Right now America’s coaches are speaking to their players about the many lessons the game of football is teaching them. Football, it is said, provides the roadmap for educating young men on the pivotal role perseverance will play in their lives. They learn that adversity and competition are two of the greatest nemeses to be conquered. They’re very serious threats, indeed, yet they are unavoidable. Successfully handling each of these antagonists will make players stronger and more confident when the next challenge arises – whether it is on or off the field.
Normally you can determine how a team’s season is going merely by listening to what the coach is telling his players. Coaches must adequately address adversity or, in many cases, success – as each is extremely important from a team standpoint.
Good coaches use a combination of different approaches, as is likely the case this week in Aggieland. When you’re about to go on the road after playing four straight at home, as are the Aggies, the road warrior ‘psychology’ kicks in. The ‘away’ game is a necessary evil in the sports world and must be approached strategically and intelligently. All stadiums are not created equally.
A&M is about to embark on a two-game road trip for its fifth and sixth games of the season, just as it did in 2012 under the proven road-master, Kevin Sumlin. The first stop is Fayetteville, Arkansas and the second is two weeks later, in Oxford.
If last season’s results are any indication, both of these road games will be much closer than the A&M faithful expect. In 2012, the roles were reversed and one of the locales was different. The Ags first headed to Ole Miss prior to playing the postponement game in Shreveport vs. Louisiana Tech. As memory serves, the Aggies barely escaped each of those venues with two very narrow victories, although they were double-digit favorites in both.
First, the Aggies headed to Oxford installed as a 12-point favorite over the young Rebels. With five minutes to play, the Rebels were poised to hand the new entry into the SEC its first road loss ever in conference play. Then Johnny Manziel happened. After barely escaping a safety, Manziel threw deep on third down, hitting his receiver dead-on to move the ball out to midfield. The rest is A&M lore, and while the Aggies have indeed lost three of five at home, they’ve yet to lose an SEC game on the road (4-0).
Ole Miss is the only ‘last-minute’ comeback on Manziel’s resume, and you’d better believe the Rebs will be out to cause the Maroon some heavy bleeding for that 30-27 loss. Their brilliant backs and receivers along with a beautifully composed scheme will be a handful for the A&M defense.
Following the game against the Rebels, the Louisiana Tech contest featured almost 1,300 yards and a final score of 59-57. Manziel threw for 396 yards and ran for 181 as Texas A&M ended Louisiana Tech’s 12-game regular-season winning streak. The Aggies held leads of 27-0 and 39-16 (at halftime) before the Bulldogs all came almost the way back. A&M was a 10-point favorite when this one kicked off.
I’m thinking Floyd Mayweather did not have $200K wagered on this game and if he did, he wasn’t tweeting about it. Perhaps he went the first half route as he did with SMU last week, but we’ll never know. One thing’s for sure; the
“players” in the desert love Johnny Manziel.
And who did the Aggies beat at home 58-10 before heading to Oxford last season? That’s right; the Arkansas Razorbacks. Last year, the Aggies rampaged for 714 yards at home against the hapless Hogs in the season’s fourth game. The 2012 and 2013 teams look very familiar at this point, although somewhat weaker defensively this year.
Texas A&M heads to Arkansas this Saturday in an eerily similar position
as the team that arrived in Oxford last season – a touchdown favorite and once-beaten at home. We’ve seen what can happen. While Alabama refused to call A&M a “revenge” game a couple of weeks ago, there’s little doubt the Razorbacks will be much less reticent to indeed call a spade a spade.
They should be mentally prepared for the chase, particularly after blowing a big lead at Rutgers over the weekend and being totally embarrassed last year in College Station. There were even locals talking about leaving the SEC after that one. This new Arkansas coaching staff will soon find out what kind of character this team has. It is a pivotal game in the Razorbacks’ season.
Like Arkansas this season, Ole Miss had lost the preceding game before
playing the Aggies last year. The Rebels’ loss, however, was at Alabama, one they entered as a 31-point underdog. They did eventually lose, 33-14, but bounced back strongly against the Ags. It remains to be seen how the Razorbacks will respond from last week’s loss, but one can imagine their coaches are emphasizing what a win over A&M could mean.
It is important for the Aggies to understand they can’t just mail in these next two games – in spite of the fact that Johnny Manziel is playing better than ever. They must keep in mind that although Coach Sumlin’s winning road streak remains intact from 2011, continuing from when he was at the University of Houston, strange things do happen on the road.
It is precisely for this reason coaches try to convey another important lesson to their players: In football, as in life, it’s often when things look the rosiest that the bottom suddenly falls out. This should be this week’s primary focus for the Aggies.
