Editor's Note: It's one of the hottest questions heading into the 2010 NFL Draft: Who's the better quarterback between Jimmy Clausen of the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish and the Oklahoma Sooners' Sam Bradford?
Bloguin network partners Michael Felder of In The Bleachers and Blatant Homerism have decided to settle the debate once and for all. My argument for Bradford is below. Michael sides with Clausen.
As an added bonus, we put together a podcast dissecting the quarterback dilemma from every angle imaginable.
As the NFL draft continues to approach at snail's pace, the Oklahoma Sooners' Sam Bradford seems to be emerging as the consensus top quarterback in this year's class, ahead of Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame.
Are the scouts and media bloviators right? I think so. Here's why.
I'm no NFL personnel guru. I'll never have the pleasure of having Todd McShay explain to the world why my fifth-round punter pick was so idiotic. I wouldn't know quick twitch from jock itch.
So when I tell you that I'd take Sam Bradford over Jimmy Clausen every day of the week and twice on Sunday, I'd understand if you could care less. (That, and, well, I'm a Sooner fan.)
But what if Bill Parcells told you that?
When it comes to reclamation projects in the NFL, there have been none better than Big Tuna. Parcells successfully built those franchises by relying on a keen eye in talent evaluation. And what are Parcells' rules for drafting a quarterback?
Bill Parcells' Four Simple Rules for Drafting a Quarterback
- He must be a senior. (Bradford is in his fourth year.)
- He must have a degree. (Bradford will have his in May, and he's an outstanding student.)
- He must be a three-year starter. (Debatable.)
- He must have at least 23 wins. (Bradford had 24.)
(Interestingly, of the seven quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl in the 2000s, five -- Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning and Trent Dilfer -- met all four requirements when drafted.)
So what can we take away from this little glimpse into Tuna's twisted psyche?
Well, obviously you can't be some geek off the street, hence the floor of 23 wins. However, more than rocket arms and fast 40s, Parcells seeks out quarterbacks who are intelligent, studious and mature.
Does Slingin' Sam fit the bill? You could quibble with the requirement of three years of starting experience, but, otherwise, Bradford meets all the criteria.
Furthermore, Bradford is beloved by his teammates, past and present. He has embraced his heritage and become a revered figure in the Cherokee Nation. When he went down in 2009 with a severe shoulder injury, the Sooners arguably missed Bradford's steadying presence on the field as much as his talents as a quarterback.
Bottom line: Bradford's leadership, maturity and character are unquestioned.
No Offense, But...
Our buddy Michael Felder at In The Bleachers raises one of the biggest knocks on Bradford: the Sooners' Air Raid-styled attack.
As Michael points out, Bradford excelled in what he aptly describes as a "point-and-click" system that enabled marginally talented predecessors, such as Jason White and Nate Hybl (every so often), to put up big numbers, too. Bradford also had the good fortune of playing with an abundance of stars around him, which brings up the issue of how much of his success was attributable to his supporting cast.
First, let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Bradford is light years ahead of guys like Hybl and White at this point. In terms of skills and physical attributes, that's like Mack Brown and Zac Efron in a beauty contest. (I'd assume that's a no-brainer for everyone other than this guy.)
Second, the talk of OU's overwhelming offensive talent is a chicken-egg dilemma: Was Bradford good because of the guys around him, or did he make them better?
I'd say it's fair to apply a "discount factor" to Bradford's prolific numbers based on the talent gap between his team and OU's foes. However, Bradford still put up great stats against the the Sooners' best competition, so it's not like he simply benefited from steamrolling pansies.
Lastly, the concerns about Oklahoma's offense seem moot to me. Bradford played under center often enough at OU to demonstrate more than adequate comfort with this aspect of "pro-style" offenses.
Also, as Chris Brown of Smart Football notes, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson's "aspirational" pro-style system mixes and matches multiple sets -- both under center and out of the shotgun -- and tempos, all while striving for a solid run-pass balance. As such, Bradford has a solid foundation in pro schemes.
If anything, Bradford's background at Oklahoma may mean he needs a year apprenticeship before he's ready to contribute. As evidenced by the "Parcells Test," though, Bradford possesses the maturity and dedication necessary to put in the time and effort to sharpen his skill set, as well as the smarts.
Are You Tough Enough?
As a GM, the biggest question I'd have about Bradford is whether or not he can handle the physical pounding of life in the NFL. Michael rightfully contends that a season essentially lost to a separated shoulder should raise some concerns about Bradford's ability to take a hit from full-head-of-steam, 300-pound pass rushers week in and week out.
I'm even farther away from being a doctor than an NFL front office type, so I admittedly know nothing about the nitty gritty of AC joint injuries.
What I do know is that Bradford worked his ass off to come back to a team that had a poor offensive line and no realistic shot at a national championship. And given the special considerations of Bradford's insurance policy, I wonder who was really driving the bus on the decisions regarding his rehab and surgery.
But is Bradford tough?
I honestly have no idea how to answer that question, other than by saying, "Tough enough."
To be fair, if worries about Bradford's injury history and toughness scared the St. Louis Rams away from backing up the Brinks trucks for him, I wouldn't blame them.
That doesn't disqualify him as the best quarterback prospect in this draft, though.