Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Jul 2013

MMQB: Manziel and Hernandez

Peter King returns to his own column, talks about Johnny Manziel's weekend with dehydration and lessons from the Aaron Hernandez situation.

(leaves column link and walks away from thread slowly)

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 15 Jul 2013

59 comments, Last at 17 Jul 2013, 10:36am by Anonymousse


by CBPodge :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 4:39am

Would it be a bad thing if the entire football media took a month off like King, between OTAs and training camp? The only things being reported during that time being the stuff that's of national or regional non-football interest (like the Hernandez thing)? Johnny Manziel, Ryan Clady, Matt Stafford and so on, those aren't really stories that add anything to NFL coverage, are they?

by AB (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 5:13am

You have a pretty short attention span if you think the only things worth reporting on are those happening *right now*.

I don't begrudge anyone a vacation, but I'd have said it was a great time of year to write some articles about the game more general which involve wider thought that the what's-happened-this-week agenda which pervades the coverage most of the year.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 10:54am

"I'd have said it was a great time of year to write some articles about the game more general which involve wider thought that the what's-happened-this-week agenda"

And you want PETER KING to do this?!? You lost me at wider thought.

by CBPodge :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:19am

Yeah. Peter King is brilliant at getting other people to tell him stuff, and awful at doing stuff himself. He could probably do a brilliant annual State of the NFL thing if he just asked all his contacts for thoughts and put them together and avoided anything approaching his own personal opinions.

by Harris :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 11:21am

That's his claim to fame, but when was the last time he broke a big story? Or any story? What valuable insights has delivered? He's got all this access but all he does is suck around Goodell and Belichik while making the facile observations you can get from any halfwit in any sports bar in the country.

by asg (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 8:53am

OK, I don't normally pile on PK here, but seriously?

"...tight end Daniel Fells should be athletic enough to provide Tom Brady a trusted alternative -- if not one as athletic or versatile -- to Hernandez." He's athletic enough to provide a trusted alternative, but not as athletic?

"That's why firings aren't likely. Rehab and a serious smack on the wrist -- for both men -- are more likely." 'Smack on the wrist' is an idiom for 'excessively light punishment.' A 'serious smack on the wrist' is a contradiction. What does that mean? Does PK mean that he thinks they should be fired but that they will receive punishment that is serious but short of that? Does he mean that the punishment will be light but just above trivial? Does he think that the only punishment that would count as serious is firing? It is mysterious.

by Thok :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 10:00am

"He's athletic enough to provide a trusted alternative, but not as athletic?"

He's athletic, but less athletic or versatile than Hernandez. That sentence was reasonably clear.

"A 'serious smack on the wrist' is a contradiction."

No, it's an oxymoron. Look it up. In context he means he'll get more than a token punishment, but not much more; it's more than a slap on a wrist (which is the idiom, not smack on the wrist), but not much more.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 1:28pm

Isn't another way of saying oxymoron "a contradiction in terms"? You needed a scanning electron microscope to find that nit to pick.

by RickD :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 1:08am

No, oxymorons are used commonly, because they aren't really "contradictions in terms."

There's a difference between "jumbo shrimp" and "black white person."

by asg (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 4:34pm

Additional thought on this - it could be carelessness, but I wonder if it is careful hedging. The sentence entails a truth no matter what (as contradictions do). PK is right no matter what happens - if the punishment is light, well, it was a smack (or slap) on the wrist! If not, then it was serious!

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 9:24am

Oats are very poor sewing material. Is the editor on vacation now?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 10:10am

Damn you, Poe's Law!

by RickD :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 1:10am

He showed up eventually. (The editor, that is.) It's "sowing oats" now.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 10:43am

Manziel is really proving himself to be a tool as of late.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:02am

"As of late"? Let's not forget, he was arrested and almost kicked off the team prior to last season. It's just that now people are paying more attention to him.

by CBPodge :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:21am

Or, y'know, he's basically doing college like its supposed to be done!

