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01 Apr 2008

Jeff Brohm, Hidden Hero

by Bill Barnwell

As we draw closer to the NFL Draft, talk has faded regarding quarterback Brian Brohm, regarded as a strong candidate to be the first overall pick following the 2006 season. It now seems entirely possible that Brohm could go as high as the top five or as low as the second round. The latter fate could consign him to being just another quarterback, a role that could see him pushed into relative obscurity if he doesn't succeed in his first 200 pass attempts or so. Sound unfair? It wouldn't be the first time a Brohm was unfairly ignored.

In 2001, one quarterback took an underpublicized league known as the XFL by storm. In their infinite wisdom, NFL scouts ignored the best season a quarterback had without impregnating any models beforehand. That man retired after the year when no NFL team was smart enough to offer him, the king of the XFL, a job. His astounding numbers ended up in dusty XFL record books. The comeback stories and "Who woulda thunk it" column inches went to Kurt Warner and Tom Brady. The brilliant mind and golden arm went back to Louisville, where he coached his little brother with all the wiseness he'd accrued against the Maniax and the Hitmen. Jeff Brohm was above it all, and with good reason.

Fourteen years ago, Jeff Brohm was a hotshot quarterback coming out of the University of Louisville. Brohm went undrafted in the college draft, owing to a draft class featuring such future stars as Heath Shuler, Trent Dilfer, Glenn Foley, Gus Frerotte, and Steve Matthews. He was entering the league at the age of 23 after trying minor league baseball with the Cleveland Indians, who'd drafted him in the fourth round in 1990. Brohm was wise enough, after two years and a 644 OPS at the lowest levels of baseball, to realize that his calling was as the most underappreciated quarterback of the 21st century.

After bouncing around the league with the Chargers and Redskins for two years, Brohm impressed none other than the San Francisco 49ers with his quarterback skills. They knew a thing or two about quarterbacks back then, we swear. Brohm was good enough to be their quarterback of the future at one time, the chosen successor to Steve Young. In 1996, his performance in 34 passes allowed the team to let Elvis Grbac walk as a restricted free agent following the season.

Then, after the season, the 49ers asked Bill Walsh to grade the available quarterbacks in the draft, to analyze whether one might provide some competition for Brohm in the coming years. Walsh told the team to draft Jake Plummer. The team instead opted to draft Jim Druckenmiller. This cardinal sin, ignoring the franchise's savior, led to a series of first-round picks that included Reggie McGrew, Ahmed Plummer, Mike Rumph, Kwame Harris, and Rashaun Woods. Oops. Only Julian Peterson and Andre Carter were competent first-round selections.

Of course, Druckenmiller became the theoretical quarterback of the future for the franchise, throwing 44 passes the next year before being benched for Brohm as the backup quarterback. After the year, despite completing 63.8 percent of his passes, Brohm was released by the 49ers. He'd never throw another NFL pass.

Brohm floated around the league again, showing up in Tampa Bay, Denver, and Cleveland in successive years. When the XFL opened up, he was a free agent and chose to head into the unknown cavalcade of something that was the Xtreme Football League where, for the first time, Jeff Brohm got a chance to shine. And shine, my friends, shine he did.

Jeff Brohm was selected by the Orlando Rage in the league's dispersal draft. He was joined by luminaries like Bill Duff (later the host of the fantastic "Human Weapon" show on the Travel Channel) and…well, no one else we recognize. Injuries held him to 119 attempts, but what he did in those 119 attempts should be the stuff of legend.

We at Football Outsiders recently sought out and obtained XFL play-by-play sheets. In the lull between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, we've spent some time breaking down the play-by-play and developing DVOA and DPAR on the XFL level. We don't have full XFL-to-NFL translations, but when you look at the numbers, you'll understand why our collective eyes bugged out when we saw what Jeff Brohm did in his lone season as an XFL star.

