[Bryon Houlgrave/The Register]
The question (posed by Brian):
Leonard Fournette sitting out the bowl game was one thing, since he might be injured. A hale and hearty Christian McCaffrey getting out of Dodge before the Sun Bowl seems like another. How do we feel about this?
Seth: First let's take as a given that "hale and hearty" for a football player is relative.
Brian: I mean sure. I just kind of... I don't want to be Old Man Newspaper here but I find myself bothered by this despite being pretty woke about player compensation issues.
Ace: I’m totally fine with it. While McCaffrey may not be hurt, he’s carried a hell of a workload. 290 offensive touches this year, 385 last year, plus returns, and his teammates—at least publicly—are in full support.
This isn’t even the Rose Bowl like last year. It’s the Sun Bowl. If his teammates are cool with him missing a glorified exhibition to get ready to actually get paid for his work, I’m not one to argue.
Brian: Is there a line above which you would be bothered? Where is that line?
Ace: If there are stakes.
Brian: Okay, so Sun Bowl can GTFO. Citrus?
Ace: Honestly, I can understand a player of McCaffrey’s caliber skipping any non-playoff appearance.
Brian: Dude! So Stanford's in the Rose again and you're totally fine with him dropping his pants on An American Institution?
Ace: I don’t blame the kid for that. I blame him not getting paid. The incentives are all kinds of messed up. That’s not McCaffrey’s fault. Plus, the Rose Bowl will still have the parade and the bands at halftime and that gorgeous stadium. It’ll be fine.
Seth: There's also a place where you can be disappointed at the guy without treating him like he is violating the Constitution. One of the first things I noticed was the level of vitriol and who it was coming from. When you find yourself on the same side as the guy talking about the "me first" generation you wonder if you're on the right side.
Ace: I’ll admit part of my stance is predicted on always being on the other side of the people screaming “DAMN MILLENNIALS."
Brian: I do kind of like that it puts the NCAA's total lack of leverage on display.
But... I mean... if Peppers peaced out before the Orange Bowl you wouldn't be disappointed?
Ace: I’d be disappointed, sure, but I still wouldn’t get upset at Peppers about it.
Seth: Things like Wilton Speight and Devin Gardner playing against Ohio State, or Robot Chad Henne vs MSU, are extraordinary because that is a stupid decision they're making on our behalf. If that is the norm then why appreciate it? Gardner sitting out the Copper Bowl was a no-brainer, because it’s the Copper Bowl. Playing in The Game meant something, even at the end of a breakdown season, because it’s The Game.
Brian: I still like to think that there's a romantic THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM heart to this. Ed Reed!
I think it would be shitty to your teammates.
[Hit THE JUMP for shattered dreams of kinds]
Ace: Joaquin said dominate. I love that stuff. But I think it’s important here that these guys have earned their teammates’ support. Like this.
Linwood finishes as the all-time leading rusher in school history with 4,213 yards but is ending his college career a game early after an up-and-down season in which he broke school records but was also suspended for "attitude issues" and lost his starting job.
Brian: That dude is making a suspension look good and probably shouldn't be a part of this conversation.
Ace: That’s being a shitty teammate. McCaffrey has toted the rock 600-some times over the last two years. His teammates understand.
Brian: Some do. I bet there's a number who are pretty irritated but not saying anything. Gotta be some Jim Harbaugh types on every football team.
Ace: While that may be the case, that doesn’t make them the reasonable ones. We’re talking about Jim Harbaugh types here.
|To Dad from Kelly is on Amazon.|
Seth: So if you want to make a list of guys who are all about The Team that list would have to include Rob Lytle. Here I am holding a book that his son wrote which is basically a letter to say "What the fuck, Dad?"
We need to be cognizant of our biases. I don’t need anything from Christian McCaffrey but some entertainment if I turn on the Sun Bowl this year, but he’s got a lot of people to consider, some unborn, to whom a knee injury right now could substantially alter their lives.
Ace: I just go back to what McCaffrey’s accomplished versus what he could possibly accomplish in this game. Then add in the needless risk of exposing yourself to injury 20-30 times in a glorified exhibition right before you’re set to earn millions.
I think a big reason for the blowback is people don’t want to confront how dangerous football is, because that’s the only way this is a reasonable decision.
But it’s no coincidence these guys are all running backs.
Seth: And how All-or-Nothing your first NFL contract is at that position. One of the insights from Kelly in the above is that players call it the “Not for Long.”
Brian: I like the Jim Harbaugh types, though. I want putting on a winged helmet to mean something, and I like the fact that it's really difficult to imagine anyone on a Harbaugh team doing the same thing. Yes it's dangerous and unfair and McCaffrey is smart to be doing what he's doing. At some level I accept all that because Michigan is a thing to believe in, and I would think less of someone who chooses not to believe in it.
Life Is A Business is a shitty way to live.
cc: previous athletic director
Ace: It’s easier to say that when you're not the one taking 30 hits a game, though. McCaffrey played Life As A Football Player for three years. One business decision seems quite reasonable. Dude’s done damn near everything for that team. Dave Brandon had one mode and one mode only.
Adam: I think that it's possible to believe in the institution you represent and everything that comes with it and also make a business decision. I'd have a problem with guys shutting it down with three games to go in the regular season or something along those lines, but he's looking at what amounts to an exhibition and deciding that the risks outweigh the benefits. As the guy whose job is to take the piece of leather and run with it into the teeth of frighteningly large humans whose sole purpose is to stop him at all costs, I don't mind him sitting this one out.
Ace: I don’t think that diminishes what he’s done for Stanford, either, or what that represents. It diminishes the bowl games, and since those games are maybe the best example of how ludicrous the NCAA system is, I have very little issue with that.
Those guys in horrid pastel blazers can deal.
Seth: And Michigan is special. We are dismayed that we are going to the Orange Bowl right now. My rooting interest here until they change how the players are compensated is why would you want to go to Stanford when you can go somewhere where you wouldn't think about skipping your last game.
Plus McCaffrey personally eviscerated Iowa last year and could have gone to the NFL right then. This exhibition was on borrowed time.
BiSB: One other thing to consider: whether he sits or not, McCaffrey is obviously at a place where he is thinking about the draft way more than the Sun Bowl, and it's hard to blame him. With the amount of touches he's already gotten and his style, there's a really good chance his NFL dream doesn't survive a Jaylon Smith situation. And, like... Sun Bowl. So is it really that much worse for a guy to acknowledge that fact and sit out than it is to have him go out there and play to not get hurt? Does a 2016 Malik McDowell performance really honor his team and his teammates any better? If he isn't in a mental place to give 100%, I'd argue he shouldn't.
Ace: Good point. It’s hard to avoid that mindset when you’re in the process of vetting NFL agents, too.
Brian: In re: how to blow it up. This is my dream: both teams decide to start the game 15 minutes late. This would be easiest in basketball because there are so many fewer players and you can just walk over to the announce team and sit down and explain what and why you're doing it. Someone please do that.
Ace: That would be great. In the interim, I’m enjoying that players are realizing they hold more power than they’ve utilized in the past.
Brian: I'm not totally against McCaffrey's decision. I'm about 35% for, 65% against. Old Man Newspaper has spoken.
Ace: Your fedora is in the mail.