Tagged: Geno Smith

The Geno Experiment

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Jets fans have spent most of this offseason celebrating: New GM Mike Maccagnan, using the salary cap space that John Idzik left in his wake, rebuilt the defense to its 2010 glory by getting Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back, acquired a new offensive weapons in Brandon Marshall and Stevan Ridley, and used the draft to beef up areas of need and making the defensive line an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, new head coach Todd Bowles has established himself as completely different from his predecessors, being more loose than Eric Mangini and more disciplined than Rex Ryan. Not only that, but he completely moved on from the old regime’s coaching staff. Among those new hires is Chan Gailey, an offensive guru that has a reputation for getting the most out of mediocre quarterbacks.

So why is the fanbase still grumbling?

The answer is whom is playing quarterback.

Ever since Chan Gailey announced that Geno Smith would be starting and that there would be no competition, despite having a quarterback who knows his system as well as an already popular draft pick, the reaction has been mixed. Message boards have been either 50/50 or overwhelmingly against Geno being named the starter, the reason being that he had a meh freshman year, another mediocre sophomore year which was accentuated by alarmingly bad performances which led to stretches of riding the bench, and, to put it in the most politically correct way, concern with Smith’s supposed lack of maturity and ability to handle the rigors of a pro offense. And in a lot of cases, these concerns are warranted. We all remember Smith leaving Radio City Music Hall after falling entirely out of the first round and being coaxed to come back in. We remember him firing his old agency the day after he was drafted and signing with Jay-Z’s then fledgling Roc Nation Sports. We remember him being escorted off a plane, and being late for a team meeting. Yes, Smith may still have maturity issues adjusting to the NFL.

We also realize that Smith did have a problem with the offenses that he played in in his first two years. However, we have to admit that not every issue in that case was his. Perhaps the best cases for this argument fell on three very key games: Jets-Packers, Bills-Jets, and Dolphins-Jets.

The Packers game is probably where we can pinpoint Geno’s descent. He had had a decent game, going 16 for 32 with 176 yards, a passing and a rushing touchdown, and one interception. However, Aaron Rodgers, unhindered by the ghosts of Revis and Cromartie, went hog-wild, throwing to Jordy Nelson like it was a game of backyard catch. Geno actually had the opportunity to tie the game up at the end, and would have too. He threw a crucial 4th down touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley, however, it was negated by offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calling a timeout.

Why did Mornhinweg call the timeout?

Well, if you saw the highlight, it was because Geno called an audible, which Mornhinweg didn’t agree with. He ran to call timeout, despite the rule stating that only the head coach can call timeout, and despite knowing that the call didn’t come from Rex Ryan, the refs called timeout. From a psychological analysis, one could assume that it contributed to Geno’s loss of confidence. Imagine that, you throw the game tying touchdown, only to have it negated because your coordinator went full panic mode and called timeout. That sequence of actions alone would crush anyone’s confidence and make them second guess themselves.

In the second game, the Jets-Bills contest, Geno was pulled early in the game because he had been picked off three times trying to throw to newly acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin. Later on in the season, we found out why: Jets coaches, namely Mornhinweg, effectively forced Geno to throw to Harvin by making predetermined reads for him. Mornhinweg’s handling of Geno in those two games bordered on that of a horrible foster family, a combination of Judge Claude Frollo and Norma Bates. It’s almost a miracle that Geno didn’t snap due to his mishandling and poor nurturing, compounded with the frustration of millions of Jets fans and the media.

The final game was effectively the kiss of death for Smith. In a game where Rex Ryan and Mornhinweg ran the ball against the Dolphins for almost every play of the game, the ultimate middle finger to GM John Idzik for his disaster of an offseason and betrayal of Ryan, we saw an abandonment of Smith’s development. Mornhinweg no longer cared. In what little time he had, he had automatically determined that Smith wasn’t worth his salt despite there being time left in the season.

In a way, Geno’s story borders on tragic, the fact that fans have abandoned him after two seasons, that a coaching staff all but called him worthless to his face. And yet amazingly, Smith actually slightly improved despite the bad record. While his yardage went down, obviously because he was benched for two games, his touchdowns went up and his interceptions went down. His passer rating also improved.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Fans do have a reason to not be happy with Smith, but they can’t blame everything on him.

