“If They Don’t Care…”

Editor’s Note: Very busy but this article was sent to me by a reader and I want to share it – because I agree 100%. I’ve stated my case on the subject when QB Kenny Pickett turned his back on his “We not Me” teammates and thus shot down Pitt’s real chance at a 12 win season last year. Which, BTW, would have been the first 12 win season we have had since the 1976 National Championship.

Gee – wonder what would have happened if Tony Dorsett was afraid of injury and sat that game out? I mean really, did we need his 202 rushing yards and his TD?

Following is an article published on Dec 23rd and here is the link to read it at the Gazette website. It was written by the PG’s Paul Zeise who, in my opinion, the the only straight shooting writer covering Pitt football. His views are sometimes controversial but I find him uncannily accurate.

So, let me get this straight…

Pitt is going to El Paso next week to play in the Sun Bowl without its starting quarterback, running back, at least two offensive linemen, three defensive linemen (including one who is an All American), its best linebacker and its best safety?

Does that about sum it up? Do I have this right?

There are nine players who are either transferring or opting out of Pitt’s Sun Bowl game, and I’m told there may even be one or two more. They are all getting ready for the NFL draft or going to play somewhere else, and most of them are the best players on the team — you know, the ones that people most want to see play.

Last week, in some bowl at Fenway Park, neither team had their head coach because both had left for some other job. In fact, the coach of the one team actually left to coach the other team, so that made for some awkward moments I am sure.

Jordan Addison, the former Pitt star turned USC star, was paid $3 million and some change (if you believe reports) to play at USC. Of course, that deal apparently didn’t include playing in the Cotton Bowl because he opted out, as well.

Hey, the good news is James Franklin is boasting his team is mostly intact, and they are! Well, that is if you overlook the fact their best defensive player, Joey Porter Jr., is opting out of the Rose Bowl.

I was reading about one game where it is basically two teams playing their third-string quarterbacks. There are games involving skeleton coaching staffs working for interim head coaches, game involving teams whose best players are already on to their next schools …

Enough is enough.

At some point, I have to ask this very pointed question about all these bowl games:

If these people, coaches and players who are supposedly being rewarded for a good season, don’t care enough about these things to take them seriously and participate in them, why the hell should anyone else?

Why should we care if they don’t care?

Why should we watch them if they are such an afterthought that it has become perfectly acceptable for coaches and players to skip them?

If these games have basically become either glorified exhibitions or early spring games, there is no reason to watch them or care about them.

And I am quite sure the people that run these bowls didn’t sign up to spend millions to host “next year’s” teams. It is absurd, and it is not sustainable.

Spare me the lectures about how all of these players who are opting out are “taking care of themselves” and “protecting their future,” as well. 

For one thing, let’s stop with all of this hyperbole about “career-ending injuries” because it is the ultimate example of a bogeyman. These types of career-ending injuries are so incredibly rare it is laughable that they are used as justification for players sitting out of bowl games.

And even the few times a major injury has happened to draftable players, they haven’t been career-ending. The two most gruesome examples of bowl-game injuries I can think of were to Miami’s Willis McGahee and Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith.

McGahee was still a first-round pick. Smith was still a second-round pick. Both ended up earning north of $30 million in their careers. And they had far more complex and dangerous injuries than the overwhelming majority of players.

One could argue both could have earned more without their injuries, but considering both had careers that lasted five years or longer, that is a hard argument to make. And more importantly, if “career-ending” means “can still earn $30 million or more,” sign me up for career-ending.

If a player is a first-round draft choice or projected to be a high second-round draft choice, it makes sense to use some caution and sit out the bowl game. If a player isn’t projected to be a high second or better pick, it is dumb for them to sit out because they should want as much film as possible out there on them.

And the other thing that makes all of this stuff about “players need to protect themselves from major injuries in the bowl games” seem like nonsense is the teams that are in the playoff games don’t have anyone opting out.

So, if it really is about “taking care of myself” and avoiding the incredible danger and risk of playing an extra game, why aren’t the best players from the four playoff teams all opting out?

I mean, are we to believe the playoff games are safer for players than non-playoff games? Is there some sort of magical formula and magical dust that ensures all of those first-round picks from Georgia and Ohio State will be safe?

There isn’t, and yet, those guys are still playing the game.

But let’s not let coaches off the hook, either, a group constantly preaching about loyalty and finishing what you started. They are all asking players to be all in and sacrifice and be committed and all that stuff all season long.

And, then, at the end of the year, they take another job and jump ship before the season is actually over. If that is the case, what the heck is the hurry for these guys to ditch their teams to take their new jobs?

I have no issue with coaches taking another job; that’s part of the profession. This is America. Go get your job and presumably your pay raise. The idea coaches shouldn’t take other jobs is stupid, especially when they can be fired on any day by an administrator who wants a different direction.

I do have an issue, however, with this accepted practice that coaches leave before the bowl game and leave their teams to prepare with a skeleton staff. Coaches could recruit on the phone at night. They could hire some of their new staff from the phone at night, and they could handle their business administratively via this thing called the internet, as well.

There is no reason they should leave before the last game, and the last game, by the way, is the bowl game.

It is all a part of the stupidity that is passed off as “modern-day college athletics,” and the worst part is we are just supposed to accept it all — players opting out, players transferring before the bowl game, coaches leaving before the bowl game, outrageous NIL sums being offered to players by one school even though they are playing for a different school — as standard operating procedure.

It is all so absurd. 

Again, players and coaches have to do what is best for them. This is America, and I will never begrudge them for doing what is best for them.

Just please stop insulting my intelligence by telling me I’m supposed to care about these bowl games and I’m supposed to not view them as a total farce. If the people they are supposed to be a reward for can’t be bothered to care, none of us should, either.

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or Twitter: @paulzeise

First Published December 23, 2022, 5:30am