Manti Te'o's National Championship Performance Shouldn't Hurt Draft Stock
Everyone has a bad game once in a while, even the guys who play football and get paid for it.
Sometimes, the bad games happen at the worst times. Look at what happened to Tom Brady in the Super Bowl last year.
Even the best fall down sometimes, which is why Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o shouldn't necessarily be judged by what happened to him—or, more accurately, the entire Notre Dame defense—in the national championship against Alabama.
In the wake of Notre Dame's 42-14 loss to the Crimson Tide in the BCS championship on Monday night, there is considerable talk about Te'o's draft stock potentially falling. The Heisman Trophy finalist is (or was) projected to be the first linebacker off the board in April, and maybe even one of the first few picks, but now, some teams could decide to back off after Te'o registered 10 tackles and nothing else in Miami, while the Irish defense allowed a whopping 529 total yards.
It was quite a departure from what we're used to seeing from the Irish defense—and from Te'o, who is normally a game-changer—but everyone has a bad game. Even A.J. McCarron had a bad game at one point this season.
It's just a shame that Te'o's had to happen on the biggest stage of all.
Maybe he and the Irish were just out of their league against Alabama; that seems to be the consensus. For whatever reason—the long layoff, a disparity in skill, a lack of a viable game plan—the Irish had no shot at competing with Alabama, but it certainly wasn't Te'o's fault.
As many of the Johnny Manziel-supporting pundits liked to point out when Te'o was in the running for the Heisman, a single linebacker can't alter the course of a game all by himself, and that goes both ways. Te'o couldn't save the game for the Irish on Monday any more than he could win it all by himself. He needed support—offensively and defensively—and it just wasn't there. That's not his fault.
NFL teams are going to look at the big picture with regards to Te'o—fortunately—and for him, the big picture is resoundingly positive. He registered double-digit tackles in seven of 13 games this season, including in the title game. He had seven interceptions and four pass deflections. He has dealt with tremendous hardship off the field and has somehow found the resolve to remain the same player on the field, in spite of it all.
And in terms of the intangibles: He's an excellent leader. He works hard. He plays hard. He doesn't make excuses. And his performance on Monday wasn't even that bad, in the grand scheme of it all.
Te'o has the makeup of the kind of NFL linebacker who has the potential to be impact player over the long term, and what happened to Notre Dame in Miami this week doesn't change that. Or it shouldn't.
He's done too much right this season to have his future defined by one loss.
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