Last year was an unmitigated disaster. The hope was that the Jets could somehow be relevant in the East despite not having a secondary or a true number 1 wide receiver. However, because the quarterback deals with the brunt of the media due to his status on the team, Smith was effectively dealt a bad hand and had to endure plenty of criticism. And like I said, there were some reasonable gripes.

However, to call the Geno experiment a failure after two years will further solidify a reputation that the Jets are a quarterback graveyard.

Gailey has said in interviews that he will tailor an offense around Geno Smith, rather than forcing a square peg in a round hole and having him learn an offense, which is what Mornhinweg did. By endorsing Geno from Day 1, he’s giving him some confidence and showing him that at least someone believes in him. This is an excellent move and a step in the right direction. And here’s the thing, Gailey didn’t have to do this. He had a quarterback that already knew his system; he could have easily waited until his leg healed and then named him the starter.

Smith not only could have his confidence back, but he also finally has a full cabinet of weapons at his disposal, a true number 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, who has decided to take the young quarterback under his wing, as well as Eric Decker who could be a valuable #2 in his second year in New York, as well as a deep threat in Devin Smith. Given Geno’s ability to throw the deep ball, Smith actually could be more valuable that he looks right now.

Furthermore, he has a solid glut of running back talent behind him in Chris Ivory, Stevan Ridley, Zac Stacy and Bilal Powell. While none of these backs are speed runners, they do possess value as power backs, runners who will fight for yardage.

Lastly, he has his tight ends. Jace Amaro actually was the best tight end in his class last year, and as a mismatch against defenders, it’d be like having an extra receiver out there on every down. Jeff Cumberland and Zach Sudfeld also provide solid depth.

If Gailey can work the same magic he did with Thigpen and Fitzpatrick, he could make Geno into an at-least league average quarterback. Furthermore, he can take the pressure off Geno now, because there is a good team surrounding him.

However, Geno knows that this is his last shot, and while the previous regime screwed him over, he’ll have no excuses with what’s been set out for him now. Should he falter or be injured, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gailey’s original protege, will take the reigns, and he won’t last longer than maybe another year. The organization will not be beholden to Geno anymore and could use the interim period to develop Petty behind Fitzpatrick, all while getting rid of Smith.

This is a crucial season for the third year quarterback. He has the opportunity to redeem himself after two rough years. If only the fanbase felt the same way.

 

 

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You Don’t Have to Like Michael Vick, But Don’t Let His Past Cloud Your Team Allegiance.

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When it’s come to writing about touchy and/or controversial points in my editorial style posts, I come in with an open mind, and generally play devil’s advocate. You saw it when I defended John Rocker’s steroid comments, defended Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, when I voiced my support for the Redskin name, when I ran a big risk by voicing my opinion on gay athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam, and most recently, my defense of Jets general manager John Idzik’s offseason strategy. Now, I step into yet another touchy subject: Michael Vick.

We all know the story, gifted athletic quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, had a couple minor incidents early in his career, then in 2007, it was discovered that Vick had financed a dogfighting operation out of a Virginia property he owned, as well as personally killing dogs. Long story short, he was arrested, incarcerated for 18 months, let go, found himself back in the NFL, resurrected his career, and on March 21st, signed a contract with the Jets.

The feeling that I get among Jets fans is that it’s a mix of support and outright disgust. Some people like the idea of Vick stepping in as either a mentor to Geno Smith, or an insurance policy should he get hurt or have another meltdown. Then of course there are those who feel that the signing of Vick prevents them from being Jets fans, period. There have been plenty of comments on Facebook, Twitter, any social media site or comment board has a good amount of fans saying that they will “boycott the team unless the Jets cut that ——–” and that “I love dogs, I loved the Jets”. Pretty much, the idea here is that Vick is a bad idea because of something he did in his past which was off-the-field.

As a pet owner, although it’s cats, not dogs, that I like, when I heard what Vick had done in 2007, I was appalled, disgusted, and disturbed. Animals do not deserve to be treated that way, and for people to finance an operation and also personally kill animals for sport is vile. I was glad that he was going to prison. So what if he had game changing speed or a good throwing arm? The man let his off field actions speak louder than his on field actions, and unfortunately those off field actions involved killing animals.

