That’s why the Notre Dame quarterback believes he is highly qualified to immediately help a troubled NFL franchise – and why he should be the first Fighting Irish player taken with the opening pick in the NFL draft in 35 years.
“I’ve been through the adversity. I’ve gone through losing seasons. I know what it feels like to lose, but I know what it feels like to win,” he said. “I know what it’s like to go through that transition.”
Quinn didn’t say it, but he also knows what it’s like to try to win when not all the pieces are in place. Quinn played on an Irish team that didn’t have overpowering offensive lines and its defence was average at best.
Critics say Quinn couldn’t win big games, but it’s hard to beat Michigan, Southern Cal or LSU when the three scored an average of 44 points against the Irish last season.
“When Peyton Manning came out, people said he couldn’t win the big one, he couldn’t beat Florida,” said Gil Brandt, an analyst for NFL.com, who was vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989. “People say the same thing about Brady Quinn. I disagree with all that. I think if it wasn’t for Brady and his production, Notre Dame never would have been there playing LSU and they wouldn’t have been playing in a game as big as the USC game was.”
So the question facing NFL teams looking to use an early first-round draft pick on a quarterback is: Do you prefer Quinn or LSU’s JaMarcus Russell?
Quinn was a four-year starter who passed for 11,762 yards and led his team to a 29-18 record, including 19-6 over his final two seasons. Russell was a two-year starter who threw for 6,525 yards and led his team to a 25-4 record.
Many drafts observers believe Quinn is more polished, but Russell might have more potential. Quinn states flatly that he is the better choice.
“JaMarcus obviously is a big kid with a strong arm. But I’m a big kid with a strong arm and much more,” he said. “I’m not as big as him. I’m a little leaner. But I’ve played four years, started the past four years and been through a lot.”
The stakes are high. NFL draft history is littered with failed college quarterbacks, such as Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, Todd Marinovich, Rick Mirer, Joey Harrington and others. But Brandt believes Quinn will succeed.
“I think the guy is a polished, mature individual that knows where he’s going and knows how he’s going to get there,” he said.
Irish coach Charlie Weis, who concedes he is biased, said if he were an NFL head coach he would want Quinn on his team, saying he has that special “it” leaders have.
“I think that everything about him points to him being a successful quarterback in the NFL. The way he carries himself on and off the field, his athletic ability, his moxie, his leadership. That ‘it’ that certain people have, well he has it,” he said. “I’m a big Brady Quinn fan.”
Notre Dame hasn’t produced a standout NFL quarterback since Joe Montana was taken by San Francisco in the third round of the 1979 draft. Steve Beuerlein, taken by the Raiders in the fourth round in 1987, had one Pro Bowl season with Carolina 12 years later. Mirer was the second pick overall in 1993 by Seattle and had a good rookie year, but he eventually became a journeyman.
Brandt said part of the problem is Notre Dame’s quarterbacks tend to have inflated value because of the media spotlight on the school.
“Beano Cook created Ron Powlus because when he played there as a freshman he was going to be the Heisman Trophy winner for two years and so forth,” he said. “I think that probably some of the quarterbacks they’ve had there were probably overrated. They probably weren’t as good as people thought.”
Another problem, he said, is that for years the Irish ran an option-oriented offense that didn’t prepare players as well for the NFL.
Powlus, who is now the Irish quarterbacks coach after two years as director of personnel development, agrees, crediting the pro-style offence Weis brought to Notre Dame from New England.
“Every guy on our football team is more prepared for the NFL than a lot of other places because of coach Weis,” he said.
Quinn, who also ran the West Coast offense for two years under Tyrone Willingham, says playing for Weis was an “internship” that taught him how to prepare for a game, how to deal with a head coach and what an NFL coach will expect from him.
“Every step of the way, Notre Dame has prepared me better than I think I would have been prepared at any other university,” he said.
Quinn, who got a degree in December in finance and political science, has expressed frustration about reports of his draft status moving up or down. But more frustrating is not knowing where he will end up.
“I’ll sit down and think, ‘I don’t have a clue where I’m going to live.’ I’m one of those guys who like to plan ahead, so it’s kind of hard,” he said.
Weis doesn’t know either, but he’s confident Quinn will go early in the draft because he’s ready to play early.
“I think that’s significant. This is the day of free agency. You no longer have the luxury of taking someone that high in the draft and sitting there for a few years while you’re waiting for them to get ready to play,” he said. “You’d better be able to put them in there and play them.”