Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel polls a bunch of NFL executives and scouts about the NFL draft. Those articles always contain a bunch of incendiary quotes, and this year is no exception. Cue the really dumb JaMarcus Russell/Jameis Winston comparisons in today's article on 2015 NFL draft quarterbacks.
"With Jameis Winston I see JaMarcus Russell," a longtime executive in personnel said. "Isn't it interesting?"
Mostly, I think it's dumb. But I'm willing to hear you out. Why do you compare Jameis Winston, a fairly polished quarterback, to Jamarcus Russell, who never developed any of those skills but had a really big arm?
"Lack of focus by JaMarcus is what I see in Winston," the personnel man said. "They're physically talented, but during the course of a game they kind of lose their focus and just put the ball up for grabs. I see the body. I see the lack of focus. I see the same coach and system. Only Winston's not as good an athlete and his arm isn't as strong as JaMarcus'."
...Where's the bit about Winston consistently throwing with anticipation, handling the rush well moving within the pocket? His arm isn't anywhere close to Jamarcus Russell's. And while there's something to be said about Winston's on-field focus, the argument usually goes that Winston starts out with poor focus and fixes that as the game goes on.
Not one to hang his article on just one source, McGinn found a second executive willing to say basically the same thing. And then he found some scouts who wanted to go all Cam-Newton's-fake-smile on Winston.
"People were saying, 'Oh, he's a leader,'" said one personnel director. "But it was more of a, 'Hey-look-at-me-kind-of-thing,' as opposed to something good for his teammates.
"I just don't like his whole makeup, his whole salesman act. He's all about himself."
Another scout brought it back to Russell, saying, "He's got that same smile that JaMarcus had. They light the room up. That's what Jameis seems to be doing."
Yes, folks, we're back to criticizing people's smiles. He lights up the room! That's a bad thing...somehow. Because JaMarcus Russell lights up rooms, too? These comparisons and criticisms are, quite simply, racist.
Sure, Jameis Winston's off-field behavior is a genuine concern. Even the Bucs and his own lawyer have publicly acknowledged that he has some growing up to do, given the number of dumb (but minor) mistakes he's made. And then there's the rape accusation, for which he was never criminally charged, which is another issue entirely. But that's rather a far cry from JaMarcus Russell, who had far more on-field faults than Winston and whose pre-draft off-field issues were largely non-existent.
Still, McGinn's article still contains a few noteworthy tidbits. He does quote a few executives who were far more impressed with Winston. And when he polled his 19 executives and scouts to rank likely career outcomes for Mariota and Winston, Mariota came out on top consistently. On the other hand, when he asked those same executives to rank the draft's quarterbacks, Mariota came out on top by just one point, while Winston got one more first-place vote.
But overall, this is just more proof that being employed by the NFL doesn't automatically mean you're actually good at what you do.