As I was sitting in the Kyle Field bleachers on a sunny Saturday afternoon, an instant classic broke out in the sweltering Texas heat. I extend my personal thanks to the good folks at CBS for setting this game up in such a healthy, sauna-like environment, one in which I joyfully sweated out a good 10
In yet another testimony to the toughness of the average A&M football fan, the line to the bathroom stretched from mid-field to the goal line five minutes before halftime. It was even worse for the ladies, as their line stretched clear around the end zone to the other team’s 20. A&M officials encourage fans to bring a lot of water inside and then dare them to drink it.
As for what was taking place on the field, it was a football game that was extremely well-played and nearly perfectly orchestrated by two superlative college quarterbacks and their excellent coaching staffs, in miserable conditions made specifically for TV.
The Best in College Football
The two quarterbacks taking the snaps Saturday in College Station represented the best that college football has to offer, along with Oregon’s ‘Zone Read’ guy, Marcus Mariota, who was busy whipping up on Tennessee with his reads, arm and legs.
Mariota, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and the reigning Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, are total packages within the respective schemes, philosophies and demands placed upon them by their football programs. You may consider each of the three effectively flawless and, by all means, unflappable, in any situation.
These three possess the intuitiveness, physical ability and leadership qualities to take each of their teams to the Promised Land. They are the three untouchables in today’s fast paced, need-for-speed college game. Teddy Bridgewater, Braxton Miller, Tajh Boyd and a handful of others, including several who also toil in the SEC, are definitely dandy competitors and hard to beat by any standards. I know of no college coach who would turn any of them away, but these three in particular are quintessential examples of ideal quarterbacking specimens.
I would compare AJ to Andrew Luck; Marcus to RGIII, and Johnny to a perfect blend of Barry Sanders and Joe Montana.
The coaching staffs here at Kyle on Saturday were represented by an instant Hall of Famer, Nick Saban, who has returned Alabama to its proper place in the college football world. Kevin Sumlin is the No. 1 challenger for the title, with possible objections heard loud and clear from good friends in my home state of Louisiana.
The difference in Saban, Sumlin, and LSU’s Les Miles is that two of them have the unconditional support of their fan bases; whereas, the other cannot always claim this as a certainty. We can all agree the Mad Hatter’s game management acumen is certainly as entertaining as his results on the field, and he is usually on the smiling end of a big game when it’s all said and done. Nonetheless, with the tremendous strides of Mettenberger and the quick ascent of the Fightin’ Tigers in the early season polls, there’s a triangle that has formed here in the awesome SEC West that cannot be denied. Ole Miss may even make it a perfect square in the next two weeks.
I’m not naïve enough to believe the axis of excellence will continue once the Great Playmaker leaves College Station for much greener fields. Let’s be frank; Johnny will be drafted and may even go as the No. 1-overall choice, so let’s not be stupid, or allow our stupidity to become public, anyway. You don’t put a brand new saddle on a jackass, as my high school coach used to say, and Manziel is no jackass.
A Jacksonville team desperate for a star attraction to sell tickets cannot miss this opportunity in 2014. To say Johnny isn’t going pro is Australian for Naysayer, or, in other words, delusional. So let’s store this away for another day, most likely sometime in April. After all, this is college
football at its all-time greatest. The first Game of the Century for the 2013 season may have exceeded all pre-game hype – and it only gets better from here.
And speaking of quarterbacks, the programs at LSU and Alabama don’t seem to be as dependent on theirs individually. They have illustrated a two to three-year plug-in system that works very well in their systems. Manziel, however, has made himself one of the most elite, indispensable players to play any position in modern times. He is the guy who could step into anyone’s offensive system and make it shine – even yours, Barry Switzer, should you decide to refrain from choking him first.
There is a lot of football left to be played. As Johnny said after the game, this was just one game; it wasn’t the Super Bowl. I agree wholeheartedly, although Johnny and his offense played as though it was their Super Bowl. Offensively we can assume all expectations for A&M were exceeded, yet we’d be dead wrong.
While Alabama gave up a ton of yards and several fourth-quarter touchdowns, they’d already provided enough of a cushion to ride out the Aggies’ storm. They did this by going to an unbalanced line in the second quarter on first down. When the Tide came out of the huddle for the second play, again unbalanced, A&M quickly called a time-out to get their front seven readjusted. It didn’t matter.
Alabama ran the tailback to their overloaded side time and time again, knocking the Aggies’ defensive linemen two yards off the line of scrimmage. The Aggies simply had no answer physically, and when you can’t go toe to toe, even in this high-octane era, you cannot win. When the dust finally settles, it usually settles in the trenches where it always has.
