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Beat The Dead Horse

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By John Dawson, Special to Burnt Orange Nation
John is a former recruiting reporter for the
Birmingham News in Alabama. You can also read John's blog at Caffeine and Irony.

A morning jaunt through the newswires for my day job revealed this interesting note: Houston police arrested Reggie McNeal, the former Texas A&M quarterback and erstwhile Cincinnati Bengals receiver, outside a nightclub Sunday night after McNeal got violent when club officials denied him entrance. Police charged him with resisting arrest.

McNeal's sad plummet from the top of Texas A&M's passing charts to practice squad wide receiver (though now active) provides just another opportunity to judge his career against his longtime rival, Vince Young. For some of you, comparing McNeal to the former Texas quarterback seems unfair - something like breaking down the matchup between the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals for the umpteenth time. As documented below, Vince has become a stabilizing force on a bad Titans team. With him at the helm, the Titans seem to be on something of a roll. And then there's McNeal, whose fall has slipped past the barrier of bad play and into the realm of criminal behavior.

For as long as I hear about Reggie McNeal, I will automatically begin to judge his professional accomplishments with Vince Young. Certainly it's unfair to McNeal. But with TexAgs as my witness, Aggies have themselves to thank for this untenable comparison. It was they who ridiculously shoehorned McNeal into every conversation about the emerging greatness of Vince Young a few years back. TexAgs was replete with commentators suggesting the Aggie dual-threat quarterback had more upside than Young.

Argument over. Actually the argument has been over for years - even the most stubborn of Aggies acknowledge as much. But what can we learn from diverging trajectories of McNeal and Young's stardom?

Allow three quick points:

  1. Rivals100.com recruiting rankings often amount to wild speculation. Like in any futures market, there's sizable risk in evaluating how a high school player will perform on the next stage. If you look at Rivals' top 100 list from 2002 (Young's year), you'll find a bunch of names at the top of the list that you don't recognize. So when evaluating the comparative talents of Jimmy Clausen and John Brantley - don't be certain of what you can't know yet. Only time will tell. More on this point in a later posting.
  2. In Nurture vs. Nature, the nurture doesn't stop when the player enrolls in college. Mack Brown happened to foster an environment that worked for Vince. Perhaps he could have created a better environment for McNeal if the Lufkin quarterback had come to Austin instead.
  3. As Rudy T says, "Never underestimate the heart of a champion." And this might be the biggest difference between McNeal and Young. Driving back from the Rose Bowl last year, I remember reading Bill Plaschke's article following Texas win over USC. In it, he paid Young perhaps the ultimate compliment: Why, he asked, would people keep doubting Young when he keeps proving everybody wrong. Rivals100 rankings have no metric to gauge the player's will.
--JD--