KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — As I watched Tyler Bray effortlessly zip passes to his receivers during Tennessee‘s pro day last week, I turned to a media friend and said, “Some NFL team is going to get really lucky, especially if he slips past the second round.”
He agreed. In fact, it’s hard to find someone who has been around the UT football program who doesn’t agree. Bray is a special talent. He’s a rare physical specimen with a great arm. He’s a natural athlete.
Yet there’s a surprising amount of vitriol directed at Bray — and much of it comes from Tennessee fans.
When I tweeted out a funny quote from Bray about how he ate from the 99-cent Taco Bell value menu as a student, I got a barrage of responses about how he should have spent more time at the training table. There’s a contingent of Bray-haters who won’t be satisfied by anything he says or does.
Asked about his legacy last week, Bray replied, “We didn’t win a lot of games.”
His record — including last year’s 5-7 finish — is one of the biggest knocks on Bray as he prepares for the NFL draft in April.
Here’s what his critics say:
1. “He wasn’t a winner.”
One of the perils of being a quarterback are being blamed for things over which you have no control. Bray helped lead one of the best offenses in Tennessee’s history in 2012. It’s not his fault that the Vols’ defense was among the worst in the nation.
Bray had a horrid evening at Vanderbilt in what was Derek Dooley’s final game. But his job could have been saved with wins against South Carolina and Missouri in which Bray threw for 772 yards and eight touchdowns.
2. “He was aloof, had bad body language, etc.”
Perhaps this was true at times, but I think Bray was unfairly criticized at times because he didn’t come from Southern Quarterback central casting. He wasn’t a “yes, sir” guy. He was laid back, sarcastic with a dry sense of humor. That rubbed some people the wrong way, but it’s not a character flaw.
3. “He was/is immature.”
Possibly true, early in his career, and the legal troubles prior to his final season (minor as they were) didn’t help that perception. But players have overcome far worse to succeed in the NFL.
4. “He wasn’t a leader.”
Not so sure this was true. And I definitely disagree with the perception that he was some sort of locker room cancer. He was well-liked by many teammates and still
has friends on the team.
5. “Tennessee is better off without him.”
Laughably, totally wrong. It’s possible that Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman may turn out to be great quarterbacks. It’s possible (although by no means guaranteed) that the Vols will win more than five games this year. But that won’t be because of the absence of one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Catching up: I hope everyone had a great weekend. With football on break, I did no blogging or tweeting on Saturday and Sunday. Instead, I camped out in front of the television watching hoops. Not bad.
Tennessee returns to practice on April 2. In the meantime, catch up on the six practices on the books with our award-winning* video.