Christian McCaffrey Doesn’t Deserve The Heat For Making A Smart Decision

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford’s electric running back, has opted to forgo participating in the Sun Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft – and has been met with a firestorm of criticism.

Quick – without Googling it, who won last year’s Sun Bowl?

If you can answer that question correctly, congratulations – you’re in a miniscule minority. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey knows that and that’s exactly why he’s opted to skip the bowl game to focus on preparing for the coming NFL Draft.

And ever since making that announcement, the opinions and hot takes have been flying in fast and furious. Of course, McCaffrey has received a tremendous amount of support – most notably and importantly, from many of his teammates.

But he’s also faced a firestorm of criticism for his “selfish,” “entitled,” and “millenial” thinking in making his decision. Many have lambasted him for being a poor team player, for hanging the Cardinal out to dry, and leaving them shorthanded for their electrifying matchup with North Carolina. Many across social media have even called for him to give back the scholarship money he “stole” from Stanford.

Stole from Stanford? Really? Because he doesn’t want to play in the Sun Bowl, everything he’s sacrificed and given to Stanford over the last three years doesn’t count anymore? Could an argument really get more ridiculous than that?

Again – without Googling it, who won last year’s Sun Bowl?

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Let’s face it, with the absolute glut of bowl games – 41 and counting – the whole of college football’s postseason has been watered down to the point of irrelevance. Is there somebody out there who really wants to watch the Scrubbin’ Bubbles Toilet Bowl?

There are only a handful of postseason bowl games that either matter or have meaning in college football – and the Sun Bowl ain’t one of them.
Look, it’s nice to have a lower tier team able to make a bowl game. It’s nice to see the North Carolina Central and Toledo’s of the college football world get some recognition. It builds a little esteem for their program and gives the teams who have no realistic shot at the National Championship something to play for.

But let’s not get this twisted – 99 percent of the college football bowl games truly are meaningless. They exist primarily to make a little extra money for the schools – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But let’s not pretend for a moment that these games “mean something” and choosing to not play in one of these games that really are ultimately meaningless is the death knell for the concept of “team” in athletics.

The decision McCaffrey made is a sound, intelligent business decision. And it’s one that – despite what many are saying – most every single person lambasting him would make if given the opportunity. Spare the righteous indignation or chest-thumping calls of “team first” — if you had millions and millions of dollars on the table, most all of you know you’d take it and run.

The percentage of collegiate football players who are actually drafted into the NFL is incredibly small. The percentage of being a high draft pick is even smaller. As we all know, draft position is important when it comes to contract dollars. The higher the pick, the more money you stand to earn – obviously.

And given the short life span of NFL running backs, the window to earn is very, very short. It’s wise to maximize your earning potential for what is ultimately going to be a very short career.

Knowing that the career of a running back is so short to begin with, and knowing how important draft position is to the amount of money he can earn within the first four to five years of that career, why should McCaffrey risk catastrophic injury in a game that means little to nothing like the Sun Bowl?

McCaffrey has given his blood, sweat, and tears to Stanford for the last three years. They’ve earned millions upon millions of dollars on his back – and the back of every other player wearing a Cardinal jersey. Stanford has profited tremendously because of McCaffrey’s services.

To those who think he “stole” a scholarship from Stanford, it would be absolutely fair to say that McCaffrey has more than paid for the scholarship the school gave him.

And now – after three years of being an ultimate team guy – and with his dream and goal of getting into the NFL in sight, McCaffrey is right to think about himself and his future. The risk of a catastrophic injury is very real and like any smart businessman, McCaffrey must move to protect his investment.

Make no mistake about it – today’s NFL is a business and every player is the CEO of his own brand. It’s a cliche we’ve heard a million times, but given the state of the league today, it’s one that is absolutely correct.

So, why should McCaffrey be roasted for making a decision that is in his best interest? That is in the best interest of maximizing his earning potential? And making sure to avoid damaging his “company” before the draft?

This isn’t selfish thinking. This isn’t “millenial” thinking. This isn’t the death knell of the “team” concept. This is an intelligent and rational man making the best decision for his “brand.”

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But it would seem that to many – including many who undoubtedly have money on the game – a Stanford win in a bowl game nobody will remember a year from now is more important than a young man’s future and his ability to control his own destiny to the full extent that he is able.

Christian McCaffrey made a smart decision. And it was ultimately the right decision to pull out of a game that has little to no meaning in the incredibly watered down world of collegiate postseason football.