Imagine if Justin Fields Said What Trevor Lawrence Said
Lawrence has the privilege that these head-scratching comments can come from him and his family-and his draft stock will not plummet at all.
As the NFL 2021 draft approaches on April 29th in Cleveland, Ohio, there has been a lot of chatter surrounding the top five projected quarterbacks in this draft class. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the consensus number one overall pick, which belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ever since Lawrence’s standout freshman season at Clemson two years ago he was bound to be the number one pick as soon as he was eligible to be drafted.
When the college football season ended this year, it was expected that Trevor Lawrence would be drafted first, and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields would be drafted second. However, leading up to their Pro Days, projections shifted to BYU quarterback Zach Wilson being drafted second, and Alamba quarterback Mac Jones or South Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance emerging as the favorite to be drafted third.
This was quite a turnaround for Justin Fields as many wondered why his draft stock appeared to be dropping from the definitive number two quarterback in this draft class to possibly being the last of the top-five quarterbacks to be drafted.
“I have heard that he is a last-guy-in, first-guy-out quarterback. Not the maniacal work ethic. I’ve heard that there are some questions about Justin Fields’ work ethic” Orlovsky said. “I think there’s a desire to be a big-time athlete, but where is his desire to go be a great quarterback?”
This “work ethic” comment was nothing new for black quarterbacks, it reinforced the negative stereotypes of Black people as lazy, and that Black quarterbacks are superior athletes but lack the intelligence to be a quarterback.
It seems as though right before the NFL draft black quarterbacks face criticism that White quarterbacks are not subject to. Think about when Lamar Jackson was told he should switch his position as a wide receiver or running back. Or when Cam Newton was asked by the Panthers owner Jerry Richardson on whether he had tattoos and when Newton’s response was “No sir, I don’t have any,” and Richardson said, “Good we want to keep it that way.” It’s evident Black quarterbacks are subject to criticism that White quarterbacks have never faced.
The work ethic comment is disturbing because it would be impossible for Justin Fields to get to this point in his career without having a great work ethic. Yes, some players are blessed with God-given talent. But to be ranked as the highest dual-threat quarterback in 2018 coming out of high school, to leading Ohio State to the college football semifinals in his first year starting, and the championship in his second year starting, it’s blasphemous to say that he doesn’t have a “maniacal work ethic.”
Furthermore, all of Fields’ coaches and teammates at Ohio State had nothing but glowing words to say about his leadership. Ohio State head coach, Ryan Day called out the careless comments about his former quarterback.
“The whole idea that he doesn’t have a very good work ethic? I mean, to me, that’s crazy… He put together this petition that the Big Ten athletes all signed saying that they want to play, but they want to play safely and that they don’t accept canceling the season,” Day told Peter King of NBC sports. “It was all led by Justin Fields. This kid loves the game.”
Fields was going to be a first-round draft pick even if he didn’t play a snap this season, however, he led the charge for the Big Ten athletes to play in the midst of a pandemic. That sounds like someone with a “maniacal work ethic.”
On the other hand, Trevor Lawrence made comments that were a direct example of what Justin Fields was criticized for. Lawrence conducted an in-depth interview with Sports Illustrated where he commented on his commitment to football.
“I don’t have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone’s out to get me and I’m trying to prove everybody wrong,” Lawrence said. “I just don’t have that. I can’t manufacture that. I don’t want to.” His wife Marissa Mowry adds, “There’s also more in life than playing football.”
If I was the Jaguars front office I would not be too thrilled with these comments from a guy that is supposed to be a generational talent at the quarterback position. This is a franchise-changing move for the Jaguars. After only going to the playoffs seven times in franchise history and being a laughing stock in the NFL, they have to get the pick right.
Imagine if these comments from Trevor Lawrence were made by Justin Fields or his partner or his parents. Imagine if a father from a projected number-one overall pick said that “he doesn’t want to win the Super Bowl at all cost.” This would give the media more ammunition to make it look like Fields does not work hard and isn’t fully committed to being the best. Part of having a “maniacal work ethic” is doing everything you can to get the best out of yourself and your team at all costs.
Lawrence has the privilege that these head-scratching comments can come from him and his family-and his draft stock will not plummet at all. It is a foregone conclusion that Lawrence will be the number-one pick in this year’s NFL draft. Because of his stellar play on the field, these comments do not hold that much weight.
But Justin Fields who outdueled Lawrence in the College Football Semi-Final by throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns in an upset, is criticized because of a narrative NFL executives are trying to run with. At the same time, Lawrence and his family made comments that are quite similar to what NFL front offices are concerned about with Fields, but there aren’t any questions on Lawrence’s commitment to the game.
Yes, there has been some change in the NFL with most of the elite young players in today’s game being Black. But too often Black quarterbacks are criticized in the media for everything except their play on the field, and I cannot say the same for their White counterparts.
Miles Johnson is a sophomore Communications major and sports journalism minor at Morehouse College.