Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tyrann Mathieu declares for the NFL draft: Bad Move


When I woke up this morning I saw the news that former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu intended to declare for the NFL draft in April. I was saddened because although I do not know him personally, his story hits close to home. Mathieu garnered national attention after being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and earning the nickname "honey badger". He showed an affinity for causing turnovers at LSU. Now, he has made his biggest turnover of all. Declaring for the draft is another bad decision in a long line of bad decisions. His football seemed bright until LSU announced he had been dismissed from the team in early August for violations of team rules. At this point in time, Mathieu had many options and plenty of time to rehab himself and his image before taking his talents to the NFL. He could have transferred to another D-1 school and sat out a season or transferred to a lower division and played this season. He chose door number 3, which was for Mathieu to check himself into a substance abuse rehab center. This was a good move for him personally, and for his image. It is not clear how long he was in the program, but he did re-enroll at LSU to start classes for this 2012 school year. Mathieu appeared to be picking up the pieces and he might possibly make a return to LSU next season. Then in October he was arrested on marijuana charges along with former teammate Jordan Jefferson. I am not an expert in drug rehab, but I have seen a few close friends/family members "fall off the wagon". From my experience I knew him returning to Baton Rouge for school was a bad idea. He needed to stay in rehab longer and to leave LSU and get in a new environment to start over.

Now, Tyrann Mathieu has announced he will be foregoing his remaining college eligibility and entering the NFL Draft. This may prove to be his worst decision of all. He most likely will not be drafted by an NFL team unless it is a very late pick and the team won't be on the hook for a lot of money. Mathieu was already an undersized corner with average speed and cover abilities. Then you add that he was kicked off the LSU football team for drugs violations in August, and subsequently arrested on drug charges in October. If you were a general manager for a team would you take a chance on him. Not likely. The NFL offers more free time and access to all your vices, and the money to afford them. Every year we hear stories of professional athletes without a documented history of substance abuse struggle with addiction. Josh Hamilton, Stanley Wilson, Barret Robbins Daryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and the list goes on and on. Declaring for the draft appears to be a way for Mathieu to escape the problems plaguing him in college, but in all likelihood things will get worse before they get better. How will he deal with the disappointment of going undrafted of being drafted late? How will he deal with injury or being cut? Now, how is a kid who obviously cannot handle staying sober in college supposed to make it in the NFL?


In no way am I saying Mathieu is not worthy of a second chance and should never be picked by an NFL team. I am saying he needs to go back to rehab and get his life together, then go play football in college for season (not near LSU), then declare for the draft. He would give himself the best chance to succeed personally and professionally. I have seen teammates and friends struggle with the disease of addiction and the toll it takes on them physically, emotionally, and financially. If you are not mentally ready to handle the life associated with professional sports, you are a tragedy waiting to happen. The toughest things for professional athletes to do is admit they have a problem. They are strong, and can do things physically that men only dream about. The thought of not being able to control a problem alone is unfathomable. Mathieu must admit to himself he has a problem and that wholesale changes must be made for him to be successful. Everybody loves a comeback story, and a story of personal triumph so I wish Mathieu well. But, as it stands right now, after a year out of football coupled with his issues, Mathieu would be fighting for a spot on a NFL roster. I hope I am wrong, but the most likely ending for the Tyrann Mathieu story will be something like Onterrio Smith. A young man with an abundance of talent that loses his way and his dream of football glory.

Do you see any way Tyrann Mathieu can be successful in the NFL right now?

Friday, November 9, 2012

USC Trojans: Finished at the top of the Pac-12?

Who is USC? They are not the football program they used to be.
The Trojans came into the 2012 college football season ranked #1 in the country! Expectations had not been this high since the Reggie Bush era. After 2 seasons of post-season bowl bans USC was predicted to reclaim Pac-12 dominance and national prominence. The Nov. 3 game vs Oregon was supposed to be a top 5 showdown with the winner to play either  LSU or Alabama game in the national championship. Instead, USC showed up to the game with two losses and a head coach on the hot seat. After getting beat up by the Ducks, the Trojans are 6-3 and must-win every game in order to make the Pac-12 title game and avoid a disastrous season.

