Under the microscope

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

Quarterback Brady Quinn has just about everything a young man could want.

He had an impressive career at Notre Dame on his résumé, not to mention a degree. He has plenty of athletic ability to go with his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame. He has good looks and is well-spoken, a combination that has helped him land six endorsement deals before he has even been drafted.

Quinn is also confident, evidenced by his response when asked what he'd tell a general manager if he was asked why he should be drafted No. 1 overall.

"I'd tell him I'm the most prepared collegiate player for the NFL in the draft," Quinn said. "There's not one other player that's had the kind of coaching that I've had the past couple of years. There's not one other player that's done what I've done the past couple of years. You've seen the progress, the numbers and everything we've done at Notre Dame, and I feel that I am the best leader for a team that needs someone to step in and fulfill that job."

Those are all good reasons why some team is expected to take him early Saturday during the NFL draft. Those are also among the reasons that owners Randy Lerner of the Cleveland Browns and Zygi Wilf of the Minnesota Vikings, whose teams have the third and seventh picks, respectively, attended Quinn's workout in March.

Quinn has just about all the qualities to be the face of a franchise. There's just one important question to consider: Is he really all that good?

Quinn has been the subject of one of the strongest love-hate debates in NFL history. The debate has been fueled by strong personalities, such as Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.

On one side are the people who look at Quinn's stats over a four-year starting career under the microscope that is Notre Dame and see the second-coming of Irish great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana.

On the other side are the people who look at Quinn's streaky play in big games and see the second-coming of Irish prodigy and NFL flop Rick Mirer.

"Whatever ‘it' is, he has it," said Weis, invoking the mystical quality for quarterbacks in his seeming crusade to get Quinn drafted No. 1 overall. Weis, who has compared Quinn to his former New England Patriots pupil Tom Brady, personally ran Quinn's pro day workout at Notre Dame and went so far as to send a letter out that Quinn would not be available to the media that day.

Then there's the testimony of agent Tom Condon, who is obviously more financially biased toward Quinn than Weis.

"Of all the quarterbacks I've been around, I think he's the most physically talented," said Condon, whose client list includes the Manning brothers (Peyton and Eli), Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich.

Suffice it to say, there are enough people who believe Quinn is good enough that he'll likely go somewhere in the top 10 picks.

"Drafting where we are, I don't think we're going to have to worry about him," Miami Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller said last week. Miami has the No. 9 pick overall and Mueller, who scouted Quinn and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell personally in the 2005 season, has made overtures about moving up to get Quinn.

Based on the opinion of others, Mueller and the Dolphins might be wise to hold tight. There are plenty of Quinn detractors … at least when it comes to taking him as a high pick.

"He's a good player and you'd like to have him, but not where people are talking about taking him," said an unnamed NFL offensive coordinator. The coordinator said that any comparison of Quinn to Russell is simply absurd.

"With Russell, you could have a prototype pocket guy who can change everything you do. His arm is amazing, he's accurate and he's a stud with that size," the coordinator said, referring to the fact that Russell is 6-foot-5, 256 pounds.

Quinn's accuracy, especially when throwing back to the left, has been questioned. He's also been criticized as having less mobility than someone with his athletic ability should possess.

Those weaknesses, at least in one critic's view, push him to be more along the lines of a second-tier quarterback in the company of BYU's John Beck, Kevin Kolb of Houston, Drew Stanton of Michigan State and Trent Edwards of Stanford. Quinn, an Ohio native who also said he'd love to play for the Browns, has publicly disputed the notion about how badly he wants to be the No. 1 pick. Although it was a goal of his going into last season, he said it was not the end-all.

"That was my goal coming into this last collegiate season," he said. “When I decided to come back I had three goals I set out for myself. Win a national championship, win the Heisman and be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Obviously the first two didn't work out and the [third] one is yet to be determined. The toughest thing about it is you don't really control what the first team drafting does or who winds up picking you or trades up. It's out of your hands. All I can do right now is work my hardest to put myself in the position to try to be that guy."

Finally, there is the Quinn knockout punch: his struggles in big games.

Against top-ranked opponents and in bowl games the past two years, Quinn was 1-5 against Michigan, Ohio State, USC and LSU. That included a 15-of-35 performance against LSU in the Sugar Bowl. That game was also a head-to-head matchup against Russell.

The Russell comparison has continued to be a sore point as the two prepared for the draft. Both worked out at the same training facility in Phoenix. But whenever Russell went to throw, Quinn rarely was on the field with him.

"I like the kid a lot as a player, as a person, the whole package," veteran Tennessee scout C.O. Brocato said. "I see where some people are coming from with the big-game thing, but I think you have to look at the whole picture."

That picture includes the fact that Notre Dame's overall talent might not have been that good last season. And it also speaks to the fact that Quinn has been picked apart much more than other quarterbacks because he has been in the spotlight for so long.

To some people, that spotlight and the tutoring by Weis work to Quinn's advantage more. The general opinion is that while Quinn is not as physically gifted as Russell, Quinn is probably closer to being able to play now.

"He's not going to completely embarrass himself as a rookie because he knows the routine," the coordinator said. "Charlie has taught him the routine. He's had the cameras on him. He's seen all the media.

"Yeah, Quinn can get to the top of his game faster. It's just that the top may not be as good as where Russell can get."

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