SportsProf

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Adrian McPherson's Second Chance

I've always hypothesized that there are probably hundreds of guys in the United States with the talent to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. Some, arguably, never get the chance. They're the QBs from Division III schools who are late bloomers, from Division II schools who couldn't get into a Division I school, from Division I schools who didn't benefit from the best supporting casts. Those guys don't always get the exposure, even if they play on championship teams or have outstanding talent. The NFL teams have to be selective somehow, so, naturally, they gravitate to star QBs, usually from winning teams (or in the case of Matt Cassel, a back-up QB to stars on national championship teams).

That not all of the star college QBs become stars in the pros and that not all of the winning QBs on outstanding teams become stars in the pros (for examples of the latter, see Ryan Leaf and of the former, see Craig Krenzel) means there are those kids out there who don't get the chance. How many is open to question, but in a country with a population of 280 million people, there are bound to be a few hundred. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard QB, was a star in the Ivies, but he might not be viewed as a potential NFL starter precisely because he played his college football against teams like the Cornell Big Red instead of red-uniformed players from Oklahoma and Nebraska. He might be a back-up, but will he ever be entrusted to start?

There are also those who never give themselves the chance. They can't get their grades together, can't get along with coaches, just can't find their rhythm in a major college program. There will always be those types, the Jeff Georges and Ryan Leafs of the high school and college ranks who never get any traction under their careers. That's not to say they don't have the talent; it is to say that they cannot harness it enough to show what they can do.

And then there are the kids who get more than once chance, who had all the advantages and at least the first time around couldn't realize how privileged they were. These are the fortunate ones, and it's because of that dreaded word "potential" that some people always will hold out hope that it will be with the next chance that they'll be able to realize their full potential. Many teams looked hard at Jeff George time after time, and there are teams that looked at Ryan Leaf after his implosion in San Diego.

And that brings us to Adrian McPherson. I have blogged on him extensively, and I took the position that he made many mistakes at a young age and deserved a second chance. I was somewhat tough on those who didn't believe he warranted that chance, but those people had a point. The charges against McPherson were serious, and while he was generally repentant he didn't totally address the most serious charges -- that he gambled on games. As a result, all observers should allow for the doubting -- McPherson clearly wasn't the elite QB prospect coming into the NFL draft that he was coming out of HS and into Florida State.

Adrian McPherson should take stock of all of those who never got the chance or never made the most of the only chance they were likely to get and then make sure he stays on the straight and narrow and makes the most of this opportunity. He was drafted by the Saints, a team with Aaron Brooks (who probably won't get many more chances to show he can lead a team to the playoffs) and Todd Bouman, a good back-up but perhaps not likely to be an NFL star, as its QBs, and neither of those players is in the upper echelon of NFL QBs. In short, he's on a team which, if it doesn't get off to a great start, might give him a chance to show what he can do. It's a great fit for him, as he is not stuck behind an incumbent who looks to be safe in his job for years (we all know who they are). He's also relatively close to his Florida home.

An NFL career averages four years, and the window closes so quickly on most players that by the time they blink their careers are over. Adrian McPherson's career has taken a path distinctly differently from those who, like him, were the top recruits out of HS. The detours were plentiful, but now he's back on the right path. And he's only 21 years old.

Given what's been said of his talents, it may be the case that the only one who can stop Adrian McPherson is. . . Adrian McPherson. I wish him the best in his attempts to recognize his full potential and to resurrect his career.

Second chances aren't easily given, and Adrian McPherson finds himself at a lower spot on an NFL team's depth chart than his HS success had forecast. He has handled adversity well thus far, and great challenges lie ahead.

Tough challenges, of course, but perhaps there's no NFL draftee out there who's happier being a fifth-round pick than Adrian McPherson.

The window of opportunity has opened once more for him.

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