"Why do small-school and low-drafted NFL receivers excel where glory boys falter?" asks Gregg Easterbrook, who as far as I'm concerned is Colin Cowherd with a thesaurus and whose answer to his own question is as inevitable as it is dumb.
"In most cases," he writes, "it's because of a supersecret international cabal of bankers, media professionals, and Hollywood producers." Wait, no. That's not what he writes. He writes:
In most cases, the answer is ego and work ethic.
Oh, well, clearly.
There is so much wrong in Gregg's column that it seems almost silly to single out this one thing*, but his argument here is so egregiously fatheaded, and for such telling reasons, that it's more than worth mentioning. Easterbrook, just to be clear, thinks it's "a core fact of NFL life" that receivers "who were unknowns early in their NFL careers often outperform megabucks glory-boy high-drafted types." Here are Easterbrook's "glamour boys":
[Y]ou'd quickly run out of fingers counting recent first-round football-factory receivers who either were busts or failed to live up to their billing. Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, Matt Jones, David Terrell, Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Clayton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ashley Lelie, Reggie Williams, Koren Robinson — not even TMQ has room for a full accounting.
Now here are Easterbrook's "small-school and low-drafted NFL receivers":
Among NFL receivers having fine seasons are Danny Amendola, Anthony Armstrong, Miles Austin, Davone Bess, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Lance Moore and Wes Welker, all undrafted. Other top receivers include Marques Colston, Donald Driver, Garcon, Johnny Knox and Kevin Walter, all late-round draft choices from below-the-radar colleges. And the league's No. 1 receiver is Brandon Lloyd, who has been waived twice in the NFL and barely played in 2008 and 2009.
There are obvious problems with his list. Ashley Lelie (glamour boy) and Davone Bess (late-rounder from a below-the-radar college) both went to Hawaii, which at least suggests that the size of one's college has nothing whatsoever to do with the size of one's ego or the quality of one's work ethic. Friend of the site Bryan put together a list of recent glory-boy receivers and tight ends drafted in the first and second rounds. A sampling: Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey, Javon Walker, Dallas Clark, Larry Fitzgerald, Lee Evans, Michael Jenkins, Braylon Edwards, Heath Miller, Vernon Davis, Santonio Holmes, Dwayne Bowe, Anthony Gonzalez, Dustin Keller, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Chad Ochocinco, Anquan Boldin, Chris Chambers, Antwaan Randle El, Antonio Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Deion Branch, Devery Henderson, Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings, Anthony Fasano, Tony Scheffler, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice, Steve Smith (Giants), Martellus Bennett, and Rob Gronkowski — all of whom somehow overcame large egos and terrible work ethics to find at least moderate success in the NFL. It's crazy, I know. Why, it's almost as if football performance is totally unrelated to the vague personality traits that a karakter kop like Gregg Easterbrook really wants to matter.
And regarding Brandon Lloyd, a fourth-rounder out of obscure Big Ten school Illinois: I do not recall anyone ever having kind words to say about either his ego or his work ethic until this season. In San Francisco, he got tagged almost immediately as a malcontent. He was thought to be something of a head case. He was, in fact, what one might call a "glamour boy." You don't have to believe me, though. A few years ago, Easterbrook had a laugh at Dan Snyder's habit of "spending megabucks on glamour boys other teams wanted to get rid of," one of whom was, yes, Brandon Lloyd.
*OK, here's one other thing. Approximately 85,284 words into his column, Easterbrook discusses a San Diego wide receiver screen that went for a touchdown against the Broncos:
The touchdown, however, should have been called back. [Right guard Louis] Vasquez and [Right tackle Jeromey] Clary were five yards downfield when Crayton caught the pass. In high school and college it's legal for offensive linemen to be downfield on a forward pass received behind the line of scrimmage: in the NFL, it's not. A third San Diego offensive lineman also was downfield, but blocking a defender; linemen may be downfield on a pass if they began blocking a defender at the line and are still blocking the same defender downfield. Vasquez and Clary simply sprinted forward as if they themselves were the receivers. Officials often botch this call, and botched it last night.
Easterbrook keeps harping on this (scroll down to "Adventures in Officiating"), and he keeps getting it wrong. My rulebook says: "On a scrimmage play during which a legal forward pass is thrown, an ineligible offensive player, including a T-formation quarterback, is not permitted to move more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage before the pass has been thrown [emphasis mine]." It has nothing to do with their position when the ball is caught. Watch the replay: Vazquez and Clary are within a yard of the line of scrimmage when the ball is thrown. It's a minor error, sure, but what's the point of writing a pedantic football column if you make for such a shitty pedant?