Were the Aggies just not in ‘game-shape’ on defense because of the suspensions? Yes, this is quite possible. The Ags up front were losing the ‘bench press challenge’ to the offensive linemen of Alabama on every play. The only way to get in game-shape is by playing in a few, just as the only way to get proficient at a particular aspect of the game for a skill player is by getting plenty of ‘game practice.’
Aggie fans certainly hope their defense isn’t this inferior to the offensive side of the ball, because if this is truly the case, without Johnny Heisman, this season could be much different. As it is, it’s very frustrating for any quarterback to sit on the sidelines and watch his defense on roller skates going backwards throughout the game.
What Johnny did in the fourth quarter after cooling his jets for so long was beyond awe-inspiring. He was a frenzied fanatic who appeared to be gasping for his final breath. But upon seeing the bright light above, the never-say-die Aggie QB fought with every fiber in his body to survive. If he was going to lose to the world champions, it was going to by a split decision – certainly not by a knockout.
The Dream Scheme
To put a bow on it, A&M runs every quarterback’s dream scheme - beautiful, it really is. One would think a quarterback thought it up and then said, “Now watch what I can do!” Receive the snap five to six yards away from the fray, read your keys and deliver the football. Throw it on a line, with touch or on an arc. It’s all so automatic. All the throws we see from the Air Raid pocket have been thrown and completed hundreds of times in practice. Catch and throw. Catch and throw.
Mariota calls the Aggie offense “backyard” football that even he would love to run, but he’s too busy in Oregon perfecting other aspects of a complete offense. Simply put, the Air Raid offense is God’s
gift to quarterbacks. Ask any quarterback from any era and see how many would also say they wish they’d played in this offense. You either catch the snap and throw, or you catch the snap and hand off. What could be easier? Nothing. But can it win championships in this decade?
The shotgun is much simpler than getting under the center, taking the snap and busting your butt to get back into the pocket, planting your feet, getting balanced, finding your bearings downfield amidst the defensive rush that tried to beat you back there, and delivering the football on time and with great accuracy to any part of the field.
This is hard work. It requires a tremendous amount of focus, practice time and proper technique. It’s something a lot of schools have decided is detrimental to the development of their quarterback and system. The shotgun formation has turned quarterbacks into baseball pitchers standing up there on a mound.
Sometimes this single ability, or lack thereof, is the deciding factor for a shotgun passer in his attempt to become a successful NFL quarterback. Many “catch and throw” guys simply aren’t capable of attaining the same effectiveness when converting to the traditional dropback used by the pros and by those of us who played in darker ages.
Wherefore art thou, Zone Read?
Another realization that surfaced during this Clash of the Titans is the Air Raid offense has no running game, per se. It must rely, instead, on true greatness and elusiveness at the running back position. It has plays drawn up in the playbook for running the ball, sure, but they’re successful more times than not as a result of the skills of the ball carrier rather than the accompanying blocking scheme. We saw this in A&M’s version Saturday against Alabama. There wasn’t much there.
Even when A&M went to the Pistol with two tights in goal line and short yardage situations, Alabama knew the zone read was coming and easily defended it. Jordan Jefferson of LSU can attest to this. There just isn’t much to draw from, and this is fine as long as you’re throwing for 450 yards and putting up 45 points per game from literally anywhere on the field.
Yet, this is exactly where Mariota and Oregon have the offensive edge in a championship-type game such as the one played Saturday. The Ducks, in addition to executing everything the Aggies run offensively, also run the Zone Read to perfection. Johnny Manziel has only seen it on TV.
It’s a killer running play similar to what the handoff read in the triple option was for a very familiar football team in the ’70s. It isolates one defender and makes him decide which potential ball carrier he is going to pursue, but in this case, the quarterback’s handoff read also determines the direction of the football. Unlike the Veer and the Wishbone that used only half the field, the Zone Read requires the defense to defend the entire football field. The running back may have the ball going one direction or the quarterback may have it going the other. Good luck on that. The Aggies don’t run the Zone Read, period.
Wide Receivers: to the left, to the left
A&M is also a wide receiver short on its left side. As we all know, the Aggies like to go vertical and see what develops. Early in the game when Johnny caught the snap from center and looked to his right with ‘Bama in its Cover 2, he kept finding Evans gaining separation on the cornerback defending him deep. Big plays were the result. When Johnny’s pre-snap reads took him to his left for the throw, there was no separation developing with his wide receiver. This is when the scrambling started, because it’s better to create while on the run rather than throw up a hope pass that could easily get picked. It’s truly a matter of six to eight inches that Johnny must see from 40 yards away; his mind must then quickly say, “yes” or “no.”