Player Team DPAR DPAR Rank DVOA DVOA Rank Passes Yards TD FK FL INT Comp %
J. Brohm ORL 28.1 1 36.0% 1 119 1993 9 1 0 3 68.0
C. Weldon BIR 23.1 2 19.0% 2 165 1228 7 4 2 9 62.4
J. Druckenmiller MEM 16.0 3 8.0% 3 177 1340 12 2 1 6 55.4
M. Pawlawski SFD 14.1 4 6.0% 5 267 1484 12 3 3 4 63.3
K. McDougal CHE 13.9 5 7.4% 4 114 983 4 7 3 3 59.6
T. Maddox LAX 12.2 6 3.1% 6 317 1996 17 5 1 9 57.1
B. Kuklic ORL 3.4 7 -1.8% 7 106 895 5 11 5 9 54.7
W. Richardson NYH -0.8 8 -9.7% 8 141 804 6 6 2 6 58.2
R. Clement LAS -2.0 9 -14.8% 9 136 796 9 7 3 4 57.4

Why yes, that's Jim Druckenmiller who's third in DPAR and DVOA, but Brohm is on another planet. He averaged an absurd 16.7 yards per attempt! No other quarterback with more than 100 attempts averaged more than 8.6 yards per attempt, meaning that Brohm was nearly twice as productive as any other quarterback. That's borne out in his DVOA, which nearly laps the field. Although he finished second in passing yards to Tommy Maddox (who had three more yards in nearly 200 more attempts), Brohm led the league with a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, and was the only quarterback to not lose a fumble at any point during the season.

Why didn't NFL front offices give Jeff Brohm another chance? It's hard to say. Maddox got a chance as the XFL Big Game MVP and the starting quarterback of the league's only champion. Unlike Brohm, Maddox at least had 161 attempts as a starter in the NFL before heading to Vince McMahon's playground, giving him a very tiny cachet to work with.

Maybe Brohm was too injury-prone. Maybe he took too many sacks. Maybe, at 30, he was too old to come in as a virtual NFL rookie. Or maybe there were 31 NFL teams who were just afraid that another castoff like Kurt Warner, a guy who every front office had passed on for stiffs like Jim Druckenmiller, would come to the NFL and prove that Warner wasn't a fluke. That NFL GMs had no idea how to scout quarterback talent. That the Brohm family was a fountain of quarterbacking brilliance. Let's hope that Brian doesn't suffer the same sort of criminal negligence that his older brother did. Jeff Brohm deserved better.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 01 Apr 2008

35 comments, Last at 02 Apr 2008, 9:38pm by Fergasun

Comments

1
by Truman (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 9:38am

Sweet, do you think we might get a link to yesterday's MMQB, given it featured Thomas Dimitroff?

2
by Cathedraticum (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 9:43am

...and this concludes this week's very special 'XFL Sample size Theatre'

Bill did you ever think you'd get to write an article on a defunct, one year football league because you had down time between the Superbowl and NFL Draft? Life must not be all bad

3
by fish shure (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 9:44am

Happy April Fool's Day.

4
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 9:55am

There is a lot more truth in this article then I expected...

5
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 10:58am

Rumored had it that Alabama wanted/looked at Jeff Brohm as its new OC (after another folk hero type college QB, Major Applewhite, left to go back to his alma mater). Perhaps Brohm will finally get his recognition in the coaching ranks.

6
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 11:01am

I sincerely hope that the XFL DPAR is real. Just because that would be hilarious.

7
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 11:17am

1000 yards here, 1000 yards there... what's the difference between a couple of friends?

8
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 11:25am

The April Fools column is always a good one. This was no exception.

However,

"Or maybe there were 31 NFL teams who were just afraid that another castoff like Kurt Warner, a guy who every front office had passed on for stiffs like Jim Druckenmiller, would come to the NFL and prove that Warner wasn’t a fluke. That NFL GMs had no idea how to scout quarterback talent"

Many a true word spoken in jest....

9
by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 11:37am

excellent work!

10
by mrh (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 11:55am

From wikipedia:
Another of the better-known players was Las Vegas running back Rod Smart, who first gained popularity because the name on the back of his jersey read "He Hate Me." Smart, who was only picked 357th in the draft, later went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, and the Oakland Raiders. His Panther teammate Jake Delhomme named his new-born horse "She Hate Me" as a reference to him.

I don't know if it's true, but it's a good story.

11
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 12:10pm

The scary thing about the date being 4/1 is.... this is so good, so well done, so plausible, is it real or not?

Wow, just like Swift's "Modest Proposal," it's hard to separate good satire from reality.

Bill, you have some 'splainin' to do... it's great, but is any of this real? As the bank robber said in Dirty Harry (5 bullets or 6): I gots to know.

12
by Doug English (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 12:53pm

As it was April 1st - didn't believe it, looked it up on wikipedia, was amazed... remembered that anyone can edit wikipedia, and went back to being sceptical... sceptical but amused.

Also for those in the states, My name is a link to some British April fool fun.

13
by Joseph (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 12:55pm

I'm going to vote for real data, just released on April Fools to get us wondering.

