Talent is a tricky thing.

Look, I enjoy reading Tony Barnhart as much as the next guy, and he certainly has his moments… but this isn’t one of them.

… I am a big believer in talent and that the team with the best players usually wins. But when it comes to winning championships, I am also a big believer in the intangibles. Look at Kentucky’s basketball team. Look at Duke’s basketball team. Yesterday five Kentucky players (four freshmen) said they would enter the NBA Draft and all will do well. But Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. Duke has really good players but not five NBA draft picks. The intangibles matter when it comes to winning championships.

He then goes on to say this.

… The point is that what’s required of a college quarterback is a completely different than an NFL quarterback. The NFL places a premium on the physical characteristics of a potential quarterback:  Height, weight, and arm strength. But to win a championship in college football, the quarterback has to be more of a manager of the game and a distributor of the ball. I believe that in college football a championship quarterback is not defined by what he does. He is defined by what he DOESN’T do (turn the ball over).  Both games are great. College football is just different…

In other words, you can’t judge a college football player’s talent by what the NFL looks for, but you can judge a college basketball player’s talent by what the NBA wants.

By the way, North Carolina leads all men’s basketball teams with 57 McDonald’s All-Americans. Duke is second with 45.



Filed under College Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

15 responses to “Talent is a tricky thing.

  1. Dawgaholic

    TB articulates the principle that it takes a certain amount of talent to be successful; however, once you hit that level, the marginal returns are not great for exceeding it. He does not recognize this as true in his explanation.

    In college football, and most any other team sport, if the aggregate team talent is enough, a few positions can get by on the bare minimum amount needed to be successful. As QB is almost certainly the most difficult position in football and is learned over time, it is much easier to assimilate a team of 18-22 year olds with great athletes all over the field and a decent QB than a team with a great QB and decent athletes at many other positions.

    As QB has a larger range of ability from decent to great than most positions, NFL teams who have basically equal total team talent need QBs who can be great from age 25-35.


  2. Charles D.

    A college QB does not have to be the best player on the field when the rest of his team is great: Matt Mauck, David Greene, Craig Krenzel, Matt Leinart, the kid from Bama last year, Jay Barker, Tim Tebow, Ricky Stanzi, etc.

    For a team to win championships in the NFL, the QB must be the most physically gifted player on the field, at a minimum, and really needs to be the smartest and have the biggest balls. If he is not the most physically gifted, he can overcome that with brains (Joe Montana), or if he is stupid, can overcome that with raw talent and balls (Brett Favre).

    Oh, and if this year’s UK played Duke 20 times, UK would win 19. UK’s achilles heal all season was their long-range shooting, and that came back to bite them in the one-and-done scenario.

    Let’s also think about the fact that 4 of the 5 kids leaving UK are FRESHMEN. My goodness, think about that team 2 years from now if those kids stayed. I am not saying that they would go 70-0, but it would not shock me if they did.


    • yea yea

      Yea – everyone knows that Trent Dilfer was far and away the most talented player on the Ravens team…

      And Ben Roethlisberger was a beast in his first superbowl…


      The beat goes on.


  3. D.N. Nation

    Um, Tony…Duke had 6 McD’s AAs on this year’s team. Smith, Singler, Scheyer, Thomas, Zoubek (there’s your starting five), plus one of the Plumlee brothers.

    That Zoubek isn’t an NBA prospect like DeMarcus Cousins owes to Brian being injury prone and all over the place with his play for three years. He was highly touted coming out of HS.


  4. dboy

    I agree with Charles D.,

    Most of UKs players wouldn’t have started this year back in the Dean Smith days. They certainly wouldn’t have been favored to win the NC when they had to go up against beasly, love, etc on senior laden powerhouse teams of the past. College Bball has been gutted of talent, and it is sad for the fans of the sport. The NCAA tourney this year looked more like the highschool bbal tournament… but at least we might have seen the next lebron, kobe, dwight howard, or garnett in the HS tourney. How many NBA all star starters this year were former college stars? 4/10 and that includes carmelo anthony and allen iverson– a one and done and a just plain done.


  5. Hoopie

    Holy cow dude, you totally missed the points.
    TB is discussing intangibles in the first paragraph you cite and discussing the difference in talent required talent for QBs in the second paragraph.

