October 1, 2001
Every year, Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gator offense is one of the nation’s most prolific, yet the annual NFL Draft rarely, if ever, reflects their dominance. In fact, just for fun, try and name the last breakout skill player to emerge from the swamps of Gainsville. Fred Taylor in 1998? Maybe, but realistically, you’d probably have to travel all the way back to 1990 and Emmitt Smith to find a true offensive game-breaker.
More often than not, Gators prove to be products of a terrific system, and once they’re introduced to the pro game, they have a tendency to settle into nice, but nowhere near great NFL players. Think Ike Hillard or Eric Rhett. Or better yet, don’t.
Things get even dicer when you start to analyze their quarterbacks.
Since 1980, 2 Florida quarterbacks have been drafted — TWO! Danny Wuerffel in 1997 and Kerwin Bell in 1988. Yep, in 21 years, the school known for its offensive prowess has churned out two bottom-of-the-barrel pro quarterbacks. Which is why, when the season began, Florida’s current quarterback, Rex Grossman, received nary a mention as a possible prospect for 2002 or beyond.
Yet it’s Grossman who’s quickly emerging as 2001’s best quarterback after another stellar performance this weekend. Facing 21st-ranked Mississippi State, who last year whipped the Gators, Grossman threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns, leading a 52-0 rout of the Bulldogs. The strong performance (it’s Grossman’s fourth consecutive 300-yard game) has placed the redshirt sophomore in the thick of the Heisman race.
So, is there is reason to think Grossman might break the mold of past Florida quarterbacks who have failed outside Florida’s system? More importantly, is he a guy the Texans should be scouting?
There’s a lot to like abut Grossman, beginning with his numbers. Through four games, Grossman has thrown for 1,401 yards, 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions. This coming after last year when, in six starts, he threw for 1,866 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a freshman.
You also have to love how it’s Grossman, and not the more highly-touted Brock Berlin, starting for Spurrier, despite Berlin being given every opportunity to live up to his hype. The guy flat-out rose to the occasion and beat out Berlin for the job this spring.
Then there’s what he did this past weekend, beyond the numbers. Last year, after Mississippi State upset the Gators, and rattled the still-green Grossman, Bulldog CB Fred Smoot said that Grossman was "young, dumb and he hasn’t played in the SEC. Tonight, he saw a real defense." Don’t think Grossman’s big day in Florida’s revenge game this past weekend was an accident.
Scouts think Grossman’s arm is strong enough, and they love the fact that, as just a sophomore, he’s picked up Spurrier’s complicated offense and learned to thrive in it. Conventional thinking says that if he stays with it for two more years, he’ll be a polished, pro-ready quarterback.
So the kid’s talented, he’s tenacious and he has the chutzpah you like to see from your franchise cornerstone. But from there, you run into some problems.
First, to take this back to where it all began, there’s the Florida offensive system. Here’s all you really need to know: Grossman has been so impressive thus far, he’s actually drawing favorable comparisons to… Danny Wuerffel. On the college level, Wuerffel’s the Holy Grail. But on the pro level, he’s not even Ty Detmer. So what’s it say about Grossman’s prospects if that’s the legacy he’s living up to? Not much, in terms of his pro prospects.
Then there’s Grossman’s height, or lack thereof. He’s thick enough to play in the NFL (218 pounds), but not near tall enough (he’s only listed at 6’1"). Obviously, smaller QB’s such as Doug Flutie or Michael Vick are thriving in the NFL right now, but those guys have the added benefit of being scramblers, and thus, capable of moving outside the pocket, and out from behind hard-to-see-over linemen. But Grossman’s no scrambler, so height is a factor.
Unless… he stumbles into an offense that allows him to make quick reads and play near the outskirts of the pocket, some form of the West Coast offense. In that scenario, Grossman could likely thrive, and the Texans have maintained all along that they’ll build their system around the players, not vice versa, so Grossman could definitely be a factor over the next two years, as he might just be the one Florida quarterback to finally break the mold.
Rex Grossman Return to The War Room