I mean, I love a good bit of hyperbole as much as the next person — I’m literally the most hyperbolic person of all time, and literally everyone knows it. But I’m perusing this 538 article about the Miami Hurricanes and their unprecedented collection of talent and I came across this quoted section:
“You could have taken that 2001 [Hurricanes] team and put them in the NFL,” former Hurricanes safety Antrel Rolle told Corben, “and without a doubt they would have made the playoffs.”
I get that Antrel Rolle is confident in the collection of talent that was there, but this takes it to another level. Usually it’s phrased as something like “The 2001 Hurricanes could have totally beaten the Jaguars” or “this Alabama team is so stocked with talent it could beat the Jaguars” or “I’m not even sure the Jaguars would have qualified for the college football playoff” or “what if we promoted the NCAA champion to the NFL and relegated the last-place team, aka the Jaguars, to college for a year?” But Rolle is saying — and I can’t believe I’m typing this out — that the 2001 Hurricanes would have MADE THE MOTHERFLIPPING PLAYOFFS. Not that they’d back in to the playoffs, either: they’d have made it “without a doubt.” This is, to put it mildly, totally fucking insane. It’s not like the Jaguars even made the playoffs that year! You’re telling me Ken Dorsey would have led the Hurricanes there?
I’m so sick of hearing this argument used for ANY college team, though. Yes, I know that those early 2000s Hurricanes teams were stacked: Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, two solid TEs in Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr., Bryant McKinnie on the line, Jonathan Vilma, Sean Taylor and Ed Reed at safety…I get it, that’s pretty incredible for any program, and we may never quite see a collection like that again. But you know who else was stacked with pro-caliber talent? EVERY FUCKING TEAM IN THE NFL. Yes, most of those Hurricanes went on to great pro careers, even if only for a short while, but even if you had all nine of those guys in their primes and Ken Dorsey at the helm, you’d still have 43 roster spots to fill (plus, you know, Ken Dorsey at the helm). It’s not like the rest would have instilled much fear into the hearts of an NFL team.
If you took that team and put them up against a bad NFL team, like, say, the Jaguars, they would be more than capable of holding their own for a while. They would no doubt win a few times out of 100 — anything can happen over four quarters, including crazy upsets. It’s part of what makes football awesome. But put this team up against a middle-of-the-road NFL team and they would struggle to do much of anything — their weaknesses would be way too exploitable. Put them up against a good or great team and they would get absolutely buried. Make them play a 16-game NFL season and they would all quit football and become grain farmers by Week 7.
No, if you take the most dominant college teams in any given year and put them in the NFL, they won’t be competitive. They just won’t. It’s hard enough to crack an NFL 53-man roster, and the fringes of those rosters — the practice squads, the retreads that bounce around when players go down, everyone — are made up of former college stars. Yes, some teams send a lot of NFL-ready talent into the league all at once, but 80+% of their rosters are still made up of middling talent that would be completely overmatched at the next level. To take the example to the extreme, imagine a hypothetical world where you took the Pro Bowl rosters in a given year and made them play against rookie versions of themselves. Which team would you bet on? A lot of players come to the league NFL-ready, sure, but even then it takes them a few years to reach their primes.
I guess what I’m saying is Antrel Rolle should have been a Rhodes Scholar like his cousin Myron.