But here's the relevant part for NFL draftniks: All three played in a shotgun-passing offense.
Tiller, 67, retired last season after a 12-year stint at Purdue in which he went 87-62 and earned bowl berths in all but two seasons. A bout of mediocrity toward the end of his tenure with the Boilermakers (who finished seventh or lower in the Big Ten three of his last four seasons) may have tarnished Tiller's legacy, but it's hard to argue with his record of producing NFL quarterbacks -- particularly considering he employed an offense many pro followers consider gimmicky.
So it's worth noting that Tiller got a chuckle this week when reading the alarmist media accounts from Monday's Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., when Florida star
"I can remember NFL critics saying the same thing when Drew was a senior," Tiller said Thursday. "'He's in that Purdue offense all the time. He lines up in the shotgun all the time, and our guys line up under center.'
"It's not like college football has a monopoly on the shotgun formation. Now that I'm out of coaching, I've watched more NFL football this year than I have the last 10 years combined. There's hardly any team in the league that doesn't have their quarterback in the shotgun anymore -- including
Brees, a two-time Heisman finalist, led the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 34 years and broke the Big Ten's career passing records. A three-year starter, Brees threw for 11,792 yards, 90 touchdowns and 45 interceptions. Initially projected as a mid-first round pick, Brees slipped to the first pick of the second round in the 2001 draft. We all know how that's turned out.
An eight-year starter for the Chargers and Saints, Brees became just the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season in 2008 and this season set the league record for completion percentage (70.6).
Painter, a rookie this season, posted similar numbers to Brees' at Purdue (11,163 yards, 67 TDs, 46 INTs) but with far less acclaim. While
It's a wonder Brees and Painter ever got here, what with all that wasted time in the shotgun, no?
"Actually, I think a guy coming out in the shotgun is better equipped than a guy coming out of center," said the ever-outspoken coach. "The one thing that's changed dramatically [in the NFL] is the speed of the defensive linemen and the different ways people are blitzing. The quarterback almost has to be back at shotgun to see it all.
"But the pros have always known more than college coaches know. They must have invented the sport there."
Tiller, a one-time understudy to Washington State coach
He also had the help of some shrewd assistants.
Together, they produced an NFL quarterback assembly line.
"[Tiller's offense] was a college spread but also had sophisticated, timing-based elements that translate well to the pros," said
"I do see where NFL coaches come from in that they need a guy to be able to throw the ball before the receiver is looking and have the whole thing perfectly orchestrated," said Brown. "But Tiller and Chaney were one of the first groups I saw that effectively taught the three-step drop from shotgun. If you think back to NFL guys like
Florida coach Meyer has not yet enjoyed the same track record with his spread-groomed QBs. His acclaimed Utah protégé,
"I've never seen a quarterback at an All-Star game like this with such an obvious delivery issue," said McShay, who called Tebow a "third-round pick at best," adding, "He needs either to strip down and start over completely as a passer ... or he may need to play a different position in the NFL."
Others have been more forgiving, noting Tebow's improvement throughout the week after being hospitalized with strep throat Monday night. SI.com's
Brees, unlike Tebow, drew no such criticisms about his mechanics coming out of college; his main issue was his height (6-foot). He did have a similar experience, however.
Projected to be a mid-first round pick in January, Brees performed poorly at that year's NFL combine. According to a
He ultimately went 32nd. He's since become a four-time All-Pro.
"It's not a surprise to me," said Tiller. "When he was coming out of high school, the three things that impressed me most were his accuracy as a thrower, his intelligence and his competiveness, and those are still the things to this day that really accelerate him."
Whatever team does draft Tebow will undoubtedly attempt to use him in the now-ubiquitous "Wildcat" formation to take advantage of his running ability. The Wildcat -- surprise, surprise -- is run out of the shotgun.
"They're lining up in the same formation you line up in when you run your normal spread offense -- it's just a running play," said Tiller. "I see more and more colleges do that, but instead of substituting [a running back], they're recruiting the guy that do it, like
"But hey, nobody [in the NFL] wants to hear my opinion."
Maybe they should -- if they want their quarterbacks to reach the Super Bowl.