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 12:16pm

I know the feeling. The times I spent as a sophomore were three of the best years of my life.

by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 10:36am


by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:07am

This isn't just a PK gripe, but the idea that Aaron Hernandez never hung out with his teammates (and therefore must have been hanging out with sketchy people plotting crimes) is getting way too much airtime. Was it Matt Light that started that meme? Not everyone wants to spend every waking moment around their co-workers, and it seems like everybody is all too ready to look for the stereotypical "he was a loner, so it makes sense in retrospect that he'd be a killer" guy.

by AB (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:12am

It's still curious though, that an organisation investing many millions of dollars in a guy with a known sketchy background, would not be doing significant due diligence on that.

by JonFrum :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 12:27pm

This is a favorite of the talk radio crowd. Somehow, they never say exactly what 'due diligence' would consist of. Tapping his cell phone? Planting a GPS device on his vehicle? And exactly how much 'sketchy background' do you need to get the NSA terrorist-tracking treatment? Smoking pot? A DUI?

There must be a Mensa for people with 20-20 hindsight high IQs.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 12:45pm

I think that's all very fair. I would guess the word they got on Hernandez was he had some issues but he was good with the team in Florida with strong role models around. The Pats read that as "perfect fit for us, we're all business." But they never anticipated the guy would be able to lead a double life of keeping his nose clean with the team while being a gang-banger during his off hours. It's also possible the Tebow signing was at least in part to try and bring him some more guidance, given the timing was right around the time the lawsuit from the guy who got shot in the eye became known.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 2:14pm

"It's also possible the Tebow signing was at least in part to try and bring him some more guidance"

That's quite a reach. I can't tell if you're giving BB major mastermind cred, or if you think he's incredibly naive. The idea that Hernandez and Tebow would hit it off enough to turn Hernandez around seems like a plot for an after-school movie.

In any case, it seems more likely to me that the Tebow and Hernandez signings both came about the same way -- namely that BB has been bargain hunting for talented players with red flags for the past few years.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 3:15pm

Honestly, bringing in Tebow for that reason would make more sense than football reasons alone. What is his role supposed to be on that team? Can anybody imagine them pulling Brady to put in Tebow? Are they going to try and make him into a receiver or a running back?

As for the timing, I think they signed him maybe a week prior to the lawsuit story breaking, but the mainstream media didn't catch that until a few days after the lawsuit had been filed. Not impossible the Pats would have gotten word of it a bit earlier.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 3:36pm

"What is his role supposed to be on that team?"

It's July. His role is backup QB. If it doesn't work out, you dump him. It's a low/no-risk gamble on a player who has shown some evidence of talent in the past. That has been the Patriots' MO of late. I see no reason to attribute some deeper motive than that to the Tebow signing.

"Can anybody imagine them pulling Brady to put in Tebow?"

I could say the same of Ryan Mallett, and yet he has a roster spot. They even spent a draft pick on him. In reality, you could replace Tebow's name with and it would be just as true.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 5:24pm

I don't see where their MO has ever been signing guys that don't fit what they do. Tebow can't complete 50% of his passes and they have the #1 passing offense in the league. Mallett is a 6'5" pocket passer who could potentially run their normal offense as the backup. That's never going to be the case with Tebow.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 7:24pm

For the Pats sake, I'd rather think they were trying to help out Hernandez than that they wanted to take a look to see if Tebow could be their backup QB. That would signal that Josh McDaniels has WAY more say in personnel decisions than any Patriots fan would want.

It is pure speculation regarding him coming in to mentor Hernandez. But his signing has never made much sense to me. Tebow has a unique still set, but I don't see how it matches up with the Patriots. Plus, there was the opportunity to see him used as a situational player with the Jets last year and that was not very productive.

by RickD :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 1:42am

Mallett is believed to have the passing skill set to be an above-average NFL QB. Tebow has been given a chance at that role and has not impressed.

Not all back-up QBs are equal.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 7:45am

That wasn't my point. My point was that "they'd never take out Brady to put in Tebow" is a meaningless standard. They'd never take out Brady to put in Peyton Manning. Mallett was only brought up because he happens to be the actual backup QB.

