What does Teddy Bridgewater's shaky pro day mean for his NFL future?
In other words, take with a grain of salt any sweeping generalizations that result from Teddy Bridgewater's pro day performance on Monday, one which left many wanting more.
"I thought it was very average at best," NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said.
Mayock was among the vocal supporters for Gabbert following Missouri's pro day in 2011 -- "The kid confirmed everything you want to see in a franchise quarterback. I thought he did as good as he could have." It was Bradford who caught the eye of Mayock's colleague, legendary NFL mind Gil Brandt, who said that the Oklahoma QB's pro day was "the best quarterback workout by a draft prospect that I’ve seen since I watched a private workout Troy Aikman put on for us with the Cowboys in California." ESPN's Todd McShay had even higher praise for Russell, way back in 2007: "I can't remember being in such awe of a quarterback in my decade of attending combines and pro days. Russell's passing session was the most impressive of all the pro days I've been to."
Those comments are not brought up to throw any of those experts under the bus, but rather to point out the difficulty in predicting future success off one day of drills.
The troubling issue for Bridgewater is that he did not leave anyone salivating over his pro day performance, which is a definite rarity these days. Quarterbacks' throwing displays at their pro days are extremely scripted, from the types of routes that will be run to the receivers catching the ball on the other end. They are designed to show off the best attributes of whichever prospect is in the spotlight. Last year, for example, Florida State's EJ Manuel stood out among the draft's QB prospects because of his athleticism, so his pro day featured repeated rollouts to emphasize that attribute.
There is almost no tangible reason for a quarterback to underwhelm at his pro day. Bridgewater was so confident that he would thrive Monday that he balked at passing drills during the NFL combine.
"The biggest thing was just me being a perfectionist. I just want everything to go right," Bridgewater explained of his decision to join Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr, among other QBs, in not throwing at Lucas Oil Stadium. "Whether I’m taking a five-step drop and the guy’s not on top of his route at the time, I just want to have that chemistry with the guys. I tend to look at it from a pro standpoint: When you’re throwing in the offseason, you want to be with your guys to have that timing and that connection, so that was the biggest thing."
The heart of the quarterbacks' workout was a series of 20 throws: two pass attempts on each of 10 patterns. Brees was prepared to work at full speed, taking a hard drop and throwing on rhythm, before the receiver broke. However, Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, who ran the session, told the passers, "Just ease up and complete balls. Don't worry about anything else."
Brees was confused. Some quarterbacks took Zorn's advice and threw three-quarter-speed spirals to wideouts long after the receivers came out of their breaks. Balls like those would get picked off in a game, but they were safe passes in this arena. Brees stuck with his game plan and threw on rhythm. Some wideouts made sharp breaks, others didn't. Of Brees's 20 balls, 11 were solid throws and nine were poor. He one-hopped a simple out-cut and overthrew another. His long throws -- the post-corner and the streak -- were wobbly, setting off alarms throughout the league.
The rub is that if a quarterback waits for his pro day to show off, then he needs to do just that. Bridgewater, by most accounts, fell short.
How is that even possible? NFL scouts will now try to figure that out. Bridgewater waited for his comfortable surroundings, with teammates he was familiar with, and a sequence of throws planned out in advance. Why would he be anything less than sensational?
The evaluation could point to something as simple as Bridgewater's decision not to wear gloves after sporting them throughout his Louisville career. (Bridgewater said he had been training without gloves for the past few weeks.) Or it could lead scouts back to something negative on Bridgewater's game film -- back to a negative trait he put on display somewhere along the line. History has shown that there is limited predictive value in pro days when quarterbacks perform as well as or better than expected. What will Bridgewater teach us about those who fail to meet expectations?