Green: First-round QBs bring glamour, not guarantees

Jerry Green
Special to The Detroit News
Johnny Manziel

Roger Goodell, natty in his custom tailored suit, white shirt and striped necktie, is at the microphone. Again.

And Football America waits, feet stomping, all in step, from Florida to Alaska.

Goodell peeks at the scrap of paper in his hand. He is at the focal point of all sports worldwide, the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, site of NFL draft. In a trained lecturer’s voice, Goodell delivers his proclamation:

“With the 22nd pick of the first round of the 2016 NFL draft, the (name your favorite team) select  …”


Football America from San Diego to Boston gasps – our annual national gasp.

And the ESPN camera shifts to the TV podium where Chris Berman, an honest-to-goodness sports journalist, speaks profound words in his educated, deep voice to the wizard with the helmet hairdo, the illustrious Mel Kiper Jr.

“Mel? What the …”

Football America watches with stunned exclamations as we all realize we’re wallowing in the same stuff, the waters rising. The melodrama racing toward the explosion point.

Tim Tebow!

Robert Griffin III!

Johnny Manziel!

Oops – three Heisman Trophy winners from the past nine years. Three sure-shot quarterbacks drafted with the resumes of future Super Bowl championships by Denver, by Washington, by Cleveland.

All had been picked in the first round by professional talent judges who gauged a season’s worth of college football stars at the NFL’s annual combine. Scouts and coaches, who scrutinized and interviewed every athlete, evaluated each in speed tests and dexterity tests and psychological personality tests.

And then came to solid conclusions.

Just guesswork

Just like Jon Gruden, professional football’s foremost quarterback authority. Self-styled.

So who is it who fouls up every year, every draft, as Goodell delivers his pomposity for Football America?

We the sports journalists who vote for the Heisman Trophy every autumn – and pick the wrong guy too often?  We the media who pay serious attention to Kiper and his shoveling each winter and spring with his mock drafts?

Or are the guilty those craggy scouts and coaches who actually played football and worked in the game and, therefore, are versed in all their sport’s nuances?

So this the conclusion flung off my shovel:

We’re all full of baloney.

I should not be saying that, but every once in a while the truth should prevail.

Those Heisman Trophy winners ...

Gruden – once a Super Bowl championship coach and now gabber for ESPN – told the world that Tebow would “revolutionize” pro football.

“Tim Tebow is 250 pounds and has the strongest human body that’s ever played the position,” Gruden informed us six years ago in a statement captured for posterity by Wikipedia.

“He can throw well enough at any level.”

The Broncos drafted Tebow in the first round with the 25th pick of the 2010 draft. Tebow did win a playoff game with a forward pass. Tebow just plain could not play at the pro football level.

He became an NFL vagabond. But when he showed up, say at a Super Bowl radio row, we the media dropped our work and chased him to catch a precious word.

The Heisman electorate named RG3 – Griffin – its 2011 trophy winner over Andrew Luck.

Luck went first off the board, selected by the Colts in the 2012 draft. Griffin went second, grabbed by the Washington Redskins. And Griffin was named NFL offensive rookie of the year for 2012.

But by 2015, Griffin showed that he basically could not play in the NFL with his scatter-style and with the league’s injury dangers.

At that same 2012 draft – perhaps a sign of foreshadowing – the Redskins drafted another quarterback: Kirk Cousins, out of Michigan State. Last season, the lesser-regarded Cousins supplanted Griffin as the Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback.

Hidden gems

Manziel was a freshman quarterback when he pitched Texas A&M to an upset victory over Alabama. That one victory impressed the Heisman Trophy voters in 2012. Manziel won the trophy – and he plainly wowed the media. Manziel’s lust for money and his nocturnal meanderings resulted in major news stories every time he fell into the soup.

Russell Wilson

ESPN treated us to wondrous suspense theatre at the 2014 draft as Berman and Kiper mused about which team might pick Manziel. The camera kept poking back to Manziel to record his expressions.

Finally, the Browns succumbed with the 22nd pick of the first round. Goodell announced the selection. And Manziel appeared on stage rubbing his thumb and forefinger – the international signal for money.

In Cleveland, Manziel continued to stray. He did not play much. He wasn’t very good when he did. And finally, this year the Browns dumped Manziel.

The Browns did not need Manziel anymore.

They had traded for a new quarterback: Robert Griffin III.

Tebow and Manziel are off looking for daring football teams.

And now this coming week the NFL teams will try again in another draft. ESPN will dramatize the whole affair with analysis – and guesswork.  Perhaps there will be a quarterback bonanza like 2012.

That year, the season opened with four rookie NFL starting quarterbacks who had been drafted the previous April in the first round: Luck, Griffin, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden.

One other team also started that season with a brand-new No. 1 quarterback, but this one was a third-round draft selection. iH H HHH

His name is Russell Wilson, selected by the Seahawks.

Thus far, Wilson has played in two Super Bowls. He won one and lost the other barely to an old sixth-round draft choice, Tom Brady.

Revolutionize the game? Yeah, John Unitas and Sonny Jurgensen; Sid Luckman and Sammy Baugh; Bobby Layne and Otto Graham; and Bart Starr and John Elway. They revolutionized the game.

Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sports writer.