An elite re­sponse

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY DAN STEINBERG dan.steinberg@wash­post.com

The word “elite” has be­come some­thing of a jokey buzz­word in the NFL, a stan­dard that few play­ers meet but many are judged by. One cheeky fel­low has made it his life mis­sion to de­ter­mine whether or not Joe Flacco is elite (an­swer: Weltschmerz), and count­less play­ers have been deemed very good or ex­cel­lent or su­per swell, if slightly less than elite.

Is Red­skins run­ning back Al­fred Mor­ris elite? Con­ven­tional wis­dom would prob­a­bly put him in the very good-but-slightly-less-than-elite cat­e­gory, a key build­ing block for the Red­skins but per­haps not a tran­scen­dent tal­ent. That’s what the very sober John Keim re­cently ar­gued on ESPN.com, in an ex­tremely straight­for­ward and non-in­cen­di­ary post about Washington’s run­ning back po­si­tion:

“Though Mor­ris isn’t an elite back, he is a good one. His pro­duc­tion has de­clined in each of the past two years— some­times as a re­sult of his own per­for­mance, other times be­cause of game sit­u­a­tions (not play­ing with the lead in the fourth quar­ter) or be­cause of oth­ers’ play (the run block­ing wasn’t great).

“His lack of pro­duc­tiv­ity on third downs is an is­sue, which is one rea­son the Red­skins drafted Matt Jones in the third round. Mor­ris isn’t a break­away run­ner, yet he does a good job get­ting chunks of yardage . . . Also, if you’re talk­ing quite a bit about cul­ture change, then play­ers such as Mor­ris are guys you want to keep around.”

You could tell from Keim’s post— as from so much other re­port­ing— that no one has a bad word to say about Mor­ris, that ev­ery­one hopes he suc­ceeds and that he is the kind of player you want on your team, elite or not. But ev­ery run­ning back can’t be elite, or else be­ing elite would not re­ally be elite.

In any case, Mor­ris read Keim’s piece. And he had what strikes me as a fairly thought­ful and un­usual re­ac­tion. Here’s the be­gin­ning of Mor­ris’s re­sponse, which he posted on In­sta­gram:

“When I ini­tially read this I felt al­most of­fended. How can the media who prob­a­bly never did any­thing ath­letic in their life try to cri­tique my play not hav­ing a true idea of what we do. But then I thought deeper and was like he’s right! I’mnot an elite back. I’ve never been the big­gest, fastest, or strong­est. I con­sider my­self a hard work­ing av­er­age joe and I do just that, work hard ev­ery­day.”

(Of course, many media mem­bers have done many ath­letic things in their lives. And there’s prob­a­bly con­sid­er­able space be­tween “av­er­age joe” and “elite.”)

Mor­ris went on to praise God at great length, say­ing “He can take the seem­ingly or­di­nary things to ac­com­plish ex­tra­or­di­nary feats,” and cred­it­ing di­vine as­sis­tance for his NFL suc­cesses.

“I could go on about how I’ve al­ways been over­looked and it’s been this way for memy whole life yadda yadda,” Mor­ris con­cluded, “but it’s not about me, it’s about He!”

Like I said, it’s a fairly un­usual re­sponse.

Also, Al­fred Mor­ris ap­par­ently agrees that he’s not elite. (Although he also put a link to Keim’s piece in his In­sta­gram bi­og­ra­phy, sug­gest­ing he might be on a mis­sion to­ward elite ville.)

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASHINGTON POST

Al­fredMor­ris gives credit for his suc­cess to di­vine as­sis­tance. “I con­si­d­ermy­self a hard work­ing av­er­age joe,” he posted.

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