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A season and career in review: looking back at QB Brad Kaaya

Now that he’s declared for the NFL draft, it’s time to look back on the time QB Brad Kaaya spent in Miami.

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As we turn our focus from the 2016 season to timely retrospectives, none is bigger than a look back at the season — and career — of Miami Hurricanes QB Brad Kaaya.

On Monday night, Kaaya announced his decision to forego his senior season with the Hurricanes to declare for the 2017 NFL draft

We’ll talk more about that soon, but let’s look back at the time that was with Kaaya on campus.

2016 season

Kaaya had arguably his best statistical season as a junior in 2016. In leading the Canes to a 9-4 record, Kaaya had career highs in completions, attempts, completion %, yards, TDs, and QB rating. Here’s a look at Kaaya’s career stats through his 3 seasons in Coral Gables:

Brad Kaaya Career Stats

Season Completions Attempts Completion % Yards Yards/Att Touchdowns Interceptions QB Rating
Season Completions Attempts Completion % Yards Yards/Att Touchdowns Interceptions QB Rating
2016 (Junior) 261 421 62.00% 3532 8.4 27 7 150.3
2015 (Sophomore) 235 389 61.20% 3238 8.3 16 5 142.1
2014 (Freshman) 221 378 58.50% 3198 8.5 26 12 145.9

Much like the Canes’ team overall, Kaaya’s 2016 season was up and down. Obviously, the stats are nice. The 4 TD, 0 INT game in the bowl game vs WVU was dope. The 385 yard performance at Appalachian State reminded people of Kaaya’s immense talents.

But, there were the lean games too. The 50% passing and only 224 yards in a close loss to North Carolina. The 191 yard, 0 TD, 2 INT game against FAU. And, of course, yet another loss at the hands of Florida State.

For the 2016 season, I think you could classify Brad Kaaya as “fine”. Good, but not great. No, he wasn’t working with the best offensive line — that unit was routinely terrible and Kaaya felt plenty of pressure on passing downs throughout the year — but he still flashed top tier level talent.

More than that, Kaaya is who he is. As you can see by the stats in the chart above, Kaaya was very consistent in his time at Miami. When Kaaya was projected to be the #2 overall pick in the NFL draft before the season, many people — Canes fans and outside observers alike — wanted to see Kaaya become....someone else. They wanted him to be a different player. But, that’s not how things work. Kaaya was projected so high because of who he is and what he’s done, not because he will turn into another player.

In 2016 there were great games. The Russell Athletic Bowl. The Duke Game. The Pittsburgh Game. And others. BUT, in 2016, there were also bad games, like the FSU game (until that last drive, really), and the North Carolina game come to mind first.

But, if you want to talk about ending on a high note, Brad Kaaya’s last 2 games of the 2016 and his career had 8 TDs and 0 INTs

The Good of Brad Kaaya’s Career

It’s been noted here and elsewhere, but Brad Kaaya is statistically the best QB in the history of the Miami Hurricanes Football Program. Kaaya owns the Miami Hurricanes All-Time records for passing attempts, completions, and yards. He’s 3rd in career TDs behind Ken Dorsey (86) and Jacory Harris (70) with 69 (NICE) TDs in 3 years.

Kaaya had a Canes-record 32 200-yard passing games, a Canes-record 12 300-yard passing games, and 1 400-yard passing game: a 405 yard, 3 TD, 0 INT showing at Florida State in 2015 in a 29-24 loss.

Kaaya brought consistency to a QB position that was in turmoil prior to his arrival. Stepping in for an injured Ryan Williams (the starter before tearing an ACL in spring practice) and beating out journeyman Jake Heaps, Kaaya started 38 of 39 games in his 3 years at Miami. The only game he missed was the 2015 game at Duke — you know the one — which he missed due to concussion. But, apart from that, Brad Kaaya was always there under center or in shotgun. He played hurt, he played sick, he played healthy. But, no matter what, Brad Kaaya played.

