In the second year of his "QB Camp" on ESPN, former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden sat down with 10 different quarterbacks of the 2012 draft class, reviewed their game tapes, talked about the transition to the NFL, and watched as the quarterbacks threw on a field. Gruden, currently the star of ESPN's "Monday Night Football" coverage, has created quite a cottage industry of quarterback analysis through this vehicle -- the half-hour shows are much like the former coach himself -- entertaining, informative, and full of "THIS GUY" hyperbole.
On a Wednesday media conference call, Gruden gave some interesting opinions of many of the quarterbacks he met with -- it was a neat window into the mind of an analyst who certainly does his share of tape-grinding in his current role as President of the Fired Football Coaches of America.
Andrew Luck, Stanford: "I think it's ‑‑ as much as people talk about his football IQ, I think it's still underestimated. I've never met a guy like Andrew Luck at this stage of the game. I spent a lot of time talking with Peyton Manning about football, have a pretty good idea from being around the Saints what Drew Brees is like. We had some guys in Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson, Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks, that had tremendous football IQ that could really apply it on game day. But for a senior ‑‑ not even a true senior in college to have this type of football pedigree, I wish I could describe it, his recognition of coverages, his retention, the way he studies the game, his audible mechanics and what he's been asked to do, and done, with an incredible success rate, unparalleled with anybody I can remember in the college level.
"The Colts are a lot different team now, obviously, than they were five years ago. Not only do they have to address needs in the draft, they're going to have to continue to do that after the draft and in free agency. Obviously a quarterback's success rate is largely dependent upon those around him, not just on the field, but he's got to embrace a new system.
"I know Bruce Arians is coming over from the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've got a new head coach. So they've got to increase their personnel. There's no question. Marvin Harrison is gone, Reggie Wayne is at a different stage in his career, Dallas Clark is gone. I don't know who the feature back is going to be, so I would assume if Indianapolis does indeed select Andrew Luck that they'll try to upgrade the supporting cast on the field as much as possible."
Robert Griffin III, Baylor: "Man, I don't have any concerns about this kid. What you see is what you get, on the camera, off the camera. He's a special young man. He comes from great stock; both his parents are military people. He's been brought up the right way. He's sustained the right stuff with all of his success. He helped put the Baylor Bears on the map of college football. I don't remember Baylor ever beating Oklahoma. I don't ever remember Baylor back‑to‑back years beating Texas. And I don't ever remember Baylor having a Heisman Trophy winner, either.
"I think he can do the same thing for the Redskins. He can revive the Redskins, as long as he stays healthy, he buys in and really takes to this new system, and he continues to work. But this is a special young man, whether the camera is on or off.
"I think it's really exciting for the Redskins because [of] Mike Shanahan, his expertise with mobile quarterbacks. Some of the best tape that I've ever studied was Mike Shanahan and John Elway in Denver, the back‑to‑back Super Bowl championship teams. They took advantage of John Elway's mobility. A lot of people forget just how extraordinary Elway was handing the ball off to Terrell Davis and those bootlegs, those naked bootlegs off of those stretch plays, devastating. What Mike did in San Francisco with Steve Young, another mobile quarterback, those are as good of offensive tape as I've ever seen.
"So I think when you get Robert Griffin, one of the most explosive quarterbacks to ever play the position, in a Mike Shanahan-type system, the possibilities are very exciting with Mike Shanahan's imagination.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: "Well, [lack of college starting experience is] a concern. It's a concern. Now, what's not concerning is what kind of athlete he is. Let's not forget, he didn't just play wide receiver at Texas A&M, he started at wide receiver. He had over 200 yards receiving in one game against Kansas State. He's an outstanding athlete, and he's also been tutored by an NFL coach in Mike Sherman. So when you do watch Tannehill, every time you watch him you're seeing an outstanding young man who's been tutored by an excellent offensive coach in an outstanding system. That I like. So the arrow is going up on Tannehill.
"There are some issues you wish you could see. You'd like to see more tape. You'd like to see Tannehill and the A&M offense finish games in the second half when they have a lead. Some of the losses they had this year, I'm not blaming Tannehill, I'm not blaming anybody, but they lost the lead a lot this year in games, and it cost them, because I thought Texas A&M was going to be a top 10 team this year."
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State: "We got to know Cousins well in the Outback Bowl. Mike Tirico and I did the Outback Bowl, and we spent a lot of time with Michigan State and with Cousins specifically. We got to see him practice. We had him down here at the FFCA headquarters twice. What you're getting is a three‑time team captain at Michigan State, so that tells you what type of leader he is. He does have, I think, NFL prototype size. He's in a very good offense at Michigan State. They ask him to do a lot of different things. He's under the center, he's in the shotgun, there's a two‑back attack, there's a no‑back attack. And quietly Michigan State has become one of the premier football programs in college football. They're the winningest team in the Big Ten over the last three years.