When Vick was released from prison in 2009, I was slightly apprehensive. 18 months for killing multiple animals was a slap on the wrist, but apparently it changed him. A man who was once viewed as a moneymaker, a marketing boon was now a pariah, broke and abandoned.

When Vick signed with Philadelphia, I had no opinion. Yes, he had found a team that was perfectly willing to let the past be the past and see what he still had in the tank. Granted, it was Philadelphia, the same city known for booing Santa Claus, throwing batteries, booing and cheering injured players, having the most unruly fans (I can attest to that, having nearly gotten crushed by a throng of rabid Phillies fans who wanted Jim Thome’s autograph), and essentially being the cesspool of North American sports, but still, if he could make it back in Philadelphia, then he could make it anywhere. What ended up happening showed that Vick still had his athletic traits in him. He brought Philadelphia to the playoffs in 2010, and completely torched the Washington Redskins along the way on Sunday Night Football, just in case people forgot, and served as an effective replacement for Donovan McNabb and failed franchise savior Kevin Kolb.

Off the field, Vick rehabilitated his image, becoming an advocate against animal cruelty, returning to his former status, essentially the protests that Vick was an animal killer were pretty much silent, save for one game in Oakland, and a few bad-taste jokes, as well as the infamous “Hide your Beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” from opposing fans.

Vick also matured on the field. When he got hurt in 2013, and Nick Foles took his stead, he showed his support for the move. Now, to be displaced by a young quarterback is obviously not fun, but for Vick, who had been viewed somewhat as a character concern, the fact that he took it in stride really showed growth.

I find it particularly odd now that Vick has signed with a new team, that people are bringing back the past, and that people are so upset. Then again, signing with a team in the largest media market is obviously going to have its share of polarizing opinion. Detractors and so-called fans are now ripping the team to shreds, dropping their allegiance because they still can’t cope with what he did a long time ago. Is it that hard to move on? Has he permanently earned the epithet Dog-killer despite the fact that he’s paid his debt to society?

Let me give you my feelings on the situation. I forgave him a long time ago. However, I’m not going to forget what he did. Some people have told me that there are two things that are unforgivable: killing children and killing animals. And rightfully so. However, as a Catholic, one of the biggest things you learn is to forgive, to hate the sin, not the sinner. You forgive people because what is the hatred going to accomplish? Is calling for Vick’s head going to bring back every dog he killed? Is it going to get the Jets to void his contract and put him behind bars on a life sentence? Obviously not.

Furthermore, to drop your allegiance with your football team because of the actions of one player is outright foolishness. Is associating with Vick going to make Eric Decker, Geno Smith, Mo Wilkerson or Rex Ryan an advocate for dogfighting? How about Woody Johnson, John Idzik, or even Roger Goodell, for that matter?

Jets fans should know that there is at least one positive result of Vick’s signing; Mark Sanchez getting cut, saving the team an additional $8 million in cap room, which $5 million was used for Vick’s one-year deal. Plus, Geno Smith is essentially a younger, more malleable version of Vick. Having a mentor whose prime is essentially your ceiling is going to be a huge benefit for Smith.

Back to the fans though. You don’t necessarily have to forgive Vick for what he did, Obviously what he did was outright despicable. Heck, you don’t even have to like Vick for his football skills now. He’s not what he was back in 2004, or 2010. But still, think rationally, not emotionally. Emotion driven decisions rarely succeed and make people look bad, but thinking with a clear mind does increase the success of your decisions. What happens if Vick does end up helping Geno, or in the worst case, comes out in relief and brings the Jets to the playoffs? What now? If you’ve decided to boycott the team and/or drop you allegiance because of your moralism, what do you do? Do you admit that you were wrong? Do you miss out just because of the past actions of one man?

While it personally disgusts me that fans can’t let the past be the past and are letting emotion get the best of them, I realize that my words serve little purpose other than to highlight what’s going on. I’m not going to call anyone out for their opinion. They have a right to it. However, I will call people out on their stupidity. And if you’re going to make that rash of an emotionally charged decision, then I personally think you are stupid. You don’t have to forget what Vick did, but you can at least support your team.

