I like Wes Bunting. I don't read his stuff regularly, but anytime a link has directed me his way I've generally respected his work. Having said that, it was unfortunate to hear him completely talk out his ass when speaking about our Eagles. In his weekly chat with former Blogging the Boys writer and current Cowboys Nation writer Rafeal Vela, Bunting was asked about his thoughts on Jimmy Smith, and stupidity ensued:
Cowboys Nation: You said last week (that Jimmy Smith) probably won't drop as far as we may have thought when all the red flag stories were leaking into the press. He's getting a lot of positive press lately for his game tape. Has his stock rebounded? Where do you think he goes now?
Wes Bunting: I think he goes 20 to 30, in that range. I've heard the Eagles like him a lot. I've heard the Ravens are interested. Jimmy Smith would be a star if he went to a locker room with Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. If he goes to a locker room with the Eagles, he'll be a good to average player. He'll never live up to his potential.
CN: Why do you say that?
WB: When you have Ed Reed and Ray Lewis barking in your ear, you're going to listen. They're Pro Bowl, Hall of Fame caliber players. They're the type of leaders who you'll listen to. In Philadelphia, who's the leader of that team? Off the top of your head, who's the leader of your team? Who comes to mind, Mike Vick? DeSean Jackson?
CN: I can't think of a player off the top of my head. I immediately think of Andy Reid.
WB: That's exactly it. You can't think of anyone. In that situation, if you put Smith there, some of those ghosts from the past could come back.
(thoughts...er, hatchet job after the jump)
My first reaction to this was to wonder how many times Wes Bunting has actually been in "the Eagles' locker room," but even that's kind of stupid. I've been in the locker room. I've covered training camp. I've seen the players interact with one another off the football field. And while I can pretend I know what makes for a great "leader" in the NFL, or what kinds of veteran players can get the young guys in line by "barking in their ears" as Bunting suggests, there are so many different personalities out there it's impossible to know how each individual human will mesh with his 52 other teammates. But to comment about the Eagles locker room specifically, maybe you should at least have spent a minimal amount of time there? And maybe he has - I really don't know for sure, but I will say this - I've never seen Wes Bunting in the Eagles locker room.
I don't know what makes for a great NFL leader, because I've never played in the NFL. With that caveat in place, in my admittedly unrefined grasp of what makes a leader, it appears to me that Trent Cole gets a ton of respect. Asante Samuel certainly has some juice. Jason Avant grew up selling drugs on Chicago's south side - It's something he was born into, he overcame extraordinary adversity to make it to the NFL, and now works with troubled youths. Avant is a guy that I think some players try to emulate. It's pretty clear some of the younger guys look up to over-achievers like Quintin Mikell, Jamaal Jackson, and Todd Herremans. Winston Justice had some "character concerns" in college, and he's now the Eagles' player rep, can regularly be found at charity events, and is involved in building homes for people in Haiti. Leonard Weaver is another guy that stands out in that regard, and is an ordained minister.
Even the young guys are do-gooders. Brandon Graham was a team captain and was voted the team MVP by his teammates his last 2 years at Michigan. The highlight of the locker room celebration after the Miracle at the Meadowlands was when Graham showed up out of nowhere on crutches. His teammate went nuts. Nate Allen had a 3.6 GPA, and was a member of the National Honors Society. Hell, almost the entire 2010 draft class of the Eagles were team captains in college, honor students, or both.
Even a guy that Bunting sort of scoffed at as a leader (DeSean Jackson) appears like one to me from what I've seen. And the other player he noted, one Michael Vick... All I can say about Michael Vick in terms of "leadership" is that I hope that some day if/when I have kids, they give me one-eigth the amount of respect he commands from every player in that locker room, who unanimously voted him as the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2009.
I haven't even mentioned the coaching staff yet, which only includes the most tenured head coach in the NFL in Andy Reid, an offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg that Vick credits for his new-found success any chance he gets, not to mention extremely respected lifers in Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn, and Howard Mudd.
Now... I can turn on NFL Network right now and know there's a 10% chance (estimated) that they'll be showing Ray Lewis pumping up his team pregame. All of that is fine and good. Even as an admitted novice in picking out leaders I know Ray Lewis is unquestionably a leader. You know he's a leader. Anyone with a shred of common sense knows he's a leader. So Wes Bunting, I'll certainly give you that. But to say that Jimmy Smith would be a star in Baltimore, but a slightly better than average player in Philly because of some ridiculous perception that the Eagles locker room is devoid of men with character... All I can say is to you Wes, is that the draft is only a week away. As the director of college scouting for a major NFL website, your game should be in high gear by now. Step it up, brother.