Ted Ginn Jr. is something of a conundrum. Ohio State fans that don't spend much time watching the NFL remember Ginn as a breakout wide receiver during the Troy Smith era. I'll forever remember Ginn as offering the lone highlight in the 2007 Championship Game, when he took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. Ginn left the game immediately when he was injured during the celebration of this run-back, which pretty much sums up the Buckeyes performance during the 41-14 loss to Urban Meyer's Gators. Nevertheless, I remember the pre-game anxiety fading with Ginn's return:
This is the Ted Ginn Jr. I want to remember.
Ginn was drafted ninth overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 NFL Draft, surprising everyone by going early in the first round. Ginn's time in Miami was, in a word, disappointing. Touted as a speedster who could infuse the receiving corps. in Miami with some new energy, Ginn was not a popular pick. The Phinsider, ranks Ginn as the No. 2 overall draft bust. The Miami Herald is a little kinder, ranking Ginn at just the 11th overall bust.
The major complaint against Ginn, in case you're not a Miami sympathizer and don't know, is that he couldn't catch the ball. That's a valid concern, I suppose, if you're wideout. Over three seasons in Miami he caught well under half of the balls thrown his way, averaging just over 500 yards per season and about 40 catches. First rounders are generally expected to do better than that .
Miami fans don't forget. They view the first round pick on Ginn as wasted, considering Ginn was traded for a fifth rounder three years later, and lament the fact that Ginn never lived up to expectations. There's a Reddit thread devoted to reminding readers "how bad Ted Ginn Jr. was (still is)" that links to a supercut of all his drops. So sad.
Now Ted Ginn is on a Super Bowl team, and his performance in the NFC championship game is being roundly praised. Not only did Ginn run in a 22-yard touchdown, but he hunted down future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Peterson after an interception and tackled the ever-living crap out of him.
That might be up there with the championship game touchdown return, especially if I was a Panthers fan.
Ted Ginn's turnaround from draft bust to valuable receiver on a Super Bowl team is certainly surprising. It's not just Carolina that's helping here, either. To put it in perspective, during Ginn's last year in Miami, his receiving stat line was 38 receptions on 78 targets for 454 yards and 1 (!) touchdown. This year Ginn is 44 for 96, good for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. The scoring efficiency is the most eye-popping number. The reception rate hasn't improved that much since Miami, but Ginn is scoring a touchdown every four catches now. In Miami he was scoring every 25 catches.
Part of Ginn's success is due to having more opportunities to get on the field this year. Star receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down before the season even started, leaving many wondering if the Panthers had enough receivers, including unproven rookie Devin Funchess, in the stable to have success. Ginn and fellow Ohio State-alum Philly Brown have stepped up into the vacuum Benjamin left behind and have shined this year.
ESPN writer James Walker this week posted a piece highlighting how Ginn's speed and use as a deep threat fits well with Carolina's style of play this year:
Most importantly, Ginn is finally the offensive threat the Dolphins felt he could be at the start of his career nine year ago. Opponents have to account for his deep speed, which meshes well with Carolina's power running game. The combination might be enough for the Panthers (17-1) to win a title in two weeks when they face the AFC champion Denver Broncos.
In other words, Ginn has become the Devin Smith on a Carolina team that is playing a style of ball remarkably similar to the 2014-15 Buckeyes. A versatile, running-capable quarterback, a stud back who's shifty enough to pick apart a defensive line, and a deep threat to keep safeties honest. Seems like a recipe for championship success to me.
Ginn's success is a mix of improving skills and finally being in a situation that provides him the opportunity to succeed. With five former Buckeyes headed to the Super Bowl next Sunday, there's a lot for a college fan to watch. Ted Ginn Jr.'s winding path to NFL success makes him a character to root for. After being picked ninth overall, Ted Ginn Jr. is widely regarded as a draft bust for the Miami Dolphins. But now, eight years later, Ginn is on a Super Bowl roster and having the best season of his professional career.
It's not often that such gifted 1st round picks become underdog stories, but here we are. And Teddy is an awfully easy one to root for.