Are Pro Days really all that important?
There was much hand wringing earlier this week in certain quarters about the fact that no one from the Cleveland Browns coaching staff has been in attendance for the Pro Days of quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.
Apparently it wasn’t enough that general manager Ray Farmer and the team’s scouts were in attendance as Bridgewater had a disappointing effort while Bortles fared much better. No, the fact that head coach Mike Pettine, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains were not there is just another sign of the Browns dysfunctional ways.
Or so the story goes.
The whole manufactured controversy got us wondering just how important a player’s Pro Day really is in today’s NFL.
Consider these comments from NFL Network Mike Mayock about a recent first-round quarterback after his Pro Day:
“He made every throw you can make. The ones I wanted to see were outside the numbers. I know he can drive it inside the numbers, I know he can throw the seam, the deep in cuts — he showed me that in the game. What I saw today was the ability to drive it outside the numbers. . . . He showed every throw, he made every throw, and it was really impressive.”
The quarterback? That would be Brandon Weeden.
Or how about this one:
“Obviously, I’m very impressed. We were very impressed. He had a great day. He seems very first class, very easy to get along with. No doubt he was a great leader here. That’s why everybody wants him now.”
That was former Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin after watching JaMarcus Russell at his Pro Day.
We have one more, Browns fans.
“The fact he could make all his throws, both right and left, he’s a polished quarterback. He’s smart. When you watch him on tape you can see he knows where to go with the ball. He will, at times, throw it away when he has to, so we think he’s a good, young prospect.”
Clearly, having a coach attend a Pro Day does not guarantee that the right call will be made on draft day.
Much like the Combine, a player’s performance at his Pro Day is simply a piece of the puzzle, one where “the coaches and executives really like seeing (quarterbacks) throw up close,” NFL Films Greg Cosell told The Sporting News. “It’s just a much more intimate setting than on film or even up in the press box. They can see how the ball comes out of their hands from five feet away.”
But that is all it is: a piece of the puzzle, not the entire thing. The days of a team using the back pages of a Street & Smith’s to select a player are long gone. Teams have multiple hours of game tape to watch and can conduct private workouts with draft prospects, as well as bring them to town for interviews and physicals. Which is what the Browns are reportedly planning to do with all the top draft prospects.
Think about it: where are the Browns most likely to find the most information about a quarterback? At a manufactured event like a Pro Day, where every throw and drill is scripted to maximize what a player does best? Or in one-on-one interviews where they can talk openly with a player, study film and really dig deep into how the player thinks?
And what is the best thing that Pettine, Shanahan and Loggains can be doing right now, studying game tape in Berea to try and figure out how to get this thing turned around, or standing in a fieldhouse somewhere watching a player in shorts and a T-shirt throwing a football?
Yeah, that’s what we thought.
The Browns certainly have a dubious history when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. And there is no telling how things will work out in May if they decide to select a quarterback.
But one thing is certain. The success of any future quarterback on the Browns roster will have no correlation to who was in attendance at a Pro Day.
(Photo by Getty Images)