Without equal breakaway ability on both sides of the ball, the offense suffered. Defensively for Alabama, their coaches changed personnel when A&M had a deep-ball threat in Evans on its left side. This was successful for the second and third quarters. Because of the lack of a deep threat on the other side, the Aggies resorted to short stop routes by the wide receiver. Then they successfully slipped their inside receiver behind the shallow-playing cornerback on deep corner routes, beating the safety to the pylon.
Aggie receivers know that Johnny is going to throw the long ball as deep as is necessary and they’re not going to out-run his arm. Problems occur when they haven’t beaten their man in a timely manner, and for the middle two quarters they were indeed covered up.
No running game, a defense that’s not in game shape and no break-away wide receiver threat on the quarterback’s left side were the reasons A&M didn’t take this ball game. A kickoff that sailed out of bounds when the Aggies had regained the momentum was no help either. Perhaps an on-side kick would have been in order here. And the pick in the end zone? You guessed it. A busted route by a receiver who went straight upfield instead of fading wide to the sideline. Then there was the non-call of pass interference on the Alabama pick-six the Tide eventually would desperately need.
Unfortunately, the long conference losing streak was extended for yet another year inside Kyle. Not since 1998 have the Aggies gone undefeated at home in conference play. (This was also the sixth straight loss against Top 10 opponents in matchups scheduled within the first three games of a season, and the eighth of 10 overall.) The Aggies held and quickly lost another double-digit lead at home, just as they did last season against SEC foes Florida and LSU. A&M has never won the division or an outright conference title with a single home conference loss since freshmen became eligible in 1972.
Even a highly experienced and much improved version of Johnny Football couldn’t break the cycle. In spite of the blistering heat, A&M’s balls-to-the-wall offense, and the fanatical, fantastic field general who was at its helm, the cream of the crop in the SEC still refuses to wilt in the friendly confines of Aggieland.
The Texas A&M Aggies’ season is now underway offensively, literally, and the starting defense is expected to rejoin the squad at 2:30 Central this Saturday. It comes at an opportune time since the Aggies have a real game on tap. The Crimson Tide of Alabama, the Number 1 team in the land, struts into the Brazos Valley for the first time since the final regular season game in 1988.
The ’88 game was one of those beautiful, clear winter nights that define college football. It was nationally televised and Coach Jackie Sherrill’s white Twelfth Man towels were swirling throughout the Maroon-packed stadium. The game had been postponed from earlier in the year because of the threat of, you guessed it, a hurricane. It would be the only game the Aggies would lose on their home turf in ‘88, yet the defeat had no effect on the rankings or bowl selections. A&M had been deemed ineligible for both prior to the start of the season.
Alabama, ranked 20th on this night, won easily, 30-10, in a game that would be the Crimson Tide alum’s final game as head football coach for the Texas Aggies. Even though Sherrill left A&M under something of a dark cloud, he was propelled into icon status among most Aggies following his three consecutive Southwest Conference championships prior to the ‘88 season. To this day, he still enjoys this lofty position in the minds of most Aggies, particularly after his creation of the Twelfth Man Football Team, its book publishing and subsequently a Foundation for university fund raising.
Alabama and Texas A&M have played previously on the date of September 14 — in the season opener in 1985 in Birmingham. Alabama was ranked No. 20 coming into this game and beat Sherrill’s eventual Cotton Bowl champions, 23-10. The Aggies went on to a 10-2 season and a final national ranking of No. 6. It stood as the highest season-ending A.P. ranking for an A&M football team since 1956, and wasn’t topped until the 2012 team completed its season at No. 5 following the Cotton Bowl.
Modern day college football began in 1972 when true freshmen were first allowed to play on varsity football teams after a 25-year prohibition. Since then the Aggies haven’t played many Top 10 opponents this early in the season, and the Crimson Tide looms as the next one in line.
During the mid to late 70’s the Aggies were 3-0 in these matchups, beating No. 7 LSU in ’74 at Tiger Stadium; No. 7 Texas Tech in Lubbock in ’77; and No. 6 Penn State in Happy Valley in 1979. Since the 70’s, however, the Aggies haven’t had much success in these situations. In fact, A&M has lost its last five running. The last victory over a Top 10 team within the first three games of a season occurred in 1989 when they beat No. 7 LSU in the season opener in College Station.
