The gloves came off and the criticism started flying.
Because the passes hung in the air, sailed over the target or fell to the turf.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the headliner Monday at the Louisville pro day and fell short of expectations. He’s a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in May and a possibility for the Browns at No. 4 if he’s still available.
“Very average at best,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said of the throwing performance that was shown live on NFL Network.
“On his pro day, Teddy Bridgewater took a step backwards,” ESPN’s Ron Jaworski said.
Evaluating a quarterback prospect before the draft is a long, arduous, complicated process. The pro-day workout is only one piece of the puzzle, but it provides an opportunity to gather information in a controlled, yet pressure-filled setting.
Bridgewater’s performance could have added importance because he chose not to throw at the scouting combine in February. So this was the first chance for some NFL coaches and executives to see him in person.
He threw without gloves after wearing two for his entire Louisville career, and completed 57 of 65 passes with two drops, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt.
Those are not good numbers for a pro day. There is no defense, no pass rush and the quarterback has been practicing the script of throws for weeks.
The decision to go without gloves raised eyebrows, but he was likely trying to prove he doesn’t need them to be successful. It’s highly unusual for a quarterback to wear a glove on his throwing hand in good weather conditions, let alone always one on each hand.
“Well, when I was training down in Florida you know it’s 80-degree weather, sunny every day,” Bridgewater said in an interview on “Pro Football Talk” on NBC Sports Network. “So I was out there throwing without the glove and just letting it rip, so I felt confident coming into this process that I trained without the glove so I could throw on pro day without the glove. So that was the biggest thing that led to that decision.”
Bridgewater’s workout was attended by dozens of NFL scouts, coaches and executives who surrounded the field for an up-close view. Cleveland coach Mike Pettine didn’t go, according to reports, and the Browns won’t divulge who from the organization attended.
The Texans – who hold the top pick – were represented by GM Rick Smith and coach Bill O’Brien, one of six head coaches on site.
Mayock and former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner pointed out issues with Bridgewater’s footwork and accuracy, particularly when he was moving to his left.
“Just me being a perfectionist, I never want to see myself throw an incompletion,” said Bridgewater, who ran an impressive 4.73-second 40-yard dash in his only attempt. “But it’s also a learning process. I know that, hey, I missed this ball, now I know that there may be something I need to work on, maybe it’s footwork or ball placement.
“It’s always a learning process, whether you complete the football or you don’t. I just go back, continue to train and fix those things.”
Bridgewater finished the workout with a red zone drill, then walked straight over for a live interview on NFL Network. He then joined ESPN and tried to sell himself.
“I think I had a great day,” he said. “I may have missed a couple of balls, but it’s a learning process. I think I had a great day overall.”
The pro-day performance shouldn’t be overvalued. Game film, intelligence and character mean more than a single workout. Plus, Bridgewater will likely have private workouts for any team considering him in the top 10.
Supporters of Bridgewater will direct the conversation back to his playing days with the Cardinals. He completed 64.5 percent as a redshirt freshman, 68.5 percent as a sophomore and 71 percent as a junior in 2013. The touchdowns increased and the interceptions decreased each year, culminating with 31 and four in the fall. In three years as the starter, he threw 72 touchdowns and 24 interceptions, with 8.6 yards per pass attempt.
But draft analysts and NFL teams won’t ignore what they saw Monday. They will also compare it to the pro days of the other top candidates. Central Florida’s Blake Bortles will have his Wednesday, and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel’s is scheduled for March 27.
Another issue NFL teams are watching is Bridgewater’s weight. He’s 6-foot-2 1/8 and looks skinny.
He was 208 Monday, down 14 pounds from the combine but still 10-15 pounds more than his playing weight in 2013. Bridgewater said he’s been battling a cold and plans to play at 220.
Plenty of people inside the NFL have linked Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to the Browns. He was with new Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan from 2007-09 in Houston, the last two with Shanahan as coordinator.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday the Texans are still trying to trade Schaub, and the Browns and Raiders have some interest. But Houston could have a difficult time finding a partner because he has a $10 million base salary for 2014 and would be a $14.5 million hit against the salary cap.
The Browns will likely choose to wait for the Texans to release him, as is expected. But Houston is in no rush to release him, and the Browns would then have to secure a deal with other teams also in pursuit.
Schaub, 32, is 46-44 as a starter with a career 89.8 rating. He struggled in 2013 and lost his starting job. He went 2-6, completing 61.2 percent with 10 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 73.0 rating.
** The Browns remain in the market for a cornerback, but the free-agent options are dwindling. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie agreed to a five-year, $39 million deal Monday with the Giants that includes $15 million guaranteed, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
** Quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was cut by the Browns on Wednesday, signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys. Rapoport reported he also spoke to the Ravens and Bengals.
The Browns have yet to finalize their medical staff, including a chief physician, after the sponsorship switch after last season from Cleveland Clinic to University Hospitals. They are expected to do so shortly.
National Football Post reported doctors for the Browns weren’t admitted to all combine-related functions, but the team believes it gathered all the medical information it typically does.
“The Browns have several doctors already on board, most of whom were at the combine,” team spokesman Zak Gilbert said. “We’re in the process of finalizing the full medical staff and will announce that team once it’s in place.”
NFL rules prohibit a team from linking its medical sponsorship to the hiring of its medical staff.
The Browns ended a 38-year partnership with the Cleveland Clinic. The deal with University Hospitals is reportedly for 10 years and $30 million.