I'm with Joe Flacco: it's becoming impossible for me not to like Johnny Manziel simply because everyone else hates him. Yes this is an NFL column and, no, Manziel -- nor Jadeveon Clowney -- aren't in the NFL yet. But they (and other NFL prospects) warrant watching and mentioning throughout the season. But maybe we should talk about them less: the discussion surrounding Manziel has become borderline unbearable at this stage.
It's like every single discussion-filled sound byte is either advice for Manziel, stuffed with vitriol, hypocritical or all of the above. (Put more simply: the entire world's turned into Andrew Sharp from #HotSportsTakes and hasn't realized it.) There's no civility when it comes to Manziel and the kid didn't even do anything illegal, unless you actually think the NCAA's asinine rules count as some sort of law.
And yet half the media treats this kid like he's the spawn of Satan because he decides to celebrate a touchdown while climbing over one another to see who can yell the loudest about the kinds of mistakes he's making. (Props, by the way, to the folks at ESPN's College GameDay for recognizing a saturation point; it's why Lee Fitting's crew puts on such a good Saturday production.)
It's a major, major problem in today's media. Call it the Dead Horse Hypothesis if you want, but the point is this: we take a topic and beat the ever-living dog poo out of it. And it gets to a point where every single little thing about the subject at hand is analyzed. Find yourself on that Mount Rushmore and you're getting the DHH treatment. Just ask Tim Tebow or Rex Ryan how it works.
Manziel's one of the guys that's going to be pounded this year. There's no way of escaping it, and when the Aggies lose their first football game -- it could happen against Alabama on Sept. 14 when the teams square off on CBS -- the vultures are gonna be let LOOSE. Regardless of what actually happens in the game, the loss will be on Manziel and his loose moral fortitude.
The same sort of principles apply to Clowney. We spent so many months massaging his shoulders on the tails of his bone-crushing, head-popping hit against Michigan on New Year's Day that anything less than 40 sacks, five interceptions and Bryn Renner's head on a platter last Thursday weren't going to cut it. (And why will no one come out and admit that his hit in the Outback Bowl wasn't that great?)
Now Clowney has conditioning problems that everyone knew about but didn't want to discuss? Players all have imperfections. It's no surprise that the freakish South Carolina end does, too. If he comes into the game against North Carolina with any reasonable amount of hype, his performance is praised to the high heavens.
The Tar Heels altered their gameplan because of Clowney and he flashed plenty of diversity in where he can line up and athleticism in constantly chasing people down.
Like with Manziel, the expectations are just too far out of whack to let anything remain realistic. You're better off staying under the radar and surprising some people. Because once you get either hyped or hated, your names going to be mentioned enough to drive everyone insane and make people forget what kind of player you actually are.
It would be nice to see everyone cool down a bit, but don't expect the hype train to pull into the station any time soon.
Dennis Allen's Smart Move
According to a Sunday report, the Raiders are rolling with Terrelle Pryor. It's a wise move for Oakland, who's playing with house money this season. They can't realistically be competive, even in a watered-down AFC.
And Matt Flynn is what we think he is. A very nice backup who is best suited as a game manager. Pryor might not be the Raiders' savior, but there's no way of telling whether or not he can be a capable NFL quarterback if you don't throw him out there.
The investment in Pryor was substantial for the Raiders, which means they need to know whether to keep Pryor around and under center. Clearly they're interested in rolling the dice on Pryor. The worst thing that can happen is they don't win and end up turning to Flynn, which is right where they were to begin with.
Not Your Father's Bengals
Cincinnati is one of the sexier sleeper picks for NFL analysts this offseason. I've got them winning the division, but a lot of my colleagues have them going deep into the playoffs. It's certainly possible, though I think there's concern to be had with Andy Dalton. You know where there's not concern? On the defensive line, which now has two critical pieces locked up for the foreseeable future in Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins.
Both players picked up a new contract this offseason, with Atkins five-year, $55 million deal coming Monday just before the season begins. It's one of the bigger defensive tackle deals in the game today but it's an absolute steal for the Bengals.
Geno didn't take too little or anything -- $55 million is a good amount of money to "settle" for and anyone can live on $11 million. But if not for J.J. Watt's season last year, Geno might've won the Defensive Player of the Year award. He's an absolute beast in the middle of the Bengals defensive line, he's still young (just 25) and now the Bengals have the core of a defense that will help them remain competitive in a difficult division for the next few years.
Atkins' contract also means we can probably guarantee that defensive end Michael Johnson is playing his last season with Cincy.
Four Quarterbacks In the Hand ...
There's an interesting trend four a couple of teams in the NFL right now, as the Jets and Redskins are both carrying four quarterbacks heading into the regular season.
