Hayne Plane airborne…with nowhere to land

I tell you what, I’d love to be the author of an Aussie blog about the NFL right now, what with the interest created by the Jarryd Hayne experiment.  It’s a great chance to really boost your relevance and readership…

Well, it just so happens I am! Which happens to gives me a platform to express my opinion on Hayne’s decision (as unread and uninformed as that opinion may be).  I caught up with my partner in crime, Gargamel, earlier today, and while he may add his own thoughts in detail in another post, it’s fair to say we share the same general view – the chips are stacked against Hayne ever playing a snap in the NFL.  I thought it might help if I addressed some of the burning questions out there (as determined by me, who wrote the questions);

Who is this Jarryd Hayne anyway?

For our US readers who may not be familiar with the Hayne Plane, here is some of the things he can do on a Rugby League field;

Pretty impressive hey.

Who is he going to play for in the NFL?

Ah, well.  Here’s the thing.  He hasn’t signed with anyone.  He visited Seattle once (big deal, I’ve been twice, and my brother use to live there) and Pete Carroll apparently knows who he is, which is a positive (and, to be fair, I don’t think Pete knows who I am), although Pete hasn’t actually met him, and my guess is, he probably hasn’t really watched him on tape, what with being busy coaching an NFL team in the middle of a season and all that.  It’s actually pretty amazing that he found time to even mention it in a press conference, which brings me to my next question…

Is this just a publicity stunt?

My guess is no, at least not from Jarryd.  He is apparently a huge NFL fan, feels he has achieved everything he set out to in the NRL (presumably he didn’t set out to win a premiership), and seems like the sort of guy who is always looking to challenge himself.  And this is just about the biggest challenge I could imagine for a professional footballer, short quitting to chase that elusive dream of becoming a Chess Grand Master.

The NFL itself, on the other hand, may be a different story.  This could be a great opportunity to grab a bit of interest in a country with a sports mad populace, which may in turn give the game a leg up in the massive Asian market.  Does this mean he will get a contract?  Of course not, but it will probably ensure he gets a bit of attention for novelty value.*

What’s he going to do then?

Good question.  The Seahawks seem like a logical landing place for him – West Coast, he’s toured the facilities, fellow Aussie Jessie “The Monster” Williams is on the roster there.  My guess is he might train a bit with college side the Washington Huskies, and hang around the Seahawks a bit, and hope that he can land a spot on their practice squad, playing effectively for nothing, as the year goes on.  He would then represent a very raw development prospect.

So, he’ll make it in the NFL!?

I didn’t say that!  The Practice Squad is limited in size, and places on the roster, practice or otherwise, are highly coveted.  Just getting a spot on any practice squad (even Jacksonville’s) would be a  massive achievement.  And herein lies his biggest challenge – the NFL is a highly technical, highly specialised game, with an abundance of talent drawn from a massive pool.  The guys going into the NFL generally do so after a lifetime of playing the game, with most (actually, these days it may as well be “all”) having played 3-4 years of College football first.  Make no mistake, this is not like switching codes – this is a completely different ball game with many times more players after the same job.

But heaps of Aussies have played in the NFL!

Yeah, but almost all of them were punters (not pelicans).  And these days they tend to go through the college system.  And even then they struggle to get a game.

Ok, so assuming he does get a contract somewhere, what position will he play?

Good question.  Let’s break it down;

Quarterback – Duh
Punter/Kicker – No.  He can kick, but no.
Anywhere on Defense – Too technical, too specialised and too dependent on being able to read the game on the fly.  He probably has the build, speed and tackling skills to be a free safety, but my guess is the name “Jarryd Hayne” would quickly become synonymous with “Blown Coverage”
Tight End – Nope.  Too technical, too specialised, too much blocking (which is a very specific skill), too many routes to learn.  And he’s probably too small. And it would be a waste of his best skills, being his footwork and ability to read broken play.  There’s probably more.
Wide Receiver – Probably not.  See above re routes.  He can certainly catch a ball on the run from an awkward position, but I think this would be a waste of his natural talent to beat a tackler while carrying the ball.  I also think he would get lost and blow up routes more often than not.
Running Back – Maybe.  If he is going to get regular snaps at any position, it would have to be at running back wouldn’t it?  And not a bust up the middle carrying seven tacklers within him Marshawn Lynch type of running back, but someone who you give the ball to in space and let him use his feet.  Darren Sproles-ish.
Special Teams – Yep.  This is his go, and where he would see the most game time for mine – if you watch his highlights, he is at his best when running in broken play, beating players one on one.  When you add the fact he is getting help from blockers, he could be real weapon on the kick and punt returns.  The problem is, very few teams have room on their game day roster for a guy who does nothing but return kicks.  Also, can he do it with pads on.

Why do you have to be so negative, man?

Listen voice in my head, I am not being negative, I am being realistic.  I wish the guy well – I admire his chutzpah, and his willingness to give up big money to chase a dream.  I just think it will be a tough slog.  But he is a (relatively) young, talented guy, and if after two years he hasn’t got where he wants to be, the Eels will welcome him home with open arms.

We here at Pelican Punting wish him all the best, and if he makes it, make no mistake, we will be his biggest fans.

Shirty.

* I was at Stadium Australia in 1999 for the only NFL exhibition match ever played in Australia – it was part of the brief America Bowl concept which the NFL quietly let die in 2005.  There were two Aussie players that day – the great Darren Bennett, arguably our most successful NFL export, who was the punter for the Chargers, and former AFL Player, Jon Ballantyne who played his gridiron with the Scottish Claymores**, and signed a one day contract with the Broncos.  I know this, because my mates and I went out with Jon Ballantyne masks (ok, we photocopied a picture of his face and stuck it on the end of a ruler) intending to cheer madly for him all day.   He made exactly three punts all day, and all three of those during the half time break.  Sigh.  We cheered though.  Man, did we cheer.

** The Scottish Claymores, incidentally, are the only sporting team I can think of that are named after a weapon, given the unfortunate demise of the Canberra Cannons.  Feel free to correct me in the comments…

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