 

The Rationale Behind John Idzik’s “Wait and See” approach

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Any Jets fan or reporter who expected second year general manager John Idzik to pounce in free agency has been left sorely disappointed, irritated, or at the very worst, calling for his head. It’s been a little over a week since the real offseason began and so far the only notable moves that the Jets have made have been losing valuable right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, replacing him with Super Bowl starter Breno Giacomini, signing former Peyton Manning target Eric Decker to a team friendly contract over five years, and cutting embattled wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Idzik has left the team with a Cromartie sized hole at cornerback, a need for another target for second year quarterback Geno Smith, and enough questions to make a game out of figuring what the team’s offseason strategy is.

In an offseason rife with talent at any position other than quarterback, Idzik has repeatedly lost out on cornerback options in free agency. First to go was arguably the best cornerback on the market Alterraun Verner, who left Tennessee for Tampa Bay, followed by Vontae Davis, who returned to Indianapolis, then Darrelle Revis, who ended up being the Golden Goose of Free Agency, who was cut by Tampa Bay then signed by the Jets’ most bitter rival, the New England Patriots. On Sunday, after negotiations with former Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the sixth year cornerback ended up signing with the New York Giants. Details came out that Idzik wanted Cromartie to prove himself after having a decent year in Denver after two miserable ones in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Giants ended up giving Cromartie exactly what he wanted, a 5 year deal worth a little less than $8 million a year. In terms of a contract, that’s top flight cornerback money, and DoRoCro is certainly not a top level corner.

Going back to Idzik though. his actions, or rather, inaction, has led to several theories: that he’s a stubborn negotiator who refuses to find a middle ground, (ostensibly true, given his handling of the Howard situation), that he’s more concerned with building the team through the draft, (also true, given that he’s already attended Texas Tech and Louisville’s pro days to scout tight end Jace Amaro and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rather than meeting personally with former top target Emmanuel Sanders) or that he’s deliberately sabotaging Rex Ryan so that he can blow up the team and remake it the way he wants it (although there’s no credence to that theory, the way that he handled Ryan’s coaching staff indicates that he’s still smarting over having to deal with someone whom he didn’t hire).

What disgruntled fans, columnists like Manish Mehta and Rich Cimini, and agents fail to realize is that there’s more to the offseason than free agency. There’s no such thing as an open-book general manager; if there was, then all his targets would be gone. Idzik is fiscally conservative. In a salary cap driven league, that may not be a bad thing. He’s not going to throw money at just anyone because that player can temporarily fill a need. While admittedly upset at losing Revis to New England, I get why he didn’t sign him. Revis may be a top flight cornerback, but really, is a corner worth $12 million a year? In addition, Revis established his status as a greedy money grubbing mercenary when he held out of camp in 2010, and cemented it when he signed a 1 year deal for $12 million with the Patriots.

Idzik knows that prices for players do drive up when rookie contracts expire. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He’s only been playing for three years and already he wants $18 million a year. This is for a quarterback who, while he did make the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter, is in no way elite quite yet.

Another realization is that Idzik’s strategy has paid off. The Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl with a roster built almost entirely out of players acquired in the draft. Richard Sherman was an Idzik pick. Russell Wilson was an Idzik pick. Golden Tate was an Idzik pick.

What Idzik does need to realize is that he’s not in Seattle anymore. Seattle is more calm and reserved when it comes to dealing with football outside the season. New York, on the other hand, is a hyper frenzied media market. Every move is watched, every player is overanalyzed. Fans don’t know the meaning of patience. Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson, both imported products of the New York way, aren’t patient. However, is it necessarily a bad thing to wait? Is waiting until the draft a crime?

Idzik prove many doubters wrong with his first draft. He found Revis’ replacement in Dee Milliner, reaped the immediate benefits of the deal as well by getting future Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, a pick, mind you, that Jets fans booed (although Jets fans will boo practically any pick), and patiently waited and picked up a viable, if slightly shaky option at quarterback in Geno Smith at #39. In addition, Idzik completely revamped the running game by trading for Saints running back Chris Ivory. Prior to the deal, many fans wanted Idzik to pick up a running back, like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or UNC’s Gio Bernard.

Although Idzik’s strategy may wear thin the patience of fans who were expecting the team to actually do something in free agency, perhaps he’s biding his time and hoping that his magnum opus is in this year’s draft.