The Jets' decision to roster four makes a tiny bit of sense: none of their quarterbacks are very good. But given that they added Graham Harrell after dumping Greg McElroy and then dumped Harrell for Brady Quinn, well, it tells you just how bad off they are.
Mark Sanchez, currently recovering from a shoulder injury, sounds really excited about the new addition though.
"I know that they just got rid of Greg [McElroy], he went to Cincinnati," Sanchez said. "I don't know, just keeping a veteran guy around as an emergency guy, a guy who's played quite a bit. Hopefully he'll help us."
Let's be serious though: the Jets could easily end up using all four of their quarterbacks before they even get to the fourth week of the season. That's not likely -- Geno Smith is going to start Week 1 and will probably get a pretty long leash barring injury. So seeing Sanchez, Matt Simms and Quinn all play looks pretty unlikely.
Well, RG3's great, Cousins is an upside-filled backup, Grossman appears to have naked pictures of the Shanahans and White is a very nice player to keep around for practice purposes until the Skins play the Eagles in Week 1 (White's an athletic lefty just like Michael Vick). We'll see if the Redskins keep White around after the first week of the season; I'd guess that they won't but perhaps the Shanahans will prove me wrong.
I understand why the Jets need as many quarterbacks as possible. But the logic behind keeping four quarterbacks when you've got a budding superstar under center doesn't make sense.
Speaking of the Redskins
Can we please just have Washington and Philadelphia play already? Because I can't take another RG3 update -- the latest "news" came on Monday night when Mike Shanahan officially named him the Week 1 starter.
This is following a summer and offseason that featured approximately 5,659,045 updates on RG3's knee.
There were definitely more annoying storylines this offseason, but RG3's health and his relationship with his coach and the questions about what he was doing off the field -- as if any of it was remotely worrisome -- and all the self-help gurus handing out advice for the Redskins quarterback is a little tiresome at this point.
Mercifully we're at the conclusion we all expected (RG3 playing) and we're less than seven days away from Griffin getting under center for the Redskins opener.
Brown Can't Do Much For You
I made a mistake on Twitter when I pointed out that Andre Brown was playing in the second half against the Patriots when the Giants running back suffered a fractured leg. It was the second quarter, with about two minutes to play. So my bad on that. But I think the point still stands: why was Brown playing at that juncture of the preseason?
The Giants have Da'Rel Scott, Ryan Torain and Michael Cox on the depth chart in addition to starter David Wilson. That tells me two things. One, they're lacking depth at running back. And two, they've got a few guys who could eat up meaningless fourth-week preseason carries. Instead, Brown was playing with the backups and now he's probably going to miss a significant portion of the 2013 season.
Early reports have him "only" missing four to six weeks; that's incredible if it actually happens.
Clock Runs Out on Tebow Time
86 weeks. That's how long ago it was when Tim Tebow heaved a slant in the direction of Demaryius Thomas to topple the Steelers in overtime and win a playoff game for the Broncos.
Now, 86 weeks is a long time, but it's not an enternity or anything. And yet, it was more than enough to essentially derail Tim Tebow's entire career, with a third NFL team dispatching of the lefty on Saturday. The Broncos, who won a playoff game with him, ditched him. The Jets, who are a constantly rolling clown car, couldn't find a way to use him. And now the Patriots decided they've seen enough.
Twenty-nine other teams didn't want anything to do with Tebow either, letting the former Heisman Trophy winner pass untouched through waivers. Colleague Bruce Feldman had an amazing stat in his always-excellent Big Picture column, pointing out that a whopping four of the last seven Heisman Trophy winners are already out of work in the NFL.
One of those guys, Troy Smith, is currently with the Montreal Alouettes ... the same team that holds Tebow's Canadian Football League rights. Perhaps the two could eventually become teammates?
Regardless it really does look like Tebow's NFL career is over. That's stunning considering just how short a time ago the 26-year-old was quarterbacking an NFL team to a playoff victory.
There's a lot of good football writing out there. If you see some and want it included here, lemme know on Twitter @WillBrinson.
- Linked above but Paul Myerberg's behind the scenes write-up on "College GameDay" for USA Today is really, really good.
- Richard Sherman can be brash and loud and he talks a lot but turns out he's a pretty good writer. Smart take on preseason games from him at theMMQB.com.
- Michael Weinreb's look at Marshall's plaid-speed tempo offense at Sports on Earth is very cool.
- Former NFL player Scott Fujita has a very thoughtful breakdown of the concussion settlement in the New York Times.
GIF O' THE WEEK
Dance the night away, Quinton Patton.
"I would like to thank Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Coach McDaniels and the entire Patriots organization for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a classy organization. I pray for nothing but the best for you all. I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback." - Tim Tebow