NFL

Bubble doesn't help black QBs

Image: Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (© Jeremy Brevard/US Presswire)
Can Cam Newton handle criticism? If he can't, he'll never grow into a great QB.
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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Dear Jason:

My family was very offended you used my name in connection with Tony Romo in one of your columns. We enjoy your truthful commentary on the NFL. Tony Romo is unworthy of the name Boo Boo, and we’re Falcons fans around these parts.

Thanks, sugar,

Honey Boo Boo’s mama

Your NFL Truths for Week 8:

10. The “information bubble” is the No. 1 obstacle/hindrance for black NFL quarterbacks.

This bubble creates delusion, erodes self-awareness and unwittingly undermines a black QB’s chance of sustaining success.

Cam Newton is a victim of the information bubble. Robert Griffin III is the bubble’s next target.

Let me explain. We’re in our political season. Democrats and Republicans both have their respective information bubbles, MSNBC and FOX News, respectively. They can lock their televisions on a single channel and avoid hearing their perspectives challenged in a credible way and hear their critics’ lambasted. It’s comforting. It’s polarizing. It’s unhealthy for intellectual growth and our democracy.

Black sports fans and black pop-culture media (not sports media) have created a loosely-formed-but-influential social-media and talk-radio information bubble for black QBs. This network of groupthink roars on sports-talk radio, black-owned radio stations, Facebook and Twitter, pumping out the message that Newton, Griffin and others can do no wrong and any criticism of them is rooted in racism. Fear of backlash from this network of well-intentioned enablers causes many mainstream sports analysts (media and fans of all colors) to avoid being totally honest about black QBs.

That’s how a career-killing, information bubble is formed.

White QBs don’t have to deal with this. In Kansas City, a group of fans paid for a banner to be flown over Arrowhead Stadium that called for owner Clark Hunt to bench Matt Cassel. Kansas City’s backup quarterback is Brady Quinn, the Cleveland bust. He’s not a solution. But he was named the starter on Monday.

Imagine the uproar if Eagles fans took similar action against turnover-machine Michael Vick? There would be riots in the streets. Philly fans would be labeled racist.

Information bubbles are destructive, whether in politics or sports.

Cam Newton is being ruined. In the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, Newton, once again, handled the postgame news conference horribly. He not-so-subtly criticized his coaching staff. He flippantly quipped that he wanted to bring a suggestion box into the news conference. He condescendingly called a female reporter “sweetheart.”

He sounded like a crybaby and a loser. The black information bubble immediately leaped to Cam’s defense, claiming Cam’s critique of the offensive strategy was accurate.

The accuracy of his complaints is irrelevant. A quarterback is in partnership with his head coach and offensive coordinator. Their disagreements and criticisms should be handled internally and not referenced at a news conference by the QB.

What does RG3 have to do with any of this?

Well, informational bubbles are often uninformed. Along with being insecure and defensive, they can also be overly enthusiastic out of ignorance.

RG3 is off to a very nice, promising start. But football is not basketball, a quarterback is not a small forward and RG3 is not LeBron James. You could see LeBron’s ability to dominate the NBA when he was a junior in high school. Within 10 games of his NBA career, you could tell James would own the league one day. Basketball is the 100-meter dash; the sprinter that gets out of the blocks quick has a huge advantage. Football is a marathon with multiple variables, especially for a QB.

It’s way too early to anoint RG3. The information bubble has already decided the Colts made a mistake taking Andrew Luck ahead of Griffin. That’s ridiculous. We don’t know yet. There’s not nearly enough information. RG3 has the benefit of playing for a highly experienced head coach. Luck is playing for a new coaching staff that is dealing with the loss of its brand-new head coach.

Furthermore, in reaction to fear of the black information bubble, the mainstream media seem intent on pitting RG3 vs. Newton. On Monday, rather than individually deal with Cam’s immature postgame news conference, ESPN spent the day comparing RG3’s postgame comments to Cam’s.

Why?

It wasn’t a conversation about their playing styles and ability to scramble and throw. It wasn’t a conversation about Cam and RG3 both winning the Heisman Trophy. It was a conversation about Cam’s lack of leadership as a second-year starting quarterback. RG3 has nothing to do with that. ESPN is afraid the information bubble will call ESPN racist for pointing out Cam is a poor leader so the Worldwide Leader protected itself by portraying RG3 as the ultimate leader. We don’t know if Griffin is a great leader. We won’t know until he deals with some real NFL adversity. I suspect he’ll handle adversity quite well. He might be the Ray Lewis of adversity (Ray might be the best leader in sports history). But we just don’t know yet.

Compare Cam to Jay Cutler, Vince Young, Jeff George — talented QBs who struggled with leadership — or compare Cam to his second-year QB peers, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert.

But don’t drag Griffin into Cam’s problems. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s a consequence of the black information sports bubble.

9. Close loss to Patriots further proves the Jets are a bad, poorly coached team.

Bad teams find ways to lose even when they’re playing well.

The Jets played a great game on Sunday and did just enough to blow it. Stephen Hill’s drop of a critical third-down pass on New York’s second-to-last possession of regulation is being pointed to as the key mistake in the Jets’ demise. New York had to settle for a game-tying field goal. Receivers drop passes. I can live with that.

