2.19 – Quinn and The Pressure Myth

Troy Smith can’t handle pressure. In his first game facing real pressure, Troy Smith folded up like a lawn chair. He completed 4 of 14 passes against Florida with an Int and an untimely fumble. Smith didn’t look great — he didn’t even look average — he looked rattled and impotent. Troy Smith can’t handle the pressure.

Brady Quinn, despite facing that type of pressure all year, never looked that discombobulated.

Peyton Manning can’t handle pressure. Against the Ravens with their entire season on the line, Manning was pressured into a 15 of 30 game with no TDs and two Ints. It wasn’t the first time Manning’s looked average or worse in the face of a tough defense. Manning, obviously, can’t handle the pressure.

I like Russell a lot, but as FunkDoctorSpock points out, when he was pressured — not so good. Against Top 25 teams (LSU was 3-2): 83 completions 158 attempts 50.2% 1,086 yards 8 TDs 7 INTs. In LSU’s two losses, Russell had 1 TD and 3 picks. Russell’s benefited from a Vince Young effect, even though they have little in common.

The fact is that no quarterback can handle that type of constant pressure. So when pundits talk about Quinn’s ability to handle pressure, that argument needs a serious perspective shake.

Quinn was sacked more than twice as much as John David Booty, JaMarcus Russell and Troy Smith, yet had a better TD/Int ratio than any of them — and note that Quinn had some very untimely drops of good passes that could have changed big games.

Pundits point to the 3 int. Michigan game as proof of Quinn’s lack of composure. But look closer. His first interception was a strike that bounced off the shoulder of Carlson. His second one happened after his arm was hit. This third one was a forced pass after Notre Dame was already far behind. Those, by the way, account for three of the ONLY SEVEN interceptions Quinn has thrown all year — the lowest interception ratio per attempt of any quaterback who’s thrown as much as he has — and that’s while being sacked twice as much.

The fact is that Quinn has performed better than most top quarterbacks under more pressure, he’s just had a heck of a lot more of it to deal with. And no quarterback performs well under constant pressure. No quarterback.

The reason Quinn was on the run so much is that ND had no credible rushing game ( 72nd in the country) and had a defense that gave other defenses a lot of time to rest. It’s not like Quinn isn’t mobile (he has much better feet than Russell for instance) and when he ran, he ran very well. I would have loved to see Charlie use him more in that capacity — but I also understand that we couldn’t afford to have him injured. Can he throw downfield with accuracy? He actually threw some of his best downfield balls of the year against USC — his strike to Carlson was as good a throw as you will see in college football.

I’ve heard some talk about Russell’s downfield balloons in the Notre Dame game as some sort proof that he has better downfield accuracy and outplayed Quinn. If you have a tape (or DVR,) watch those passes… no accuracy required. His receivers were running free. Russell outplayed Quinn only in the context that his entire team outplayed Notre Dame’s. If you switched the quarterbacks in that game, I don’t think there are many who think that Russell would have still outplayed Quinn. But it was a naysayers delight. Again, I think Russell is a talent, but the simpleton heads up comparison made by most sportscasters is at a base level just stupid and being more generous very misleading.

Quinn didn’t have great games this year against very good teams, but he never had and outright bust of a game like Troy Smith did against Florida — that was folding under pressure. Of course, Smith lost Ginn too, who may have really been the best player in the country last year. Which prompts the question: How good would Smith have been without Ginn all year? Quinn didn’t have a Ginn to keep defenses off him all year and he didn’t have a rushing game. When those things deserted Smith, he looked worse than Quinn ever did.

Now there are knocks against Quinn that are valid. He played in a lateral passing game and most of his completions were less than ten yards down the field. He also showed a little nervousness in some big games and wasn’t able to turn those games on his own. He had some bad throws under pressure. But he we also the victim of some poor drops and many times when pressed, he flashed the ability to get the ball where it needs to be. In fact, where few quarterbacks could put the ball. That written, he hasn’t done it consistently and his ability to do so is a questionmark. B

But I’ll go further. I think Quinn possesses a little Favre in him, but he was forced to become more of a technician under Weis because this offense simply couldn’t afford mistakes. Far from this offense making Quinn, in some ways I think it constrained him. He’s much more of gunslinger than Notre Dame fans saw — but his Weis training is perfect training for the NFL. Quinn generally played the best UNDER PRESSURE, against MSU, UCLA and Georgia Tech with the game hanging in the balance. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he played some of his best ball when the offense was the most open and the tempo was forced.

If he goes to a team that will give him a freer reign, Quinn’s real throwing personality will come out and could surprise a lot of pundits. There’s no guarantee and it’s just a hunch, but that’s all that backs up the views of many who are piling on Quinn right now. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him on the Raiders. Nor do I want him to be a high draft choice on another crappy team. I love the Eagles scenario for instance.

Remember, it’s always good TV to either build up or tear down anyone from Notre Dame and the media milks both sides of it, but their zeal to create a frenzy in either direction results in some very unfair characterizations and shallow analysis that is used to reinforce a point of view rather than to frame it.

As Scott Van Pelt said about the ESPN coverage, “We made it sound like the guy’s going to be eating mac and cheese or something!”

Also note that Quinn, as he has his entire career, has handled both the positive and negative press very well.

No quarterback performs well under constant pressure, but neither does the media that covers the quarterbacks.

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