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.
Russell Wilson brought pride and joy to the city of Seattle on Sunday, February 2nd, when he helped the Seahawks take down Peyton Manning and the highly favored Denver Broncos, 43-8. Wilson threw for two touchdowns and over 200 yards in order to lead his team to victory.
So what’s next for the young star?
Obviously he’s going to celebrate, go to Disney World, perhaps cash in on his success with endorsements, maybe sign an extension with the Seahawks and then report to Spring Training with the Texas Rangers.
Let me repeat that again, a little slower. He’s going…to report…to Spring Training…with the Texas Rangers…Baseball Team.
Take a second to let that sink in, or clean the spit off your monitors.
If you forgot what happened this past December, Russell Wilson, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010 as a second baseman, spent a couple seasons in the minors while playing college football, before being drafted by the Seahawks in 2012. He then decided to quit baseball so he could focus on football full time. However, he forgot to fill out his retirement papers, and the Rangers, with a minor league pick in the Rule 5 draft, decided to pluck him out of the Rockies’ system.
The Rangers have plans to use him more as a motivational speaker for their minor leaguers, but there have been some people who say that Wilson might want to actually play a few games and take some hacks in the cage.
A professional two sport athlete is rare these days, as the physical toll of one sport is often too much for a player the be able to add the rigors of another. In fact, the last two sport athlete who played two sports professionally, not including the minor leagues for baseball in the same season was Deion Sanders, who played for the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Reds in 1997. In that season, Sanders had 30 tackles and 2 interceptions in football, while in baseball, he hit .273 with 5 home runs and 23 RBI, all while finishing second in stolen bases.
Of course, the idea of the professional two sport athlete isn’t completely dead. On January 24th at Florida State Baseball’s media event, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston said that he wanted to become the next two sport star.
In the case of Sanders and Winston, the positions they played on the diamond allowed them the luxury to play both baseball and football. Sanders was primarily an outfielder and Winston is primarily a pitcher, in fact, he’s a closer for the Seminoles. Wilson is a completely different case. As a second baseman, he’s going to put himself more in the line of fire, dealing not only with errant grounders and barreling runners, but also he’ll be taking those same risks at the plate. A quarterback is the most valuable asset to a team, and having him play a position like second base is going to be a nightmare for that team.
However, Wilson is smart, scrappy and agile. He’s had to deal with running away from linemen who are twice his size, so a baseball player who may be bigger than him is probably not the worst thing he’s had to deal with.
If Wilson wants to make this more than just a $10,000 motivational speaker/photo op event, it’s up to him and the Seahawks. Wilson is a natural athlete who while raw on the diamond as a hitter, is an excellent fielder. He’s only 25, which while past the prime prospect age, gives him the chance to be a solid late contributor. It will be interesting to see how he decides to go forward with this opportunity, assuming he is allowed to and does.
By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock or really can’t stand football, you know that the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, the preseason favorites for the Super Bowl, are actually going to be playing in the Super Bowl. By now, you know that Peyton Manning once again got over the stigma that he’s a choke artist in the playoffs. By now, you know that the Seattle Seahawks, barring anything totally unexpected, are a potential dynasty.
And yet, you choose to focus on Richard Sherman, the Seattle cornerback, who is arguably the best cornerback in the league, or so he thinks, and his vociferous postgame interview, which probably scared the living bejeezus out of Erin Andrews. The interview, which was essentially a call out to 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree can be watched here.
After the interview, there was a lot of discussion over whether Sherman acted like a classless jerk, whether he should have kept his personal conflict with Crabtree out of the spotlight, and so on and so forth.
Some people even decided that Richard Sherman’s rant would make them temporary Broncos fans, because the Broncos are supposedly more classy than the Seahawks.
Wow. Decided to go with the broncos after that interview. Seriously dude?? Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33)
Stay classy, Richard Sherman. Making it easy for all of America to become #Broncos fans. Steve Caparotta (@SteveWAFB)
And then of course, there were the idiots on Twitter and message boards who felt the need to drop an N-bomb in calling out Sherman.
I’ve heard of people rooting for teams for stupid reasons, “Because x player went to my school”, “Because the uniforms are awesome”, “Because they were the first team I saw in the Super Bowl/World Series/Stanley Cup/NBA Finals etc.” but this really takes the cake. To root for another team because one player decided to release his pent up excitement and anger in one post game tirade, literally minutes after he helped his team get to the Super Bowl, really shows how stupid temporary fan allegiances can be.
But this post isn’t about calling people out for being stupid, it’s for making sense of why Sherman did what he did, and why he was justified for doing it.
