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Ryan Smith vs. The Readers.

Updated on December 2, 2015

Being a sportswriter is my dream. It's what I want to do for a living for the rest of my life. I do it because I'm good at it, and I think I can entertain people while educating them about sports.
Unfortunately, some people take it a little too seriously.

For 99.9% of my readers, NFL players are complete strangers. They've never met, they've never had a conversation, and the extent of their relationship is watching them on television once a week.

So if I say that SoAndSo McLastnamerson is overrated or doesn't play as well as he's credited, that's just my professional analysis. It's not foolproof. Sure, I saw Richard Sherman and Calvin Johnson coming, but I also thought Cordarrelle Patterson and Darren McFadden were gonna be great NFL players. It's not a science, you could build a player from the ground up, but if he doesn't have the motivation, he'll never achieve the kind of success that an inferior athlete with heart will.

Randy Moss, perhaps the best athlete to ever play receiver, is a hall of fame player. But he was also insanely one dimensional. He only knew one route. He ran deep and used his insane athleticism to catch the ball. When he ran deep, the ball was well thrown, and he jumped at the right time, nobody is taking that ball away.

However, when you start having the "best ever" conversation, what name usually comes up first?
If you said anything other than Jerry Rice, I'm more than a little surprised.
Now, don't get me wrong, I actually don't think Jerry is the very best of all time, but there's no debating that he's in the conversation.
Very few people outside of Minnesota and maybe New England would say Randy Moss before Jerry Rice, despite the fact that Jerry is three inches shorter, ten pounds lighter, and approximately .5 seconds slower. There's no question that Randy Moss is a significantly better athlete than Jerry Rice.
But there's also no question that Jerry Rice was a significantly better receiver.
He knew more routes, had better hands, ate YAC like PAC Man (So... YAC Man?), and was always reliable.
Randy really only knew the aforementioned 9 route, had a tendency to drop the easier passes, and would get frustrated and give up if he wasn't targeted early or often enough.
And before anyone mentions that Randy broke Jerry's record of TD catches in a season...
Randy Moss played 16 games in a pass-happy offense with Tom Brady.
Jerry Rice did play in a pass-friendly west coast offense with Joe Montana, but he caught 22 touchdowns in 12 freaking games. If Jerry had played as many games as Randy did, he was on pace for 30 touchdowns in a league that wasn't too fond of receivers yet.

Why am I explaining all of this?
Just to re-establish that 100% of sportswriting is at least 50% speculation.
I see the game a certain way, and you see things a different way. Sure, some things we'll obviously agree on, but there will many things that you see differently.

Let me list a few examples of opinions that I have that you might not agree with.

Cam vs. Brady- The MVP Race.

I don't think Cam Newton should be in the same conversation as Tom Brady when it comes to the MVP trophy. Sure, his Panthers are still undefeated, while Tom Brady lost his first game this season last week, but there are variables that nobody wants to consider. There are arguments that people are bending or manipulating to fir their argument and then abandon when it's used against them.
Mainly, it's this one.
"Cam Newton should be MVP because his team is winning and he doesn't have any offensive help."
And on the surface... they're not wrong. I certainly don't envy a quarterback that has Ted Ginn Jr. as a number one receiver.
But if you look a little deeper... Cam has a lot of help.
For a minute, let's forget that their runningback, Jonathan Stewart, is third in rushing.
Let's forget that Greg Olsen is one of the most respected tight ends in the league, and is clearly still in his prime (On pace for 77 catches, 1,146 yards, 9 touchdowns).
The Carolina Panthers might have the best defense in football.
They're second in yards per game (312.5), third in sacks (33), and they lead the league in takeaways (28).
Now include Greg Olsen.
Now include Jonathan Stewart.
You want to tell me that the 20th ranked passer in the NFL should be MVP because he doesn't have any talent around him?
Let's flip the script.
Tom Brady is currently leading the NFL in yards (3,600), TD-to-INT ratio (28/4), first downs (172), and good ol' fashion QBR (106.7).
His team lost one game... on the road... in overtime... against another playoff team... without their four leading receivers, with a beat up offensive line, in the snow, with bad officiating.
Without that game, the Patriots are still undefeated!
New England's active leading rusher? LeGarrette Blount, with 236 fewer yards than Stewart.
And the defense? Gives up about 50 yards more per game, with half as many turnovers.
Yeah, the Patriots have only taken the ball away fifteen times this year.
Sure, Gronkowski is easily the best tight end in football, maybe even all time, but is that really enough to justify the difference in their statistics?
The MVP is not a team award, it is an individual award, given to the most valuable player in the league.
You can't sit here and tell me the Patriots would suffer less than Carolina if they both lost their quarterbacks.
For me, there isn't even a conversation, Tom Brady is the runaway MVP, and the only people who should even be on the ballot with him are Carson Palmer, Luke Kuechly, and JJ freaking Watt.

