Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Paging Captain Louis Renault: Peter King Hearts Matt Ryan

You'll just have to trust me that when I glanced at SI.com this evening and saw that Peter King was going to offer a Matt Ryan-Jamarcus Russell comparison, I was literally twitching with excitement. The combination of work and a dearth of interesting goings-on in the world of sports have kept my blogging produce down over the past couple weeks, but if there's one thing that can draw me out, it's the prospect of King on this topic. Let's look at the factors we're working with here:

1. King doesn't watch college football, partially because it's not really his job to do so and partly because college football isn't popular in Jersey. (I'm assuming here.) Thus, he will be unaware of the critique offered by, oh, I don't know, every college football nut on the Internet that Ryan is a slightly above- average quarterback. King also won't be bothered to, you know, look at Ryan's numbers.

2. King has been known to fall victim to a little racial profiling from time to time. I wonder what he'll say when comparing an African-American from the Deep South with a clean-cut kid with an Irish name from King's neck of the woods? I wonder if we'll have a little discussion of clothing and mannerisms when trying to decide whether Ryan is a better prospect than Russell...

Russell was a normal college kid, trying to adjust to life as an icon with everyone trying to grab a piece of him, a little awkward in the bright lights. He was being led around by his uncle, Ray Russell, who was involved in the interview throughout. Ryan was Joe Cool, Joe Prepared, looking me in the eye, answering questions in complete and thoughtful sentences. His agent, Tom Condon, sat way in the back of the suite, out of earshot of the interview.

Bingo! The white guy from a Philly suburb that has a median income over $80,000 per year is more comfortable talking to other upper middle class white people than the brother from Mobile. Ergo, he must be better at throwing an 18-yard out than Russell.

Russell dressed like all the players at the combine, very casually. Ryan dressed like none of the players at the combine, in business attire.

It's like the stuff just writes itself!

Russell said that he was "fixin' to have some dinner." Who says that? Ryan's elocution was leaps and bounds better. He'll totally command the huddle better. I want to have all of his babies.

OK, King didn't really write that.

The guess here: Ryan will be a better pro than Russell.

Obviously, based on his eye contact with a chunky writer, his clothes, and the fact that Jamarcus showed up to camp carrying a few extra pounds. Who doesn't when they're reporting for duty to Oakland? Is a little extra cushion for the pushin' from opposing defensive ends after the Raiders' turnstile line really that bad a thing?

To King's credit, he does link to a post by El Pollo Loco that demolishes the claim that Ryan was a very good college quarterback. Peter then tries to defend Ryan without referring to his performance in a hotel suite:

1. I believe JaMarcus Russell wasn't projected to be a first-round pick before his last year at LSU either.

Uh, Russell was a five-star (or at least high four-star) recruit who had been touted for his physical skills prior to his 2006 season. College football fans generally thought highly of him, at least in terms of potential, and he was viewed as one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. No one thought that Ryan was anywhere near the Brohm-Woodson level until Brohm and Woodson lost a bunch of 45-41 games this year and Ryan was unbeaten because BC had a good defense and had the good fortune to play in the ACC, the conference that offense forgot.

2. Eli Manning, Tim Couch and Peyton Manning also skipped the Senior Bowl and the combine workouts, and it had nothing to do with their lack of confidence in themselves. Their agent, Tom Condon, doesn't think it helps the leader in the clubhouse to work out a lot before the draft, except on campus or in individual team workouts.

Couch and the Mannings were all consensus #1 picks in the Draft who had hugely successful college careers. They had nothing to prove. Ryan is trying to convince NFL scouts that BC scoring 14, 17, 20, and 16 in its games against Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson is somehow consistent with the fact that they had a top-three pick under center.

Aw, who the hell am I kidding. If the rumors that Arthur Blank is in love with Ryan are true, then all Ryan needed to do is sprinkle a little of the properly manicured white guy Spanish fly that made Keith Brooking the third-highest paid linebacker in the NFL in Blank's drink and he'll be the #3 pick. Kill me now.

