It appears that the Chicago Bears are going to need to find a new middle linebacker for 2013. The rumor is that the Bears are not going to resign Brian Urlacher, one of the NFL‘s best middle linebackers of the past decade. There is one player the Bears need to pass on if given the opportunity: former University of Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o.
The entire issue with Te’o’s “girlfriend” hoax is very troubling, but that is not the reason that I would pass on him if I were in the Bears position. The problem with the entire hoax situation is the questions it raises about Te’o’s character. While I believe that he was in fact duped, I do have an issue with the fact that he continued to sell the dead girlfriend story even after he knew that she never in fact existed. The fact he kept up the charade right until just before the story broke is very troubling.
Character issues aside, there is that nightmare College Football National Championship Game for the Irish and Te’o. While Te’o had an incredible season, leading the Irish to an undefeated regular season, he completely disappeared in the biggest game of his career. The Alabama Crimson Tide presented the closest to a professional team that he had faced and ultimately would face in his college career.
And what did Te’o do on the biggest stage of his football career? He choked big time. He was a non factor for the Irish defense, which had been one of the best defenses in all of college football until that point. He missed several tackles and was flat out run over by the Alabama running backs and offensive linemen. It was quite shocking to witness because, coming into the game, it looked like it was to be a defensive struggle and not the blowout that it turned out to be.
Fast forward about a month and half to the NFL Scouting Combine. Te’o started off the combine on a very positive note during his press conference. Having to face some many questions about the hoax and scandal, he never seemed to get angry and handled himself with great class and dignity. But the good will he had generated went to the wayside when he began to work out.
In almost every drill, he looked sluggish and slow–particularly in the 40 yard dash, where he posted a very disappointing 4.8. Again he seemed to fail under a heavy pressure situation.
Te’o’s performance in both the national championship game and the scouting combine speaks volumes about his future. In the two biggest pressure situations a football player can face, he failed miserably. Could you live with the hoax situation he faced? Sure, he could turn around and never be involved in any controversy again. But can you live with the fact that he may fold when you need him the most? No, you can not.
While the scouting combine is not the best measure of what a football player can do, game tape will give you a better idea. That title game performance shows that Te’o is not a player you can rely on. If Alabama’s offensive line destroyed him, can you imagine what a professional line would do to him? The Bears can find better options than Te’o should they let Urlacher walk away.