Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going pro:

“This was an extremely difficult decision for me,” Bridgewater said in a statement released by the school. “I can’t express how much my time at Louisville has meant to me. These past three years have allowed me to mature as a person and leave the university as a better person and with my degree in hand, which was one of my goals. I will cherish every moment on the field and off the field, and every bond I built.

We’re at that point in the season where these decisions start being made. The big teams complete their bowls and their stars have the opportunity to go to the next level or return to college. It wasn’t that long ago when everyone talked about how they should stay and finish school, though more recently commentators have taken a more sober view.

I am personally, increasingly of the mind that for the players that we find ourselves talking about – the Bridgewaters, Leinarts, and so on – going pro is very often going to be the right call to make. Especially if they are at a high watermark. They make so much in those first couple of years that if something happens they can always go back to college if that’s important to them. Matt Leinart chose to go back to USC for one more year, had a less stellar season, and the decision cost him a lot of money. Which, since his professional football career is likely over and he has child support payments to make, turns out to matter a great deal.

While as far as I can gather, Bridgewater is making the right decision by going pro, I am skeptical that other contender Johnny “Football” Manziel would be making the right decision to do the same. I’m not going to pretend it has anything to do with graduating, though.

While Bridgewater is a certain first-round pick and possibly a first draft overall, Manziel may or may not be. Johnny has a height problem that makes sustained success in the NFL difficult but has enough raw talent that it’s rather unlikely that he would do poorly next season to cost him a relatively high pick. In other words, the NFL will still be there, but another amazing year at A&M is a certainty barring injury. (If you’re wondering what happens if he does get injured, players can insure against that.)

Once he leaves A&M, Johnny Football may or may not make it to the big show. He will likely have a few seasons where he gets paid a whole lot of money (true whether he goes pro now or a year from now), but it’s relatively unlikely that he will have another year in front of 80,000 screaming fans and the experience he’s getting now. This is quite possibly true of any QB that goes pro, but unlike Bridgewater, Manziel has only been a star for a couple seasons. And unlike Leinart circa 2005, he is unlikely to be the first or second QB draft pick or one of the top picks overall.

What it ultimately comes down to me is a suspicion that Manziel is going to wash out of the NFL pretty quickly and that he should milk his current situation for as long as he can. Of course, it’s unlikely that’s what Manziel wants to hear. He’s also a guy who believes that college athletes should get paid. I suspect he’s about to find out that he’s not really a good enough athlete to be paid as much as he thinks. Or achieve the stardom he presently enjoys.

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3 Responses to Johnny Football Should Return Next Year

  1. In contrast, you’d have to be brain dead not to take the leap into the NBA when everybody is scouting you. For the first thirty picks, the money is guaranteed, and you’ll walk away with a $1M per year before taxes and fees kick in, so even $500K to sit around on a bench or play minor league basketball for a bit isn’t the worst thing in the world. Even if that doesn’t work, unlike football, there’s the European leagues or other venues overseas to play for some cash.

    So yes, you’ll be a nobody in some cases, but there’s always the joke about spending your money on buying a house for your mom, and for some of these kids, it’s not a joke.

    • trumwill says:

      I’d add to that, the “experience” of college basketball isn’t quite the same, really. You get March Madness, which would have to be pretty wild, but you don’t get the games in front of 80,000 fans. It’s most low-key, generally speaking.

      • I’m not a college basketball fan, but a lot of those guys are playing in much smaller, although sometimes more intimate environments. Around here, St John’s University usually plays at their home stadium on campus which hosts around 5K seats, but once in a while, they’ll have access to Madison Square Garden when the Knicks aren’t using it. I suspect that type of experience isn’t common to players who aren’t at top flight programs, and a decent number of NBA players come from not-quite top flight programs.

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