The annual training camp hype surrounding Cody Latimer has become a running gag of sorts between Kevin, myself and our buddy Ryan. We marvel at how the media comes away impressed with Latimer’s performance during these flag football practices despite the fact that he has accomplished a whole lot of nothing his first two years in the league. In fact, Ryan is so fed up with it that he actually wished death upon the guy. Then he promptly took it back, criticized the media for overhyping Latimer and then before I knew it, Kevin was faced with the horrifying prospect of losing all of his top Pokemon in Pokemon Go for a Magikarp named Cody Latimer.
Yep, things escalate quickly when Cody Latimer’s name gets brought up.
All kidding aside, it’s a rather baffling scenario to say the least. I have no doubt that Latimer makes some big plays in practice and by all accounts he’s a good person, but you know who else possessed those qualities? Kyle Orton. You know who Kyle Orton was benched for? Tim Tebow. I don’t care that it’s a different position because the same principal applies. Orton never performed when it mattered in games that counted and that’s the reason that Latimer has drawn the ire of Broncos fans everywhere, including Ryan.
To borrow a quote from Jon Gruden, having potential just means that he hasn’t done anything yet. When’s he going to do it already? Incidentally, “When’s he going to do it already” is a question that pretty much every girl I’ve dated has asked me, but that’s neither here nor there. Moving on.
As you can see, self-deprecating humor is something that I rely on from time to time. It’s also a trait that every athlete should have in order to block out any distractions and deal with any criticism. In Latimer’s case, he must make fun of himself on a regular basis to cope with all of the complaints that people make about him. Minimal impact on the field is not the only gripe that we have with the third-year product out of Indiana (can you name a great NFL player who went to Indiana, because I couldn’t when Kevin asked me). His status as a second-round selection in the 2014 draft also bears some of the blame, especially when receivers like Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin emerged from that same class. It’s not like the Broncos are hurting at wide receiver, but still.
And I think that’s the heart of the matter in this circumstance. Every year, we are told that THIS will be the year for Cody Latimer, and every year he is overshadowed and outplayed by other young receivers in the league. At first, I thought it was because Latimer just had a rough time earning the trust of Peyton Manning. The Sheriff was notorious for not targeting guys that he wasn’t on the same page with, but then Peyton went out and Brock came in and Latimer was almost as invisible as before (though he did have a touchdown against Chicago). Then I wondered if playing behind DT and Emmanuel Sanders was limiting Latimer’s opportunities, but in recent years Wes Welker and Julius Thomas had a lot of success as the third option in the passing game. Even Bennie Fowler and Owen Daniels made some huge plays last season. Now I was just grasping at straws and any other excuses I tried to make for the pride of Indiana were quickly debunked.
The truth is I have no clue why Latimer has yet to make good on the promise of his potential. Maybe he just struggles to create separation when the pads come on and the defense is playing at full speed. Perhaps he’s a late bloomer and he’ll figure it out when everyone is ready to give up on him.
Or it could be that Cody Latimer is simply a glorified role player who will never make the difference that we all hoped he would. Not this season, not ever.
The irony is that even if Latimer once again fails to live up to the Broncos’ expectations for him, he is in no danger of being cut from the team. For all of his shortcomings thus far in his career, Latimer has carved himself a niche on special teams and since he’s a backup, that makes it worthwhile to keep him on the final roster. If he manages to stick, he will probably still be around this time next summer and we will all have to endure yet another round of “will he finally do it?”
None of this would be an issue if Latimer had been a late-round pick or gone undrafted. Being a reserve and having a spot on kickoffs and punts is certainly not a bad thing, and quite frankly you need guys who excel at that if you want to be strong in all three phases of the game. But the way you are perceived has a lot to do with how popular you are both in football and in life, and until he makes his presence felt as a receiver, Cody will always be looked at as an underachiever, not an asset.
My advice? Keep working on self-deprecation, Cody. You’re going to need it.