Friday, March 28, 2014

Johnny Manziel Pro Day

Today the hype machine went into utter overdrive as Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel held his pro day.

There was music. There was a former US President. There was general managers and head coaches galore. There was... a jersey and helmet that looked like it had been saved from the trash. Nike devoted a page of its website to flogging merchandise that was only somewhat related to Manziel ($145 for a pair of "combat tights" anyone?).

Oh, and he threw a few balls around apparently.

Now, being the sad bastard that I am I actually watched the workout. Here's what I learned from it that I didn't already know; the person that designed the workout is a genius.

The purpose of pro days is to demonstrate to scouts and coaches close up that you can do all the things that you didn't do on film. In Manziel's case that meant throwing the ball deep. And it worked. Afterwards everyone was raving about how great it was. The gushing never ended. There's probably another weeks worth of Manziel hype still to come as analysts push him higher up their mock drafts on the basis of that one workout alone.

I personally was looking for two specific things, neither of which I saw. One was for Manziel to demonstrate the ability to hit deep ins and outs, 20-yard comebacks and the like on a reliable basis. As far as I can tell he didn't throw a single one. It was mostly just short passes again. The second thing I was looking for was to see if he really had the arm strength to put the ball up on those deep fades (long passes down the sideline, otherwise known as the "go" route).

This is where the clever design of the workout comes in. He did throw two deep fades which got all the analysts raving about "bombs" etc, but only by using a roll out from a simulated play-action which allowed him to get a running start. He rolled out to the side, got up to speed and then ran a couple of steps forward to launch the "bomb".

That's not good enough. It was a clever ruse, but a ruse none the less. To me that's actually more damaging. Effectively what you're saying by doing that is "I don't think you're smart enough to realise what we're doing". Well sorry, but I think a lot of people are (just not many people who work in the TV analysis business seemingly).

Like most pro days this one proved nothing that the game film does not already tell you. It's literally a waste of time, because you have to send someone all the way out there to watch it when a) they could be doing other, better, more productive things with their day, b) it was recorded and broadcast on TV, so you could watch it from the comfort of your office and c) if you're really that interested you can just bring him in anyway for a workout and interview.

Yet for some reason the football community has gone nuts for "Johnny Football". I honestly don't understand the obsession. There are other quarterbacks in this draft, a number of them, who are demonstrably better if you're prepared to put the hype to one side and just look.

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