NFL GMs asking Christian McCaffrey why he skipped Stanford's bowl game

Christian McCaffrey is one of the most interesting players at the NFL combine, and his versatility -- as a running back, receiver and returner -- could see him sneak into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft in a few months. For now, however, the former Stanford standout is in Indianapolis, going through the annual process of being poked, prodded and questioned.

One of the questions McCaffrey hears repeatedly from interested NFL evaluators: Why did you skip Stanford’s bowl game?

“I just tell them how it is,” he said, via ESPN.com. “When they ask, I’m extremely honest with them, and then we move on to now and playing football,” McCaffrey said Thursday. “I just know I made that decision, it’s a career decision, it was a man decision, to try to protect my dream of playing and succeeding in the NFL. And whether it gave me an advantage or not, I stuck with it and I’m here now moving on.”

Of course, at the time of McCaffrey’s announcement, the knee-jerk reaction was that he was selfish. The reality is slightly more complicated than that, and most reasonable people can agree that, given his NFL aspirations, McCaffrey’s decision was a smart one.

Broncos general manager and Stanford alum John Elway has no problem with McCaffrey’s decision, while new 49ers general manager John Lynch (also, it turns out, a Stanford alum) has a more nuanced stance.

“You know what, I understand it now,” Elway, who met with McCaffrey this week, said, via the Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. “Obviously when I thought about it, kind of the old school in me wanted to come out and say, ‘Why? Why would those guys not play? It’s their last game,’ and this and that. But I tell you what, when you look at where the league is now and you talk about the value of these contracts for these players coming out and the risks that they’re taking, the old salty guy in me got flipped back to understanding. I understand why they didn’t play.”

And here’s Lynch: “As a Stanford fan, I wasn’t a huge fan of that. … I think you understand their perspective, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a positive thing for college football. This is such a team sport -- I know there are people that I’ve talked to here that that really bothers. I’m fortunate. With one of those players, I happen to know the young man (McCaffrey). So I would never question his commitment to team, but other people will.”

Meanwhile, McCaffrey said that when he informed his Stanford teammates in December that he wasn’t playing in the bowl game, this was their reaction: “... [E]very single one of them supported me, had my back. hey gave me a little ovation, and I got a lot of love from my teammates. It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I was just happy to have a lot of guys who had my back then.”

In the latest round of CBSSports.com mock drafts, two of the six writers have McCaffrey going in the first round. Will Brinson thinks the Broncos will pull the trigger at No. 20, while Rob Rang likes the Giants at No. 23. And God help the rest of the league if McCaffrey is still on the board when the Patriots go on the clock at the end of Round 1.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories