INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 24, 2007) -- Brady Quinn might not want to acknowledge as much publicly, but he has much more to prove than any player at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Quinn once found himself as the likely top pick of April's draft.
He now finds himself surrounded by uncertainty over just how high -- or low -- he will be selected in the first round.
Quinn will tell you that he doesn't read what anyone has to write or listen to what anyone has to say about his draft stock. He also will tell you that he doesn't quite understand why anyone would write or say that he has lost ground since the fall, when he began his senior season at Notre Dame as the presumptive No. 1 overall choice.
"For those people who have said that and what's been echoed to me, it's kind of hard for a guy to slip when we haven't done anything," Quinn said. "I didn't play a game for the past couple of months. It's funny to kind of sit back and hear some of that and you're thinking, 'Man, did I not like lift today? Did somebody see me in the weight room miss a rep?'
"I'm kind of confused."
He actually shouldn't be.
There are fairly solid reasons why Quinn no longer looks as if he will be the top pick and, in fact, could slip toward the bottom of the top 10 ... if not much lower.
One is JaMarcus Russell. Russell is the quarterback who played far better than Quinn in leading LSU to a resounding triumph over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Russell is bigger, stronger and has one of the most powerful throwing arms that NFL coaches and player-personnel evaluators have ever seen. By all early indications, the Oakland Raiders are planning to draft him with the No. 1 choice.
Another reason Quinn appears to have slipped is that he did not play particularly well in the Fighting Irish's biggest games. He never led Notre Dame to a bowl victory.
Still another negative for Quinn is that he is not especially accurate on his throws beyond 20 yards. His longer passes don't consistently have much zip and too often miss their mark. On the other hand, Russell's deep ball travels like a laser and usually winds up in the right place.
Where will Quinn land in the draft? No one seems to have the slightest clue at this stage.
It doesn't seem as if the Detroit Lions, who own the second pick, want him, even though they have reasons to be dissatisfied with quarterback Jon Kitna. The Lions have other pressing needs on both sides of the ball, and it would probably make the most sense for them to go with Joe Thomas, the standout offensive tackle from Wisconsin.
The Cleveland Browns won a coin toss with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and will pick third while the Bucs pick fourth. The Browns could select Quinn, an Ohio native who would love to play for them, but they might not be ready to give up on their young starter, Charlie Frye. They also figure to prefer Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. The Bucs also have a young quarterback in Chris Simms. They'll probably make Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson the fourth pick.
The next two teams that could be in the market for a quarterback are Minnesota, at No. 7, and Miami, at No. 9. If Quinn were to somehow get past the Dolphins, he could conceivably fall all the way down to Kansas City, at No. 23.
That would be a severe blow to a prospect who not so long ago seemed on the fast track to elite NFL status. Quinn seemed to have so much more going for him than any other collegiate quarterback, beginning with his coach, Charlie Weis. As the offensive coordinator for the Patriots, Weis helped develop Tom Brady from a sixth-round draft choice to a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. As the head coach of Notre Dame, he helped make Quinn a prolific passer while operating the same scheme -- which emphasized spread formations and quick, short passing -- that Weis employed so successfully in the NFL.
"There's not one other player that's had the kind of coaching that I've had the past couple of years," Quinn said. "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."
Still, Quinn isn't getting much feel for his professional future at the Combine. None of the conversations he has had with coaches, general managers, or scouts here have led him to believe that he is at the top of any team's wish list.
"I have no idea at this point," he said. "The draft is a funny thing. I was just talking to one of the (Broncos') scouts and he was saying they didn't really talk to (former Vanderbilt quarterback) Jay Cutler before and they ended up drafting him. That's who they wanted, but they didn't even interview him. So you really have to be open to every team and take every chance you have to talk to every team and make sure you just make a good first impression."
Quinn is polished and well spoken, so the talking part shouldn't be any problem. He also will have an easy time displaying the considerable knowledge he gained from Weis about what it takes to succeed as an NFL quarterback and how to execute an NFL offense.
Where Quinn might have hurt himself, however, is with his refusal to participate in Combine drills. Quinn won't throw or run for NFL team representatives until his March 4 Pro Day at Notre Dame. That has led to speculation that he is concerned about his ability to put on an impressive-enough show to boost his stature, and, in some circles, it has led to questions about his competitive desire. Russell isn't doing any drills here, either, but he seemingly has much more to lose with a poor showing.
Quinn needs to seize any opportunity he has help his cause, and the Combine is a significant one.
It could be argued that Russell has benefited far too greatly and that Quinn has suffered far too much from a single game -- the Sugar Bowl. Yet, for different reasons, it left a lasting impression because it was a last impression.
Even Quinn sees that.
"We didn't do enough to get a win," he said. "And any time that's how you end your career, that's how you end your last game going into the NFL, of course people are going to harp on that. That's what everyone can think about and write about. That's their last memory."
It's up to Quinn to start creating some new memories.