This afternoon, an article underneath former Pro Football Weekly senior editor Nolan Nawrocki's byline was published on NFL.com. The article is, ostensibly, a listicle detailing the "character issues" of a few top NFL draft prospects, and in its irresistible clickiness, in its eagerness to be argued with, the damn thing might as well have been headlined "10 Scouting Reports That Will Restore Your Faith in Trolling." There's something either deeply strange or profoundly telling about the fact that this article is on the NFL's official website.
In case you had forgotten, Nawrocki has made a name for himself by being a "straight shooter," a talent evaluator who isn't afraid to hand out harsh judgments about the humanity of college kids based on his and his sources' limited interactions with them. He's the guy who pointed out Cam Newton's "fake smile" and "me-first makeup" in one scouting report, who wrote that Geno Smith was not a "student of the game" and "needed to be coddled in college" in another—allegedly tough-minded, grown-up stuff that betrays a priggish obsession with etiquette and manners and outward appearances.
This is what Nawrocki does, though. We addressed the Nawrocki genre a little in the Cam Newton entry in our "Big Book of Black Quarterbacks" not long ago, and what we said there applies here. He's only "channeling the ancient, mostly suppressed chauvinism of pro football's management class, which flowers anew in the runup to every draft." So we shouldn't be surprised when he writes stuff like this, about Western Kentucky defensive back Jonathan Dowling:
Talks too much and shows off-putting body language. Questionable mental toughness. Thinks he's better than he is. Character, maturity and coachability should be looked into.
Or this, about Johnny Manziel:
Suspect intangibles — not a leader by example or known to inspire by his words. Carries a sense of entitlement and prima-donna arrogance seeking out the bright lights of Hollywood. Is known to party too much and is drawn to all the trappings of the game. ... Has defied the odds and proven to be a great college-system quarterback, but still must prove he is willing to work to be great, adjust his hard-partying, Hollywood lifestyle and be able to inspire his teammates by more than his playmaking ability.
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Why "must" he "prove" that? Plenty of showboats and playboys have won in the NFL. Plenty of cold-eyed, clean-living leaders have lost.
But, again, this is Nawrocki doing what Nawrocki does. What strikes you as odd about his bullshit this time, though, is that the NFL is amplifying it. All the blurbs from the article posted today are just the most incendiary bits of Nawrocki's full scouting reports, which can be found elsewhere on NFL.com. It's a Nawrocki reduction, the troll scout distilled to his essence and served up on the NFL's own website. Here's how the story is introduced:
Editor's note: NFL Media draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki doesn't stop at the game tape as he evaluates draft prospects. Just as NFL teams do, Nawrocki delves into character as he gathers information from sources at the pro and college level before constructing comprehensive scouting reports that include each player's positives, negatives and bottom line.
Does Nolan Nawrocki stop at game tape? Not a chance, you pantywaist! Nolan Nawrocki goes deep, dropping the kind of truth bombs about smiles and handshakes that other scouts are too afraid to touch!
But maybe we shouldn't be all that surprised that the NFL has given a platform to this guy. In a way, it's just business as usual for the NFL, which now rivals MLB in its utter hostility toward its own output. Trash the product. Trash the help. You'll watch anyway.