So we start off at the beginning. First of all, 49ers-Seahawks may be the best divisional football rivalry right now. Both teams are great, and seem to be destined to face off in important games for at least the next decade, both coaches have had experience playing each other even before the NFL called them, both have solid offenses and nasty defenses, what’s not to like?
There are, of course, those who take the rivalry very seriously. Sherman and Crabtree stand out the most. According to Sherman’s side of the story, which can be seen in this article, written by Sherman, the feud didn’t just start that night, but rather back in the offseason, in Arizona. In his piece, Sherman says that he could have caught the ball, had Crabtree not pushed him. Instead of holding a grudge right there, Sherman tried to act like the bigger man by saying “good game” to Crabtree, but when Crabtree pushed him again, he was free game.
While Sherman’s choke signal to Colin Kaepernick probably wasn’t called for, after all, he did have a somewhat respectable game minus the turnovers, his post game interview with Erin Andrews didn’t seem as bad as it was played out to be. Sure, Sherman yelled, sure, he trashed Crabtree by calling him a “sorry receiver”, and sure, it sounded like something out of WWE RAW, but in actuality, it was, for the most part, harmless.
Sherman didn’t swear in his interview, which showed at least a certain degree of maturity. His play against Crabtree and throughout the year also gave him a certain degree of traction on his “I’m the best corner in the game” comment. And for those of you who were confused by his LOB shoutout, it’s not a gang sign, it’s the initials for the Seahawk secondary nickname, Legion of Boom.
Here’s the problem. You as fans say that you are tired of the clichéd interview, the “we played hard and they played hard”, generic company line. And yet, when Sherman decides to exercise his first amendment rights and speak his mind, you suddenly become members of the morality police. “What a classless douche”, “That’s a low blow”, etc. Make up your mind, people. Either you want a degree of opinion, or you want the company line. If you like it, great, you like it, but if you’re so damn sensitive, then perhaps you should avoid watching sports altogether. Someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose. Some are going to be excited about going to the Super Bowl and show it, others are going to act as if it’s no big deal.
Do you fault Sherman for being excited? I certainly wouldn’t. This is the Super Bowl, perhaps the greatest sporting event in the country, if not the world. Even if there is a degree of parity in the NFL, going to the Super Bowl is harder than it looks. Sherman has every right to be excited, every right to show emotion, every right to say that he was better. He made the play that brought Seattle back to the Super Bowl. You say that Peyton has more class? May I remind you that Manning has already been to two Super Bowls, so obviously it wasn’t new to him. Heck, he’s already won one, as well as the MVP of the Super Bowl.
Don’t judge Sherman’s character by one interview. Don’t root for the Broncos just because your opinion of a team was affected by one interview. Don’t view Sherman as a villain because of an interview. Have an opinion that isn’t colored because of an interview. The goal of fandom is to root for a team because of the way they play, not because of the actions of one player. If that was the case, then there’d be a lot fewer Patriots fans because of Aaron Hernandez, and the Cleveland Browns would be one of the most popular franchises in the NFL.
Instead of letting the (almost) off-the-field headlines color your fandom, watch the game for what it is, a matchup between the best offense and the best defense. Enjoy the novelty of a game in a cold-weather city in an open stadium. Enjoy the commercials if you hate football, or if you hate football and commercials, enjoy Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or, if you want to pick players, there are other players on each team that are just as easy to root for. Denver has Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, all great players. Seattle has Bruce Irvin, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Derrick Coleman. Don’t let it be Manning vs. Sherman. Enjoy the whole game for what it is.
Yesterday, MLB owners approved the expansion of Instant Replay in baseball, meaning that more calls would be reviewable, like fair/foul, safe/out, basically it’s a lot more than the initial home run rulings in 2008. Also included in this overhaul is the manager’s right to challenge, like in the case of NFL head coaches. Managers would get two challenges, which could be used from innings 1-7. with any further calls to be handled at the umpire’s discretion.
Now, depending on who you are, you either find this to be a major improvement, like Bruce Bochy and Max Scherzer, or the equivalent of going to the dentist for a root canal, like many sportswriters had predicted.
My guess is if you’re one of those fans who feel that your team is constantly jilted by bad calls, this may just give your team a few extra wins. Maybe also if you’re a technophile, you are intrigued by how the integration of computers will affect such a pastoral game. And to be honest, good for you. You know that the sports world has been changing for years. You saw it in football, then in basketball, then in hockey, and soccer and tennis, and pretty much every sport under the sun, it was about time that baseball adapted to modern times, after all, this is the big four league that has gone the longest without adding an expansion franchise, was the last to add a league-centric network, was the last to adopt interleague play, let alone year long interleague play, and has two teams that play in ballparks that predate World War I. So clearly, this is a victory in your mind.