And yes, not all backup QBs are created equal. But,
1) It's July. Many teams carry more than one backup QB, especially in the summer. I believe "camp arm" is the term. It's a test drive. The decision only becomes puzzling if he makes the active roster.
2) I'm not going to get roped into talking up Tebow's QBing skills, but I'm a little less convinced than you are that Mallett is so much better than Tebow. I'd like to see Mallett get into a real game before I make a judgment.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 3:35pm

I don't know how much to hang on the Patriots behavior, but I think anybody tasked with paying attention the Florida Gators' roster a few years back would have concluded, if they were not trying to remain ignorant, that it was extremely likely that Aaron Hernandez shot someone in the head, but escaped arrest when the person shot was convinced or decided to not cooperate with law enforcement. You don't have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to be denied a spot on a football roster.

by RickD :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 1:45am

You think it was "extremely likely" that Hernandez committed a crime in Florida that he wasn't arrested for?

Could we change that to "possible"? At least, without the perspective of the recent incident, it's hard to know just what to make of an accusation made by a person who then disappears.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 4:00pm

Kraft has KGB connections. How hard could it have been?

\should have invested in a polonium tablet.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 3:13pm

They can pay authorities and private investigators tons of $$ on top of what they are already paying players....or just have a clause in the contract that if he does anything illegal he does not get paid. Sounds like a simple solution to me. If he does not do anything illegal and plays to the pro-bowl level its a win. Otherwise, he gets arrested and no liability on the team. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

by CBPodge :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:27am

But at the same time, you would think that, in a workplace with 50 people of broadly the same age and income levels (at least when compared to the income levels of the average workplace - its not like you're going to be dividing the workplace social life between those who can afford to go out and those who can't, as most of them can afford to go out for a few drinks or something)there would be some people who he has stuff in common with and is friendly with outside of work.

It's not like its a giant red flag though, I agree.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 11:39am

I've seen similar attempts to demonstrate that NFL players get arrested less frequently than the wider population. However, they're not in the same income bracket as the wider population. Without wanting to invoke accusations of moral relativism it's reasonably clear that poverty and crime have some sort of proportional relationship. Basically, players in the NFL are not committing crimes because they are desperate or surrounded by such a crime ridden environment that their parameters of conduct have been skewed away from the desired norm, though they may have originated in such an environment.

What proportion of similarly wealthy individuals get arrested?

by JonFrum :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 12:31pm

Agreed. I've never seen an apples-to-apples comparison. At the absolute minimum, you'd need to compare males of the same age group. Controlling for income would say something, but obviously professional athletes are a different sub-group than non-athletes in their income bracket. Better to compare by offense - DUIs, assaults, etc.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 12:50pm

How many males in their young 20s have that sort of income? The only real comparison would be looking at pro athletes in other sports and big-time entertainers. It'd be interesting to know if NFL players get arrested more than actors, singers, rappers, etc.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 1:04pm

It would be interesting to see data, especially controlled for income and age. Remember, the vast majority of the "reckless behavior" we see reported on NFL players have to do with the intersections of alcohol, drugs, traffic and the public. At least the first three are hardly exclusive to 20-35 year old football players.

by TimK :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 1:25pm

This BBC article [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23179125 ] at least adds some more numbers to the debate. Doesn't do income bracket, but it does point out that DUI is a major contribution to the number of arrests.

DUI ( & repeat speeding also ) tend to get a lot of those with the 'I'm safe, I can take it' kind of ego (a lot of senior execs - as the Broncos have demonstrated), and I imagine a lot of athletes who had special treatment throughout school and college can get that into their heads.

Of course with the really heinous crimes it is hard to analyse anything, despite what tabloids would have us believe about the end of society things like Hernandez, Rae Carruth etc are reaching the small sample size theatre end of things.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 2:49pm

You're right to point out this flaw. But I want to give King some praise here. He looked at the common and easy statement that too many players get arrested. And he challenged that statement with data. I'd love to see sports media doing that more in general.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 3:58pm

I'm not having a go at PK, it was just a thought I wanted to put out there.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 4:17pm

I know. I hope it didn't sound like I was calling you out or anything because that was not my intent.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 1:07pm

Johnny Football's deal is getting worse all the time. If Geno Smith fell to the second round because of "an attitude" that had no actual evidence supporting its existence, where will a shorter quarterback who actually has a terrible work ethic fall? Right now, I don't see Manziel surviving comparisons to Bridgewater and Taj Boyd very well.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 1:17pm