14
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 1:10pm

My vote is this is mostly true, except for the "XFL translations."

15
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 1:50pm

my vote is mostly true except for the Jeff Brohm parts...

16
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 1:55pm

Since the Orlando Rage team passing leader had less than a thousand years and wasn't Brohm, I'm going to have to say the DPAR/DVOA metrics are fabricated. Shocking, shocking, I know.

17
by TerryW (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 1:55pm

Damn, I think this might all be true enough.. see linked.

18
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 1:59pm

I'm guessing fake, as Brohm had only 993 yards passing on the season.

Brohm was first-team All-XFL, but separated his shoulder in Week 7, and missed the final 3 games.

19
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 2:03pm

Full XFL passing stats can be found here.

20
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 2:06pm

The stats in the above pages are missing Week 10 (fitting for a failed league).

21
by Drunkmonkey (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 2:11pm

#10: Yeah, that part about Delhomme naming his horse 'She Hate Me' is true... the papers here in Carolina made a big deal about it.

22
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 3:00pm

Ah, clever. Bill simply added a "1" in front of Brohm's 993 passing yards to get the amazing 16.7 ypa.

23
by db (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 4:05pm

What makes this ring true, even though it isn't, is that most "expert" talent evaluaters couldn't find their ass if you let them use both hands.

24
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 4:30pm

Jim brohm was not good Qb.
So what if he play good in XFL. That league wasa joke.
Brohm was bad Qb for 49ers.

25
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 5:24pm

#22 adding a "1" makes it all tie together. Damn that was well done. I wonder how long Bill was working on this. New Year's Eve, sitting home poring over XFL stats. "Hey, honey, come look at this: If I put an extra one in this guy's yardage....."

In other news, hey, a Jay Barker sighting in the XFL stats. IIRC, he was All-American and graduated with a W/L record of oh, 24-1 or something gaudy like that. And then.... the XFL's siren song was too strong to resist.

26
by dmb (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 5:34pm

I think I read somewhere that Brohm guy is a cousin of Sidd Finch; I guess uber-athleticism runs in the family.

27
by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 6:31pm

I used to watch the XFL. I only remember 3 QBs from there:

Druckenmiller, Pawlawski (I remember the epic LA-SF matchups), and Maddox.

That's one of the greatest QB seasons of all time. Really remarkable. Not sure what's crazier: That he put up those kinds of numbers, or that no NFL team gave him a shot afterwards.

28
by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 6:32pm

I fell for it. I believed there was XFL DVOA. Laugh at me. :D

29
by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 6:34pm

RE: 10

It's true. Didn't you notice it was sourced. ;) Link in my name.

30
by drobviousso (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 8:37pm

Given the teams with a top 5 pick, I'd be glad to see my stock slip a little if I was projected top 5.

31
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 1:51am

RE: 12

That site doesn't allow Americans to view its "programme"

32
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 2:44am

Happy everyone seemed to enjoy the piece. I actually had the idea about 18 months ago, didn't get around to doing it last year, and then only remembered it when me, Doug, and Aaron were talking about Brian Brohm at the Combine.

The (raw) numbers should be all real except for, of course, the lone "1" ahead of Brohm's yardage total. The idea was to always do the piece on Jeff Brohm because I wanted to link it to Brian Brohm, but I had no idea Jeff actually had pretty decent XFL numbers before I started researching the piece.

The DVOA and DPAR numbers are, sadly, false. I don't know if we have PBP for the XFL, but even if we did, we're going to spend our time improving our NFL research before we start worrying about the XFL.

In reality, a lot of what I said in this piece could very well be true -- Brohm wasn't likely to be a star, but he probably deserved more of a chance than he got .

I suspect this will be the first and last time I am compared to Swift.

33
by Doug English (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 5:07am

RE: #31

Hey Sid, sorry about that. Now linked to youtube clip of the same said video.

34
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 5:55am

Damnit. I read it and liked it. Actually believed it, though a eyebrow was raised.
Then again, my bullshit rader wasn't activated because I only read it - today, on the second of april.

35
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 9:38pm

I object to you characterizing your stats manipulation by saying you "added a lone one". I don't think that you are (nor have I ever seen you claim) to be a statistician ... but the true impact of the one is you added 1000 yards to his yardage total. You sell yourself short by claiming all you did was "added a 1" especially since you used the extra 1000 yards to derive his ypc.

Sorry, but I expect better from a writer publishing on the premier independent professional football website... harump!