On the other side are the purists, and to be completely honest, you have to feel for them. I’m talking more about the pre-1970 purists, those who feel that the game has been watered down by the three divisions in each league, the introduction of the Wild card as well as the expanded wild card, the decision to make the All-star game a deciding factor for home field advantage in the World Series. Those who feel that Florida and Arizona were only meant to be Spring Training sites, not homes to major league teams, domed and retractable roof ballparks, and of course, the dreaded designated hitter. They feel that there should be a human element in the game, that umpires have a right to make a mistake once in a while, and that the inclusion of the replay system clearly undermines the umpire’s authority and destroys one of the cultural hallmarks of a pastime, making it more serious than it should be.
If I were to put myself onto any side, I’d probably label myself as a progressive baseball fan with a few purist leanings. By the time I became a fan in 2002, the three division per league concept had been the norm for almost a decade, interleague play was in its fifth year, the wild card had started to gain a certain degree of relevancy, thanks in part to the Florida Marlins 1997 title as well as the Wild World Series of 2002. A year prior, the Diamondbacks had proven that being an expansion team was not an excuse to get high draft picks, and the retractable roof ballpark was a great way for fans to enjoy baseball without the pain of a rain delay. I love the World Baseball Classic, and the idea of globalizing the National Pastime. Every time I see a player who comes from a new country, I’m impressed that he’s managed to make it out of his country’s culture into ours. It’s fascinating.
However, for all of the progressive things that I liked, there were things that I disliked. When the All-Star game format was changed in 2003, I saw it as stupid, even if I had only had seen the dreaded 2002 game which ended in a tie. I found that steroid testing was ridiculous, and instant replay as a way of saying that umpires were too stupid to make the right call. I find that a lot of contracts these days are starting to get out of hand and teams are paying dearly for last year’s statistical output. I find mascots to be cheap and stupid ways to entertain kids who clearly shouldn’t be at games if their attention can’t be held for more than five minutes (this is sad, as our generation seems to gravitate towards that trend more and more each passing day). I dislike teams trying to go back to minimalist looks with generic roundel logos instead of carving their own identities (I’m referring to the Indians, Pirates, Padres, Nationals, you get the point). I hate how people are starting to mix politics with sports, like the Chief Wahoo debate, and I really can’t talk to anyone who forces the newfangled sabrmetric inventions like UZR and WAR on me Just leave me with my old fashioned stats and scouting reports, and I’ll be fine.
But that doesn’t answer the question fully, What about this new form of Instant Replay?
First of all, I did make a legitimate gripe against instant replay in my purist rant. I feel that it demeans the umpire. The umpire is a human being after all, and is bound to make mistakes. Granted, some of those mistakes are bound to get him blacklisted by a certain team’s fans, see Don Denkinger and the Cardinals, Jim Joyce and the Tigers, Jerry Meals and the Pirates, but if you really feel that you need to kill an umpire or do him bodily harm for making a mistake, then you are a sad excuse for a human being. Nobody’s perfect, mind you, and life isn’t fair. If you feel that the only way to get rid of that disappointment is to exact Hammurabi’s Code on that person who screwed you over, then you really have issues. I’ll admit that I’m a technophile. I like jumbotrons in stadiae, sue me. I’m inclined to check my fantasy team once every three innings during a game. I’ll tweet during a game or post a Facebook status. But in regards to the instant replay, I feel that that’s going too far. What about those teams that do benefit from the miscalls? Would the Marlins have won the Series in 1997 if Livan Hernandez didn’t have the strike zone he did? Would the Royals have managed to claw back in 1985 if Denkinger hadn’t made that call? And for the teams that feel that they were screwed by bad calls. Would Armando Galarraga have had a great major league career if Jim Joyce had called Jason Donald out? Would the Orioles have gone on to become a dynasty if Jeffery Maier hadn’t stuck his glove over the Yankee Stadium fence?
There are bad calls, and then there are egregiously bad calls. We saw this in 2012 in football, when the replacement referees screwed the Green Bay Packers and unintentionally made Russell Wilson into a star and the Seahawks into America’s favorite team. Would Russell Wilson won Rookie of the Year and led Seattle to the playoffs if Ed Hochuli’s crew had refereed that game?
The point is, there is a time for progressivism in sport, and there’s a time to criticize referees and umpires for making a mistake, but to undermine their authority by letting a soulless robot do the judging is clearly overstepping a boundary. It’s a big mistake, and it’s going to hurt baseball, not because it will be time consuming but it erodes at the pastoral aspect of the game.
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.
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.
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.
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.