Manziel also has some other issues that will give NFL clubs pause. He's listed at 6'0" and comes in just under 200 pounds, which is roughly Mike Vick-sized. Durability will be a major concern as will getting passes batted down at the line. He is coming along at seemingly the perfect time given the read-option being so hot right now, but it's funny how many people just assume he's going to make it in the NFL.

by Lance :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 5:00pm

I don't know about that-- I listen to both national radio and local (Oklahoma) stuff, and most of the people on the radio question Manziel's NFL-ability for just that reason. That, and how it's unclear what sort of arm strength and release he has.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 4:02pm

Smith fell to the second round because he can't read a defense. Manziel dominated the SEC. There's a difference.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 5:32pm

What evidence has ever existed that Smith can't read a defense? It's possible he can't, but his numbers were so amazing nobody would have been able to tell from the film. 71% completions, 42 TDs vs 6 INTs. And Tim Tebow also dominated the SEC.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 7:41pm

First let me say that I am a Jets fan and therefore biased. Geno Smith has occasional issues with determining where pressure is coming, hence the two safetys against Syracuse and a couple of other plays. But you don't throw only 6 interceptions on 518 attempts without being able to read defenses. Watching youtube videos, I can tell that he goes through progressions repeatedly. Most of the gripes about Geno were based on ignorance of the team around him, (ESPN bloggers forgetting about the absence of a running game or defense for West Virginia in the second half of the season) or that the most incompetent team in the NFL drafted him (they were 9th in the draft order, so they must have been the worst team in the league last year).

by RickD :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 1:49am

Geno Smith is just the latest sufferer of Black Quarterback Syndrome.

He must be dumb because, because....wait, let's find Rush Limbaugh or Jimmy the Greek to answer this one.

by Bnonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 7:54am

As usual it's not about violating rule #1. Its who you mock that decides if your post is allowed or not

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 7:28am

There are a hell of a lot of screens and redesigned short passes in his numbers. I couldn't understand how he could be so poorly regarded but have been so productive until I watched several games. Having Austin and Bailey really helped with their ability to turn the screen into a big play. In some games you'd see the ball moving down the field both rapidly and consistently but without Smith making any pro type throws down the field.

Or maybe I'm just a nasty, seventies style racist for holding that opinion as Rick D infers.

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 10:36am

I'm going to agree with you on this one Karl. Geno does have great numbers but that doesn't guarantee anything. There's been a multitude of college quarterbacks (particularly in the Big 12) that have piled on stats and not amounted to anything.

Scouting wise Smith looks good but I don't think he's near the talent of Luck/RGIII. Especially in a draft where Matt Barkley went in the 4th round after similar top 10 pick chatter, I'd say naming race as the primary factor is misguided.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 11:22am

He lit up Texas and Baylor (although Baylor's defense was almost as bad as WVU's) because they sat back and tried to cover space. He reads space really well.

Texas Tech and KSU manned up and applied pressure, and he crumbled. He sort of recovered against a down TCU team and did well against Oklahoma, then cratered again against (a very mediocre) Syracuse. He also turned in mediocre performances against a wretched Maryland team that could (or tried to) apply pressure. So if you line up and try to smash him, he tends to fall apart -- or at least fall apart relative to his otherwise supposed 1st round talent.

I've seen this before. Andre Ware had it in spades. So did Joey Harrington, but even he only got it after a chronic case of David Carr Syndrome. So it's concerning to see a QB who puts up video game numbers against soft zone, then loses by 41 to a mid-level Texas Tech team that's playing a high school defense. Because his NFL receivers aren't going to be getting any better, but the DBs on the other side certainly will be.

