted into the NFL with an eye on making him a wide receiver, running back or a “secret weapon” that’s no longer a secret. The Tim Tebow-style quarterback who gets away with little accuracy in college is going to get hammered in the pros. With Tebow, the only reason he keeps getting signed is because of his name recognition and popularity. If it were anyone else, he’d be told he was going to get a shot if and only if he agreed to switch positions.
Another example of pro teams having their judgment glossed over by the uniform is when there’s a halfway decent quarterback for Notre Dame. All have visions of the next Joe Montana or Joe Theismann with the marketing opportunities almost as important as the ability to play the position.
The Jets signed Brady Quinn this week to be a backup. Quinn was a Notre Dame product who was selected in the first round by the Browns in the 2007 draft because he fit the prototype of NFL quarterbacks with the big arm, good looks and Notre Dame pedigree. In twelve starts for a woeful Browns team, Quinn went 3-9 with a 52.1 completion percentage, ten touchdowns and nine interceptions. His time in Cleveland lasted for three seasons. He was traded to the Broncos and didn’t play. He signed with the Chiefs and compiled a 1-7 record. He signed with the Seahawks and was cut. Now he’s with a Jets team whose preseason has resembled running into one another like a Benny Hill routine.
Quinn doesn’t even qualify as a journeyman along the lines of Jon Kitna because Kitna could actually play if needed. Quinn can’t. He’s a guy that’s signed to wear a baseball cap on the sidelines and about whom football front offices form prayer groups in the event the other quarterbacks are injured so severely that he has to play.
After Quinn’s time at Notre Dame ended, Jimmy Clausen was meant to be the golden boy from the Golden Dome. He was selected in the second round by the Panthers in 2010, played for one season and posted a 1-9 record. That was enough for them to decide to take Cam Newton with the first overall pick the next year. It’s rare that teams draft quarterbacks in back-to-back years especially since Newton was by no means a sure thing.
How many more Notre Dame quarterbacks are going to be saddled with the expectations of being the “next Montana” simply because they attended the same school? Since Montana, Notre Dame has had one quarterback who was any good at all in the NFL and that was in the mid-1980s with Steve Beuerlein.
The mere phrase “prototype quarterback” probably would have made Montana an even lower draft pick were he around today than the third round pick he was of the 49ers in 1979 because he was skinny, weak-looking and had an average arm. He was exponentially better when he was in a game than he looked standing around on the sidelines. Quinn looks good though. And he’ll look good standing around for the woeful Jets until they too decide to get rid of him because he, like most Notre Dame quarterbacks, isn’t of any use to them at all in the pros.