Fred Lynn was one of baseball's great players. He hit for power and average, possessed range and a good arm, and had good speed on the bases. But Lynn was also reckless, hurling his body all over the field to make catches, often running into the wall in the deepest part of center field. The result of these injuries was that Lynn rarely played a full season. Towards the end of his career, Lynn would sit if he felt twinges in his back or had sprains, something most players played through, his thinking (for which he was mocked) was that he was a lesser player who hurt his team if he played at less than one hundred percent.
Nobody will confuse Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney with Fred Lynn — one's a baseball player with a baseball player's body while the other is a jacked-up football player. Yet Clowney, like Lynn in his day, suffers from injuries that keep them on the bench for long stretches, and it's been expected that Clowney would also contribute to his team's success. Which brings up the primary difference: Fred Lynn actually accomplished things during his career, having justified the hype before injuries brought him to the earth — and likely kept him from the Hall of Fame.
Clowney has played in just 17 of 33 regular season (and playoff) games, missing most of his first season with injuries. He’s totaled just 4.5 sacks for his entire career, and is still talked more about his potential than for what he has accomplished, which is probably good seeing as how he’s accomplished nothing. He’s not quite the biggest draft bust ever — hello JaMarcus Russell — but he might be up there with the likes of Sam Bradford — another injury-prone number one pick surviving on perceived talent and potential.
Last week, members of the Houston media began ripping on Clowney — primarily the Chronicle's John McClain and Texans flagship radio station Sportsradio 610. He was't mocked for bad play, or for missed assignments, or over any statements he's made. He was mocked because of his injuries, the implication being that Clowney is soft and can't play through injuries, not like his great teammate J.J. Watt who played through numerous ailments last season — set aside the fact that no one yet knows when Watt will be medically cleared to play this season as a result of his playing through his injuries last season.
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This is not to say Clowney should go without criticism — the guy makes Arian Foster look like the Cal Ripken of football. But Clowney's injury history was known before the draft, as was his resemblance to Mario Williams, and that comparison wasn’t a good thing as Williams who, even when healthy, was known for taking plays (or entire) games off. And like Williams, Clowney is known for a great draft combine and a few spectacular plays in college, which when not part of a highlight reel are really rather sparse and strung out over many years.
But if anyone deserves the criticism over Clowney, then it should be the person responsible for drafting Clowney — the genius who knew of Clowney's injury history and his reputation for taking plays off, yet was more impressed by Clowney’s combine numbers than by his actual play on the field.
Yet nothing is said by the media about Rick Smith. Hell, Smith just got a four-year contract extension despite passing up, in that same draft as Clowney, Khalil Mack, who plays the same position (and plays it much better and without the injuries). Smith also passed on quarterbacks like Derek Carr in that same draft, which pushed the Texans to overspend this offseason on Brock Osweiler, a QB so mediocre that he was benched for Peyton Manning in the playoffs last season, despite Manning's inability to throw a football further than five yards.
Jadeveon Clowney makes an easy target, but maybe instead of mocking him, the guy responsible for drafting Clowney should be getting more of blame — because nobody tops Rick Smith when it comes to having accomplished absolutely nothing.