(Sports Network) - Maybe the San Diego Chargers were "catfished" when they
traded up in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday to select Notre Dame
linebacker Manti Te'o with the 38th overall selection.
Or maybe they were doing the "catfishing" and taking advantage of some close-
"We thought, on our defense, we were missing that other inside linebacker,"
Chargers general manger Tom Telesco said in a statement after making the move.
"Te'o can step in. We thought he was the most instinctive and productive
linebacker in the draft."
Hindsight will be the ultimate judge but the process surrounding the former
Fighting Irish star's fall from grace was never above board, torpedoed by
One national scout was so down on Te'o, he recently told me that the runner-up
for the Heisman Trophy "wasn't able to get off blocks in four or five games
To me that was a bit harsh and a direct indictment of every writer who votes
for that award. After all Notre Dame was 12-0 and Te'o was the unquestioned
leader of one of the nation's best defenses before the BCS National
Championship Game, a contest in which he truly couldn't get off the blocks of
NFL-level talent like Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones.
So, I broached the subjects that everyone runs from, asking the scout to
ignore political correctness and give me the skinny on the "catfishing"
scandal along with the rumors about Te'o's sexuality.
He acted like it wasn't an issue and that's been the public narrative, one in
which the NFL Network and ESPN have repeated ad nauseam like it was a
political talking point ... NFL personnel people don't care about Te'o's
bizarre behavior and are only relying on the film to grade him.
It's a ludicrous denial and one which borders on incompetence if it were true.
People who hire and fire not only have every right to question Te'o, they
should have and did time and time again.
Think about it, if everyone is so interested in Tyrann Mathieu's smoking
habits, don't you think a general manager or two might continue to question
Teo's fake girlfriend or at least how he handled the whole situation?
Some teams clearly "red flagged" him and pretending otherwise is disingenuous.
As for the on-the-field stuff, if you're playing Devil's advocate isn't it
conceivable that Te'o played poorly against Alabama because he knew his
bizarre story was about to go public? Or maybe it was as simple as he just
didn't handle six weeks off all that well.
But to say he didn't play well at the college level last season is ignoring
every piece of empirical evidence we have.
Not only was Te'o the Heisman runner-up to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny
Manziel, he was one of the most decorated college players of all time, taking
home the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, Nagurski Award,
Walter Camp Award, and Maxwell Award.
That kind of stuff doesn't guarantee success in the NFL, just ask Tim Tebow
but it sure as hell proves you were able to get off blocks at the college
"I'm excited to play football," Te'o said during a conference call Friday. "I
can't control what people say. Honestly, I don't really pay too much attention
to that. I came here to play football. That's all I want to do is play
football and take care of my family, and that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Some NFL draft analysts who value their reputations insist Te'o would have
been a first-round pick without the baggage. But, others act like he's a mid-
level prospect propped up by a legendary college football program.
The one problem with that is Notre Dame had lost most of its relevancy until
one player actually restored it with his brilliant 2012 campaign ... Manti
And Telesco just bought in on the ground floor.
"(Teo is) going to fit in excellent with our 3-4 defense with how we're going
to play our linebackers," the Chargers' personnel chief said. "He's going to
compliment (fellow inside linebacker) Donald Butler really well. We thought in
order to get him we had to be aggressive and go up and do it."
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