Are you ready for a healthy serving of clickbait? Because that’s evidently what Doug Whaley is serving today. The Pittsburgh alum and former general manager of the Buffalo Bills decided to dispense with the hot takes yesterday on 93.7 The Fan’s Morning Show with Colin Dunlap and Chris Mack, offering the following regarding the linebackers of today.
“Jack Ham would be a special teams backup. He was 215 pounds”, he said, referring to the former Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker who was one of the cornerstones of the Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s that helped them win four Super Bowls.
“Give me his dimensions. Give he his physical dimensions. He was 6’2”, 210-215”, he repeatedly insisted, though there is some matter of dispute as to at what weight Ham actually played—and frankly, players’ weights fluctuate. I can readily recall James Farrior and Larry Foote talking about losing weight over the course of the season and playing below their listed weight.
After receiving a tremendous amount of understandable pushback, Whaley explained that his comment on Ham was from the perspective of modern football and the evolution of the athlete. “In today’s game. I didn’t say when he played. How me a linebacker that weighs 215 pounds that plays in the NFL today. It’s just a different game”.
Still, I quite easily pulled up the names of a number of starting linebackers who play in the same range, including the 2021 season’s leading tackler, Jacksonville’s Foye Oluokun, who is listed at 6’2”, 215 pounds—exactly what Whaley claims Ham to have been. There is also Kyzir White, listed at 216 pounds at 6’2”, and Atlanta’s Deion Jones at 6’1” and 222 pounds.
I’m quite certain it’s not uncommon for the more athletic linebackers of today’s game to play at around 220 pounds or less by the middle of the season. And I’m also quite certain that Ham playing in today’s game would be able to put on some pounds. The human body hasn’t evolved significantly in the past 50 years, it’s the way players train and the positional expectations that has evolved.
And let’s get right to the root of the matter: this was deliberate sensationalism. Whaley didn’t just say that Ham wouldn’t be starting today. He said he would be a backup player on special teams. He wouldn’t even be a trusted special teams guy. You don’t say that without looking for a reaction.
He’s gotten that reaction, which he certainly didn’t seem to shy away from. Dunlap and Mack even talked about how they were going to put that quote all over the internet and tag Penn State football in it and all that, and he seemed perfectly fine with that—even happy about it.
So there you go, Doug, you’ve gotten your 15 minutes in honor of saying something intentionally ridiculous. Maybe that second interview for the Steelers’ vacant general manager job is about to get canceled—or maybe it already was before he decided to hot take his way into the headlines.