Now Alabama is a conference game and the landscape at A&M, including its brand new, revamped golf course, has undergone a tremendous makeover. This A&M football team continues to demolish previous stigmas that have dogged the program — and has done so at a pace that corresponds with the seamless demolition of one of history’s all-time favorite basketball gyms, G. Rollie White.
With these tremendous accomplishments, which are being pushed along by some of the greatest examples of momentum ever seen at the university, come even greater expectations. Aggies need only look back two years to what was a summer of tremendous anticipation. Mike Sherman and Ryan Tannehill were expected to have the season to end all seasons in 2011, but after falling to No. 7 Oklahoma State at home in the third game in dramatic fold-up fashion, these hopes and dreams were dashed.
In fact, since 1972 no eligible Aggie football team has ever been crowned outright champion without first winning every conference game at home. It’s one and done in the history of A&M. While winning every conference game at home didn’t necessarily assure an outright title to each team who did so, the loss of just one game, historically, has assured there would be no challenge to mount.
The only times in the past forty years that Texas A&M won every conference game at home and did not win an outright conference title were in 1974 and 1975. Ah yes, I remember them well.
The other A&M team that missed out on a conference championship after sweeping its home schedule was the 1997 team, but they played in a different format. That team captured its South Division Championship, but then lost the Big 12 Championship game to Nebraska, so perhaps it deserves an asterisk.
All the other Aggie teams through the years who went undefeated at home did win their championships, including Sherrill’s ’85, ’86 and ’87 teams. These talented squads were later joined by RC Slocum’s four championship teams from ’91, ’92, ’93 and ’98, respectively. All seven were undefeated and untied at home in conference play.
1998 is the last season a Texas A&M football team has swept its home conference schedule, but, as I mentioned, this team coached by Kevin Sumlin and quarterbacked by Johnny Manziel is destroying all stigmas. You need to look no further than last season’s big wins at No. 1 Alabama in the team’s third consecutive SEC road game and a season-ending victory in the Cotton Bowl over very-hard-to-beat Oklahoma. Each were rare occurrences in Aggieland.
Now the big game is suddenly becoming a reality for the fans while Johnny Football sees it in his mind as the next game on the schedule. What he means by this is regardless of who the opponent is, the execution of the offense will always win out.
Words won’t describe what a win in this game will mean to Aggies and this university — perhaps for years to come. Once again A&M faces the Number 1 team in the country, but this time it’s not in Tuscaloosa.This time there are no surprises and no “shocking the world.”This is just straight-up, best team wins football, SEC style.
History has not been kind, but history has never seen this style of offense, this kind of quarterbacking choreography, or this cool of a customer at head coach. History is about to get turned on its ear, and will most assuredly be smiling broadly as it happens.
It’s the biggest game in the land, and the average ticket price of $750 bears this out. Meanwhile, the wise guys have placed a 7-point underdog tag on the Aggies. It will be the third time A&M has lined up in its own stadium as an SEC underdog. They dropped the previous two to Florida and LSU in very close, exciting games after holding double-digit leads in each. Aggies lament the fact that had they been victorious in either, they could have eventually gone all the way.
Stigmas upon stigmas seem to pop up everywhere, but these are valiant times in Aggieland. The populace appears reinvigorated from just watching some football again…Aggie football as they now know it. There have been few disappointments and a whole lot of upside. Worry and anxiety have transformed into excitement and enthusiasm. Anticipation is back at the level where it was last season following the Cotton Bowl victory over OU. A&M is united again as one — and the giant killers still roam its halls.
A&M sits in fourth place on the wagering boards in Vegas at 12 to 1 odds to win the BCS Championship, just as Johnny did last season to win the Heisman. Every Aggie knows that 12 is a pretty cool number. Alabama is No. 1 on the list, Ohio State is second and Oregon is No. 3. If you truly believe the Aggies will repeat their performance from last November in Bear’s country, then you better take advantage of these odds while they’re still available. By the end of the regular season last year, you had to lay 5 to win one on Manziel, which isn’t nearly as much fun.
The stigmas, once powerful and omnipotent, are systematically becoming exposed as imposters and brushed aside in Aggieland. Stigmas are turning into legacies as surely as that ugly duckling finally became a swan. We’ve got one more left to handle, and this one lies in the hands of our young, talented receiving corps. They’re about to meet up with some real athletes and their ability to create separation will determine the outcome.
Before heading to the campus to welcome the team home after the ‘Bama game last season, I wrote: “Somewhere the Bear is smiling, marking September 14 on his calendar, taking one more drag on his smoke, and one last shot of whiskey.”
