It was going to be a pretty seamless takeover, with the four-star recruit from Ocala, Florida, taking over the huddle from God/Jesus/Holy One and bringing more success.
However, crap happened.
After seeing little in terms of snaps in 2008 and 2009, Brantley became the quarterback of a team who suffered from a bad offensive co-ordinator (Steve Addazio) and was trying hard to adjust to the loss of a leader. Brantley still threw for over 2,000 yards in the 20010 season, but the touchdowns (9) were outnumbered by the interceptions (10). His quarterback rating dropped dramatically from 194.9 to 116.4.
Still, Florida Gators fans had high hopes for him in 2011. Despite all that had happened in the off-season with Urban Meyer's departure and the cabinet reshuffle that goes on after a coach leaves (Wil Muschamp came in from Texas, Gators fans still had high hopes for Brantley. After all, the magician that helped get Tom Brady be the man he is today (we're talking a guy who took his team to FOUR Super Bowls) was in charge of the offense, and if anyone could sort out a passing game, Charlie Weis could.
Brantley was acceptable in his first four starts of the year, leading the Gators to a happy 4-0 record and throwing up five touchdowns to three interceptions.
Then Alabama came. Brantley's first pass of the game was wonderful, hitting Andre DeBose in full stride to put a raucous Swamp into an absolute frenzy in the opening minutes. Then he was eaten alive by the Alabama defense, who injured his ankle and stopped the Gators getting any chance of a comeback (that and the Gators 'D' couldn't - like the rest of the league - stop Trent Richardson).
Brantley missed the LSU and Auburn games, but returned to 'lead' his side to a 3-3 record in which he threw five touchdowns and three interceptions. Four of those touchdowns were against football powerhouse Furman. And his final game against Florida State ended in a concussion, for which he should probably 'thank' his offensive line.
In Florida's bowl win against Ohio State, Brantley went for 12-16 for 132 yards and a touchdown and interception.
So this got us thinking - could John Brantley make a NFL quarterback?
We'll let others decide.
- 'With The First Pick' says that Brantley will be a late round pick, simply although there are good facets to his game (his ability to work in the pocket, make NFL caliber throws, good footwork), the bad ones (he runs like a lame horse, his decision-making isn't great, and he can't stay healthy) are bigger.
- NFL Draft Scout was more constructive, saying: "Brantley has an effortless throwing motion and throws a pretty ball, but he has a bad habit of putting all of his weight on his back foot and not staying balanced as he begins his delivery. He has a borderline draftable grade by most scouts, so this week of practice is extremely important for him."
- ESPN's Todd McShay said (via the Palm Beach Post): "I just question that he gets it...He's a little late with his reads, and if you can punch him in the mouth early and knock him down a few times he doesn't recover all that well. There are questions out there if he has the ability to handle the toughness of the game, both physical and mental." And in the same Palm Beach Post interview, an AFC East Scout said: "Watching him and watching Tim Tebow, it's hard to believe they both went to the same school. Tebow looks like he lived in the weight room; I have to wonder if Brantley even knew where it was."
- And a Bleacher Report writer who saw the East-West Shrine game - in which Brantley went 1-for-6 - said that he was unimpressed and added that he "showed no reason why NFL teams should even consider drafting him." Which is nice.
As for the VFA, we've seen quite a bit of John Brantley over the years, and can't help but feel that although he hasn't helped himself in a way, he has also - like a lot of his Florida offensive colleagues in the last season - been a victim of circumstance.
We think that if you're a NFL team who needs a back-up to the back-up, you get Brantley in the seventh for virtually nothing. Then mould him and he might just be something special.