It has become a truism in quarterback evaluation that any scouting report that starts with the word “winner” is usually a death knell for a quarterback prospect, and it signals that their tangible qualities aren’t front and center.
In a sense, it allows us to substitute analysis for mystique, without regard for whether or not that ephemeral quality of “winning” can translate to the next level. In fact, it can’t even translate throughout NFL careers, much less across different levels of football. Winning in the first four seasons has virtually no relationship to winning in the next four.
The NFL is littered with the careers of quarterbacks who had “it” in college, but didn’t have the skills in the NFL—Tim Couch, Matt Leinart, Chris Leak, Vince Young and notably, Tim Tebow. Josh Heupel went undrafted. Greg McElroy and Kevin Dorsey were picked in the 7th round.
So when evaluators point to “winning,” they’re using a crutch that indicates—whether or not it’s on purpose—that there is no demonstrable reason or sustainable expectation of talent that will allow someone to succeed in the NFL. It means they couldn’t isolate why a prospect will be successful, but simply that he has been.
Even knowing all of that, it should catch your eye that everyone I talked to called Brock Jensen, quarterback of the North Dakota State Bison and prospective 2014 NFL rookie, a “winner.”
How could they not? He, along with his teammates and coaching staff, have won three consecutive national championships in Division I-AA (or more commonly, the Football Championship Subdivision), going 43-2 in that three-year span. In this case, it wasn’t so much that Jensen didn’t have demonstrable talent that was easy to break down, it was that his importance to the program and his immense aptitude for the game jump right off the page.