It seems as if Alabama QB AJ McCarron has become a victim of his own celebrity. After waiting for NFL teams to swipe eight QBs before looking his way in Round 5 of the 2014 draft, McCarron held his first live news conference in Cincinnati yesterday and addressed reports that teams questioned his personality during his one-on-one interviews.
McCarron had 9,019 passing yards, 77 TDs and just 15 picks in his college career, which included a 36-4 record and a couple of national c’hips. He has prototype size for the NFL (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and proved to be accurate and a keen decision-maker in college.
“It’s pretty shocking to me,” McCarron insisted. “Like I said, obviously somebody leaked some bad information. I mean, the draft’s weird. It’s a weird process. It’s like wildfire. Once somebody throws something on the wall, it sticks and catches…it’s like everybody runs with it so. At the end of the day it sucks that it hurt me like that, but I feel like God has a plan. He always has a plan for everybody so everything is going to work itself out. I’m happy so...hopefully I’ll get the last laugh.”
I’m not saying McCarron ever exhibited the off-the-charts raw talent and athleticism that NFL scouts look for in their schizophrenic draft analysis, but this looks like a classic case of overlooking the winner. It also looks like another example of McCarron’s social media and celebrity presence, scaring NFL squads away. In a nutshell, most teams probably feel like he’s not dynamic enough to put up with the extra attention his presence would require. Rookie QBs go through enough of a grind. Teams tend to want hungry, focused athletes who aren’t entering the league as teen idols.
Nobody leaked nothin.’
Does McCarron really think teams were happy with his recent decision to be part of a reality show with his fiancée—model/TV persona Katherine Webb, who became a social-media superstar during the 2013 BCS National Championship Game? She has a huge social media presence and naturally, because of his success at the highest levels of college football, he was swept into her fame vacuum as the envy of all men, a more-desired heartthrob to women, an American Dream to Crimson Tide fans and obviously a potential pain in the ass to NFL execs.
And it sure didn't help his cause when his mom and Webb were accused of being racists after a questionable tweet AJ's mother sent out about embattled Heisman winner Jameis Winston back in January.
Social media-driven superstar athletes from RG3 to J.R. Smith to Tim Tebow and Matt Kemp have had their individual challenges controlling the frenzy that their presence as visible players in the social media muck instigates.
Ironically, McCarron’s desire to be in the limelight and at the top of any food chain is the reason why he rose to such prominence at Alabama. You know he has a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder because while he was outdueling opposing QBs and executing clutch drives in close games, in college football’s premier conference, against the best the nation has to offer, he was still hearing about his deficiencies and NFL limitations. Being overlooked is nothing new to him. It obviously fuels his fire.
McCarron tweeted after being drafted No. 164 overall by Marvin Lewis’ Bengals: “& y’all thought I played with a chip on my shoulder, JUST WAIT... God has a great plan & I can’t wait! #blessed #historyinthemaking.”
The tweet has since been deleted, but we know how it is when you are a social media slave and something pops off that stirs great emotion. You might lash out and say what you really feel. In hip-hop and the reality world, it comes off as authentic. To NFL execs investing millions of dollars in draft picks and looking for leaders to represent their billion dollar company with class, such expression is a red flag. One of the NFL’s unwritten mottos is “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.” McCarron knows that all too well.
Prior to the draft, McCarron said he felt like he’d been disrespected his whole career because he won, as scouts were quick to throw shade on his lack of arm strength. That’s probably why he will succeed, but he has to lay off the social media as well. It sends a bad signal to squads. Get the money and make the team. Then make noise.
NFL scouts have occasionally been burned by overlooking guys who didn’t fit into a very limited criterion for projected QB excellence. Tom Brady was a sixth-round selection out of Michigan. The story of diminutive Russell Wilson, a third-round heist out of Wisconsin, has morphed into a mythical tale of one player’s desire to overcome the odds; and will forever serve as inspiration for any QB with game who feels disrespected by his draft day results.
The pilgrimage of Tim Tebow has also taught us that a player that comes with extreme media baggage—whether it is positive or negative—has to be a premier performer, not a borderline talent. Teams are willing to deal with the media barrage for their heavy hitters and offensive wizards, but they don’t want any sideshows or media circuses involving a guy who won’t even be on the field much.
McCarron is well-spoken, has no track record of off the field incidents or character issues, but because of negative perception shaped by social-media, he slipped in the draft. It’s a shame, but he’s got to be smarter than that. Athletes have to realize that it’s the forbidden fruit. The Devil’s brew.
On the other hand, if people think Johnny Manziel should be salty for being the 22nd pick of the first round, then McCarron supporters should be livid at the names of borderline bums that were picked ahead of him. Talk about distractions. Manziel’s entire college career has been one big distraction, but it’s also been one record-breaking, game-breaking highlight extravaganza. As the only freshman to ever bag a Heisman, he’s earned special consideration despite his small stature and huge ego. Manziel already has his own “Money Dance” for goodness sakes.
Alabama HC Nick Saban is a legendary college coach and evaluator of talent and a former NFL coach with the Miami Dolphins. He doesn’t get why a QB of McCarron’s pedigree would drop so low.
"AJ was probably the third-or fourth-best quarterback in this draft," Saban said Tuesday evening in Mobile, Alabama, for the Crimson Caravan. "He did a fantastic job for us. I certainly think he is going to be a great pro player and have a very good career."
According to FOX Sports, While McCarron sat undrafted and rounds ticked away, a report surfaced suggesting part of McCarron's fall could be because he rubbed some teams the wrong way during his pre-draft interview process. The social media mosh pit spun the narrative into McCarron not being a good leader, forcing AJ to defend himself on Twitter and Saban to respond.
"He was a good leader on our team and a good person," Saban said. "Regardless of what he ever said to you or whatever way he left you with an impression, if he could ever help you, he would be the first one to be there to do it. I think in the long run he'll have a chance to prove that he can be a good leader and a good quarterback in the National Football League."
It’s not like Andy “The Red Rifle Dalton” has that starting spot locked down. He seems to have hit a ceiling with how good he can be. His playoff gangster is questionable and that’s something you don’t have to worry about with McCarron, who could become the steal of the draft one day.
He definitely knows how to make an impression. Wifey Webb will attest to that all day on Twitter. To many, McCarron bagging Webb was already the steal of the draft. Now he just has to continue to follow Tom Brady’s blue print up the ladder of success. McCarron definitely didn’t get humbled by the draft, but I do think he gained incredible motivation.