ESPN color analyst Todd Blackledge labeling Kelly Bryant as “selfish” fit within the recent trend of game commentary increasingly resembling daytime opinion-driven filler. The sentiment behind the transferring quarterback’s decision, hammered home when Trevor Lawrence went down in the first half of Clemson’s 27-23 win over Syracuse, isn’t new at all.
The back in my day ethos has pretty much always existed around organized college football. The sport’s first coaching (and playing) legend, Walter Camp, lamented the forward pass from the first time it was proposed until well after Notre Dame popularized it in a 1913 upset of Army. According to the book The Big Scrum, he once complained that the pass made football no different than the burgeoning game of basketball.
A century later, traditionalist Bret Bielema intimated hurry-up, no-huddle offenses literally killed student-athletes.
Evolution of the sport will always come with resistance. Saturday’s commentary is just an especially egregious case, since a specifically player was targeted. What’s more, turning the focus of Trevor Lawrence’s injury on Kelly Bryant was a slight of Chase Brice. Brice’s poise in the fourth quarter, including one long run on the decisive drive, buoyed Clemson’s comeback.
How much longer the Tigers will have to roll with Brice behind center, none of us know at present. Certainly the booth didn’t. Friend of The Open Man Aaron Torres nicely summarized why Kelly Bryant hanging around for the possibility of playing a game-and-a-half (maybe less?) furthers underscores why the quarterback needed to transfer for the outlook of his career beyond 2018.
Not only should we not crush Kelly Bryant for transferring, Trevor Lawrence’s injury proves why Bryant was right to leave the team. If he were still on the team, he’d be forced to give up his final year of eligibility on the spot, with no knowledge of if/when Lawrence will return https://t.co/p4AOPQyMOc
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) September 29, 2018
Todd Blackledge was an outstanding quarterback at Penn State, which makes his opinion on Kelly Bryant less valuable, not more. Blackledge started for three seasons, parlaying an excellent senior season in 1982 into the No. 7 overall selection in the 1983 NFL Draft. Were Blackledge replaced by a blue-chip freshman in his senior season, I doubt he’d have gone No. 7 in the draft; I wonder if he was really prepared to sacrifice that position for the team.
But this is less an issue about Todd Blackledge or Kelly Bryant than it is the survival of archaic mindsets that slow progress for players’ betterment.
This past week’s Monday Night Football telecast devolved into a repeated condemnation of Le’Veon Bell holding out for a better contract, the same suggestion of disloyalty fueling the criticism. Professional football players have remarkably short careers, while making less on average than their counterparts in baseball and basketball. Elite-level players should seek the most compensation they can earn in their careers, which can end in literally an instant.
However, a large contingent of fans and commentators side with owners worth billions, whose teams often played in publicly subsidized stadiums. It’s perhaps even more baffling in college football, where universities and coaches rake in millions but players are not paid.
Player compensation comes in the form of an education — and in the case of a soon-to-be-graduate like Kelly Bryant, he’s fulfilled his obligation. To make money playing football, he needs to play and boost his draft profile. One-half of football against Syracuse isn’t comparable to full, senior season — a season that would be his last if he didn’t make the NFL.
Whether he wants to improve his prospects to play professionally, or spend his last year actually on the field, isn’t selfish. It’s sensible.