Well, it’s almost here. Gig ‘em, and let’s Beat the Hell out of ‘Bama!
Johnny Football …
Heisman Trophy winner …
He is the face of College Football Nation: that includes the administrators, coaches and players of colleges and universities that have chosen to field football teams. It does not include those with the gift for gab, fans who buy the tickets, writers, cameramen or any others who aren’t between the lines on game day. The others may impose their will or credentials in attempts to be part of the Nation, but it’s maintained by the schools themselves.
As displayed by Coach Kevin Sumlin last Saturday, the outsiders – yes, even ESPN – have no right to information regarding in-house affairs prior to game time. This is how insignificant the media truly is and how important the inner workings of a team are to a college coach. In fact, the media is the necessary evil of the sport, and without television it would have a very limited role to play.
Yet networks would have us believe they and their analysts own and run the game of college football. Guess what? They have nothing, repeat, nothing, to do with the games. They don’t practice or line up or suffer injuries. They only talk. They have the seemingly incurable disease of diarrhea of the mouth, joyfully expounding upon the virtues or shortcomings of those who truly belong to the Nation. Sometimes they put on funny hats. Sometimes they hold court. There are those among them who have gotten too big for their own britches and desperately need to be reined in. They actually believe it is they who create record ratings in college football. Seriously.
The real job of the television networks in question is to first coordinate with school officials the starting times of games to be televised, and shortly thereafter serve as the public’s tools. Turn the sound off, and we all agree they have mastered their craft.
When discussing the College Football Nation, other facts come to mind. Most importantly, we didn’t need a trophy presentation to tell us who the outstanding player in the country was last season. We didn’t need a debate about whether a mere redshirt freshman should be given this prestigious award. Why? We saw it with our own eyes. Coaches saw it. Opposing players who actually play the game saw it. (Many of them even said publicly it would be a travesty if Johnny did not receive it.) Fortunately the Heisman voters listened to those actually involved in the games. This was key. Perhaps they do “get it.” We won’t mention their other two candidates.
Johnny Manziel, because of his athletic skills and instincts to all who play the game, encompasses the entire shooting match of college football. He is its King until someone else clearly shows on
the field he is superior to Johnny Football. This much is apparent, and the opinions of the media giants should be deemed irrelevant, unnecessary and irresponsible. They can ruin a Saturday of football because they DWELL … and DWELL … and DWELL on what we, the cable payers, have no further interest in.
When you become the face of something this huge, you’re a marked man. When you then evade incarceration after you’ve been found guilty by nothing more than public opinion, the aggression against you intensifies. You’re suddenly vilified on a level with the murderous O.J. Simpson, and, had that atrocity occurred today, it probably would be a dead heat.
Johnny Manziel is also a young guy with a quick temper who has yet to control it or see the wisdom in doing so. Temper is normally viewed as a deficiency, frowned upon in most professions. Exceptions are generally made for those within the athletic arena.
Those of us in the business world know that temper tantrums, fits of rage, admonishments to the point of others’ embarrassment, and even door slamming, aren’t viewed as the behaviors of a true professional. These instances cause humiliation and, in general, are morale killers, simply because normal people who have never been part of a competitive teamwork format haven’t experienced this, and, therefore, do not handle it very well. It isn’t the best motivational tool, you might say.
Where are one’s temper, anger, and exhibitions of frustration universally accepted and even thought to be virtuous? Military personnel, law enforcement and coaches quickly come to mind because they each work for the same goals: to train their people mentally, physically and emotionally to be at their very best, at the most critical moments, under extreme pressure. They dish it out and their best people respond. The cream then rises to the top because these leaders and instructors won’t accept anything less. They shout, “We’re only as good as our weakest player,” and they mean it with every fiber.
The professionals I’m referring to understand that showing their immediate dissatisfaction as often as is deemed necessary is not only acceptable, but a strict requirement in performing their duties. It’s a built-in trait used every day, simply because individuals will take a lazy step when given the opportunity. This is intolerable in these venues, for in these professions training under pressure is critical to the success of the organization.
Intensity levels differ in all of us; our passions aren’t the same, nor are the expectations and accompanying pressures.
We each have our own crosses to bear, but we also seem to relish the opportunity to observe how well someone else is handling his. It is worth noting that our assessments are generally harsher on others than on ourselves.
It’s the sideshow commentary that seems to sustain and feed Americans; the belittling and preaching we hear ad nauseam from our sports announcers who have risen above the crowd of mediocrity to positions of arrogance, obedience and influence. I mean, if Mark May of ESPN doesn’t like Manziel, then I shouldn’t either, right? After all, he’s the expert in the white tuxedo on TV. Sure, these commentators are only doing their jobs, which is doubly difficult when doing it from such high horses.
