In this, Joe looks at top quarterback selections in the NFL draft and points out that these players almost never make it to the levels expected of them. In case you’re not aware, the system in the NFL is that each season the worst team gets to choose first from a pool of all the nation’s young talent, and so on and so forth. It’s a way of levelling the playing field.
Anyway, these teams have top scouts on the case and don’t take these decisions lightly. What Posnanski does then is ask what it is that Aaron Rodgers, the recent Super Bowl winner, has that nobody noticed when he was drafted (he wasn’t a high selection) and what he has that others thought better than him did not.
What you get from these quotes and just about everything Rodgers says — in addition to steady and pleasant boredom — is a sense of someone who thinks about things constantly, even little things that few others think about. He seems to be someone who simply cannot imagine staying the same, simply cannot imagine that he’s already good enough. There are so many potential distractions at the NFL level, some of them off the field (money, fame, fan fickleness …), some on the field (dealing with pain — Rodgers has a history of concussions — standing up to a heavy rush, the inner workings of a team …). And the most successful quarterbacks, bar none, are the ones who deal with those distractions and never believe the hype and continue to hunger for even the slightest improvement.
That is a lot tougher trait to scout than arm strength and how much a player can bench press.
There’s more along these lines. The quotes that he gathers about Rodgers essentially say nothing, which is to suggest that nobody really knows what it is that makes him so good.
Posnanski thinks he knows: what Rodgers seems to have is a gift for hard work, for self-improvement. The triumph isn’t against adversity, it’s against stagnation and against comfort. Most of us cruise when we get to a certain point; some keep on going (we see this among the great batsmen of course). Is this what football scouting should be focusing on? Finding the talented players, but placing greater emphasis on character than is (presumably) now the case? All the old pros talk about a lack of discipline amongst young footballers (Roy Keane is particularly good on these things*); maybe they’re right. But as they also say, where’s the incentive for young footballers, who can be inhumanely wealthy without ever achieving anything?
Have a read of the article anyway.
*”According to one authoritative account of his final days at Sunderland, his relationship with senior players unravelled to the point where Keane only really appeared to derive any pleasure from escorting promising young schoolboy footballers round the club. When they approached the first-team changing areas, the manager routinely cautioned: “Be careful not to trip over the hair-gel containers.” It did not need a psychologist to spot the disillusion in his voice.”