Christian Hackenbust?

I don't believe that Christian Hackenberg will be a good quarterback in the NFL. Hackenberg certainly looks the part. He's 6'4, 230, and runs a sub-5 40 yard dash. He's demonstrated good arm strength and adequate accuracy. However, his footwork needs dramatic improvement and his decision making is terrifying. When I watch Hackenberg, another "promising" quarterback prospect comes to mind. Another guy who looked the part, was a good athlete, and looked like he could really be something. In fact, this guy is still playing in the NFL today.
His name is Blaine Gabbert, and he's currently filling in while the 49ers tank the 2015 season.
Here's the reality of scouting NFL players.
It's a crap-shoot.
Even if you watch every snap a kid takes in high school and college, even if you analyse every twitch of a muscle at the combine, even if you take him out for a nice seafood dinner, there's no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL draft.
People get paid (and quite handsomely, I might add) to speculate about how good a player might be and quite often they are wrong.
Experts said that Tom Brady lacked intangibles, that Darren McFadden would be better than Adrian Peterson, that Ryan Leaf had more potential than Peyton Manning, and that Rolando McClain was a "can't miss" talent.
Can't miss, huh?
Tell that to the runningbacks that effortlessly dodged the big guy when he played for my Raiders.

So, I see Hackenberg and immediately think Gabbert, but come draft day, someone will take a chance on him, and who knows, maybe he'll hit the field running and become something really spectacular.

In Summation...

So at the end of the day, speculation is just that.
We're essentially gambling on players, putting only our reputations on the table.
NFL scouts aren't going to read my pages and change their board.
Otherwise, someone would've talked Cleveland into drafting literally any other quarterback last year.

The same is true for predicting the results of a game every week.
Let me walk you through my process really quickly.
I look at the match-up, consider what I know about each team, peek at the injury report, look where the game is being played, and then I guess.
That's the key word here, ladies and gentlemen.
I guess.
I'm not Vince McMahon, I don't sit there, five minutes before the game starts, and scribble in a winner because one team is more aesthetically appealing than the other.
I make educated guesses, and while, I'm right a lot of the time, I'm also wrong a lot of the time. This year, I'm hovering around 63%. It's not great, but it's certainly not bad, by any means.
I don't pick the team that I want to win, I don't pick the team that I think is better, I pick the team that I believe will win that week.

Now, I bet you're wondering.
Why the hell am I explaining all of this?
That's a good question.
In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to.
In a perfect world, I would say, "Here's my opinion, and here are some facts backing up my opinion", and then if you disagreed, you would say, "Hey, I respect your opinion, but here's how I feel." play
That would be it.
That's not how it is.
People take things so personally.
If I pick your favorite team to lose, I'm not saying that they will or that you're a loser by proxy, only that I think your team is going to lose.
People live vicariously through their favorite players and teams and then they project these personal feelings into a professional environment and it's just annoying.
The Raiders defense is terrible.
They miss tackles, blow coverages, and have no idea how to contain a tight end.
Sometimes, the playcalling from Musgrave gets really conservative and it loses us games.
These things frustrate me because I am emotionally invested in the success my team, but if you tell me my team sucks, I understand that you are talking about the Oakland Raiders, and not the Oakland Ryans.
I can not stress enough that these are opinions.
These are my opinions.
Just because they're right to me, that doesn't make them right to you, or even in general.
Everyone is entitled to their own, and despite everything I've said here, I actually really enjoy a healthy debate.
Healthy, I say, because I'm never going to convince some people that their favorite team is terrible. Cognitive dissonance makes the world go round, and if I'm going to put that kind of energy into a debate, I better be getting paid for it.
However, if you have actual statistics, or evidence to prove that your opinion trumps mine, I'll listen, and who knows, maybe you'll even convince me I'm wrong.
But in the meantime, if I say that good ol' SoAndSo McLastnamerson is a little overrated, and you're wearing his jersey?
Maybe think twice before sending an email, tweet, or sliding up into my DMs.

Thank you for reading my nonsensical rant. I hope you were, at the very least, amused.
Thanks for comin' out.


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