Before I go into detail on what I believe the Manti Te’o – Girlfriend Hoax means, be sure to do three things: One, read the Deadspin piece to its entirety (link).
Two, it’s important we still wait on what all the details are in the case. While it seems hard to believe that Te’o wasn’t involved (more on that later), let’s give him and other investigators to look into it.
And three, be sure to realize this is most unique and bizarre NFL Draft story you’ll likely ever hear.
But, if the story is true or even 90% true, it has major implications for Manti Te’o’s NFL dreams. If you thought the Alabama game was concerning, than that just the start of the Te’o slide.
Why it Seems to Be True
Notre Dame, in a released press statement (made VERY quickly, almost already prepared), said that Te’o brought the hoax to the attention of the Notre Dame staff on December 26th. However, and again this is based off of Deadspin’s fantastic research, Te’o had met, vacationed, and talked “every night” to this girlfriend. And the “girlfriend” had a picture of a completely different (and real) person in her twitter profile. Obviously, Te’o at the very least should have realize the different person in the profile.
Combine that damning evidence to the hordes of documentation that Deadspin had of her non-existence, and it seems fairly clear that Te’o was not only part of the hoax, he was well aware of everything involved and perpetuated the story further.
What Questions This Should Lead To
Well to start, Te’o made the (wise, if I was his agent) move to not attend the Senior Bowl, likely because of the fact that he knew this news would be soon made apparent. The media frenzy that would have ensued won’t occur. And GMs and coaches will likely have to wait until the NFL Combine to talk to him…if he decides to attend and do interviews, an avenue I wouldn’t completely rule out.
This whole story opens up multiple questions that NFL teams will have ask themself. If he did this for Heisman attention, does he CRAVE the limelight? Is he a compulsive liar? Will he divert attention away from his play because of an unstable mental toughness? Why did this lie start after the REAL death of his grandmother? How immature was he that he decided to maintain this lie despite being in the national spotlight, likely realizing it would come out one day and the details revealed?
And even if he was duped: Is he not man enough to address problems on his own, or does he need to hide or even embrace them instead of showing maturity and fortitude?
What Type of Impact this Will Have On His NFL Future
If I was a GM, and I know some personnel staff look at the early rounds of the NFL Draft this way, I ask the question “why DON’T we want this guy” when considering a pick, and trying to not only weigh pros and cons, but make sure the cons aren’t too concerning. For Manti Te’o, he’ll lose that question each and every time.
Getting caught for underrage drinking is a concern. Using a fake ID or marijuana possession arrests are concerning. But some “character” concerns, and the most meaningful ones, go on BEYOND the rap sheet.
Character is about evaluating the man beyond the field, evaluating what he does in every situation on and off the field. Te’o’s character wreaks of immaturity, ego-driven thoughts, compulsive lying, brashness in his lies, and an overall inability to trust him. I can send a player to rehab, take his money away through fines, or give him a curfew. I can’t help a player change things like egotism, compulsive lying, or a need for the limelight.
And while Te’o may not be the bad guy he’s made out to be at the moment, and I’d imagine he does mean well and will have some rebuilding-of-image to do, it’s going to take more than an “I’m Sorry” and a “My Bad” won’t do it.
Manti Te’o was never going to be a Top 10 pick based on his skill set and positional value. He was likely to be picked away from 16-25, with the late first being a good value on the field. But I can almost guarantee he’ll be OFF more than one teams’ board altogether. Some teams may drop him a round or two automatically. The NFL Combine interviews (again, if he goes) will be HUGE for him, as he’ll need to be honest and forthcoming, and try to take the backlash in stride.
General Managers and head coaches are going to be worried about taking Manti Te’o. I can’t imagine ANY NFL scout “banging the table” for Te’o in the pre-draft process.
Manti Te’o is going to fall in the draft because of this unless he can do a MAJOR salvage job of his character. But I wouldn’t bank on it. The 2nd round seems like a place a team gambles. But based on this Deadspin research (and I’ll do more myself through the process), I’ll be dropping him to the 3rd round range, where the risk isn’t nearly as high. And don’t be shocked if he ends up there on draft day.
Could he overcome this? Yes. Will this hang over his head forever? Likely. Is he worth the risk of a high draft pick? Unlikely at this point, and he'll have some explaining to do over the next three and a half months.