    You balled all of that up to deduct that he was erroneously mixing NFL and NBA talent analysis?

    Go back to UGA or wherever, re-take reading comprehension …and while you are there ..look up the word: incongruous.


    • Duke has really good players but not five NBA draft picks.

      I missed the intangibles part of that statement.

      Barnhart’s not “mixing analysis”. He’s applying a double standard.


      • rbubp

        Well, he’s not by the quote you’ve left us, Senator. I’m scratching my head trying to figure it out; didn’t the quote claim that Barnhart said that Duke’s winning a title with non-NBA players is analogous to the idea that NFL numbers don’t equate to the best college QBs?

        So, UGA gets an NFL QB who doesn’t win a title, and Florida gets a non-NFL QB who wins several; Kentucky gets five NBA players who don’t win a title, and Duke gets five non-NBA players who win a title. Do have it right?

        What am I supposed to be getting here?

        BTW, those McD All-Americans are total BS. You go to Duke or UNC, they name you a McD all-american AFTER you declare.


        • So now Tebow’s a “non-NFL QB”? Even Barnhart says he’ll be drafted in one of the early rounds.

          As for what you’re not getting, I’m not sure I can help, but to reiterate, Barnhart makes a value judgment that Kentucky’s basketball team was more talented than Duke’s because the Wildcats had more players valued by the pros than the Blue Devils – not because they had more high school five-star players, or even because they had more college All-Americans. But when it comes to college quarterbacks, that same professional assessment of talent is completely irrelevant in his mind’s eye, because college football is “just different”.


  6. EastCobbDawg

    I have come to the conclusion there are two categories of McDonald’s All Americans, One and Done’s in one category and everybody else in the second.

    The best individual players and potential high lottery picks, such as John Wall or Derrick Favors, fall into the One and Done’s. I believe Coach K doesn’t put a lot of effort into recruiting these players and instead goes after those second level All Americans, whom he knows won’t be NBA ready for two or three years and will also fit into the system he coaches.

    This is why UNC and UK lose so many of their players while Duke’s stay in school.

    Just my theory of course.


    • D.N. Nation

      It’s a mixed bag. Coach K lost Luol Deng and Corey Maggette after one year, Elton Brand, Will Avery, and Josh McRoberts (!!!) after two. Ain’t no way Kyrie Irving will stick around for the full four.


  7. Atlchris

    This year is also an aberration.. Most years, the team that wins the NCAA Tourney is the team with the most NBA talent that has put it all together. Look at the past four champions before Duke.. UNC, KU, and the two Florida teams.. All those teams had a WEALTH of NBA talent…


  8. Wilbur's Marshalls

    So the college game is different than the pro game. In other breaking news, the sun rises in the east. I’m not sure how the college recruiting services do it (I’m certainly no junkie), but I thought it was widely understood that scouting services like Rivals rank prospects based on college potential, not on pro potential. It’s why guys like Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey who are likely way too small to have a meaningful impact in the pros were rated 4 stars and highly sought by Meyer and presumably others. Chris Leak is another example. Great college prospect, terrific college career. but never much of a legit pro prospect because of his size. The same might also end up being true of Aaron Murray, who will fight an uphill battle getting nfl’ers to ignore his height. Doesn’t mean rivals didn’t do their jobs properly.


  9. Reptillicide

    The very idea that Barnhart is trying to construct an argument based on the premise that Duke won a championship with intangibles and not with recruiting star power is, in and of itself, reason to dismiss the entire article as absurd, and frankly, I’m shocked that he would try to make it.

    But I guess that’s why he calls himself “Mr. College Football,” and not “Mr. College Basketball.”


  10. Remove Duke from the equation and look at the NCAA Champions of the last decade. Every team had at least 2 first rounders, some had as many as 3 or 4. This Duke titla has opened the floodgates for 1-the little guy and 2-talent doesn’t matter folks.

    Similar to Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl this is an anomaly. You need talent to win, I’m a UNC grad and we didn’t win 2 titles in 4 years with scrubs. Neither did LSU in football. Barnhart is really falling into this “talent doesn’t matter” (except when it does) camp and its ridiculous.