Johnny takes events, situations and people very personally. He has it in his head the world is against him, and my perception is he may not be far off base. It doesn’t take much these days to draw a pack of hungry wolves. This could have been averted and may still, but this is a subject for another day. As a result, Johnny seems capable of holding a grudge and remembering very well those who show loyalty and those who don’t.
He remembers those who have tried to take him down. He may possibly, on occasion, read the local forums here in town–TexAgs and AggieYell. It hasn’t been pretty, even on these boards that are supported by the membership dues of loyal A&M folks.
Perhaps when Johnny does speak with the media again, someone might ask his thoughts regarding the 12th Man crowd who make their opinions known from behind their anonymous keyboards. (The fans footing the bill inside the stadium obviously love him, as evidenced by the tremendous ovation given him before the second half.) I honestly do not pretend to know how Johnny would answer, but the 12th Man seems to
be growing weary of this 6-foot meteor hurtling through their space. They aren’t accustomed to defending their players on a national stage. They aren’t accustomed to feeling like they are obligated to make excuses for any “Aggie.” They’re not accustomed to having one of their own attacked on national TV by wannabe moralists casting the first stone. Some Aggies have even tweeted that Manziel should go to Longhornsville where he belongs.
Frankly, the showering of attention this school has received is totally unprecedented, yet many are unwilling to take ownership because Johnny just doesn’t “act right” in their estimation. The “Aggies Are We” mantra seems to work only on a conditional basis at this juncture. We’re all trying to teach this kid how to do it, but he refuses to listen to anything but his headphones, so we just hammer him from our keyboards. “Dumb jock.”
Perhaps America also expected a more contrite demeanor from Manziel in the opener against our former Southwest Conference playmate, the Rice Owls. Perhaps we wanted to see him get on both knees before the game started and beg our forgiveness, instead of just thanking God for another season of football.
You see, Johnny has been through some well-chronicled ordeals over the past eight months. For these incidences he has been pounded hard by the media and all the football fans and college students in this country. Why? Because they can–even as they practice their own air autographing, which is as close to the real thing as they’ll ever get.
The social media miracles of Twitter and Facebook, and the addition of countless bloggers from bathrooms somewhere in Podunk who have learned how to effectively tag their pieces, now allow anyone the platform to zero in, and perhaps even be read. It’s gotten to the point that we look at which organization is publishing the article before we even open it – or post it. I certainly do, so as not to waste my time. It has everything to do with credibility, and sometimes even the big shots lose theirs. In the end, it’s ourselves we’re seeing reflections of.
We spew forth accusations and insults that we, ourselves, are guilty of. We repeat what we hear on TV as though we are still little children watching cartoons. When we hide our identities behind made-up usernames, we are free to speak our minds in whatever context we choose and say things that would be shameful and embarrassing if said face to face. We have no consequences to our online hatred. Man, it’s just fun!
@jmanziel2 doesn’t have this luxury, nor would he want it.
We forget the sports world first met Johnny the morning after he’d been fighting. Does this tell you anything about the kid? Does me. I also believe we have thousands of analysts out there now who don’t have the slightest clue about what’s going on inside this young man’s head. He’s not talking, which leaves us only the “experts’” speculations to assimilate. Pardon this, while you’re at it.
I find it humorous that almost every single player mentioned on television this weekend was a “Heisman Trophy candidate.” They’re building a whole library now of “Heisman Trophy candidates.” Apparently there’s one on every college football team. Some teams are even professed to have four or five! The Heisman War is ON!
The media, with all its heart, wants to crown a new King, while unwittingly, perhaps, making everyone else’s role in the game insignificant. This is the real tragedy for America’s football players and their fans. It’s not Johnny, but the reaction of the media networks that is criminal. “Show me the Money” is now “Show me your Heisman.” Based on the media’s attitudes and recent actions, anything less apparently doesn’t merit mentioning.
First-team All-Conference? Get in line. You’re currently way, way down the pecking order. Sorry, bud.
But as they say on game shows, “Thanks for playing.”
In the 1993 draft there were two college quarterbacks who everyone was frothing over. The first was Drew Bledsoe from Washington State, and the other was Rick Mirer from Notre Dame. These two players went first and second overall in the draft, and another QB wasn’t selected until the second round when Washington’s Billy Joe Hobart was chosen ahead of lefty teammate, Mark Brunell.
