Let me start this by saying if I was 21 years old with a contract that guarantees me at least $41.7 million and I had a chance to go on a boat ride with several beautiful blonde women, I would be doing EXACTLY what Matt Stafford did this summer.
Well, I would change one thing: The yutz with the camera goes overboard.
Stafford just learned another lesson about the downside of public life. Pictures of him simply enjoying life have surfaced on the Internet. They’re all fairly innocent, even if they do make the average male envious. The closest thing to scandalous is one of him giving the unwholesome “No. 1″ sign to the camera. (Insert joke: That’s something he could never do at Georgia.)
None of this means Stafford: 1) Isn’t mature; 2) Isn’t talented; 3) Can’t lead; 4) Won’t be an outstanding quarterback for the Detroit Lions; 5) Won’t have a solid NFL career. All it affirms is he really knows how to get the most out of his summer vacation.
However . . . (You knew this was coming, didn’t you?)
It does say something that recent successful rookie NFL quarterbacks, the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, have not had similar photos pop-up on websites like Deadspin. Conversely, Matt Leinart, who thus far has been a first-round bust in Arizona, had similar photos of him with a hot tub full of young women surface (including one of him holding up a beer bong). A photo of Michael Vick sitting in the backseat of a limo with what appeared to be a marijuana joint also was in cyberspace a few years back.
Two years ago, pictures of Stafford holding a keg over his head at Talladega Speedway circulated. No, he wasn’t drinking. But it wasn’t a photo the Georgia sports information department was going to rush to slap on the cover of the media guide, either.
It’s all about being aware of the people around you. It’s about the image you project.
Stafford faces unimaginable pressure as the first pick in the draft. He is being viewed as a franchise savior, and he hasn’t even taken a snap, yet. None of us can possibly relate to being in that kind of spotlight. He certainly is entitled, if not expected, to blow off a little steam before he gets started.
But there’s an awareness issue that Stafford needs to recognize and deal with. And I’m pretty sure the Lions aren’t going to be distributing these photos to prospective season-ticket holders.