A few minutes with Jon Gruden
Former Bucs coach Jon Gruden will host a special Thursday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN called Gruden's QB Camp. Gruden conducted one-on-one meetings and interviews with four quarterbacks expected to be taken in the NFL draft, including Gators quarterback Tim Tebow. Gruden also worked with Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, who is the favorite to go first overall, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Texas' Colt McCoy, discussing their strengths and weaknesses and preparing each for what they can expect as an NFL quarterback.
Gruden took a few moments Wednesday to share his thoughts on Tebow, the draft, why the Gators' offense isn't tried in the NFL and much more.
What was it like working with these four young quarterbacks?
I have a lot of respect for these four guys. ESPN set up the whole thing and I was really excited to work with these four guys. They are talented, hard-working young men, and all of them are going to have success at the next level.''
Are you surprised that Tim Tebow has so many doubters?
I am surprised. I get a little emotional when I talk about quarterbacks, and I'm telling you, this guy is a winner. Heisman Trophy. Two national championships. Geez, his worst season was when the team went 12-1 because they lost to Alabama, which turned out to be the national champs. Then he goes out and throws for 400 yards in the Sugar Bowl. This guy is everything he's advertised to be: hard-working, dedicated, talented. I would want that guy on my team.
How much did Tebow have to change?
He is working on modifying his stroke. He had to tighten up some things. He had that free hand dropping off the ball, he overstrided sometimes, he had some things with his feet and delivery, just general mechanics stuff. But he worked extremely hard and has changed a lot from what he was doing in college.
Could the Gators' style offense work in the NFL?
Well, no one will fully commit to it because they don't want to see their quarterback hit that many times in a game. You see a guy like (Miami's) Pat White when the Dolphins ran their (Wildcat) and he ended up getting seriously injured. That's the risk with an offense where a quarterback is running that much and teams just aren't going to commit to that.
How long does it take for a quarterback to adjust to new mechanics before it becomes natural?
It takes a time, no question. How much time depends on how much work you put in. If you play catch for 20 minutes a day, it's going to take a long time. But Tebow, it seems like this guy throws 7,000 passes a day. He's relentless.
Can Tebow make it in the NFL?
It's like a hot baseball prospect, a guy taken high in the draft. Sometimes he has to go to the minors for a bit, learn how to hit the curveball. Tebow might be like that. He might have to learn from the sidelines, work hard in practice, learn from his coaches and a good veteran quarterback. But this guy has a lot of talent and is smart and I think he's going to be great.
What do young quarterbacks have to work on most?
We worked a lot on the mental aspect of the game. You have to be thick-skinned. You're constantly going to be evaluated, constantly critiqued no matter what round you are taken. It's physically demanding, but it's really mentally demanding. And I also tried to help them get on an NFL schedule.
What's the difference in the schedule?
In college, you're talking about 20 hours a week and three hours are the game. In the NFL, you better get there at 7:30 (in the morning) and leave at 8 or 9 o'clock at night. That's how Drew Brees does it. That's how Peyton Manning does it. I wanted to let these guys know that Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson worked like that. And when they watched film, they didn't just look at a TV screen. You have to know how to watch film, what specific things to look for, how to read coverages and know what you're actually watching.
Just how big is the adjustment from college to pro football for a quarterback?
Huge. It's huge. It's a huge leap for them. The receivers run faster routes, the defensive backs close quicker, the pass rush is in your face much quicker and they hit harder. Everything is just way better.
How important is that first year or two for a quarterback breaking into the NFL?
The first year or two, how you behave over that time, sets the tone for the rest of your career. I believe that. If you're a holdout and all that, you're in trouble right from the start. Look, it's tough enough as it is when you're trying your best. Look at the three rookies last year -- Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. Those guys did some really good things and they still combined to throw 58 interceptions. And those guys worked hard. If you're a rookie QB, you can't be a 9-to-5 guy. Get there early. Stay late. Show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Sit in the first row. Look forward to the criticism you get. Look forward to all your evaluations no matter what the grades are. Use that to improve. If you're not playing, get your mental reps. Using every moment as a learning experience. That's the best advice I can give.