Peter King is like a sportswriting equivalent of the movie "Best In Show." His columns read like a complete spoof on the genre. I'm coming around to the alternate theory that this is nothing more than a continuing bit of journalistic performance art. One in which he tries to prove that no matter how many absurdly wrongheaded notions he espouses, he is somehow still taken seriously.
I wonder why more NFL coaches don't simply say: "Hello. Who? Peter King? You are an idiot. Please lose my cell phone number."
Here's what he wrote after the combine:
I was encouraged to see a guy I like a lot, Stanford’s big back, Toby Gerhart, run a 4.53, a little better than people thought he would. Anyone who watched Gerhart play last season and who would think he can’t play in this league and play at a high level just doesn’t know football.
No, you don't know football. And you continue to demonstrate this every time you open that laptop.
I wonder when, or even if, King will realize that the NFL has perhaps the greatest relevance gap between the college version of its game, and the pro version. I wonder when, or even if, King will recall any number of excellent - nay, dominant - college players who couldn't do much more than fill their pants up with farts on Sundays. I wonder when, or even if, King will fess up to his own laughably incorrect assessments about players at the NFL level. (See: "Danny Wuerrful will throw for 3,000+ yards with Spurrier's Redskins.")
And the whole "... just doesn't know football" line is a high school level rhetorical device meant to say - without the crassness of actually saying it - ".... but I DO know football. I am smart!"
The pro prospects of Toby Gerhart are just as muddy as any college draftee. There are a multitude of reasons for this. Among the obvious: scheme he'll be playing in, quality of surrounding players, injuries, mental capacity, professional discipline, coaching staff, and on and on and on.
In my opinion, the biggest reason nobody knows is more basic, more primal.
Toby Gerhart is going to get his ass kicked. Hard.
How do I know this? I have talked to many ex-Redskins (now in the radio and TV biz) who described for me their first year experiences in training camp. Almost to a man, they said the speed, size, and intensity of the pro game was something no amount of warning could adequately prepare them for.
Plus, god forbid Gerhart is a high pick, or gets a fat contract. Then, the guys will really want to fuck him up. Starting with the very first chance they get in a full-pads two-a-day.
What Toby Gerhart does on Day 2 of his pro career, and for every blessed day after that he lasts in this meat grinder of a league, is predicated on how he handles an uncomfortable new reality, one not experienced since he was a little boy. He is no longer the biggest kid on the sandlot.
Deal with it.
Some do better than others, obviously. But nobody knows, not even Peter King, until a newly minted millionaire football player wakes up in camp with a battered body and serious doubts about how to play the game, and decides he either wants to figure it out, or just go through the motions.
Every Redskin fan remembers the case of Desmond Howard. Joe Gibbs actually said on draft day: "We couldn't find anything we didn't like about him." Now this wasn't just Gibbs riffing. This was indeed the consensus of the Redskins scouting braintrust, which for the record, long pre-dated Snyder, Cerrato and that whole clown circus.
Furthermore, when the Skins TRADED UP to get Howard at #4 overall, it's not like the entire football world gasped and said: "Have Gibbs and Casserly gone MAD! What a risky reach the Redskins have made here."
Howard was an electrifying receiver and return man at Michigan, and would have certainly not lasted until the 2nd round. So Howard was, a consensus blue chip pro prospect. This wasn't even a debate at the time.
And yet, one thing that Howard actually couldn't do very well in the NFL, was get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage.
Now why didn't anybody know this was going to be an issue? Perhaps because the "3-Cone Drill" at the combine doesn't simulate NFL press coverage very well with a big, physical DB who can push you off balance AND run up the field with you, stride for stride. Perhaps while the combine was meticulously measuring the 40 yard dash times of a dozen or so top cornerbacks from around the country, they were NOT measuring the utterly crappy 40 yard dash times of the Big Ten stiffs that Howard was beating on rain soaked natural grass fields cut to 2 inches high every week.
("Hey, boss, come look at this. I think I've figured it out. Purdue's corners only run a 4.6 forty, and look: they're playing Howard 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Might be an issue at our level. Just sayin'.")
(NOTE: My colleague Andy says D.C. Richie Pettibone coached in the Senior Bowl that year, and told the Skins brass that "we shut him down with just a safety." Warning, ignored.)
Maybe the scouting staff for the Redskins just looked at all the pretty highlights and said to themselves quietly in a whiny little Homer Simpson voice of envy: "Awwww... I'd love for him to do that for our team next year.... ohhhhh."
And maybe they were scared that if they passed on Howard, and he started doing all that cool touchdown making shit with another team further down in the draft, fans, media and other GMs would look at them and say: "You idiots! How could you pass on Desmond Howard!? Didn't you see him play in college!"
Which is exactly where we left King, sitting on the curb, waiting for the football short bus to come pick him up and drive to the nearest Starbucks. God, what a fucking dummy. It just never ends.