April 15, 2010, 6:00 AM
For Name Players in the N.F.L., Try the Bob Smith Test
By ANDY BENOIT
Next time you’re evaluating an N.F.L. player, be sure to run a Bob Smith Test. To do this, simply ask yourself, If this player’s name was Bob Smith, would I still notice him? How would my opinion of him differ? The answer could surprise you.
I first discovered the Bob Smith Test when watching film of the Miami Dolphins. I was paying close attention to linebacker Channing Crowder. After a few games, it dawned on me that a big reason I was focusing on No. 52 was because of his catchy name and reputation. But Crowder did nothing to warrant special attention, and I wrote in my notes, “If Crowder’s name was Bob Smith, fans wouldn’t know he exists.”
Brady Quinn. Nice name. But what about his game? (Mark Duncan/Associated Press).
This got me thinking about players’ names and images. Take Brady Quinn. Because he played at Notre Dame, and because he’s a Brady Quinn, it helped stoke the perception that he could be something like a Tom Brady.
Harrington Quinn would be more of a match for reality.
Quentin Jammer is another example. He can’t pass the Bob Smith test. Jammer is a good cornerback, but he doesn’t play a flashy brand of football. Casual fans have no reason to remember him. Still, they do, because his name is Jammer. Jammer isn’t nearly as physical as he sounds, either. True, he uses his hands well in press coverage (he’s a good jammer), but many believe him to be a potent tackler. He’s not. Insiders describe him as soft.
Other players who probably wouldn’t pass – or at least not ace – the Bob Smith Test include Santana Moss (he’s essentially a Steve Smith ersatz whose first name is that of a rock star with the last name of an N.F.L. superstar); Takeo Spikes (he’s had a noble career, but he got on the map as a Bengal back when Bengal players didn’t get on maps); and Julius Peppers (his first name is smooth, his last name is pungent; without this, would we put up with his inconsistency?)
Many players pass the Bob Smith Test. Bob Sanders – whose real first name is Demond, by the way – won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007 despite being named Bob Sanders. Steve Smith in Carolina is virtually a household name. In fact, combine his Q rating with that of Steve Smith in New York and you definitely have a household name. All it took for Titans running back Chris Johnson to overcome his name was a 2,000-yard season. Johnson should buy the first name of his teammate, LenDale White (both would make good money from that). Think about it: Who would forget a dreadlocked speedster with a name as rhythmic as LenDale Johnson?
A few quality players don’t quite pass the Bob Smith Test. Saints defensive end Will Smith is one. If he had a snazzier name – or at least one not already taken by a movie star – he’d probably be more popular nationally. But only fans in New Orleans seem to truly appreciate Smith’s quickness and tenacity.
There’s an even more obvious example of a failed Bob Smith Test. In the 1999 Super Bowl, Rams linebacker Mike Jones made an unforgettable tackle against Kevin Dyson on the 1-yard line to preserve victory. But his name was still Mike Jones, which, in Latin, I believe, means Forget Me. So Jones is forever remembered as “That Guy For The Rams Who Made The Tackle On The 1-Yard Line.” (Although sometimes he’s remembered as “London Fletcher….Right? Was It London Fletcher?”)
Some players refuse to take the Bob Smith Test. Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson went so far as to change his name to Chad Ochocinco. Billy Johnson added “White Shoes” in the middle of his name. Joe Greene is a fairly plain name….until you stick “Mean” in front of it.
But I digress. The bottom line: When pondering a player or convincing yourself that your team’s big-money investment is wise (Raider and Redskin fans know what I’m talking about), ask yourself, If this guy’s name was Bob Smith, would I even notice him?
Andy Benoit is the founder of NFLTouchdown.com