The Jets do have up to 12 picks this year after the purge of 2013. Up to 5 of those picks are protected thanks to the compensatory rules. There’s actually a good chance that one of those picks ends up being the prized end of the third round selection. In addition, the Jets have two fourth round picks, and history has shown that the fourth round has been one of the Jets’ best rounds, see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Brad Smith, and Bilal Powell for reference.

Idzik may be using one or two of the picks that he has to strike a deal for a cornerback. While he won’t be getting a Sherman, he may be going after someone who’s dependable, like a Brandon Flowers or a Byron Maxwell. It’s not like he’s going to pull a St. Louis and stash all his picks.

Idzik also knows a late round talent when he sees one. Seattle’s defensive backfield was constructed practically out of late round picks, save for Earl Thomas. Maybe he’s scouting late round cornerbacks who fit the Ryan system.

Look, I get it. The Jets defied expectations last year. They finished 8-8 while perched precariously near the salary cap without an established franchise star or a legitimate receiving corps. They’re off the hook for $27 million. The obvious thing to do is to pounce in the Free Agent market. But here’s the thing. Idzik isn’t an obvious person. He’s biding his time and obviously planning to strike when he feels comfortable. Idzik’s a draft man, just like Mike Tannenbaum was a free agent man before him.

Idzik knows what he’s doing, that he’s got plenty of time. Jerry Reese, the GM of the Giants knows that his time is coming, which is why he’s been making moves like offering 5 years to a cornerback who really isn’t worth the money. Reggie McKenzie of Oakland is also making desperation moves because he knows another 4-12 season will likely mean that he’ll be out of a job. Bill Belichick is making moves because he wants to capitalize on whatever time he has left with Tom Brady, especially after seeing him at his worst last year. And John Elway knows that Peyton Manning is one bone crushing sack away from calling it a career.

There’s a saying in football which could be rephrased for most professional sports (the NBA excluded) that says that you don’t win a championship by winning free agency. Who won free agency last year? And what happened to them that season?

Fans often act spoiled and entitled. We saw it in Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, although in that case, it wasn’t Peter and his buddies crying about the Patriots not making moves in free agency, rather it was the team’s inability to win because of divine intervention. (Frankly, the thought that the Patriots could actually suck with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still playing is actually intriguing.) In fact, Peter put it on the mark with this quote.

These are good drunk people who work hard to get absolutely nowhere in life. There are 3 million fisherman and only 7 fish left in the sea. But they live to watch football. Many of them on Zenith or Sylvania televisions.

Okay, there’s an obvious exaggeration there and the context is different, but that’s the point. Fans feel that they know what their team needs, and it’s not just the generality of a position, they feel that they know which players their team needs and how much money they should spend, and when things don’t go their way, they whine and call for people’s heads. In truth, what does a blue collar worker know about the inner workings of a football team? What does a news writer know about cap room and how to use it other than how much there is? What does an unemployed deadbeat, a product liability attorney, or a student at a college living on their parents’ dole know about how football, the business works?  They think they know football, but what they know is the on field product, like knowing what a Lamborghini looks like. They don’t know what parts go into a car unless they specialize in that field, or dabble in it as a hobby. If a fan wants to get into the business of football, they need to learn about the business of football. That’s why colleges offer sports management courses nowadays. If fans ran a team, they’d run it to the ground. They’d have no concept of what cap is, and how to manage it. They’d know next to nil about player values.  In truth, unless they did the actual research into what it takes to run a team, they’d play it like they would their fantasy team. A fantasy team and an actual NFL team are two entirely different things. In fantasy, unless you invested a ton of money in it, you can make moves without consequence, and in all likelihood, your team is full of stars. In pro football, you can’t afford it unless you manage your money wisely. So again, unless you actually know about how football, the business is run, it’s advisable that you stop yelling for your GM’s head.

So yes, while Idzik may be annoying a lot of people with his supposed glacial pace in free agency, we can’t pass judgement on him until the offseason ends. There’s months to go before the first preseason game, and free agency obviously isn’t over yet. So don’t panic and don’t yell for his head. Good things come to those who wait.

