Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Draft, Johnny Football, and Michael Sam

I’m the kinda guy that loves the NFL draft, year after year. My wife doesn’t understand it, and I suspect many people think it’s boring to sit in front of a TV for a weekend, watching college football players get divvied out to different NFL teams. I even admit the NFL is stretching my attention a little thin by expanding it to three days worth of drafting (…and I now hear they want to make it a week long affair…bad move, Roger Goodell…I don’t think even my enthusiasm will work with that format…stop meddling with a good thing!).

This year, there’s a fair amount of drama in the first round. Plenty of good players on both offense and defense are available, and despite the extended analysis, it only takes one team to throw a curveball to change the predictions and mock drafts. It’ll be a fun night tonight.

I admit I’m most attentive of where Johnny “Football” Manziel will land. He’s the most exciting college football player I’ve watched in a while, and he’s going to fit right into the current NFL landscape of cat-quick scrambling quarterbacks. Manziel has great decision-making skills and an accurate arm. Put him behind a semi-strong o-line with competent receivers, and he might break some rookie records (if he doesn’t let his passion or ego get in the way). Houston should take him, but Jadeveon Clowney is can’t -miss, and the Texans will find a quarterback in the second round. I think St. Louis would probably be the best place for him to go, with their speedy indoor turf field, but they’re committed to Sam Bradford. Jacksonville seems like the logical place for Manziel, but I’m holding out hope that he drops to Cleveland…I miss the Browns being a powerhouse in the league and Manziel could bring them back to prominence. If he drops past the fourth pick, then I think NFL teams have undervalued the potential of Manziel, and he might make them pay for overlooking him…

Michael Sam will not be drafted tonight. According to some reports, he might not be drafted after Saturday’s proceedings have concluded. I’m concerned that Sam’s story might become a political talking point after the draft is over: NFL Teams Conspire to Keep First Openly Gay Football Player Out!…or some equivalent headline. While I am sure there are some NFL executives who would prefer to abstain from drafting Michael Sam, probably based on discrimination, I find it hard to believe that all 30 teams would share that bias. There might be a team that plans to draft Michael Sam in order to garner news attention, perhaps for projected television ratings, and that might be a questionably unethical reason to draft him, also. The truth about most NFL teams is they might pass on Michael Sam because they do not project him to be good enough to make an NFL squad.

If Michael Sam had wowed the scouts at the combine, then he would be a sure thing to be drafted, but he did not impress there. His size is a problem, as he’s not big enough to qualify as a massive lineman. He’s tenacious and speedy enough to project as a linebacker, but he doesn’t have much experience at the position. He would be a development project, which causes teams to hesitate on draft day. I notice quite a few draft experts are hesitant to project Michael Sam in the draft because he has been branded the dreaded “tweener.” The draft experts cannot see into the minds of NFL teams who might bypass Sam because his sexual orientation might be the final criterion for passing on a questionable investment.

It’s a hard fact of the football world…there are no guarantees. Peyton Manning is a certain hall-of-famer, yet Indianapolis made a football decision to let him go to the Denver Broncos. Chad Johnson was on top of the football world one moment, found himself scrambling to make an NFL roster the next, and now finds himself playing Canadian football. Just ask Tim Tebow how quickly one’s star can fall when you cannot prove yourself in practice. Even if Michael Sam gets drafted, he most likely will not start on an NFL team this year, and he might not be invited to a camp three years down the road when his first contract runs its course. That’s the NFL, no matter your sexual orientation.

I am pulling for Michael Sam. He’s said all of the correct things, and he should be admired for announcing his sexual orientation to the world. His Missouri team was tremendous at handling this knowledge while playing, and their example provides a roadmap for how NFL locker rooms can handle a situation that causes a lot of hand-wringing from the indignant patriarchs of the unenlightened past. It does seem like the country is ready to accept Michael Sam as a pioneer of our American homosexual community.

I am worried about the reaction of individuals within any NFL locker room in which Michael Sam might find himself…just read the Wells Report to see the ideologies of a Richie Incognito to prepare for what Sam potentially could encounter. I would hope that the captains of that locker room step up to the plate and caution others against such tomfoolery, but reality is a harsh mistress. It will take courage to stand up to ignorance, and some NFL captaincies are assigned based on merit/tenure instead of honor, as in the case of Incognito. It will be important for NFL teams to observe the temperature of their squad before consideration for Michael Sam’s invitation.

I’m a Bears fan, and I suspect that would be a good place for Michael Sam to land. The city has a strong liberal, progressive community, and any nay-sayers in the Bears fan-base would most likely be drowned out by the number of fans who just want to see a good defensive option on the squad. Cerebral coach Marc Trestman has good control of his locker room, and he would be ideal, as a straight-talking, fact-based rhetorician, to handle the press’ anticipated questioning about Sam’s experience and role on the team. Brandon Marshall has been a strong advocate of mental illness, and he seems genuinely enlightened for a young man. Jay Cutler acts like a jerk to most people, but he at least seems like an equal-opportunity jerk, meaning he’ll be mean to anybody, straight or gay…

…but I can’t know this for sure. There would be fans in Chicago that start writing the dirty jokes as soon as Sam is drafted. Brandon Marshall might surprise me, and adamantly state his discomfort sharing a locker-room. The Bears organization is one of the few NFL teams that do not have cheerleaders, an ethical policy that is meant not to denigrate women…it might be a genuinely progressive policy, or it might be a remnant of the McCaskey family’s strong fundamentalist Christian beliefs. As with most NFL teams, it’s difficult to assume. Today’s politically correct society has created more covert discrimination; the overt behaviors of the past were at least easily identified (although, more difficult to thwart than they are today).

To me, Michael Sam is good enough to be drafted. If an NFL team bases their decision on his college play, then he should be picked up. He was good enough at Missouri to project as, at least, an effective defensive pass-rushing specialist. I will be watching to see if Michael Sam is drafted, and I hope he does because of the love I have for this game. As he himself indicated, Michael Sam just wants to play NFL football, like the rest of the potential draft picks, and he’s earned a shot at the big time because of his above-average college career. I think he deserves the chance to play. I suspect he will handle it well if he is not drafted, but I also predict he would not appreciate being the focal point of a liberal-media that wants to put him in the spotlight for political propaganda. I think he just wants to play football. That’s why I’m pulling for him.

{This is a sports-themed article, and I have one more topical suggestion for the sports fan who may have appreciated this article: check out Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech…talk about a class act! If you want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Advertisements

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s