Earlier today (and, yes, it’s still technically “today”), Rosenthal pointed out some recent comments from Browns coach Pat Shurmur regarding Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. And the NFL could soon be pointing out to Shurmur the niceties of the rules regarding comments about underclassmen who have not yet been certified for early entry to the draft.
“I’ve watched him,” Shurmur said of Griffin. “[He’s a] tremendous talent, good player.” Asked whether Griffin would be a fit in Cleveland’s West Coast offense, Shurmur said, “Good players fit in every offense.”
It hardly represents the kind of specific gushing that could directly sway Griffin to bail on Baylor with a year of eligibility remaining, but the rule is intended to keep NFL coaches or executives from saying or doing anything that could influence an undecided football player to decide to quit playing football for free. (The purpose of the rule is to preserve the relationship between the NFL and the custodians of its free farm system.)
Earlier this year (and, yes, it’s still technically “this year”), Colts owner Jim Irsay got a pass from the league office after talking about the possibility of drafting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and grooming him for several years behind Peyton Manning, Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers-style. “It was well understood by Andrew Luck that he would have been the top pick or a top 5 pick if he came out after LAST season,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT at the time. “He decided to stay. The comment you cite [from Irsay] is not the type that is of concern in terms of influencing underclassmen.”
Under that logic, Griffin currently is in the same position that Luck was in a year ago. Thus, the comments from the coach of a team that could end up with a top five pick could help nudge Griffin toward deciding to graduate to the NFL, even if he never actually graduates from college.
I’d send Aiello an email asking him about this, but it’s 11:25 p.m. ET on New Year’s Eve and, unlike me, he probably isn’t squirreled away in a hotel room working.