Denard Robinson should be the next Jaguars quarterback

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The Jacksonville Jaguars have been nothing short of a dumpster fire. At 0-5, with two of the worst quarterbacks in the league, a running game that looked best when the first iPhone came out, and absolutely no defense, the chances of the Jaguars getting the top pick in the 2014 draft are as high as Skip Bayless’ man crush on Tim Tebow. That being said, one of the biggest problems with the team is that they have no quarterback. Sure, they have a quarterback per sé, but really, Blaine Gabbert has about as much business being an NFL quarterback as I do, and Chad Henne is inadequate as a fill-in. That being said, the Jaguars should seriously reconsider who is behind center. With no one else to turn to, the team should opt for a quarterback who has experience running a spread offense in college, who has played in a big time bowl game (and won), and who, as a hometown favorite, would bring fans to Everbank Field. That player is Denard Robinson.

Robinson is by no means a conventional passing quarterback, something that would play to his favor. Regarded as more of an athlete out of high school, he played on the Wolverine teams led by Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, While at Michigan, Robinson developed chemistry with wide receivers like Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway, and with the ample backfield of Fitz Touissant and Vincent Smith behind him, he was able to lead a high level offense.

Robinson may not have Roundtree, Hemingway, Touissant or Smith at his disposal in Jacksonville, but what he does have is a potentially dangerous wide receiver duo in Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Shorts has proven to be invaluable to the anemic Jaguar offense, while Blackmon, fresh off a 4 game suspension, showed his form by ripping off a long touchdown against the Rams last week.

Robinson is a runner as well, and in today’s NFL, a running quarterback is starting to become a viable option, as seen in Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Geno Smith, and Terrelle Pryor. If he is unable to go after his offensive weapons, he can just as easily tuck the ball and gain sizeable chunks of yardage.

Robinson is also a local kid, as he came out of high school in Florida. Given the Jaguars’ popularity is next to nil these days, putting a Florida kid in may just entice a few more brave souls to make the trip to Jacksonville.

It’s a thought, but perhaps if the Jaguars do not want to look completely pathetic, maybe they should opt for Robinson instead of waiting the slow and agonizing wait for Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel.

 

Why the 2013 Quarterback class has it rough.

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With almost nothing baseball prospect related to write about until the offseason, Prospects2Pros has decided to multi-outfit the blog into a multi sport blog. Look, it’s the best way to use it, and if it helps keep me in practice especially while I have to wait through the non prospect activity that comes with October, then it’s all for the best. You don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. MLB.com doesn’t like it, MLB.com doesn’t have to sponsor it. I just feel that moving into different channels is certainly going to have a positive effect on my writing. And I have no doubt that there are plenty of multi-sport fans who peruse Reddit, MLB.com’s blog network, and so on and so forth. Heck, when I wrote for Bleacher Report, I covered both the Mets and the Jets, as well as the occasional outside sport team. My point is, there is nothing wrong about it, and if there is, it’s not illegal.  

Moving on from my little rant, let’s get to the post at hand. 

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Last year’s NFL season saw the introduction of five very gifted quarterbacks who changed the paradigm that is what a rookie quarterback is expected to do. Andrew Luck shattered rookie records that had been just recently topped, en route to leading the Indianapolis Colts, who had finished with the worst record in the NFL, to a playoff berth. The same happened to former Baylor University star and Washington Redskins starter Robert Griffin III. He took a team that had continually been miring in coaching ineptitude and horrifically bad contracts, and lead them to a playoff berth, all while dealing with injury. Ryan Tannehill, a converted wide receiver out of Texas A&M, helped the Miami Dolphins, who haven’t had a continuous starter since Dan Marino, finish in second place in the AFC East, although granted, the AFC East is probably the weakest division in football right now. And if that’s not enough, there is considerable debate as to whether or not the Seattle Seahawks took the best quarterback in the draft in undersized Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who not only contributed to the re-strengthening of the NFC West as a power division, but actually took his team the farthest in the playoffs in his rookie class, that is, if you do not count Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, who ended up playing half the season and picking up where Alex Smith had left off. 

Fans and the media were spoiled rotten by this group of talented gunslingers. Ratings went through the roof when their teams were on primetime TV. All in all, they signified the complete and total annihilation of the old system of sitting a rookie quarterback in his first season, a system that had continually gained in popularity until it reached a head in 2003, when Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer was benched for his entire rookie season, followed a year later by the benching of quarterbacks Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom made late season debuts. 

