During my time as a student-journalist at the University of Tennessee, one of my hot buttons was always the debate on the Vols' starting quarterback, Tyler Bray. During his three seasons in Knoxville, Bray started 24 games and threw 69 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, with a passer rating of 145.0.
The phrase, "stats don't lie" is commonly used in the sports world. However, in the case of Tyler Bray, the saying couldn't be more untrue.
Bray was fortunate to pad his stats against the weaker portion of UT's schedule during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Matt Simms started the 2010 season at quarterback and had little success against the elite defenses of the SEC.
Bray took over the reins and led the Vols to wins over sub .500 teams during the final four games of the season. Going into his sophomore campaign, Bray garnered high acclaim and optimism from the UT fanbase.
In 2011, Bray once again performed well against weak competition. The quarterback put up great numbers against Montana, Cincinnati and Buffalo but had mediocre performances against Florida and Georgia before suffering a hand injury.
Once again, the Vols would face the bulk of their competition with a QB not named Bray under center. Not that this is actually his fault, but the point being, Bray had yet to face the bulk of the SEC schedule and produce impressive stats doing so.
This season, Bray started every game for the Vols. With a healthy Bray, the Tennessee Volunteers had their worst season in school history. The Vols went 5-7, with their lone SEC win coming in the season finale against Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 in SEC play).
Bray's last season on Rocky Top was very similar to his previous two, minus injuries. His statistics are impressive on paper, but he did little to help his team from a leadership stand point or make big plays in big games.
The proof is in the pudding, when facing SEC competition—Tyler Bray is not a great quarterback. With the exception of newly added Missouri (5-7, 2-6 in SEC play), Bray lacks a signature performance in SEC play that would justify him being a future NFL quarterback.
There is no denying that he has talent, but the best phrase to describe Tyler Bray is, "Million Dollar Arm; Two Cent Brain." Tyler Bray has the physical intangibles an NFL quarterback should have, but he lacks all the mental intangibles that should be considered as well.
For all the UT fans who were hoping to see Bray become the next Peyton Manning, you couldn't be more wrong. However, Tyler Bray does share characteristics with another quarterback drafted in the first round of the 1998 draft: Ryan Leaf.
Tyler Bray, at worst, could be Ryan Leaf, and at best could be Matthew Stafford. If the attitude problems, lack of leadership and off-the-field nonsense continue, he will surely be an NFL washout like Leaf. Judging from my experience as a student, fan and journalist, I would take those odds.
The Stafford comparison is based on what I've seen this season from both. With a great wide receiver or wide receiver corps, both put up big numbers and have little to show record wise. Both had the physical attributes alone to be drafted as juniors. However, neither encompass the mental or leadership qualities to be a truly elite NFL quarterback.
For all the talent this kid has, he chooses to waste it on and off the field. He lacks the ability to check down receivers other than his primary target and benefits from having an impressive wide receiver corps his entire career in Knoxville.
To me, it is without a doubt that Tyler Bray will be an absolute failure in the NFL and will be playing games in Canada within the next five years.