THIS JUST IN: THE INTERNET IS FULL OF CLAMOROUS, SELF-RIGHTEOUS OPINIONS.
Yesterday, following the news that LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffery have decided to sit out their bowl games to focus on the NFL Draft, Myles Garrett unwittingly became the hero of sanctimonious SPROTS fans everywhere by declaring he would, in fact, play in the Texas Bowl.
First off, this is wonderful. Myles Garrett is a rare talent and as Aggie fans we all want to see him play as much as possible. But if he’d decided to sit out, that’d be fine too.
There are plenty of similarities: all three are juniors hoping to go high in the NFL Draft. All three have played through nagging injuries all season. All three play for teams that slipped from playoff discussion to mid-tier bowls. So why is it easier for Garrett to play? For one thing, the two running backs have essentially been their team’s entire offensive identity for three seasons. When they’re in the game, especially when injured, it’s likely they are going to get the ball on a majority of plays. That means getting tackled. A lot. It’s much to risk for the perceived noble notion of teamsmanship that so many sports personalities and fans harumph about. Look at the comments in any of the numerous articles about this and it’s a litany of “me-first” accusations, grandstanding, and the usual soul-rotting gibberish.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t fucking matter.
It doesn’t affect anyone except for the player and his team, and they’re perfectly capable of handling the situation without millions of angry voices on the Internet chiming in. They’re bowl games, sure. Last chance for those players to play together. Memories and legacy and all that. But if you’re talking about risking a future pro career for a Sun or Citrus Bowl win, teams and coaches aren’t going to blame the player one bit.
For Myles it’s different. He’s on defense, and can play as many or few snaps as he sees fit. He’s only a target for holding by two or three players on a given play, not a target for tackling by all eleven. He’s played through this injury for a couple months now and knows his limitations well. He can afford to play as few as 20 snaps or so and still impact a game in a major way while improving his draft stock even more. Yes, it’s great for the team, but it’s a relatively risk-free approach and a sound decision for the player as well.
The collective voice of college football likes to pontificate on the nobility of sport and gets awful itchy and self-righteous in times like this. Maybe take a step back and realize these guys are on the cusp of potentially brilliant futures and don’t want to risk a fortune for the chance to hoist a forgettable trophy in a midday bowl in El Paso or Orlando. They’ve worked their entire lives, for free, to get to this point, so they don’t need your cereal box lessons on integrity. Most of the loudest critics weren’t going to watch those games anyway.