Posted: Friday April 15, 2005 6:45PM; Updated: Friday April 15, 2005 7:08PM
Don Banks will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
It's that kind of mentality Yee finds tough to counter because he believes the perception that Chang is short has largely taken root around the NFL. "When Drew Brees was playing badly in San Diego, he played short,'' Yee said. "When he played well, they didn't care. When Doug Flutie played well for Buffalo, [the Bills] didn't care about his height. When he played badly, he was too short.''
NFL evaluators have been burned before by run-and-shoot quarterbacks -- you remember David Klingler and Andre Ware, don't you? -- and it's likely Chang's experience in that offense is the largest hurdle he has to overcome. Said one NFL evaluator: "You can't argue with his production, but people worry that he doesn't have a very strong arm and that he played in a run-and-shoot system. I think it's possible that he's being discounted somewhat because of [his race], because of the novelty factor, but if you look at the film of him, he played pretty badly in some of his bigger games.''
Said another AFC personnel official: "The criticism that Chang is getting is the same that Klingler got and the same that Ware got, that he comes from a run-and-shoot offense. What about Aaron Rodgers getting killed for the Jeff Tedford factor? Or the beating [Georgia's] David Greene is getting, the winningest quarterback in college football history?
"I've just never heard anyone remotely mention race as a factor in the criticism I've heard of Chang," he added. "I don't even know if the stereotype exists for Asian quarterbacks. But you have to realize that others may be looking at it from a perspective I know nothing about.''
Norm Chow, who is also Asian and was hired to his first NFL coaching job as Tennessee's offensive coordinator in January, ran one of college football's most successful offenses the last four years at Southern Cal. Since leaving USC, the 58-year-old Chow has spoken of the barriers he had to break through to be viewed simply as a "football guy.''
"Oh, yeah, you have to overcome a lot of perceptions,'' Chow said this week. "I overcame a lot. The unfortunate part of athletics is that once you're labeled a certain way, it's tough to break that mold. It goes on in NFL, too. I see that with the perceptions that surround both [Cal quarterback] Aaron Rodgers and [Utah QB] Alex Smith. Somebody says something about them, and then everybody starts saying it. It becomes a part of reality. I hope that's not happening with Timmy. I hope it has nothing to do with how Tim's game is evaluated. I really don't think it is.''
"With the draft, they're going to draw their conclusions first and then find reasons to support it later,'' Yee said. "If [talent evaluators] like you, they're going to find reasons why they like you. If they don't like you, and even though you still may be a good player, they're going to find reasons why they don't like you.
"It could be that Timmy gets drafted in the fifth or sixth round, becomes Marc Bulger and then a couple years from now people would say, 'We knew it all along.' But that's not what they're saying now.''
Right now, Chang's game is considered suspect and his draft status dubious. But he wouldn't be the first late-round pick to enter the league and make personnel men do some revisionist history. In the NFL, as elsewhere, closing the gap between perception and reality is a game that never really ends.