Talking NFL Draft With Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski
So naturally, the popular duo and color analysts from "Monday Night Football" were bombarded with questions about the four marquee quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft during a teleconference Tuesday to promote ESPN's coverage of the April 22-24 college lottery.
"People accuse me of liking all the quarterbacks and being Johnny Positive," Gruden said. "But if you don't like Colt McCoy, then you probably didn't like Drew Brees when he was coming out, either."
And off they went.
During the spring, Gruden had one-on-one time with Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow and McCoy in Tampa, conducting classroom sessions and interviews with each for a SportsCenter Special -- "Gruden's QB Camp" -- which is scheduled to air Thursday at 7 p.m.
As you might have guessed, Tebow's name came up quite a bit in Tuesday's hour-long conference call.
Gruden: "It's a unique situation. I've probably known a little more about Tebow than anyone in the draft because of where he plays. I live in Tampa and been a big Gators fan over the years. I followed him in high school, where he won a state championship. I know a lot about him. Nothing really surprises me, other than there are a lot more doubters than I expected. He comes from a spread offense, a very successful one. They dominated at Florida. They had some of the most prolific offenses in Gator history, which is saying a lot. ...
"When I saw the progress he made, I was very, very impressed. If you want Tim to be on your football team, if you want him bad enough, you're going to have to take him in the first round or early in the second. Somebody that really wants Tim in their locker room, that wants him on their football team, that can see down the road and have a vision fro him, they will take him and take him earlier than some people expect."
Jaworski on Florida's famous No. 15: "Our job is to take that collegiate game and project it to how it fits in the National Football League. I believe you have to throw the football with accuracy and velocity, and those are two areas I believe Tim Tebow has to work on. I also believe he's smart enough to know some of the finest quarterbacks in this league had flaws in their game when they came in. Talk about velocity from Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They didn't exactly have fire-balling arms when they came into this league. But they worked at it. ...
"The key is going to be where he goes. Does he go to a place he can sit back and learn from a veteran quarterback? if he's put on the field early, I believe it's a mistake."
Bradford, meanwhile, missed all but two games at Oklahoma last season after suffering a shoulder injury in the Sooners' season opener. He has rehabbed the shoulder marvelously and demonstrated to pro execs and personnel types at his pro day last month that he's worthy of the projection that has him going to the St. Louis Rams with the first overall pick.
"I really think a lot of Sam Bradford," Gruden said. "When you meet Sam, when you stand next to Sam Bradford, you feel like you're standing next to Vinny Testaverde, This is a big man. Really an imposing figure. I love his stroke. He can get it out of his hand quickly. He's got touch. I really think he has a tremendous upside and would be surprised if he's not the No. 1 pick."
Jaws agreed: "Clearly, he has that stature in the pocket. He's big and strong and has that ability to hang in the pocket. When I look at these quarterbacks, the one thing I look at is that toughness. You have to look down that gun barrel and be able to take a hit. ... I love the quick, compact and smooth throwing motion. He has a tendency to over-stride at times, but I look at Sam Bradford and I see a guy like Troy Aikman. A statuesque guy who can stay in the pocket and throw it."
Clausen either cemented or improved his stock with a solid pro-day workout last week. Apparently, he already had the approval of the "MNF" experts, especially Jaworski, who thinks Clausen will be ready to play on Sundays before Bradford because of his background at Notre Dame in a Charlie Weis system.
"There is some difference in these two guys. Their games are different. The systems they played are different," Jaworski said. "The spread offense Sam played in at Oklahoma, there was a lot of looking back to the sideline for the calls and wasn't a lot of adjusting to blitzes. In that regard, you have to be really careful when you believe Sam is ready to go on the field. ... Jimmy is more ready to step on the field. He's been in a pro-style offense making pro-style reads. Charlie Weis trained him. He's more likely a guy who could step on the field and give you quicker production than Sam Bradford. ...
"But when you look at Sam, the upside is incredible," he continued. "I liken it to what they did in Cincinnati with Carson Palmer [backing up Jon Kitna his rookie season]. We all knew Carson had that great ability coming out of USC, but they decided to wait until he was ready. He sat out the entire first year before he became a starter again. Again, I'm a little old school with this approach, but I just think when guys make the transition from collegiate football to the National Football League, they have no idea what's going on. It's a quantum leap. The guys that gets thrown in there immediately, they struggle. Some get beat up. And I think the best way is to let a guy sit, let him learn and let him see what it takes to succeed at the pro level."
The Q's and A's didn't focus exclusively on the quarterback position, though.
The debate on whether to select defensive tackles -- specifically, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, considered by many the highest-rated players in the 2010 pool -- at the top of a draft and give them enormous salaries was broached.
Gruden proceeded to list Courtney Brown (No. 1 by Cleveland in 2000), Dwayne Robertson (No. 4 by the New York Jets '03), Glenn Dorsey (No. 5 by Kansas City in '08) and Tyson Jackson (No. 3 by KC in '09) as defensive linemen taken too high recently.
"You can [draft them] if you really think that guy is unique and something you really need and something that is rare," Gruden said. "When you look at it, there are some concerns if that defensive tackle can come in and electrify your fans and your football team -- like a Warren Sapp. I think these two guys are outstanding talents, no question about it. They're different kinds of players. Suh plays with his hands. He's more of a two-gap player on the line of scrimmage; reminds me a little of Richard Seymour. McCoy is more of a classic one-gap defensive tackle; a lot like Tommie Harris, who came out of Oklahoma [too]. ...
"I think if you take one of these guys, he better be an every down guy that can rush the passer and impacts the game in the fourth quarter. I don't want some guy who's only going to play 26 snaps a game. I want a guy who can play 55 or 60 snaps, potentially, a game."
Some draft analysts list Tennessee safety Eric Berry as the No. 1 overall player, but no defensive back ever has been taken first overall. That's not going to change next week, but the position's importance has evolved, according to Jaworski.
"You used to take an old corner who's lost his speed and put him at safety," Jaworksi said. "That is not true anymore. It is now a specific talent you have to have. You have to be a quality cover guy. You have to be able to play in the box. You have to able to blitz. It's a position that demands versatility."
Gruden's voice picked up some enthusiasm when asked about the inner-workings of a "war room" on draft day.
"Some of the things are to be expected. A lot of guys talking. The general manager, personnel director, coaches, scouts, team doctors," he said. "It's exciting. You have position coaches fighting for players, and a lot of guys making last-second sales pitches. In some places, it's one guy sitting in a room, by himself, maybe with the head coach."
The follow-up question focused on how the decision-making went down during his seven seasons as head coach of the Buccaneers before his firing in January 2009.
"I can't remember anything that happened in Tampa except for Super Bowl XXXVII," Gruden said. "And I'll be happy to talk about that."