But maybe I should just be hectored more about racism by a fan from Boston. There's not enough irony in my diet.

by Led :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 11:52am

In the Syracuse game, he completed 67% of his passes with 7.2 YPA, two TDs and no INTs in poor weather conditions. The two safeties were bad plays, to be sure. But the reason the team lost wasn't that Smith "cratered," it was that the WVU defense gave up 369 yards rushing and couldn't get off the field, especially in the second half. Smith solidly outplayed Nassib, who had the advantage of going against the WVU defense. Smith's "mediocre" performance against Maryland was 30 for 43 (70%) for 338 yards, 3 TDs and no INTs. (K-State and Texas Tech were legitimately poor games, by Smith's standards anyway.) I think your hyperbolic description of the Maryland and Syracuse games indicates that your negative opinion on Smith may not be completely objective. (I will not, however, hector you about racism.)

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 12:22pm

Actually, Texas Tech and KSU did the opposite, dropping 7 to 8 guys in coverage most of the time. KSU did blitz Brown on one play, which they usually never did, but Geno's problem against those teams was trying to fit passes into really tight windows. Watching the youtube footage of the Texas Tech game, it looked like no one was open period for nine tenths of the game.

By the way, KSU had a really impressive pass defense; Mariota only completed 50% of his passes in the bowl game. KSU lost to Oregon because their special teams and offense got their butts kicked.

Texas definitely applied pressure, but not with strange blitzes, as did Maryland. He wasn't great against Maryland, but he did complete 30 of 43 passes for a 7.9 average, not great but not really mediocre either. His stat line against Syracuse wasn't as bad as people think either: 19 of 28 for a 7.2 average, a 68% completion percentage. They sacked him twice for safeties, that's why everyone thinks the Syracuse game was a trainwreck game for Smith, but his completion percentage in that game was better than almost everyone else's for the year. I don't mean to harp too much on this, since I made the assumption earlier this year that the weather effected Smith, until I actually watched a video of the game, and saw his recievers drop a bunch of passes. Nassib's recievers did him no favors in that game either, but he did have a 200 yard rusher to rely on.

Karl Cuba is right that the West Virginia offense rigs the completion numbers, but if you watch the footage you can tell Smith is pretty accurate down the field. Comparing him to Andre Ware may make sense (I've never watched his college footage), but Joey Harrington is a terrible comparison. Harrington never completed more than 60 percent of his passes in any season in college, had an excellent run game behind him, and had an actual defense to not force him into catch up mode. Smith completed over 60 percent of his passes every year of college, had a running game predicated on end arounds so defenses did not have to truly play the run, and was forced into catch up mode all the time.

I don't really think racism had much to do with Smith falling in the draft. Most teams already had established quarterbacks or had invested high draft picks in the position in recent years. Geno Smith didn't go to the Senior Bowl, which probably rubbed a lot of front offices the wrong way; that was enough to allow him to fall to the second round.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 07/17/2013 - 10:36am

As someone who grew up in Boston, and now lives in the south, its pretty fucking funny when people intone that Boston is racist. It just shows how sheltered and unworldly you are.

by Jerry :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 5:46pm

If Geno Smith fell to the second round because of "an attitude" that had no actual evidence supporting its existence...

Just because you haven't seen enough evidence to convince you doesn't mean that some teams haven't, possibly even in their meetings with Smith. We know that teams invest a great deal in evaluating players on and off the field. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't (see the Hernandez discussion above). Nobody is required to share that information with the public, though.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/16/2013 - 7:28pm

No, there could be some evidence that the public does not see. But Geno Smith never did anything in college that would even threaten a suspension for him. He never blew off sessions in a quarterback camp led by the Mannings (of course, I don't know if he ever got invited). There's already a hell of a lot more public evidence that Johnny Manziel has a bad attitude than evidence that Geno Smith does, even though Smith has already gone through the meatgrinder that is the NFL draft process.

by Jerry :: Wed, 07/17/2013 - 3:26am

As far as Smith or Manziel go, I have no real opinion on their prospects. (For the Jets' sake, and yours, I hope Geno works out.)

Generally, we now have a ton of information on potential draftees, and with the draft being moved back, we'll be deluged with even more. The teams have have access to a lot that we don't, and each has its own evaluation process. Ultimately teams do what they do for reasons they rarely explain; sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're not. If you trust your favorite team's management, you assume they know what they're doing, and if you don't trust them, you cross your fingers. As much fun as many fans have preparing for the draft, what we think of these prospects really doesn't matter.