this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Drew Brees stepped onto the scale at the N.F.L.’s scouting combine in 2001 and was quickly reminded of his biggest — and smallest — problem. The first time he had heard that he was not as tall as the men ...
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|11-30-2009, 08:22 AM||#1|
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Drew Brees stepped onto the scale at the N.F.L.’s scouting combine in 2001 and was quickly reminded of his biggest — and smallest — problem.
The first time he had heard that he was not as tall as the men with clipboards preferred was when he was coming out of high school. Despite leading his team to the Texas state championship with a perfect season, he was not heavily recruited.
After finishing third in the Heisman Trophy race while at Purdue, Brees again faced perhaps his biggest obstacle, this time in a room filled with talent evaluators. “They had him at 6 feet and one-eighth or two-eighths inches,” his Purdue Coach, Joe Tiller, said. “Drew said ‘No, I’m 6-1. Measure me again.’ He said, ‘That can’t be true. I know I’m 6-1.’ ”
Not quite. Brees is listed at 6 feet flat and is the shortest starting quarterback in a league in which 21 of 32 starting quarterbacks are 6-3 or taller. But as a favorite to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Brees is making a mockery of the league’s carefully honed quarterbacking prototype.
When he takes the field for the 10-0 New Orleans Saints on Monday night, Brees will come face to face, or maybe face to chin, with the current embodiment of the ideal, the New England Patriots’ 6-4 Tom Brady. Statistically speaking, at least, Brady may come up short.
“To me, it’s not that big a deal,” Brees said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know what it’s like to be 6-5; I don’t know what those guys see. I do know what I have to do in order to prepare myself, how I need to move and slide, to find lanes and see my receivers. It’s like if you were to take a sense away, if you couldn’t see or hear, then it accentuates your other senses because you rely on those things more.”
The greatest concern for shorter quarterbacks is whether they can adequately see the field over offensive linemen who may be half a foot taller, and whether they can get a pass over the outstretched hands of a looming defensive lineman.
When the Dallas Cowboys pioneered the use of computer analysis in scouting several decades ago, they determined that the breaking point for quarterbacks having passes blocked at the line of scrimmage was 6-1. Any player shorter than that, even one with first-round ability, should not be drafted above the sixth or seventh round, the Cowboys figured.
Brees was the first pick in the second round. Since then, he has debunked the idea that the taller quarterback is better.
He has completed 68.1 percent of his passes this season, and through Week 10, Brees had 10 of his 291 pass attempts hit at the line of scrimmage, according to Stats Inc., second most in the league behind Kurt Warner. Warner, who is 6-2, had 12 of his 353 attempts hit at the line. Just behind them was the 6-6 Derek Anderson, who had 9 of 154 attempts batted. Last year, Football Outsiders, the Web site that offers statistical analysis of the N.F.L., had Brees with 18 of his 635 passes tipped at the line, tied for second in the league with Jason Campbell (6-5) and Jake Delhomme (6-2), neither of whom threw as many passes as Brees.
“If you can visualize a salt shaker and a water tumbler,” said Gil Brandt, a former vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys who helped develop the computer models. “A short quarterback is the salt shaker that has to throw over the water tumbler, to a receiver on the other side that is probably just a little taller than the salt shaker. Brees is a 1-in-100 guy. If you look around, the quarterbacks that are playing the best, they’re all at least 6-3.”
To compensate for not being as tall as Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, each 6-5, Brees has an instinctive ability to slide a few feet in the pocket to better see his throwing lanes. He is no Steve Young, the barely 6-1 Hall of Fame quarterback whose superb scrambling ability helped make up for his size, but Brees shares Young’s conviction that vision is not a problem.
Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck, who endured Brees’s four-touchdown day last month, said he guessed that Brees takes a deeper drop before he passes to give him a better view over his offensive line. Nope, Brees said. But Tuck does know one thing from experience.
“His release is so quick, it makes it so tough to judge when he’s letting the ball go, so you don’t know when to jump,” Tuck said.
Brees calls his quick release one of his survival skills. He has concentrated on releasing the ball with his hand high in the air, not down near his shoulder.
“I’ve seen plenty of tall guys where the ball is coming out at a height equivalent to their shoulder,” Brees said. “Compare a 6-5 guy who throws the ball sidearm to a 6-0 guy who has a high release point, and whose ball is coming out higher?”
At Purdue, Tiller noticed that Brees has exceptionally long thumbs, and bigger hands than most people 6 foot. That, Tiller said, allows Brees a better grip on the ball. That may be why Brees is also so adept at throwing the ball from a number of release points, the better to get the ball around and over the linemen.
“Over the top, sidearm, three-quarter — he can alter his throwing motion,” said the former coach Jon Gruden, now an analyst for ESPN.
In the end, what has made Brees great, though, may have more to do with what he has in common with Brady and Manning: extraordinary preparation. Brees has mastered the Saints’ offense, and Coach Sean Payton has given him the freedom to change plays, just as Brady and Manning do. Because Brees knows where everybody is going, which allows him to release the ball before his receiver even makes his break, he can throw off the timing of the leaping linemen.
“Height only matters when you’re not mastering it,” Young, also an ESPN analyst, said. “Maybe the degree of difficulty is a little higher, but it’s still not a gating issue to success.”
Still, even Young said that although he never wished he was 6-6, he was always thankful he was not 5-11.
“6-0 is the Maginot line,” he said.
Brees just made it.
“You’re standing next to these N.F.L. quarterbacks, and you’re the shortest one,” Brees said. “You get these looks like, ‘You play quarterback?’ ”
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|11-30-2009, 01:25 PM||#4|
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Re: Saints’ Brees Debunks Notions of the Quarterback Prototype
Almost every article talks about his preparation. He plays as well as does on the field because he is prepared and people see this and are willing to follow him.