Rumor Central: Sic Transit Absurdia

NFL.com takes a shot at Johnny Manziel in their "backup quarterback rankings". Rumor Central humbly disagrees.

We here at Rumor Central realize that this is a tough time of the year for NFL writers. Everyone’s on vacation prior to the start of training camps, and, barring an inflatable swan or the odd DUI, there just isn’t much to write about.

Tragically, that doesn’t stop evil, demanding, troll-like website managers from pounding their baseball bats on their oaken desks demanding page views in June and July come what may.

Different sites and writers respond to these demands in different ways, with some batting around the predictable prognostications for the upcoming season, and others digging deep for new topics in betwixt the collective yawns of their readership (BREAKING! Plumbing capacity of all NFL stadiums compared! Where does yours rate?!)

At NFL.com, it apparently was decided to take a look at back-up quarterbacks of all NFL teams, rank them, and let the debate flourish. And, well, it’s worked, because we just linked them here, and everyone knows that a link in Rumor Central is like gold. Gold, gentlemen… GOLD!

Unfortunately, the resulting analysis breaks down in a series of self-contradictions and various other degrees of silliness, all in the service of running down Browns backup quarterback Connor Shaw Johnny Manziel, who is slapped down into Blaine Gabbert-land at #31 on the list.

Does this have merit? Let’s dive in!

"The backup quarterback position is more important than ever before."

Except in Cleveland, where the backup quarterback is just a way station to the inevitable guy plucked off the waiver wire after fourth-stringer Thaddeus Lewis gets wrecked in Game 12.

"As for the criteria, I listed 32 presumed backups in the order I would pick them to start a game today. Playing experience and recent game tape were primary factors, but team situation also played a part."

So, let’s understand this: You’re listing backup quarterbacks in order that you would start them for a hypothetical team, but taking into account their “team situation”? Clear as mud. Let’s continue.

"Starting material: 1. Mark Sanchez, Eagles, 2. Mike Glennon, Buccaneers, 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets"

Apparently, the author watched Sanchez’s career in New York from a safe distance, as it basically helped remove “starting” from his job description. But Chip Kelly can work quarterback miracles, so let’s assume that what we saw from Sanchez last year might actually reflect reality. Mike Glennon? He sat behind a quarterback that led his team team to a 1–10 record and was so prized by the Bucs that they tore their collective hamstrings rushing to turn in Jameis Winston’s draft card. If he’s starting material, someone forgot to inform his team. Ryan Fitzpatrick as “Starting Material”? Please. Even the author writes “Fitzy has worked himself out of a starting gig – with good reason”.

So, we’re off to a rollicking start.

"4. Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots. I’d much rather have an athletic young backup with upside than some 39-year-old game manager."

Which is why Manziel, an athletic young backup with some upside, is rated alongside the 39-year-old game managers. Wait, he’s actually behind an ancient game manager on the Browns depth chart and on this list. Maybe that makes sense.

"Rounding out the top 10: 5. Zach Mettenberger, Titans; 6. Kirk Cousins, Redskins; 7. Derek Anderson, Panthers; 8. Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks; 9. Drew Stanton, Cardinals; 10. Ryan Mallett, Texans"

Would I rather have Johnny Manziel, with some (albeit disputable) upside on my roster than Derek Anderson and Tarvaris Jackson, even if you could somehow meld them both together into some sort of Super-Mediocre Failed Starter, a la the monsters in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. You know what both are. The tantalizing prospect of Manziel getting his act together is more compelling, at least to Rumor Central.

Without going into detail on the rest of this glorious ranking, here are some of the names that sit above Manziel in the NFL.com back-up quarterback standings: Shaun Hill (13), Granpa Matt Hasselbeck (14), Chad Henne (17), Pick-a-random-Bills-backup (18), Bruce freaking Gradkowski (22), T.J. Yates (25), A.J. McCarron and his terrific game tape (26), Luke freaking McCown (27), Dan Orlovsky (29), and Jimmy Clausen (30).

Saving the best (Manziel bashing) for last, NFL.com labels the last and worst category (containing only Manziel and Blaine Gabbert) as “Sic Transit Gloria”. I thought this was Spanish for “I don’t have the slightest clue what I’m talking about”, but it turns out that it’s actually Latin, a dead language used by sophisticated writers the world over when they want to confuse their readers, and means something akin to “Thus passes the glory of the world”.

So, the idea is that Manziel’s fame was fleeting and quickly gone. OK, we get it, Manziel looked awful during the limited time he was on the field in 2014. He played like a totally unprepared rookie with some sort of substance habit. But why also apply “Sic Transit Gloria” to Gabbert, a relatively unheralded athlete in his fifth year of playing mediocre football? Was Gabbert’s “glory” fleeting?

Never mind. Like John Belushi asking whether or not Americans quit after the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, he’s on a roll. Let’s keep going.

The author writes:

"Manziel was a disappointment on and off the field as a rookie. He deserves credit for handling his issues and showing better preparation heading into Year 2. The bigger concern was seeing defensive linemen chase him down with ease. While Russell Wilson and Drew Brees play big, Manziel looked small and out of place on the field. That said, I’m not ready to give up on Johnny after seven quarters."

(Bangs head on wall repeatedly)

Listen, this article just ranked Manziel #31 after Bruce Gradkowski, after unproven rookies like A.J. McCarron, after Luke McCown, and you’re not ready to give up on him. YOU JUST GAVE UP ON HIM! It’s right there, in the list.

Sigh.

Let’s face it, Johnny Manziel is still a very visible athlete and a lightening rod for controversy and discussion. So, what’s more likely to prompt a reaction: Putting Manziel in the middle of this mediocre pack where his possible upside currently places him or slapping him down to the bottom of the list and pronouncing him dead right before pronouncing him “not quite dead yet”.

Clearly, NFL.com chose Option B. Because nothing’s more fun than kicking the famous when they’re down.

While at the same time buying yourself space in case they’re not down for long.

Sic transit absurdia.


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