"So you're getting a winner."
"When you look at B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, who are outstanding receivers at Michigan State, you can see why. They've got the trigger in Cousins. I see him going in the second round, and I think he's got a very bright future in the NFL because he's all business all the time. He's a meticulous preparation freak. I think he's got very good athletic ability, and he's got a lot of experience as a starting quarterback in a big arena."
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: "I think [size] is the issue with Russell Wilson. That might be the reason that he's not picked in the first couple rounds. The only issue with Russell Wilson is his height [he's 5-11]. He's got tremendous mobility. I've got him at 4.50 in the 40. He's mastered two different offensive systems. When do any of us remember a kid transferring from NC State to Wisconsin in July and breaking every Wisconsin Badger record? The Badgers could have won every game this year if not for a couple Hail Marys.
"This is a tremendous kid. His intangibles are off the charts. He walks into Wisconsin, he's a team captain. We all know what a great athlete he is. He's a high draft choice in baseball.
"The only issue is his height, and we use Drew Brees as the classic example. If you just look at one inch or an inch and a half, that's the height difference in Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. But he's got a lot of questions and answers. There are not a lot of quarterbacks under 6 feet that are playing in the NFL today or who have played the game, period. He's going to have to answer those questions. Hopefully the right guy gives him an opportunity and he takes advantage of it, because when you watch the tape, every film you watch at NC State or Wisconsin, the results are very similar. It's successful, solid, gameday competitive. It's exciting. I wish him the best. He's a special kid. I just hope he gets with the right [coaching staff]."
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: "I think the Oklahoma State Cowboys have the most unique offense in college football. They do some wicked things to defenses with the no‑huddle tempo to the way they use Justin Blackmon. They've got a great running back. But at the end of the day, if you counted the top 20 throws that Andrew Luck made, the top 20 throws that Robert Griffin made, the top 20 throws that Tannehill made, Weeden, Kellen Moore, you walk away and you say Brandon Weeden makes the most difficult throws in college football. He's got a tremendous arm, great anticipation. They have a go‑to guy in Blackmon, and whenever it's man‑to‑man, they turn the two of those guys loose. It's a pleasure watching Weeden throw the football. The only downside of Weeden right now is his age. I think he's the same age I am, 48 years old." [Weeden is actually 28.]
Kellen Moore, Boise State: "You know, all these quarterbacks I get excited talking about, but these classic quarterbacks, every one of these young men have unique traits. Kellen Moore is 50 and 3. You could say he's 49 and 3, but really, he won 50 games at Boise State, 6 and 0 against BCS teams. The statistics are marvelous. The system of football at Boise is very demanding. They shift more than any team in the country, maybe other than Stanford. The volume of different running plays, passing plays, formations, it's incredible. They do more than a lot of NFL teams under coach [Chris] Petersen there.
"Kellen Moore is a coach. He could probably be an offensive coordinator for a lot of teams. This guy knows the game inside and out. I never really got a chance to get behind the scenes with the Boise State football team, but Kellen Moore, he's the ringleader of the Boise State Broncos. His poise, his anticipation, his accuracy is outstanding.
"Is he big enough? Does he have enough arm? And can he get away from pressure well enough? Those are the challenges ahead for Kellen Moore. But what a quarterback, what a game day clutch performer he is. He's only a couple plays away from being 53 and 0."
Nick Foles, Arizona: "You know, Nick Foles is another quarterback much like [Arizona State's Brock] Osweiler who had a difficult season. Coach [Mike] Stoops was replaced in the middle of the season. So as a captain of the Arizona Wildcats, obviously Nick Foles went through a lot this year. He did not have the supporting cast that some of these other quarterbacks had, no disrespect to anybody. He got hit a lot. One of the few Pac‑10 or Pac‑12 quarterbacks to ever throw for 10,000 yards, tough pocket passer. He's going to be reliant on a system. He's going to have to know his protections better than everybody because he's not the scrambling, get‑out‑of‑trouble‑and‑create type quarterback.
"But what he is is an excellent pocket passer, and he might be ‑‑ from head to shoulders, he might be, next to [the 6-8, 240-pound] Osweiler, the biggest quarterback in this draft [he's 6-5, 240]. Very big for the quarterback position, NFL size. Coaches, GMs covet that size. He's accurate. He's just been hit a lot. He's going to have to really get in a system that he can develop in, I think, and learn the protections and try to develop within that offense as quickly as possible."
Several "QB Camp" shows have already aired, but you can catch re-runs on ESPN and ESPNU, and you can see the full schedule here.