What Tom Brady tells us about 40-yard times at the NFL combine

Eli Manning photo courtesy of the New York Giants
Eli Manning photo courtesy of the New York Giants

(Photo courtesy of the New York Giants)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

The only items more useless than short-sleeved shirts and tanning oil at this weekend’s NFL scouting combine are 40-yard times for quarterbacks. Or is that offensive linemen? Take your pick. It doesn’t matter. In both instances, they’re overrated.

Yeah, I know, Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson earlier this week said that 40s “help you assign proper market value to the player.” But that’s one man’s opinion. Here’s another: I pay about as much attention to the 40s of quarterbacks … and offensive linemen … as I do MTV. Which means I don’t.

The reason? Simple. Tom Brady.

You may have heard of him. He’s the best quarterback in the game, and one of the best quarterbacks ever. All he did this month was win his fourth Super Bowl, and for those keeping score, it tied him with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most ever.

Brady has everything you want in a quarterback – accuracy, timing, smarts, leadership, you name it … everything except a decent 40-time. At the 2000 combine in Indianapolis, he ran – and I use that verb loosely -- a 5.28 40, one of several factors that pushed him down the board until the Patriots rescued him in the sixth round.

In Grigson’s world, I guess that’s proper market value for Brady. But tell that to anyone today. That’s why 40-yard dashes tell you as much about a quarterback as a Ouija board.

OK, so what we learned in Indianapolis is that Tom Brady’ is not Usain Bolt. Fine. I get that. But don’t tell me he can’t move … because he can. He moves as well as any quarterback within the pocket, and there’s a big difference between knowing how to escape the pressure and knowing how to escape the pocket.

More than that, however, he checks off the two most important boxes for quarterbacks, which are accuracy and leadership, and remember that when you hear people rave about what Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley or Bryce Petty run this weekend.

I remember when Robert Griffin III ripped off a 4.41 in 2012, and his reviews skyrocketed. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get now because last time I checked quarterbacks weren’t paid for their legs -- something RGIII found out the hard way. Plus, he was a track star, so he should’ve run fast.

And he did.

Nope, I want to know about a quarterback’s accuracy, his ability to throw outside the numbers, what he’s like on the board, what he’s like in the huddle, his ability to make others around him better and his leadership skills. What I don’t want is a 40 time. This isn’t an Olympic time trial, people. It’s a football workout.


Rewind the video tape, and you’ll find Philip Rivers ran a 5.08 at the 2004 combine. Peyton Manning reportedly ran a 4.8 … with the emphasis on reportedly. Brother Eli ran a 4.9. My point is: When it comes to quarterbacks, concentrate on what matters – and it’s not the 40. Heck, Colin Kaepernick breezed through it in 4.53 seconds, and what does that tell you about him as a quarterback? Answer: He’s fast, which is great if you’re assembling a relay team.

Let me put it another way: Whom do you want quarterbacking your team –Kaepernick or Brady? I think you get the idea.

And don’t get me started about offensive linemen, where 40-yard times are about as valuable as mittens in Miami. The Lions’ Jeff Backus checked in at 5.37; New England’s Todd Light at 5.29; Tennessee’s Michael Roos at 5.30; the Rams’ Jake Long (the first pick of the 2008 draft) at 5.22 and the Jags’ Luke Joeckel (the second pick in 2013) at 5.30.

OK, so they’re tackles. They're not exactly built for speed. But look at the guards. Tennessee’s Chance Warmack checked in at 5.49; Pittsburgh’s David DeCastro at 5.32; Tennessee’s Andy Levitre at 5.33 Cincinnati’s Kevin Zeitler at 5.32 and San Francisco’s Mike Iupati at 5.26.

The point is: Offensive lineman should be timed for 10 yards; not 40. Their games are predicated on quick bursts off the line, not long strides downfield. With interior players it’s all about speed and quickness in short bursts. With quarterbacks, it’s all about accuracy, timing and leadership. With neither is it about stop watches.

Which means … yep, which means when you hear those 40 times for both this weekend, mark them down and file them somewhere they’ll be useful ... somewhere like the trash can.