April 28, 2011

Jay Paterno is the Worst Quarterbacks Coach Ever...Or Is He?

Much has been made for the past 12 years about Jay Paterno and his perceived inefficiencies when it comes to coaching the most important position on the field. Since taking over the coaching positions at the beginning of the millennium, Jay has seen his fair share of quarterbacks, some of which were good, some of which were not. The most prevalent argument made is that Jay does not coach the players to be NFL quarterbacks, and once the players leave, even if they've had success in college, they are ill equipped to handle professional football.

2010 Penn State vs Youngstown State-100 Well, in light of tonight's draft, we wanted to take a look at the Penn State quarterback under Jay Paterno as it relates to the NFL. The results prove the anti-Jay crowd both right and wrong.

First, success or failure in the NFL cannot be attributed to college coaches completely. Once they are gone from Penn State, they are out of Jay's hands. It is then up to the NFL team's quarterbacks coach to get the player where he needs to be, specific to that team. Thus, little will be made of any NFL success the quarterbacks may have experienced, as that is in large part due to the NFL experience.

Second, and with thanks to a couple other bloggers for starting this idea, the premise of the analysis is to see if Jay is really that bad at coaching quarterbacks, or if he is just perceived that way by the PSU fan base. To test this, we looked at every quarterback drafted since Jay took over the position in 2000. As you'll see, comparatively speaking, Jay Paterno really isn't that bad of a quarterbacks coach.
And of course, comparatively means within the Big Ten. The theory I wanted to test is that Jay only gets a bad rap from PSU fans because we haven't had ELITE quarterbacks, when in fact we've seen on-field success despite the perceived terrible quarterback coaching.

Now I can see your first criticism, so let me address it. I am not a quarterback, nor do I know the specific mechanics it takes to be a quarterback, let alone a successful one. Thus, I cannot say if a player's collegiate success was due to his mechanics or some other factor. Because of this, the sole measure of success for this exercise is the NFL draft. Penn State has had quarterbacks make it into the NFL (for however brief a time) without being drafted, but they will not be mentioned here.


In the past eleven drafts, there have been 139 quarterbacks drafted, or about 12 per year. Let me begin by stating the obvious - no Penn State quarterback has been drafted in this time frame. The last QB from PSU to be drafted was Wally Richardson in the 7th round of the 1997 draft.

With that out of the way, how do the other Big Ten teams stack up in the same time frame? 16 Big Ten quarterbacks were selected. Almost half were from two schools - Michigan (4) and Purdue (3). Add Michigan State (2), Ohio State (2), and Wisconsin (2), and that leaves seven schools with one or zero quarterbacks drafted since 2000. In addition to PSU, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska have laid a quarterback goose egg.

Among those 16 quarterbacks drafted, only three appear in Rounds 1-3 (actually they all appeared in Round 2). The vast majority of the quarterbacks selected were taken in the fourth round or later. For comparison's sake, and to show that a highly selected QB doesn't always mean a highly successful NFL QB, Tom Brady was selected No. 199 overall in 2000, while Drew Stanton was selected No. 43 overall in 2007.


OK, so the Big Ten conference as a whole is not really known for its quarterback production. So what? Well, that means that, comparatively speaking, Jay Paterno isn't as bad as many make him out to be.

If preparedness for the NFL is the college position coach's job, as many anti-Jay arguers suggest, and if the NFL draft is the result of NFL preparedness, then the Big Ten as a whole is mediocre, not just Jay Paterno. He hasn't put a QB in the draft, so in that vein he is a failure. But many of his peers have either failed to do the same, or have put only one in the draft. Further, many of the Big Ten quarterbacks that were drafted ended up being busts. That doesn't do anything for Jay Paterno, but it does go to show that even though Penn State didn't put a QB in the draft, the Big Ten schools that did apparently didn't prepare the players well enough, either. Of the 16 drafted, only Brady, Drew Brees, and Kyle Orton have seen any mark of success on the field.

On the other hand, Jay has won two conference titles, four bowl games (including one BCS bowl game) and posted a record of 84-52, and that includes the Dark Years (due in part to Jay's Recruiting Coordinator blunders, but that's a story for a different day).

So the anti-Jay crowd is right and wrong. They are right in that Jay has not sent a quarterback to the NFL draft, thus failing their perceived duty of NFL preparedness. However, Penn State has had success during Jay's tenure, so something must be working.

The anti-Jay crowd points to the successes of Michael Robinson and Daryll Clark and says "Well they won, but they were terrible quarterbacks." Again, I'm no QB mechanics expert. Maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong. But if you go 51-13 over a five year period (that also include Anthony Morelli) and 4-1 in bowl games in that same period, something is working at the quarterback position.

Much of the blame for 2010 falls to the Paternos, but here's to hoping that they can right the ship and get the team back on track for what should be an exciting couple of years, maybe even more.

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