In recent days I’ve been asked two very interesting questions related to the NFL Draft and the SEC. I was being interviewed for a radio show in Arkansas and the host, Bo Mattingly, noted that there had been very few five-star quarterbacks signed by SEC schools in the past five years. He wondered if this was going to eventually be a problem for the league.
Another person asked me that if Tim Tebow falls out of the first round and goes late in the second or early third, will that be/should that be a problem for Urban Meyer and his staff at Florida? Will it be said that Florida’s staff had somehow let Tebow down?
The answers are no and emphatically no. Let’s take them one at a time.
First of all, I’m not a big believer in player ratings—too many variables. I’ve seen too many players who allegedly had five-star talent but a one-star work ethic. And I’ve seen WAY too many players who were assigned five-star skill but had only a half-star at best when it came to competitive fire and heart. I am a big believer in talent and that the team with the best players usually wins. But when it comes to winning championships, I am also a big believer in the intangibles. Look at Kentucky’s basketball team. Look at Duke’s basketball team. Yesterday five Kentucky players (four freshmen) said they would enter the NBA Draft and all will do well. But Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. Duke has really good players but not five NBA draft picks. The intangibles matter when it comes to winning championships.
I don’t believe the absence of highly-rated quarterbacks is that big a deal because history has shown us that you don’t need a five-star quarterback to win a national championship or an SEC championship.
Below are the last 10 national champions, their starting quarterbacks and where they went in the NFL Draft. I have no idea how many of these guys were five-star quarterbacks coming out of high school but I’m sure some of you can name them off the top of your head. But I’m pretty sure most of them weren’t five-star recruits.
2002—Ohio State—Craig Krenzel————–5th
Everybody on planet Earth wanted Matt Leinart (USC 2004), Vince Young (Texas 2005), and Tim Tebow (Florida 2008). That’s a no brainer.
But look at some of the rest. Josh Heupel (Oklahoma 2000) was a junior college transfer. Craig Krenzel (Ohio State 2002) had an average arm at best but could manage a game. Matt Mauck (LSU 2003) was a minor league baseball player and was chosen in the seventh round. Chris Leak (Florida 2006) was not selected in the draft at all. Greg McElroy (Alabama 2009) doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world but the guy is 29-0 as a starting quarterback in high school and college.
The point is that what’s required of a college quarterback is a completely different than an NFL quarterback. The NFL places a premium on the physical characteristics of a potential quarterback: Height, weight, and arm strength. But to win a championship in college football, the quarterback has to be more of a manager of the game and a distributor of the ball. I believe that in college football a championship quarterback is not defined by what he does. He is defined by what he DOESN’T do (turn the ball over). Both games are great. College football is just different. You can win a national championship with a less talented quarterback who makes good decisions.
That’s why I found the Tebow debate so interesting. First of all, it is the job of the college coach to take the talent on hand and develop it in the best way to win games for his team. His first loyalty is to the institution and to the rest of the players on that roster. Getting a player ready for the NFL is nice if you can do it, but it can’t be more important than the success of the team.
Florida and its coaching staff made every effort to help Tebow with his throwing motion, which we all knew was too loopy for the NFL boys, who tend to obsess over those kinds of things. That’s one reason Meyer brought in Scot Loeffler, who had coached five quarterbacks taken in the draft during his time at Michigan.
But if Tim Tebow is not a first round pick on April 22, you can’t say that anybody failed. Tebow walked away from Florida with two national championships, two SEC championships, a Heisman Trophy and enough awards and good will to fill up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium many times. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players and ambassadors in the history of college football.
Ain’t no failure in that.
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