Just when the USC athletic department thought the black eyes would stop, they keep getting hit from every angle. Lane Kiffin inherited many of the challenges he has faced as the Trojans head coach. However, the newest bruises to the Trojans, excluding the losses, are self inflicted. Many uninformed people are crediting USC's troubles to the lack of depth due to scholarship restrictions imposed by the NCAA. Reality is, USC signed a full recruiting class last year plus a few extra players due to 7 players who transferred for a total of 31 signees. The scholarship losses are coming but have little to do with the problems at hand now.

The fabric of tradition and dominance USC once showed over the Pac-12 is slowly coming apart at the seams. The mystique is gone and so is the respect and pride that used to cause teams to crumble from the shadow of the Coliseum. The Trojans are still a hot bed of talent for the NFL, but those numbers dwindle over next few years with the loss of blue chip recruits to other schools like Oregon, Washington, and even UCLA. The Trojans have lost the strangle hold they had on the Pac-12 to the Ducks, who have won three straight titles. Top recruits (i.e. Max Redfield) who wouldn't consider other options after being offered a USC scholarship are considering taking their talents to other schools. Even worse than that, the Trojans are losing their identity and pride. Part of the identity was tied to the uniform. SC's traditional uniform complemented with white socks and black cleats with white laces have been traded for cardinal and yellow socks and shoes. This may sound like a little thing but after talking to many players I played with in the NFL, they agree with me. Now to the pride:

Jersey Gate:

 On Oct 20 SC played the Colorado Buffaloes, who is one of the worst teams in college football and the current Pac-12 punching bag. Lane Kiffin and the USC staff pulled a move that can only be characterized as "Bush League". Here is the Quote from the LA Times article:


Cody Kessler is easily identifiable in the No. 6 jersey the reserve quarterback has worn in his two seasons at USC.
So confusion reigned last week when Kessler played on special teams in the first half against Colorado — even running for an apparent two-point conversion — wearing No. 35, the same number worn by punter Kyle Negrete. In the second half, Kessler was back wearing No. 6.

When asked about the controversy after the game Kiffin said, " We're just playing within the rules of college football". This move by Kiffin is clearly against NCAA rules because the jersey change was to deceive the opponent. He is also only one of a handful of coaches who could attempt a stunt like this because nearly all teams have names on the back of their jerseys.

Football Gate:

Today it was just announced here that USC fired a student equipment manager for intentionally deflating game balls during the first half of the loss vs Oregon. When footballs are properly inflated they are hard as rocks. A slightly under inflated ball allows the quarterback to grip it tighter and throw it harder and further. It also allows the receiver to grip the ball better and making it easier to catch.

"When informed of this allegation by the Pac-12, USC investigated it immediately. The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game."

Really... Are we supposed to believe a frat boy equipment manager just under inflated balls without anyone's knowledge in the biggest game of the year? Yea right. Equipment managers know that quarterbacks are very particular about the balls they use. There is no way he would have bothered the balls without consent or knowledge from authority. While this violation brings a fine and reprimand, the bigger punishment is another bruise to the USC name.

NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations and improper benefits are one thing, but shaky in game tactics are a whole different ballgame. You might expect a school that is completely undermanned to try these things. Is this what it has come to with USC?

USC is a football program rich with history, tradition, and accomplishments. Their history is becoming increasingly difficult for fans, recruits, and to see though the dark clouds over the Coliseum.  If USC is not careful they will end up just a shadow of their former selves like Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami, Tennessee, Florida State, and Alabama (before Saban).


Is this what we should expect out of the "mighty" USC?

Is it possible to right the ship? If so, how and when?