3. No quarterback in this draft is scar-free. They all have zits. Ryan forced too many passes, leading to his 19 interceptions. His completion percentage dropped to less than 60 percent this year. He doesn't use his checkdown receivers enough. Now, you might argue Joe Flacco or Brian Brohm is better, and it would be a valid argument.

And this is an argument in favor of Ryan? He might be inferior to Brian Brohm (I whole-heartedly agree) or Joe Flacco (who the hell knows?), so that supports the notion that Ryan is better than Jamarcus Russell? All those interceptions and problems moving off of his primary read are a good thing? Those aren't zits; those are Manuel Noriega at 12.

4. In defense of Ryan, I write in SI this week that Ryan was playing with skill players who will never make a 53-man roster in the NFL; one scout's words, not mine. And he's about as polished a kid as you'd ever meet at that age. I think he's an intriguing prospect. But in the end, you're right. There are plenty of questions about him, and the washout factor for high-round quarterbacks is about 50 percent. So he may bust.

So at position with a wash-out rate of 50% and every indication that Ryan isn't any better than the other quarterbacks in the Draft, Ryan should not slip below #8 and he's better than last year's #1 pick. Makes perfect sense to me. As for the argument that Ryan's supporting cast wasn't very good, a couple thoughts. First, Ryan is playing in the ACC, which means that the teams that BC is playing aren't exactly loaded with talent, either. Second, the scout conveniently neglects to mention BC's offensive line, which happened to be anchored by Scouts, Inc.'s #5 offensive line prospect. Third, average skill-position talent doesn't mean that BC should have been playing defensive struggles with every good team they played last year. BC's performances on a weekly basis were not at all what anyone would expect from a team with a top five pick under center, but why care about pesky things like actual production and performance when we can marvel at Matt Ryan's suit?


blackertai said...

It's times like this that I just want to buy you subscriptions to all the major sporting news services. If nothing else I'd get to read you eviscerate these people more often.

Unknown said...

I'm still holding out hope that Ryan will be this year's Brady Quinn/Matt Leinart. I can just picture him in the green room after pick 18 with a glazed look on his face and Chris Berman going on about how it can be that 18 teams passed on a such a great leader and a fine young man.

Kenny said...

Wow, where to start! First I want to thank you for continuing the fight against Matt Ryan as being the best QB in the draft. The most important stats that generally determine the success of a QB from the college to the pro level are completion % and games started. One thing Ryan has going for him is that he is a 5th year senior who has started every game for the last two years, but as you mentioned his completion % is 59.3%, and his TD/INT ratio is 1.6 for his senior year. Jamarcus was completing at a 68% rate, and had a TD/INT rate at nearly 3.5 for his last year. You cannot even compare their physical skills. Russell has the strongest arm I have ever seen, and could probably play DE if needed.

Also, I thought you made a great point about BC's offensive line. They are generally regarded as one of the best producers of talent along the offensive line for the NFL. Over the last 9 years they have had 10 guys drafted on the OL, including every year but 2005. They also have another highly regarded tackle prospect who is supposedly going to be a first day pick this year.

I may be the only Falcon's fan who still believes the team should draft McFadden. I would be happy if the Falcons drafted either Dorsey or Long, both would look to be solid starters for several years and maybe even all-pro caliber players. I am as certain as anyone can be though, that McFadden will be a HOF type talent. He is the best RB I have seen come out of the SEC since Bo. In the end though, I will be happy as long as the Falcons do not draft Ryan.

Kenny said...

Also, my favorite quote of that article was: "Ryan has some football questions about him -- accuracy, decision-making," you know nothing important.

Anonymous said...

Todd McShay is way worse than King when it come to playing Captain-Save-a-Ryan. It infuriates me, and I don't even hold that much interest in either Ryan or where he ends up. On ESPNEWS last week, he used the phrase "elite NFL quarterback" several times - even upon scrutiny and questioning from David Lloyd (the anchor) and was adamant that he be the first QB selected. Bleh.

chg said...

You know how they say "At 40 (50?), everybody has the face they deserve?" How long before Blank realizes the same thing applies to sports franchises, but over a much shorter time frame?