Thursday, September 01, 2005

#2 - Learn From the Master

Statistically, Brady Quinn didn't do anything except get better last season. Completion percentage up, to 54 from 47. Touchdowns up from 9 to 17, interceptions down from 15 to 10. Passed for more than 2000 yards.

And yet everybody, including the QB himself, labels the year a dissappointment.

The overall 6-6 record of the Irish no doubt is no doubt a large factor in coming to that conclusion. But so is the discomforting pattern Quinn established of having good starts before tapering off during the course of a game - he tossed four touchdown passes in the first half against Washington, then was barely heard from the rest of the game. He completed 6-of-7 passes for 58 yards on the opening drive against USC but was just 9-of-22 for 47 yards from that point on.

What am I getting at here? The in-game progression of a quarterback, the ability to check at the line and change things up and adjust to a defense, eluded Quinn under the tutelage of Ty Willingham. Charlie Weis cannot and will not allow this to happen.

Maybe we're heaping too much praise on Charlie by dubbing him "the master". Fact remains he took Tom Brady from sixth-round pick in the draft to a two-time Super Bowl MVP. You need to have intuitive football knowledge of a special degree to produce those kind of results - in a similar vein, look at the body of work from Norm Chow: everywhere he has been, QB's have shown sustained, sometimes astronomical improvement. How else does Matt Leinart ascend from unknown with a grand total of zero pass attempts to Heisman winner - by eating his Flintstone vitamins?

Quinn is the pivot of the Irish fortunes. As he goes, so goes this team and this season. If it's far too much to heap on the shoulders of a 20-year old from Ohio, he hasn't shown any signs of strain. In fact, he seems to welcome it.

There's going to be a moment, maybe Saturday night at Heinz Field, next week at Michigan, or nine weeks from now against Tennessee. They'll be a lot of them over the course of the season, but they'll be the moments when Quinn sees every eye in the stadium fixed on him. How he responds will be the indicator of how far he is able to go under the guidance of his mentor with four Super Bowl rings on his hand.

But no matter how much Quinn learns about recognizing a delayed blitz, or calling a silent audible or using his pivot foot, one thing has to come from him and him alone. All the Weis-coaching in the world cannot provide it:

"We always define it as 'It,'" Weis said. "That special something that the great ones have. It just permeates the guy and spreads like wildfire through everyone in the huddle.

"It's when you look in your teammates' eyes late in a game and say, 'OK, fellas, let's go down and win this thing.' And they believe in you."

'It' has to be inherent, the great ones have it already. I don't know where 'It' comes from, but it doesn't come from outside. You can push a guy as far as you can, but you can't put 'It' into him."

In 48 hours, Brady Quinn gets his first chance to show off "It".'



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