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) andâ€¦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 %|
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.