Kaaya did a lot in charge of the offense, but his best passing trait is the quick game. Time and again over the last 3 years, Kaaya hit guys on bubble screens and slants to great success. The best illustration of this may have been the laser he threw to Stacy Coley at NC State this past season. Here, take a look:

Kaaya’s accuracy is probably his best trait as a player. He’s very good at short to intermediate range, with decent but not great success throwing deep. He had some of his best deep throws to speed burner Philip Dorsett in 2014, and Ahmmon Richards in 2016.

The Bad of Brad Kaaya’s Career

Let me say this again for the new people here: Wins aren’t a QB stat. HOWEVER, Kaaya did not play well vs ranked teams in his career. The only ranked teams he was able to lead Miami to victory against were Pittsburgh and West Virginia in 2016, neither of whom were really all that good.

After a stellar freshman season, many — myself included — hoped (expected?) Kaaya to take a demonstrable leap forward. Instead, we learned that in large part, the Brad Kaaya we’d seen as a freshman was the player we’d continue to see. Definitely a high floor for performance, but nowhere near the ceiling that many thought to be possible in 2014.

1-2 in Bowl games. Yeah, Kaaya finally got the monkey off his back with a bowl win over West Virginia this year, but previously having lost to the likes of South Carolina and Washington State can be summed up as nothing other than bad. Period.

The Ugly of Brad Kaaya’s Career

You know what I’m going to say: 0-3 vs FSU. I know wins aren’t a QB stat, and Kaaya did plenty to help his team against the Seminoles (405 yards, 3 TDs in Tallahassee in 2015, 316 yards, 2TD in Miami in 2014, a late TD pass in 2016 before a blocked XP), but the Canes weren’t good enough to get over that hump against FSU with Kaaya at QB.

For all his positive traits, one part of Kaaya’s game is clearly the worst: his speed/mobility, or lack thereof. Kaaya is a statue as a QB, a relic of a time gone by. He was forced to run RPOs and that’s just not his game. Kaaya’s effectiveness was exponentially worse when he was forced to move. Not run, just move. That’s not something that is going to change, and was BY FAR the worst part of his game.

That leads me to my next ugly point: Kaaya’s performance against the blitz. When given time, Kaaya is an accurate machine who can pick apart defenses. Against the blitz? Kaaya turns into a very different, and VERY bad QB. Many Canes fans and other commenters would bemoan any time that Kaaya was forced to throw against pressure. That, along with his lack of mobility, is the worst part of Kaaya’s game, and it’s TERRIBLE.

Also, under Brad Kaaya’s leadership, Miami didn’t win an ACC Coastal Division Championship, an overall ACC Championship, or a National Championship. No, that’s not entirely on Brad, but that’s ugly, friends.

Brad Kaaya’s legacy at Miami

There is a clear line of demarcation on Kaaya’s legacy. As far as statistics are concerned, he is without peer in the annals of Miami Hurricanes history. Kaaya owns nearly every passing record for the Miami Hurricanes, and would have surely owned all of them had he stayed for 4 years.

But, the downside of Kaaya’s legacy is that the Miami Hurricanes are measured by one thing and one thing only: Championships.

In his 3 years at Miami, the only “championship” that Miami won was the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl Championship. That isn’t something that, 20 years from now, is going to be on the minds of players, or fans. Miami is about Championships, plain and simple, and the Canes didn’t win any with Brad Kaaya at the helm.

So, when we look back now and in a few years on Brad Kaaya’s UM career, I think people will say he was a good QB. He had a nice arm, made NFL throws from time to time, and was a great stat accumulator.

But, Kaaya won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Ken Dorsey. Or Jim Kelly. Or Vinny Testaverde. Or Gino Torretta. Or Craig Erickson. Or Steve Walsh. Or even George Mira Sr.

The Miami Hurricanes are defined by greatness. And, in the world of College Football, greatness means championships.

Brad Kaaya was a good college QB. He’s a fine person, and I hope he has a long and successful NFL career.

But he wasn’t a great college QB. Because, at Miami, great QBs beat Florida State.

At Miami, great QBs win championships.

Go Canes