The height of ridiculousness

When the top story out of the meat market known as the NFL Combine is a quarterback’s measured height, well, that’s a red flag for me. Not on the player, but on the system.

Never mind that the top three rated quarterbacks in the draft won’t throw tomorrow. And forget about the fact that the top running back and the top receiver won’t run. We’re talking weights and measurements here.

A little perspective: The combine takes place in Indianapolis, where Peyton Manning has put together a Hall of Fame career since emerging as the top pick  in the 1998 NFL draft. But many people seem to forget that Manning was not the clear-cut No. 1 choice of NFL experts at that time. Some preferred Ryan Leaf, who was a bit bigger and had the stronger arm, so they said.

They measured a player’s height and weight at the combine back then, too. And even after Leaf weighed in at almost 20 pounds over his playing weight, there were still people who believed that he was the safer bet than Manning.

The Colts took Manning first anyway; the Chargers selected Leaf with the second pick. One is headed for the Hall of Fame, the other is regarded as one of the biggest draft busts of all time.

The weight gained by Leaf after he concluded his collegiate career should have been an omen. Yet the Chargers took him anyway, and the rest is history.

There have been no major concerns about Robert Griffin III’s weight, just his height.

The Heisman Trophy winner out of Baylor, according to the experts who do this for a living, is the second-ranked quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft. He was listed in the Baylor program at 6 feet 2 inches last season. But some NFL executives feared that Griffin was actually 6 feet 1 inch or, God forbid, 6 feet even.

There is a perception among people who decide the future of NFL franchises that quarterbacks less than 6 feet 2 inches tall do not fare as well as those who are 6 feet 2 or taller.

Hello? Has anyone seen this kid play at Baylor? Live or on tape? Was anyone watching as RGIII impressed everyone at the combine with his very presence in front of the microphones and cameras?

Well, it’s a good thing that Griffin was measured at 6 feet 2 and 3/8 inches. Now everyone can relax. He’s tall enough to play quarterback in the NFL.

It absolutely astounds me that talent evaluators are willing to throw away everything they’ve seen and learned about a player through his entire collegiate career over something like half an inch. I’m not saying that RGIII would not be drafted if he was 6 feet 1 and 7/8 inches, but in today’s NFL he is more highly regarded today because he is taller than 6 feet 2. “Highly regarded” translates into draft position and draft position can mean a difference of millions of dollars in salary or bonus.

It’s the same kind of garbage that dropped Drew Brees into the second round of the 2001 draft. Last time I checked, Brees is still 6 feet even.

And even though it sounds like I’m picking on San Diego, it’s interesting to note that it was the Chargers who gave up on Brees and traded him to the Saints when they decided he could never help them win.

Brees: 6 feet even. Leaf: 6 feet 5 inches.

Remember, the people who are making these multimillion-dollar decisions – the ones who are influenced by a half inch or so – are not so far removed from their predecessors who believed that a black man could not excel at quarterback in the NFL.

I guess if we’re arguing over RGIII’s height rather than the color of his skin, you can call that progress in today’s NFL.

I’ll accept that.

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