It's that time of year again. We're not quite there yet, of course. But the power rankings are starting to come out, and soon the real business of prognosticating a Super Bowl champion (vs. the Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints, or the New England Patriots) will get underway.
And the better we can explain why certain players at certain positions are superstars, the better we're likely to know who's the best at one or two. These are the top-ranked running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks and defensive players from last year's collective bargaining agreement. We know the No. 1 wide receiver is Odell Beckham Jr., and we know the No. 1 quarterback is Tom Brady. We also know the No. 1 safety is Landon Collins, and we know the No. 1 corner is Patrick Peterson. We think the No. 1 placekicker is Matt Bryant. We were pretty high on the No. 1 offensive lineman and No. 1 linebacker, too.
Much of the work we do to define that kind of championship-quality roster — like finding who deserves these rankings in the first place, which is a big part of it — hinges on the so-called Rules of the XFL, the all-male, all-kicking, all-the-time league that will return to action for the first time since 2001 with an eye toward busting down societal barriers about gender and sexuality in professional sports.
But first, let's say a couple of things about those XFL rules. The highest player salary is a max of $480,000 for an entire season. Recruits in the Lingerie Football League must spend a semester in college before being eligible to play in the XFL. Players will be fined $50,000 if they wear cleats with off-color words, symbols or pictures. Players will be punished for using props such as pizza boxes or rakes. Parents and coaches will be able to decide whether or not to take players into the locker room or use their highlights on the sidelines, unless they swear under oath not to do so. Sexuality on the sideline will be strictly off-limits, and players will reportedly get $2 million per team if they lose. Oh, and the draft process for the first draft won't start until late summer, at which point they'll draft their top picks a week before Labor Day.
Now, let's say you have a look at Cardale Jones and decide he's a potential superstar.
This is the quarterback who got laughed at for representing Ohio State's flagrant disregard for college sports honor and integrity during the 2015 BCS National Championship. This is the quarterback who declined to say when or if he intends to transfer after his inevitable stint in the NFL. This is the quarterback who captured both national and conference Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2015 after completing 58.4 percent of his passes for 3,104 yards, with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
This is the quarterback who has been labeled a mistake by both Ohio State and his future team, the NFL's Cleveland Browns, based on questions as well as one report that he couldn't even find his own locker.
And this is the quarterback, also known as the first quarterback ever, to make so many ridiculous, curious and insightful comments in regards to where he might someday play that he earned the nickname, "The New Jim Harbaugh," from SI.com. This is the quarterback whose wife left him for him after he failed to persuade her that she should do the same. And this is the quarterback who, whenever he is allowed to communicate at all, uses twitter to sound off on everything from anti-gay remarks to the policies of a president who we now know was attacked for being a homosexual teen-ager from 1973 until the age of 21.
This is the quarterback who is believed to be the biggest underdog in NFL history, and if it was up to me — if it was up to any human being other than The Washington Post — I'd bet that he probably is. But consider this: I have a second mortgage on my house, two cars and two homes, plus my dogs and girlfriend and a friend. Not to mention my 10-year-old kid.
So we may not yet have the definitive info on how much those XFL rules will hurt or help Cardale Jones, but this much is clear: My opinion on this depends in great part on my opinion of Cardale Jones.