If you haven’t seen the Aaron Hernandez documentary by now I would strongly suggest you do so. The thing I found most important about the documentary was the depth and how it touched on so many different topics and levels, a few which I think get lost in the mix of what a troubled individual Hernandez was or in reality became.
This story is clearly sad, and I know this is a little cliché to say and you will hear it over and over again about athletes that willingly throw away fame and fortune but Hernandez truly had it all and the potential was sky high. I’m not talking about his talent; I’m talking about the looks, the demographics, and the personality to make a huge impact on and off the field. Hernandez was a small town, Hispanic, well liked, good looking, and smart kid and while you have players in the NFL with many of those same features what you don’t have is many, or any really, with a Puerto Rican heritage. Hernandez was poised to be a spokesperson for the entire Hispanic community and a role model for kids who want to pursue a similar path but are told to play baseball instead of football. He was a marketing departments dream and he could have been not only a player but a brand. Unfortunately the “what ifs” are purely hypothetical now so I won’t go down that path but what I really wanted to point out was the calling out, hypocrisy, and win at all costs mentality that is rampant throughout sports at all levels.
It was clear from the second Hernandez’s father passed away that this was a kid that needed direction and needed help. Kids in this situation tend to go down 1 of 2 paths either they find a mentor that can fill a sorely needed void or they get tied into the wrong crowd and use that pent up energy for self-destruction and Hernandez was obviously the latter. At every level you had an immature kid who needed guidance but he was constantly failed by Urban Meyer and the University of Florida and Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots ownership. At Florida Hernandez was shielded from accountability and protected from the law by the power of the football program while numerous violations of the law were wiped clean so he could take the field on Saturday. In New England Hernandez was continually pumped with pain killers and told to play through injuries as the Patriots marched to the Super Bowl. Win at all costs is the mentality preached in High School, sometimes earlier, and then carried out as you progress up the athletic ladder. The Hernandez story is one that illustrates what most sports fans already now, players are commodities not people. People will use you when they need you and forget about you when they don’t. You are a very small blip on the radar of their ultimate goal but hey at least the NFL pays them right? The NCAA on the other hand takes kids, yes they may look like men, but they are still kids and force them to take priority over school work while marching them out there on Saturday to contribute to the schools money machine. Programs like the University of Florida will work with local officials to wipe clean a kid’s record but won’t work with that same kid to educate themselves and maximize their time on campus to be a better person and member of society, it’s sickening.
In conclusion what do you get when you mix early onslaught of CTE symptoms, over use of pain killers, a person with sociopathic tendencies, surrounded by the wrong crowd, and a feeling of invincibility brought on by corrupt programs and organizations? A disaster, or in this case a murderer.
In no particular order here is a list of the remaining quarterbacks in 2019’s NFL Season; Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers. Seems a little off doesn’t it? There is no Brady, No Brees, No Manning, and No Rivers. In other words is it finally time to turn the page on some of the greatest QB’s of our generation? Let’s be honest here too Rodgers is not the same Rodgers. Yes they are the 2 seed and are a favorite to make the NFC championship game but this team is built around the running game and defense. This team is no longer “Rodgers” team and in my opinion he is a glorified game manager at this point in his career and with this particular team. Here are a few nuggets for you to chew on. 2019 Passing Yard rankings (Brady 7, Rodgers 11) Completion Percentage (Brady 27, Rodgers 21) Avg Per Attempt (Brady 27, Brees 10, Rodgers 17) Passing Yards per Game (Brees 8, Brady 13, Rodgers 16) QB Rating (Brady 19, Rodgers 12). Not exactly the days of old right? Had Brees played an entire season he would have ranked among the top 3 in probably each but that is with a historic season from his top weapon and yet another disappointing playoff exit.
So what about the new crop of QBs? Lamar Jackson is a no brainer MVP a year after another no brainer in Patrick Mahomes and as Brady and Brees in particular continue to rewrite the record books the stars of yesterday and their teams continue to either bow out early or fall flat. I am by no means brushing these greats aside and all of them are clearly still highly effective but at no time has it ever been more obvious that the hill is declining for these vets as the younger generation is just starting to scratch the surface of the peak. I would say the NFL is in great hands, I always think back to when MJ was retiring and at his last All Star game he made a speech while the younger generation was standing behind him and he said the next generation of the NBA is in great hands. The NFL can feel safe that they too are in great hands, hands that already include what people can say at this point are “veterans” such as Prescott, Wilson, Goff, Wentz, and Stafford. Over the next decade we will see Watson, Mahomes, Jackson, Allen, Murray, Jones, and potentially the likes of Mayfield and Darnold attempt to step up and grab the throne as the “Next”. The QB class of today’s game is special and can all make plays in a variety of ways and barring injuries we should see epic clashes and rivalries build as the page turns and we usher in the next chapter of the NFL.