I was listening to NFL Network’s Rich Eisen on his self-titled podcast a few weeks ago when he said something to the effect of, mark my words, Robert Griffin III will give Andrew Luck a run for his money because at some point, analysts will pick the Baylor star over the Stanford stud.
Eisen wasn’t kidding!! I don’t know about you at home, but I rarely heard Luck’s name coming out of Indianapolis over the last few days as NFL hopefuls attempted to boost their draft status by participating in the exercises, drills, tests and interviews that encompass the combine.
While RG3’s 40 time sent the media abuzz Sunday, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was crowned the king of the combine long before he set foot on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Luck first, Griffin second seemed to be the consensus on the quarterback order after the college football season ended as both players had monster seasons and wow’d us, each in their own way. Luck lost a bit of luster for no reason other than the fact that he had become old news, while Griffin was the hot, new guy on the scene who came out of nowhere. Capping a Heisman-winning season with a bowl game victory consisting of 777 yards of offense, RG3 was already hot heading into the combine and basically lit himself of fire by way of dazzling the media in his press conference on Friday.
The following tweet from Nancy Gay, NFL senior editor for FoxSports.com, echoed the sentiments of just about every media member who was in the room watching RG3 shine:
@nancygay: RG3 displaying impressive poise, humor, intelligence. He will be a tremendous #NFL leader for the team lucky enough to get him
Griffin was asked about the possibly of becoming an Indianapolis Colt and sitting while Peyton Manning played. Griffin responded by saying, “I’d hold that clipboard with pride.”
Seriously? This kid either had the best media coaching money could buy or he is a genuinely positive person with tremendous character who understands the business of football. From what I’ve seen of Griffin over the past year, I’m guessing the latter is true. Nothing excites management more than the idea of a top-notch talent having an ego small enough to allow him to take a back seat in order to help the team. Finding a guy like that is equivalent to a Unicorn running through your backyard or a Leprechaun offering you a pot of gold. Very rare, indeed.
Even so, why was this media session so important for Griffin? Because the combine, in and of itself doesn’t reveal major secrets, and the scouts know it.
Nothing about the combine accurately replicates playing a football game. Height, weight, jumping ability, speed and weight lifting mean nothing if you aren’t using that strength to push an offensive lineman or using that vertical leap to elevate higher than the corner covering you in order to make the game-winning catch. At the end of the day, a pat on the back and top ranking on the NFL Combine’s wikipedia page just isn’t worth that much.
Griffin’s official 40 time was 4.41 seconds, putting him in third place among quarterbacks since the year 2000. Who beat him out? Well, Michael Vick’s official time was 4.33 seconds, followed by Reggie McNeal who ran the famous 40 in 4.40 ticks. Of the ten quarterbacks who logged the best 40 times since 2000, Vick is the only one to earn a Pro Bowl nod.
Tom Brady ran a 5.28 at the combine. No need to expound. I know you get my point.
Athleticism and Wonderlich scores don’t necessarily predict sport-specific ability.
I won’t go into the Wonderlich test as we all know of various players who didn’t test well, yet had or have great NFL careers and those who earned near perfect scores whose likenesses won’t be on a bust in Canton any time soon.
Athleticism, however, is worth dissecting a bit. Does Ben Roethlisberger epitomize the word “athlete” when you look at him? He’s tall, but he’s a bit chunky, doesn’t move quickly and looks like he’s a few buckets of KFC away from a career as a full-time couch potato. In reality, Roethlisberger is one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s an elite, Super Bowl-winning quarterback who went 11th overall in the 2004 draft behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Okay, so Manning has one ring on Big Ben, but I bet the Oakland Raiders regretted drafting o-lineman Robert Gallery with the second overall pick pretty quickly.
Remember Justin Gatlin, the gold medal-winning Olympian? The American track star, one of the fastest men on the planet, tried out for the Houston Texans while serving a four-year ban from track and field for doping. The man ran the 100 meters in 9.85 seconds and couldn’t make the Texans roster, proving that fast and football are not mutually exclusive.
Yes, Griffin is perhaps an Olympic-caliber track athlete, but that isn’t what defines him as a great pro prospect. Both Griffin and Luck decided not to participate in throwing drills at the combine which was no big deal as scouts and coaches have plenty of game tape on them, which serves as the real resume builder in this business.
Former NFL head coach and current analyst Brian Billick said of Griffin, “This is the best throwing athlete I’ve seen come out in a while. Far better than Michael Vick in my opinion. Far better than Cam Newton. This guy has as pure a throwing motion for an athletic quarterback [and] clearly has the intelligence to transition. [He] will translate into the NFL very well.”
That’s quite a ringing endorsement, and surely, it had nothing to do with the combine as Griffin did not throw there.
In truth, the combine is more useful as an interviewing tool than anything. A talented player is of no use if he is suspended, arrested or in jail. The best player on your team is worthless if he won’t talk to his quarterback, or refuses to go in the game. Watching a young man’s best attempt at impressing the entire football community over the course of a pressure-filled week can probably give you good insight into one’s character. Sure, some guys are great actors and might slip through the cracks, but I think coaches and front office members learn much more about the man than the player at the combine.
That’s why RG3 hit a home run in Indy. The football community already knew what he was physically capable of long before the combine, but now Griffin is recognized as a guy who can walk the walk AND talk the talk, a talent that not many possess in professional sports.