STILLWATER — Rave reviews kept pouring in for former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden last week from Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.
ESPN NFL Draft expert Todd McShay called Weeden the best quarterback there and wrote that Weeden “is proving that he is not a product of Oklahoma State's wide-open system and the talent of standout WR Justin Blackmon.” Wes Bunting of National Football Post ranked him the 10th-best overall prospect at the Senior Bowl, noting his arm strength, accuracy and maturity as reasons why he could quickly develop into a starter in the NFL.
So it makes sense that Weeden earned the starting nod for the South team for Saturday's Senior Bowl game. But what happened after that is a bit more puzzling.
Weeden threw just nine passes in the game as part of his spotty line that included five completions, 56 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. Conversely, San Diego State's Ryan Lindley finished with 21 passes, and Arizona's Nick Foles threw the ball 15 times. Both threw for more than 100 yards.
Why did the quarterback that supposedly had the best showing leading up to the Senior Bowl game throw the fewest passes for the South team? We examine a few theories, ranging from the logical to those of the conspiracy variety.
It's just an All-Star game
It's no big secret that the practices leading up to the Senior Bowl are way more crucial to a player's evaluation than the game itself. The NFL Network announcers mentioned as much during the game when they said the team with the best pro talent — in this year's case, the South — usually loses the Senior Bowl.
Weeden had already made his positive mark during those workouts, not to mention during his two seasons at OSU, where became the school's all-time leading passer, posted a 23-3 record as a starting quarterback and helped lead the Cowboys to their first Big 12 championship.
Essentially, Weeden had already proven himself during that week in Mobile. Why not let Lindley, who comes from a smaller school, and Foles, who was on a bad team that endured a midseason coaching change this year, get more of a chance to impress NFL personnel?
You play to win the game
Or maybe the Senior Bowl coaches don't approach the game like the exhibition we seem to all think it is. After all, the North team went conservative once it got into field-goal range late in the fourth quarter while it tried to run the clock down and make it a 10-point game.
When Weeden tossed his first interception, a ball that was underthrown after he slipped a bit while dropping back from center, he was yanked and replaced with Lindley. After Lindley quarterbacked three consecutive three-and-out drives, Foles started the second half.
And when Weeden's first pass after coming back into the game was picked off by Oklahoma's Jamell Fleming, he was pulled again.
The Redskins have found their quarterback
Here's one for the conspiracy theorists out there.
The Redskins, along with teams like the Browns and Dolphins, are clearly looking for a quarterback.
The Redskins' staff coached the South team, meaning that franchise likely the closest look at Weeden the quarterback and Weeden the person. Maybe the folks from Washington concluded they really want to draft Weeden — and didn't want to share what they've found.
That's a silly thought process and plan of action, of course. Personnel from all 32 NFL teams saw Weeden practice. It's hard to hide a player, especially a quarterback, at a showcase event like the Senior Bowl.
But maybe the Redskins tried to do just that.