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AJ McCarron, Johnny Manziel & the NFL's lazy narrative

The NFL world was for AJ McCarron before it was against him.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

SB Nation 2014 NFL Draft

It doesn't take long to shift the narrative when it comes to the NFL Draft. Tom Savage is elite. Geno Smith can't lead a huddle. Cam Newton pouting. Pundits outdid themselves Saturday morning, changing directions quicker than LeSean McCoy and turning AJ McCarron from a choir boy to a diva.

ESPN's Adam Schefter revealed that the Bengals newest quarterback may have hurt his own draft stock during his meetings with NFL teams this spring.

McCarron "rubbed teams the wrong way" during interviews, Schefter said. There aren't many details of what exactly happened during the process, but Trey Wingo dished a little tidbit on ESPN.

Ian Rapoport followed up that report, saying in an appearance on NFL Network that he had heard the same thing from NFL sources throughout the Draft process.

Note the word "throughout" in Rapoport's report. He wasn't the only insider to have NFL teams tell him those things about McCarron.

Here's Mike Florio at PFT:

It's not the first time that we've heard things along these lines about McCarron.

2014 NFL Draft

Stop and think back to the narrative surrounding McCarron earlier this spring. There was always a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek snickering in some corners when it came to McCarron. Nothing in particular stood out about his tape, and he threw gas onto the fire with self-assured statements about being a first-round pick and a proven winner. At the Combine, he told reporters that his best quality was being a winner. Then, he compared himself to Tom Brady.

But the draft analysts held firm. This is from Nolan Nawrocki's scouting report at

Smart and articulate. Highly competitive team leader -- holds teammates accountable. Very well-prepared. Directed back-to-back national championship offenses.

Dane Brugler at CBS agreed:

Confident leader with professional intangibles. Shows good fight and resolve on the field.

You can be forgiven if you forgot about McCarron's comments. It never really became a story, and everyone was too busy fretting about Johnny Manziel's celebrity status (McCarron was supposed to be on a reality show with his special lady, Katherine Webb).

The seeds for the NFL version of Manziel/McCarron story were planted while they were both still in school. A September 2013 headline from Dennis Dodd is the perfect example:


Pretty hot take there.

Johnny Manziel was the story of the draft during Thursday night's first round, capping off a week of the NFL media falling in love with him. Remember when Jaws was against him before he was for him? And good for Johnny, he's a talented player and a likable one.

The narrative shifted a few hours before the Bengals pulled McCarron out of the fifth round, ending his unforeseen slide ... albeit a slide that should have been more apparent when NFL execs were telling media insiders about McCarron's performance in the meeting room. They must have been too busy headlining those same execs' concerns about Johnny Football partying like the twentysomething college kid he was or tearing down Teddy Bridgewater.

In short, the NFL works exactly like Mean Girls.