Until very recently, everything we knew about Joe Burrow's personality was positive. Scouts, coaches and former teammates rave about this leadership qualities, work ethic and attitude. His reputation is that he's very confident without coming off as arrogant. It is therefore fair to wonder what evidence is there to suggest he'll be anything but a great teammate and leader as a pro?
The answer lies in his recent interactions with the press. He has been ambiguous about his desire to play for the team that is expected to draft him, the Cincinnati Bengals. In and of itself that is not a predictor of bad attitude as a pro, John Elway and Eli Manning had a similar attitude towards the team sitting at No.1 when they were about to be drafted, and both built long careers with the franchise they ended up with as rookies, and both are very popular with owners, former teammates and fans to this day. In trying to explain his situation, Burrow made several claims that are highly problematic.
The first is this. "I do have leverage. They have their process and I have my process. We haven't even gotten to the Scouting Combine yet. There's a lot of things that happen leading to the draft and a lot of information gathered". The draft gives teams the chance to pick players, not vice versa, and as such, the pre-draft process is designed so that teams can get information on players. Burrow suggesting he'll use it to gather information and decide if he wants to play for certain teams or not is defiance of the system, and raises legitimate questions about what other systems he's willing to defy once he's a pro. But as previously mentioned, in and of itself this defiant attitude was not the problem. What he said next was.
"Right now I am focused on being the best football player I can be. You can go watch my film. I don't have to prove myself at pro day and at the combine, so I'm in a unique spot where I can focus on getting ready for the year". This is a terrible attitude for many reasons. First, Joe Burrow is not Andrew Luck. He has neither the elite physical tools nor the consistent production. In his college career he was mostly unsuccessful, with the exception of his final year. Now in fairness that season was arguably the best for a college QB in history, but Burrow remains a one-year wonder. And when a one-year wonder feels he has nothing to prove that should raise red flags. Furthermore, sports talent evaluators stress that many great players have an ultra-competitive nature. The Michael Jordans and Tom Bradys of this world compete fanatically even when there's nothing to prove. Others have gotten by with a more laid-back attitude based on their transcendent physical gifts, but a player who lacks both superior physical traits and competitive spirit is not likely to become great. And while Burrow mentions preparing for the season, preparing is not the same as competing, you do not get measured when preparing. In fact, Burrow's comments could be interpreted as a premade excuse for not dazzling during his pro day and/or the combine.
Some will no doubt minimize the concerns, claiming the statements were misunderstood and vouching for Burrow's makeup and character. However they were substantial, expansive statements, not a quick one-liner, and they display an attitude that should raise serious concerns among NFL talent evaluators.