The critical error, in my mind, was strategic. New England fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Jets had a chance to put the game away. Mark Sanchez was playing well. New York offensive coordinator Tony Sparano foolishly sent Tim Sideshow onto the field on first down to run the wildcat. It was a conservative and stupid move. Timmy Sideshow ran for 2 yards. On the next play, Sparano ran return man Joe McKnight off tackle for 1 yard. It was a conservative and stupid move. Now it’s third down and all the pressure is on Sanchez and New York’s offensive line. Sanchez gets sacked, Jets settle for a go-ahead field goal and leave plenty of time on the clock for Tom Brady.

Rex Ryan is supposed to have a big pair. He didn’t show ‘em on Sunday.

8. Jim Harbaugh played quarterback in the NFL. John Harbaugh was a special-teams coach in the NFL. If you’re ever given a choice between hiring a former QB or a former special-teams coach, go with the QB.

EYE CANDY

We're not just watching the field on Sunday. NFL cheerleaders provide the perfect sideshow.

John Harbaugh wants to prove he’s an offense-friendly head coach. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for his insistence on preferring Joe Flacco over Ray Rice. We keep repeating the same story in Baltimore. Ray Rice doesn’t run the ball enough and Joe Flacco throws it too much.

Do John and Jim Harbaugh talk to each other? Jim has a mediocre quarterback he protects with Frank Gore and a running game. John has a mediocre quarterback he exposes by abandoning his running game.

John, call Jim for advice.

7. Jon Gruden’s perfect landing spot is in Detroit. The Lions have the nucleus for a Super Bowl contender.

Jim Schwartz is who Jim Harbaugh thought he was. Schwartz is in over his head. I like the Lions' personnel. They have talent. They’re poorly coached.

Jon Gruden is going to return to coaching. You pair him with Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson and you have an explosive offense. The right defensive scheme and coaching will unleash Detroit’s front four.

The Lions are a sleeping giant. The right coach and they’re the offensive version of the San Francisco 49ers.

6. Broncos fans are on my butt about my early-season comments that Peyton Manning was “toast.” OK, he’s not toast. I was wrong.

Manning’s arm magically got stronger. He looks great. I don’t mind being wrong. It’ll happen again. I’d love to know how and why Manning’s arm got stronger, and that’s not a sarcastic criticism. But we went from Manning’s arm being “it is what it is” to being better than what it was.

The AFC is weak. I can see Manning and the Broncos taking advantage and winning the AFC Championship. Right now I see the Texans and Broncos in the AFC title game.

5. The schedule is the only logical explanation for the Bears being 5-1. Seriously.

I’m not buying the Bears. They’ve beaten the Colts, Rams, Jaguars, Cowboys and Lions. That’s not 'Dre, ‘Pac, Snoop, Suge and Nate Dogg. It’s not Death Row. It’s No Limit Toy Soldiers.

To their credit, the Bears blew out Indy, St. Louis, Dallas and Jacksonville. The Bears are a mystery. Is their offensive line any good? Is Brian Urlacher too old? We won’t figure the Bears out for three weeks. They play Carolina and Tennessee the next two weekends.

Chicago could be 7-1 before it faces a seven-week stretch against Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, Minnesota, Green Bay and Arizona. Jay Cutler won’t survive that stretch. J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, Jared Allen and Clay Matthews are going to annihilate Chicago’s offensive line.

4. Did I mention Brady Quinn won the KC starting job with a zero-TD, two-INT, 38-10 blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Think about that. Matt Cassel has a $60 million contract and he just lost his job to a guy who played like he’s overpaid at $1.5 million. During a series of face-saving interviews last week, Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli promised he didn’t dictate to Romeo Crennel or Todd Haley that Cassel had to be the starting quarterback. But Pioli has never signed a viable backup QB to challenge Cassel.

Now do you understand why there’s a fan revolt (@saveourchiefs on Twitter or saveourchiefs.com) in KC?

3. This is simply a hunch: It’s too early to count out the Saints.

I’m not saying they’re going to make the playoffs. It’s nearly impossible to dig out from 0-4. But the Saints are not going to quit. They’ve been in every game this year. They’re riding a two-game winning streak. They have the Broncos this week on Sunday night. New Orleans will be motivated and emotional.

The Saints are going to be a problem for the high-caliber teams left on their schedule (Atlanta twice, San Fran, the Giants, Denver and Philly). I see the Saints finishing 8-8.

2. Bill Snyder is the NCAA Coach of the Year and Collin Klein should be in a two-man race with Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o for the Heisman Trophy.

It’s difficult to appreciate just how good of a coach Snyder is. He is as good as any coach in football on any level. Snyder is as good as Lombardi, Belichick, Bear Bryant, Saban, Noll and Brady Hoke. (Eat it, Ohio Buckeyes and Urban Meyer.)

I don’t have any doubt that Snyder could win at the highest level in the NFL, at Alabama, Michigan, Florida, LSU and Ohio. I’m not sure Lombardi, Belichick, Bryant, Saban, Noll and Meyer could win consistently at Kansas State. (Hoke could win anywhere they lace ‘em up.)

As for Klein, he’s not a pro player. That’s fine. But he and Te’o are the two most important players in college football.

1. I’m officially a Man On Fire: hit a two-teamer with the Saints and Jets over the weekend.

Pay your mortgage this weekend with Atlanta plus 2.5 at Philly.

Tagged: Bears, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Colts, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Jets, 49ers, Redskins, Panthers, Ravens, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Tony Romo, Jared Allen, Matt Cassel, Jay Cutler, Brady Quinn, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Mark Sanchez, Joe McKnight, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Stephen Hill, Robert Griffin

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