Style vs. Substance: How Andrew Luck and RG3 are Portrayed in the Media
The NFL preseason is in full swing, and several storylines have caught my attention. We’ve had arrests, more arrests, surprising performances, and training camp fights. We aren’t quite to the NFL season preview, but another development could be one to watch for seasons to come.
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be linked for the rest of their careers. In college, they finished first and second in Heisman voting. In this year’s draft, the Washington Redskins traded up to take RGIII second overall; right after Luck. They are like siblings: successful in their own right, but forever compared by circumstance. What’s been most interesting is how each player’s media persona has evolved so far in their young careers.
By media persona, I mean how each player presents himself in the media and how media members talk about them individually. This has evolved into an interesting dichotomy between the high profile players.
Andrew Luck – Dictionary Definition of a Quarterback
For his whole life, Andrew Luck prepared to be an NFL quarterback. His father, Oliver Luck, played QB at West Virginia University (where he is currently the school’s Athletic Director), before playing a few seasons with the Houston Oilers. Luck’s family eventually settled in Texas where high school football is king, and Luck was considered one of the best high school prospects in the country. He eventually chose Stanford University and continued to improve. Luck would have been the number one pick in the NFL draft last year if he had decided to leave early. Rob Rang of CBS Sports even called Luck the best college prospect he had ever scouted. You couldn’t script a more ideal rise to prominence as a young quarterback.
Since joining the Indianapolis Colts, Luck has wowed media personalities with his poise and command of the offense. Rival coaches have said he plays like a veteran, and the Twitter almost melted down when his first ever pass resulted in a touchdown (not that impressive, right?). After just two preseason games, many bloggers, writers, and studio hosts have penciled Luck in for several Super Bowls and a Hall of Fame induction. For all this attention, Luck has managed to almost completely avoid the limelight. He signed his contract quickly, reported to camp on time, and gives some of the most boring interviews of all time. The one commercial Luck has starred in (filmed before the draft) is just him working out with a voiceover. When asked about marketing himself, Luck said “I want to earn it on the field before reaping all the benefits…”
Everything about Luck is “by the book.” Allowing the media to create his persona has worked out well for him. He has been ascribed intangible traits like “poise,” “presence,” and “moxie.” These words really mean nothing,so how do you measure them? They do allow Luck the time to make mistakes, improve gradually, and realize his potential without harsh expectations creating pressure along the way. Luck is a number one pick, so he will have to be good, but he has managed to buy himself time before the weight of expectation crashes down on him.
Robert Griffin III – Willie Beamon part 2?
Robert Griffin III was born an army brat in Japan before his family also settled down in Texas. He starred as a quarterback in high school as well and, while not ranked as highly as Luck, had several scholarship offers to choose from. Griffin was also a three-sport star and a world-class sprinter on the junior level. He eventually chose to attend Baylor University in part because of the excellent track program at the school. Anyone who follows college football knows that Baylor has been a football doormat, and not the place where star quarterbacks end up. Despite that, Griffin’s play brought Baylor into the national spotlight and earned him a Heisman trophy in the process.
Even before being drafted, Griffin had endorsement deals with Subway, adidas, Castrol, EvoShield, Gatorade, Sprint, and the cover of EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2013. His Superman socks drew attention to him at the Heisman ceremony and you wonder how long before Joseph A. Banks makes him an endorsement pitch. Griffin is very personable in the media and shows the confidence that many expect from a highly drafted quarterback.
Griffin’s willingness to serve as a pitchman for several companies and embracing of RG3, his catchy nickname, present a double edged sword. If Griffin plays great, his media presence will work for him and bring him even more attention off the field. If Griffin struggles with the Redskins, he will be seen as a “me first” NFL player putting his individual aspirations ahead of the team’s. This is one of the worst sins in sports media, and I can already hear Skip Bayless calling him a flash in the pan.
Griffin has made a bet on his ability. The drawback is that he’s shortened the time many will take to evaluate him before judging his career a success or failure. We’ll get to see Luck and Griffin face off this Saturday. I will root for a good game by both, hoping that the media focus remains on the field while each comes into his own as a player.
Where do you stand, SBM Sports fans? Wins matter most in the end, but how much of a player’s management of his media persona affect your opinion of him on the field? What if your team’s leader spent time “building his brand” before and during the season?