Saturday, March 14, 2009

Andre Smith

This guy is taking a beating in media. However, no matter how terribly he’s performed in the days since he left Alabama’s program and declared for the draft, none of the negatives about him have anything to do with his ability to play football, which is what he’s going to be paid millions to do. Last we saw of Mr. Smith on the field, he was putting together a season that earned him the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior offensive or defensive lineman. Past winners include guys like Bruce Smith, Chad Hennings, Russell Maryland, Steve Emtman, Will Shields, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Chris Samuels, John Henderon, Bryant McKinnie, Joe Thomas, and Glenn Dorsey. Those guys range from Hall of Famers to young players who may be great, but are in the very early stages of their NFL careers. Some guys who also won it recently and who have not played up their potential include Rien Long, Robert Gallery, and Jammal Brown. Notice how I snuck Steve Emtman in the first group? I have a soft spot for the guy since he is in the conversation for the best defensive player in modern college football history. He was an incredible beast and wore a half shirt as a 290 lb white dude. You have to respect that—or respect the ‘roids, whichever.

My point is that everyone needs to remember that the NFL draft and the NFL, generally, is all about misinformation. The people running NFL teams are not idiots. We may think so from time to time when teams like Detroit keep drafting wide receivers with their first pick or when teams like Washington pay exorbitant amounts of cash to free agents for very little return. But on the whole, NFL front office guys are acutely aware that every word they say around draft time will be scooped up by some media source and be dispersed within seconds. The fans demand it from the media because they are hungry for NFL news. The NFL teams know this so they use it to their advantage.

Even if a “scout” remains “anonymous” it doesn’t matter so long as the message gets out there. “We think Andre Smith is a horrible football player with a bad attitude” or “We won’t touch him, he’s not worth the trouble.” Two words for you: B and S. I don’t buy it. Not for a second. I understand that Andre Smith has cost himself a shot at being drafted high in the first round, but it’s not as if he’s not going to get a chance and that he’s not going to be a first-round pick and a multimillionaire. It’s ludicrous to think otherwise. During the season, when they were actually playing football, Andre Smith was being tabbed as possibly the number one pick in the draft. Number One. To even suggest that he’s fallen out of the first round or, as some people predict, out of the first day is patently ridiculous. He’s a hugely talented left tackle who dominated at Alabama, who, last I checked, was a pretty damn good football team, in a conference that is clearly the best in the country, and the number-one-ranked team late in the season. Everything that has happened to Smith since the SEC Championship Game against Florida has been negative. But again, none of what he did had one thing to do with him being able to play football.

Teams are starving for talented offensive tackles like Smith. He won’t be the first pick in the draft, but he will go in the first round. That’s a guarantee. He’s too talented and teams need his ability. It’s been written many times that teams factor in “character” when considering who to bring in to their franchise, but remember that teams will always, always, always choose talent over character because they believe that with the right system, the player will behave for them and be successful. There is a laundry list of guys who you wouldn’t want bagging your groceries let alone paying millions of dollars to. For every Adam “Pacman” Jones and Odell Thurman, who may be completely ostracized from the NFL by now, there are several players who have been given numerous chances despite their reprehensible behavior and remain employed by NFL teams. An admittedly non-comprehensive list: Larry Johnson (woman beater), Marshawn Lynch (hit-and-runner), Chris Henry (a string of DUIs and assaults), Matt Jones (cocaine possession… I didn’t know people still did cocaine, I thought that went out with pegged pants, feathered hair, and sport coats with rolled-up sleeves), Jerramy Stevens (drunk-driving menace), Bryant McKinnie (felony battery), Gosder Cherilus (bar brawler), Cedric Benson (DUI and BUI), Marvin Harrison (gun issues), Tank Johnson (gun issues), Jared Allen (three DUIs), Charles Grant (involuntary manslaughter involving a pregnant woman), Rocky Bernard (domestic violence), James Harrison (domestic violence), Plaxico Burress (general idiocy, shooting self in night club), Koren Robinson (multiple DUIs), Ricky Manning Jr. (felony assault), and the Patron Saint of Horrible Humans, Drunk Driving, Mother Killing, Leonard Little.

While Andre Smith seems to not have a good grasp on putting forth a professional appearance, he has not been in any legal trouble that I’ve seen. Perhaps he shows bad judgment that may lead to legal troubles down the line, but do people really think that NFL teams are going to collectively teach guys like Andre Smith a lesson by not drafting him? They’d be fools to do that. If an NFL team thinks that he’s a good player, then they are going to draft him and pay him money to play football. If he’s good at that, he’ll last in the league a very long time. If he’s not good, he’ll be cut, whether he’s a “good guy” or “bad guy,” it doesn’t matter. If he can play, he’ll get paid, and that’s that.

1 comment:

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