Sunday, February 24, 2013

Manti Te'o Saves The World

Our Hero
Of sports writing. Because otherwise, you're writing about UFC today, and who the hell wants to do that?

So the story today coming out of the NFL combine is the inevitable redemption of how Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o showed maturity in standing up to the media throng for 15 harrowing minutes.

You see, there's no better way to feed the narrative of how you are different, thoughtful, and changed for the better by your self-inflicted media meltdown... than by, well, standing in front of a podium and subjecting yourself to the very necessary step of helping the nation's sports writers fill their desperately empty newshole in late February.

Now, I don't really have anything for, or against, Te'o. The idea that a college football player could be an easy mark does not surprise me, because I am old enough to know that college football players spend most of their dwindling number of brain cells on football. (And that athletes should always be seen and not heard.)

But here's the thing... I also don't much give a damn whether Te'o is closeted (seriously, still the best explanation as to how a player would have wound up in a situation like this), gullible, or needing an off the field reason to make his public brand more noticeable...

Because, well, the biggest question about him is why, when faced with pro-level competition in the national championship game against Alabama, he looked slow, sickly, and thoroughly outclassed. (Along with most of the rest of his Irish teammates. But I digress.)

Personally, I think the guy should have probably always been a late first / early second round kind of pick, because it doesn't really matter how good you are on the field... when you stay all four years for Indentured Servant ball, you are inherently more suspect than the guy who left early.  And sure, Te'o could have came out after his junior season and gotten drafted in that position, but he chose to stay for the final season at a level where he excelled, and to give himself a chance to play for a national championship, even at the risk of suffering a severe injury before that first professional payday.

He cared more about his college experience than his professional future. Which makes him more well-rounded, better off in the long run in life, and nearly the winner of a much bigger payday, in that people used to talk about him as a top pick before the hoax girlfriend mess...

But he's also 6'1" and 255 pounds, with a 40-yard dash time that looks pretty pedestrian. And that whole four year college thing.

So if you want to be mean, you compare him to Rolando McClain, the 8th overall pick in the 2010 draft that the Raiders released. If you want to be charitable, you compare him to Ray Lewis, even if a Notre Dame graduate with a high GPA, and a Mormon, makes any comparison to Lewis seem all kinds of insane.

Except for, well, on the field. Which is the only thing that will matter in the long run.

Personally, I think the guy will struggle with oversize tight ends and breakaway scat backs. I don't know if he's a three-down linebacker, because very few linebackers in the NFL are anymore. I also think he's a tweener who can be managed in the right situation, with the right coaching.

And that means that, like most NFL picks, coaching and situation will dictate his potential.

Regardless of his ability to fill the newshole...

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