Reimer: This offseason, we've already learned NFL teams still value stupid football stereotypes

Alex Reimer
March 07, 2018 - 4:42 pm

Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports

NFL teams enjoy access to some of the most sophisticated information available. Yet, many of them still appear to build their rosters based on archaic and nonsensical football stereotypes. 

Even organizations believed to be run with a progressive tilt, such as the Seahawks, seem to fall into this trap. Earlier this week, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Seattle was shopping defensive lineman Michael Bennett, because it was looking for a “quieter locker room.” Apparently, the Seahawks cite Bennett’s outspokenness as one of the reasons they missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2011. That’s an easier place to look than the offensive line, which might have been the worst in the league.

Sure enough, the Seahawks traded Bennett Wednesday to the Eagles in exchange for a fifth-round pick and obscure wideout Marcus Johnson. Bennett, 32, has made three consecutive Pro Bowls and sacked 23.5 players over that time. Yet the Seahawks traded him, even though there are less productive defensive players they could have shed for cap relief.

If only Bennett just shut up and played football. 

That’s the message that’s been relayed about UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who’s called “selfish” and “entitled” because he talks like a human being instead of a football cyborg. One of the top storylines of this year’s NFL Combine was whether Rosen possessed the right makeup to lead a team, because he wore a “F— Donald Trump” hat at one of the president’s golf courses and said he prioritizes landing with the right team over where he’s selected in the draft. Oh, and he installed a hot tub in his dorm room. That one really sets off the Serious Football Men, according to the MMQB’s Peter King.

“Football isn’t that important to (Rosen), because he’s a rich kid whose mom is the great-great-granddaughter of the founder of Penn’s prestigious Wharton School of Business, and whose dad is a renowned spinal surgeon, and who once put a hot tub in his college bedroom,” unnamed sources told King. “Rich kids can’t have the same drive as lower-middle-class kids.”

Never mind that Rosen might be the best quarterback available. His father is a surgeon, dammit! He must not want it.

That was former executive Mike Lombardi’s message on the Ringer's podcast Wednesday. The frequent WEEI guest quoted people around the league who question Rosen’s commitment, because he appears too philanthropic. Huh?

“I don’t know if he did (help himself),” Lombardi said, per the Big Lead. “I think to me, what I’m hearing was, it was okay, I think he’s gonna have to prove it. He’s coming back saying he loves football. You know, I’ve talked to some people who hear he might like humanitarian work more than football. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t know where his values really lie.”

There's no evidence, of course, that outspoken players impede teams from winning. The Eagles won last year with Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins, and are adding Bennett to the mix. The Patriots also rarely shy away from flamboyant or opinionated players if they fit their team, including Martellus Bennett and Long on their last Super Bowl winner. 

That’s one reason to be optimistic about the Patriots this offseason. Amidst all of their questions, you can still trust Bill Belichick’s player evaluation, despite some of his apparent efforts this season –– underwhelming Jimmy G trade, benching Malcolm Butler –– to subvert that confidence.

The operation works here. Robert Kraft is not going to pull a Stephen Ross, and needlessly talk about how his players must stand for the national anthem, and then retract the comment one day later. 

The same can’t be said for the rest of the league. High-ranking talent evaluators and executives seem to still think opinionated players don’t belong on winning teams. At this point, it doesn’t seem like any piece of evidence will change their minds.