What I vividly recall about these top two quarterbacks was the extensive evaluation given to each on ESPN prior to the draft. The broadcasters and analysts broke down every facet of each quarterback’s delivery and follow-through, his quickness afoot and his mental arrangement. Slow-motion replays of each quarterback were analyzed and critiqued by professional on-camera scouts.
Both players had tremendous college careers. Coming off the 1989 National Championship at Notre Dame, Mirer, the new replacement,accounted for more points running and throwing (350) than any other player in Notre Dame history. He left Notre Dame ranked 1st in career touchdowns with 41, and was 2nd all-time in total offense, completions, and passing yards. There’s a “gimme” if there ever was one.
But I couldn’t see what everyone else was seeing in Mirer. I didn’t see any dazzling footwork, arm-snapping quickness or spiral velocity. I saw a horribly low release point and a Johnny U “step-straight-ahead” action. He seemed to crouch on his throws about three inches lower than his actual height. I was looking at an average throwing motion, even by high school standards, which needed some major work, yet everyone was so excited by this man’s mechanics.
Surely I was missing something, but for the life of me I didn’t know what it could be. It was almost as if this was a ‘Lou Holtz quarterback’ who held all the records; therefore, he was a “can’t-miss” prospect to be a starter the moment he showed up for camp. I mean no disrespect to a fellow college quarterback, and we certainly didn’t have such technology in my day to pound these visuals worldwide in a heartbeat, but the package wasn’t comparable to Bledsoe.
What were these professionally trained eyes seeing? Perhaps it was leadership, but wait, I’ve never seen a leader better than Tim Tebow, so I’m still puzzled. Tebow’s passer rating was in the top echelon in the country when he was in college, yet he can’t succeed in the NFL? So what’s the secret intangible? Hey, Tom Brady barely kept his job at Michigan and look where he is. Did he even qualify for a passer rating in college?
Still, Rick Mirer went second in the draft to the Seahawks, who surely would have gone
with home-state QB Bledsoe had New England passed on him and gone with Mirer instead. New England made the right call, as NFL fans know. When it came down to it, Rick had trouble throwing to his left, which we know can be rather detrimental to a professional quarterback.
While Bledsoe was going to Pro Bowls, Rick was just trying to keep a job, which he did for 12 NFL seasons. Hey, that’s not a bad gig if you can get it! He also signed contracts worth millions, so while many continue to say he was a bust, I doubt if he or his family feels that way.
My point is we’re talking about an accurate professional assessment of a quality quarterback here, and this wasn’t necessarily present before the ’93 draft, regardless of how the media and scouts tried to sell it. Accuracy in quarterback evaluations seems to be a lost art even today.
I see at least seven quarterbacks on the horizon who have such wonderful upsides that they’re difficult to tell apart. Unlike twenty years ago, the only question is when some of these young men will make themselves available for the brightest lights of them all. Then, as was the case 20 years ago and every year since, the magnifying glasses pop out and the assessments begin in earnest.
Well, it all begins this week as the Summer of Malcontents is finally coming to a close. Johnny “Nothin’ but Net” Manziel is finally back in his beloved pocket where he is college football’s “Dude Perfect.” You may recall A&M is on a six-game winning streak, among their victims the National Champion Crimson Tide and long-time bully Oklahoma. It was nothin’ but fun.
Then our social butterfly began making his public appearances and all hell broke loose with the Establishment. You’d almost think time had rolled back to 1969 in New York City where a guy was hugging women, drinking scotch and making far-fetched guarantees. It’s all recorded in the Manziel Chronicles the media keeps track of, but it’s only a matter of days now before college football fans are reminded why they love Johnny…or why they hate him.
It’s only a matter of days before the Butterfly begins stinging like a Bee again, and then again and again… on September 14. We can put off the NFL comparisons and draft possibilities and perhaps even the coaches’ evaluations of the top quarterback in the SEC until around 6 PM Aggie time that evening. Where will the football world stand then? From this viewpoint, we Aggies received the amount of respect we expected nationally and ultimately from the conference – very little. The only real effect this off-season had on the Aggies was the ascension of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller into the favorite’s role for the Heisman. We don’t need no stinkin’ Heisman! But we haven’t conceded it, either.
So, as we put all comparisons aside and begin to once again enjoy the precision of this proven, efficient, well-oiled A&M offense, and the sparkplug of all time who directs it, the fortress of Aggieland is once again united, hungry and extremely well-armed. The lack of respect shown this program from all sides has created a “take no prisoners” mentality for which there’ll be no apologies. From now until January, hey, it’s just business.
College football's youngest starting QB and Aggie great, the first 4-year starting QB ever at Texas A&M.