Here is the blame ranking for the Jadeveon Clowney circus that has hijacked USC’s football season:
1-ESPN: The four letter network gets sole possession of first place over the other media outlets for taking one hit in a bowl game and turning it into a national phenomenon. The “worldwide leader” crafted the image that Clowney was a superhuman, unstoppable force that is impossible to stop.
2-All the other media: It would be easy to put all the blame on the national guys, but we local yokels need to take some responsibility too. While some of us did warn there was no way Clowney was going to live up to the ESPN generated hype, we locals probably could have done a better job pointing out the flaws in the national conversation about Clowney. We are guilty for passing along and sharing all of the Paul Bunyanesque stories instead of diffusing them. Then again, drowning out the noise coming from the national media and ESPN is a losing battle. These guys have the build them up to tear them down model down pat: See, Tebow, Tim and Manziel, Johnny for a couple of examples.
3- USC/Steve Spurrier: In late August Steve Spurrier had finally had enough of all the Clowney talk and all of the Clowney questions and said it was time to talk about the rest of his team. He pointed out there are 10 other guys on defense and 11 others on offense. This was spot on, but the problem is it was about six months too late. Spurrier and USC had to figure out the balance between savoring the free publicity for the Gamecocks and all of the benefits that provides, and not letting things get so overblown that they become a distraction. If Spurrier had made the same comments during spring practice it might have muted some Clowney talk that grew into an uncontainable monster during the summer months.
4- Jadeveon Clowney: No, Clowney didn’t ask to be the number one play on SportsCenter for months. No, he didn’t ask to win an ESPY for the top play in sports, and he didn’t ask for 100’s of stories to be written about him. But he didn’t exactly back away from the spotlight. Clowney embraced the attention and you can’t really blame him for that. YOLO, right? But like Spurrier, he didn’t know when to step away from it. By the time SEC Media Days rolled around in August Clowney was a mythical character. When he took the podium he had a chance to explain he was human and couldn’t do it all by himself. He could have mentioned some of the other defensive guys. He could have explained it was going to be tougher for him this year because offenses would not scheme harder to stop him. Instead he added more fuel to the hype inferno by boasting about his 40 time and naming quarterbacks who are scared of him. He set himself up to fail. One of the quarterback he names, Aaron Murray, beat the Gamecocks in week two. I retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best move.
5- USC fans: Some of the same fans that spent all summer worshiping anything that is Clowney are now calling him a lazy, selfish player who has quit on his team. They bought into all of the hype and are blaming Clowney for not meeting the impossible expectations that were created for him. Rather than admit the expectations were insane, the point the finger at Clowney. It didn’t take long either. By halftime of the North Carolina game the SportsTalk Twitter feed was full of comments from Gamecock fans that were bashing Clowney’s effort.
Jadeveon Clowney is a great college football player. He might be one of the best we’ve seen in in recent memory. Jadeveon Clowney is not having a bad season. Does he have a ton of sacks? No. Has he taken over a game? No. Is this because he’s mailing it in for the NFL? No. It is because he’s human and not the unstoppable force you’ve heard about for eight months. Oh, and he’s also the most schemed against defensive player in college football. There’s a reason why defensive players don’t win the Heisman unless they do something on offense too. That reason is defensive players are easier to gameplan for and neutralize than offensive players. Johnny Manziel is going to touch the ball every offensive play. There are lots of ways to keep a defensive end out of a play and all of those are being used on Clowney now. This is nothing new. Clowney was contained a lot last year too. He was able to make some special plays because, well, because he’s a special athlete. Clowney didn’t have a lot of multiple sack games last year. In fact, his number were bolstered by his record setting 4 ½ sack night at Clemson, the one team that thought it could block Clowney straight up. Clowney had just nine sacks going into the Clemson game. Oh, and guess what, he didn’t play the week before against Wofford. USC struggled to beat the Terriers too. Nobody said a word when he sat out.
Just remember that last year, just like this year, Clowney was held in check at times. He came to the sideline to rest during drives. He dealt with nagging injuries, and he sat out of a game.
In short: Clowney is the same player he’s always been. The only thing that has changed is the hype machine.