I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I actually like Skip Bayless. First off, he has the enemy-of-my-enemy thing going for him because I absolutely despise Stephen A. Smith. Secondly, he’s always loved Tom Brady, which is the easiest way to get to my heart.
But even more importantly, I genuinely agree with the positions he takes and the things he has to say. Don’t worry — I’m not here to profess some undying love for Tim Tebow, although he should definitely have a job for the Jacksonville Jaguars over the anemic Blaine Gabbert. Monday morning, I heard Skip come to the defense of Jadaveon Clowney, who recently made a Rob Gronkowski-like decision to sit out the University of South Carolina’s game against the University of Kentucky over the weekend even though he appeared to be plenty healthy enough to play. After a little bit of thought, I realized that Skip was absolutely right.
But it doesn’t seem this way at first. It seems like a simple case of a guy putting himself above the team. And in the world of sports, we’re programmed to always frown upon this type of behavior. In most cases, we are right to do so. I’m furious that Gronk hasn’t touched the playing field for the New England Patriots yet this year. 36-year-old Brady is out in monsoon conditions throwing to no-name scrubs against a very good Cincinnati Bengals defense. But since Gronk is only 95 percent healthy, he’s off doing more ridiculous (yet hilarious) Dunkin’ Donuts commercials.
But this is a completely different situation than Clowney’s. Playing football is Gronk’s job. It is what he gets paid to do. He owes it to his teammates and coaches to be out on the field at all costs. Clowney’s teammates and coaches have every right to be upset, but not towards Clowney. They should be upset at the NCAA rules that require Clowney to stay in college for three years when clearly the NFL is the only thing on his mind.
And that doesn’t make Clowney a bad person. Put yourself in his shoes. You are completely qualified for your job. In fact, you are way overqualified. But according to some arbitrary rule, you have to wait another year before you can sign with a company. All companies want to hire you no matter what you do in the next year, so long as you don’t get hurt. Just last year you watched one of your best friends (Marcus Lattimore) go through the same situation and get severely hurt. Would you want to do anything that could possibly hinder your chances of getting hired?
I know I wouldn’t. Clowney has just been put in a no-win situation. Sure, the “right” thing to do would be to go out onto the field, give it his all and earn the respect of his teammates and coaches. But even then, he’s by far the best player on the field, and opponents are going to double- or triple-team him on every play. And he’s obviously risking an injury every time he steps on the field. That’s why I am completely fine with him milking an injury to avoid playing.
He has every right to be selfish in this situation. All around him, his school is making ridiculous money off of him. In fact, South Carolina ticket prices rose this year simply because he is on the team. And yet, he gets hated on because he is thinking about the future welfare of himself and his family. I’m sorry, but that’s just not right.
There have been guys who have shown a lot more devotion to their college teams by coming back to school even when they didn’t have to (Matt Leinart, Andrew Luck, etc.). And yeah, these guys come off looking a lot better than Clowney. But it was their choice to come back. They didn’t have to, just as Clowney doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to.
I can’t express how much I hate the NFL and NBA rules that make players wait before they can declare for the draft. If a player is physically ready and wants to make money at the next level, where do the leagues get off saying that they can’t? More importantly, then you’re left with college players who simply don’t want to be in school. Jadaveon Clowney couldn’t care less about how the Gamecocks do on Saturday. And he doesn’t have to care. But the sport is worse off because of these idiotic rules.
But please, stop hating on Clowney. He’s just a confused young man in a terrible situation. He will be an unstoppable force in the NFL. Just ignore this awkward period that is the direct result of the NCAA’s never-ending incompetence. And for those saying he should just be kicked off the team, that’s fine, because he never should have been on the team in the first place. He should be getting paid and blowing up quarterbacks’ blind sides for the Jacksonville Jaguars.