I have a theory. It might be wrong. It might be right. It comes from a lifetime of covering sports, and a pretty solid understanding of the way executives tend to think.
So earlier today I was listening to Bill Simmons’ podcast, and he was discussing the inevitable NFL Draft plummet of Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback whose Q rating and status keep seeming to fall—despite off-the-charts size, skills and collegiate success. One mock draft after another after another places Fields (initially considered the No. 2 pick after Trevor Lawrence) at fifth, seventh, 10th, 12th. There’s speculation about his “makeup,” his “flaws,” his “shortcomings.” It’s feeling much like an Aaron Rodgers-type situation, where you blink and Fields is suddenly available for the Chicago Bears at No. 20.
Here’s what I think, and I know it sucks: Justin Fields is an African-American quarterback from Ohio State. Dwayne Haskins was an African-American quarterback from Ohio State. Cardale Jones was an African-American quarterback from Ohio State. Haskins was a monumental bust with Washington, Jones, a moderate bust with the Chargers.
It just seems like, unfairly, Justin Fields is being lumped in with Haskins and Jones; that execs are (subtly) grouping the three together and assigning the flaws of the two older signal callers to the up-and-comer. And the reason I’m taking this stab is because it’s basically the history of race and sports in America. Athletes are lumped together. Wait, black athletes are lumped together. Black quarterbacks couldn’t work in the NFL because they were too dumb. Black middle linebackers couldn’t work in the NFL because they couldn’t read offenses quickly enough. Black head coaches couldn’t work in the NFL because—well, there are too many bullshit excuses to give.
Back when I was covering the Majors, the stigmas against Dominican players were pervasive and gross. You didn’t want too many in once clubhouse, because they were lazy. They were indifferent. They didn’t care enough.
This shit happens all the time.
So as Fields takes one bullet after another, it feels uncomfortably familiar.
He’s being lumped in.