INDIANAPOLIS -- With his standing in the 2007 NFL draft tarnished a bit, despite not having thrown a pass in months or taken a snap in front of the piercing gaze of an NFL scout, The Golden Boy from The Golden Dome wondered aloud here about the perception his stock has slipped since the end of the season.
"It's kind of hard for a guy to slip...when we haven't done anything," said Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn during a pause at the NFL's draft scouting combine. "I didn't play a game the last couple of months, so it's funny to kind of sit back and hear some of that. You're thinking, 'Man, did I not lift [weights] today?' Or like, 'Did someone see me in the weight room miss a [repetition]?' It's just funny."
It won't be laughable for Quinn, however, if the perception persists that the man who began the 2006 college season as the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft is suddenly flirting with the fringes of the top 10. Draft slots translate into dollars in the NFL, and every rung further down the first-round ladder carries less financial reward. So Quinn, regarded by most scouts now as only the second-most desired quarterback in the '07 lottery, sorely needs to reverse the negative momentum.
He won't do it here, however, because Quinn does not plan to participate in throwing drills over the weekend. Instead, the former Fighting Irish star will primp for scouts at the two pro day workouts Notre Dame has scheduled on campus for its draft eligible players, on March 4 and March 22.
The man who has supplanted Quinn as the widely acknowledged top quarterback prospect, and likely top overall choice in the draft, LSU star JaMarcus Russell, will not throw here either. He will work out for scouts at the LSU pro day on March 14.
But unlike Quinn, who Friday appeared a bit exasperated by questions concerning his allegedly plunging stock, Russell isn't a man in need of a safety net. The suspicion is that he will be the choice of the woebegone Oakland Raiders, who hold the top spot in the draft and desperately need a franchise-type quarterback. If the Cleveland Browns, who own the third overall choice, pass on Quinn, he could tumble to anywhere from slots Nos. 7-10 in the opening round.
Outside of the fact that he officially weighed in at an eye-opening 265 pounds and looked soft through the mid-section, Russell has become "The Man" since the college season concluded. He might want to consider one less doughnut with breakfast, but beyond that, it seems there are very few warts on Russell.
Conversely, it's almost as if Quinn should be the pimply poster-boy in one those late-night infomercials for some miracle cure for acne.
And there is this final impression from the 2006 season, an image that certainly hasn't hurt Russell as scouts evaluate the two passers head-to-head: In the Sugar Bowl, the scintillating Russell earned most valuable player honors, passing for 332 yards and two touchdowns in a rout of Quinn and Notre Dame.
Certainly, the loss has stuck with Quinn, and the slippage he experienced in the estimation of scouts since his final college appearance is like a festering sore for him.
But it's also a wound that has been inflicted on others in the past. Call it a classic case of what Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll once titled "paralysis of analysis." Translation: Give a football scout too much time to peruse a prospect and he'll locate every weakness.
And in some cases, perhaps, even manufacture a few.
In the late-1960s song "Quinn the Eskimo," a seemingly long-forgotten ditty until it was mentioned to the Notre Dame quarterback on Friday afternoon, Bob Dylan wrote:
"You'll not see nothin' like The Mighty Quinn."
Truth be told, though, scouts may have seen too much already of Brady Quinn.
It is, fair or not, the nature of the draft beast. And, in some ways, it's a function of society's need to anoint a front-runner. There is a desire to elevate someone to the pedestal and then, like some three-balls-for-a-quarter carnival game, knock him off the perch.
For the past few months, it seems Quinn has been a convenient target.
"People have too much time on their hands," said Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow. "There's so much time to evaluate these guys now that you poke and prod and look for every little imperfection. Instead of focusing on a guy's strengths, we're more about the negative aspects of his game. And, let's be honest, if you look long enough and hard enough for something bad, you're either going to find something or invent something that you think you've found."
What the scouts have found in their exposure to Quinn this week is a bright, well-prepared player. He is a quarterback who has played and won big games and benefited immensely from the tutelage of Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator.
An offensive coordinator from one NFC team who met with Quinn on Friday but is unlikely to choose a quarterback in the April draft noted the quarterback's quick wit and obvious knowledge of the game. As far as football knowledge and presence, said the coach, Quinn probably had fewer holes in his game than Russell needs to address. But the same coordinator, who has watched video of both players, acknowledged the "superior upside" Russell possesses athletically and more readily cited negatives in Quinn's game.
There is a sense that Russell plays the game more naturally, and Quinn is a by-the-numbers quarterback who learned the position by rote. One personnel director Friday termed Quinn a "stiff-legged" passer who needs to use his body more on most throws and work on his mechanics.
"I don't know about all that stuff yet because I haven't looked closely enough, really, at the quarterbacks," said Arizona Cardinals first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt. "But I do think that [Quinn] has been a little bit of a victim, to tell you the truth. I mean, there were all these aspirations for his team, people thinking Notre Dame could win a national title, and it didn't happen. So who takes the heat? The biggest-name guy on the team. It just seems like a lot of people have tried to knock him down."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.