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Fast forward now, and we’re looking at what the media calls the weakest rookie quarterback class since 1996. In this year’s class is Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, from Florida State. Manuel, like his predecessor Christian Ponder, a 2011 draft pick, rose up draft boards with a decent senior campaign highlighted by an outstanding Senior Bowl performance, which rose his stock from a Day 2 pick to a top 16 pick. Also in this year’s class is Geno Smith. Smith graduated from the University of West Virginia and was chosen by the New York Jets in the second round of the draft. While the two names lack the notability that their predecessors have, they certainly have had their fair share of controversy. Geno came into what was dubbed by the media as a “circus” environment, supposedly left over from the 2012 season, when the Jets had such star studded names manning the quarterback position as Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, and even Tim Tebow, despite the fact that Tebow never started a game for the team. 

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The point I am trying to get across here is that Smith, Manuel, and any quarterback from the 2013 class is going to have a rough adjustment period. Sadly, what with the exploits of Luck, Wilson, and Griffin, they will not be given the leeway that they undeniably deserve. Manuel came into a losing culture, the Bills have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL. Despite spending money to improve the team last year, the Bills have no realistic shot at competing unless a miracle happens. Geno, unfortunately is playing in the media capital of the world, where results are expected now, and anything short is considered a failure in the minds of the fans, and the media. You look for instance at the 2013 preseason. Manuel had the poise to play well, but his season started out in doubt when he hurt his knee. Geno, on the other hand, was under the microscope. He had a solid, if unspectacular debut, then in week three, when actually exposed to a full game, he fell to pressure. Three picks later, as well as a safety, people were already clamoring that the season was lost, and even worse, when Mark Sanchez did come in, and got hurt, people latched on to the closest security they had, an undrafted free agent named Matt Simms, who did end up leading the Jets to victory, although 1. it was in the preseason, and 2. it was against third and fourth string football players. 

Whatever happens this year to the rookie quarterbacks, you can expect a hard eye. Smith and Manuel are playing in the shadow of what could be arguably one of the best quarterback classes in years, and unless they manage to blow people out of the water, you can expect people to say that the teams that chose them should have waited or should tank and hope for a better quarterback next year. In my opinion, that is grossly unfair, and to that, I also point out that there are 17 weeks to determine what a quarterback can and can’t do. 

Would you agree? Should the 2013 class not be judged against the 2012 class? Should the 2012 class be used as a measuring tool to indicate the potential of a quarterback? I leave the floor open to you. 

 

Why Roc Nation Sports is bad news, and not just for baseball.

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Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z, as he’s popularly known, is a rapper, an entrepreneur, a former sports team owner, and now, a figurehead for a sports agency group. 

Roc Nation Sports, which was established this year, is a branch of Jay-Z’s entertainment agency which sponsors athletes. So far, the fledgling agency has signed three athletes, WNBA star Skylar Diggins, NFL wide receiver Victor Cruz, and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. Jay-Z has plans to expand his client list and is already aggressively recruiting new York Jets quarterback Geno Smith and presumptive National Hockey League first overall pick Seth Jones. 

Sports agents and agencies are usually portrayed in a negative light because of certain unscrupulous characters, like Scott Boras and Drew Rosenhaus. Unless Jay-Z has an ulterior motive to start a sports agency out of the blue, he should stick to what he does best, which is rap, represent musicians, and promote the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. 

One of the things that concerns me about Jay-Z’s new agency is its potential effects on Major League Baseball prospects. Can you imagine the next Bryce Harper teaming up with Jay-Z’s agency? First of all, the kid will have to deal with several people questioning if he’s an ego and attitude problem, and secondly, how expensive would that kid’s demands be? 

While it seems rather assured that Jay-Z will likely hold off on going after baseball prospects until some big names come through the system, it is entirely likely that Jay-Z will likely see what a big mistake he is making. On the other hand, there have been rumors that Jay-Z’s influence on Robinson Cano has made him more receptive to signing an extension with the New York Yankees. 

Roc Nation Sports has only just started, but keep an eye out for the next crop of baseball stars that could sign with Jay-Z.