We’ve heard it stressed many times since Jason Garrett became head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and that is the importance of picking the “right” guys to play for his team. But that’s nothing new for this team. Remember the grudge that receiver Randy Moss had against the Cowboys? Even though they certainly could have used such a talented receiver when their turn came at eight in the 1998 draft, they passed on him, causing him to slide all the way down to the Minnesota Vikings at twenty-one. His reputation preceded him and the Cowboys wanted no part of it.
But, on the other hand, the Cowboys have also been known to gamble here and there on talented players with a history of problems. The most notable of these being defensive end Charles Haley who, among other things, urinated in a team mate’s car when he was a member of the San Francisco 49’ers. This gamble was a success for the Cowboys, as Haley helped to lead them to three super bowl victories.
More typical of this approach though, was the decision to take a chance on Adam “Pacman” Jones. The talent was certainly there at one point, but talent versus trouble didn’t tilt things in his favor when the Cowboys decided to cut ties. Due to his past, the Cowboys felt it necessary to keep a body guard (babysitter) with him at all times. The handwriting was on the wall once he received a suspension from the league after getting into a fight with his own bodyguard.
Another chance the Cowboys took was with the selection of Dez Bryant. Bryant certainly had a troubled past, but the Cowboys dug into it deeply enough to realize it was more of an issue with lack of parental role models than hanging with the wrong crowd and perpetuating criminal acts. In fact, he had never been arrested for anything. There was the issue last year when he hit his mother with a ball cap during an argument, but that is as bad as it’s been with him, and it didn’t lead to criminal charges or a league suspension. Now the Cowboys have a top five receiver to show for their willingness to gamble and for their patience as well.
That’s not to say the Cowboys don’t have other issues with player behavior. Young men will make dumb mistakes, especially if you add alcohol to the equation. And that leads us to the incredibly dumb decision that caused Josh Brent to drive after drinking too much, resulting in an accident that killed his team mate, and friend, Jerry Brown. Because of one dumb mistake, Josh Brent might very well spend time in prison and never play pro football again. It really makes you wonder how, older and assumed wiser, Jay Ratliff made the decision to drive after drinking just weeks later, resulting in a DWI.
So why am I writing about all of this and why should anyone care? Well maybe it’s because just last week we saw the consequences of not selecting the “right” kind of guy. Sure the New England Patriots were able to select the talented tight end Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round because his reputation and background caused him to drop in the draft. But they came to depend on him which led them to offer a lucrative contract extension. And now it appears they can’t depend on him at all.
Also occurring last week was the arrest of Ausar Walcott, linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, selected in this year’s draft. He was arrested for attempted murder after punching another man outside a New Jersey night club, who is hospitalized in critical condition. At this point there have been twenty-seven NFL players arrested since the super bowl, and yes Adam “Pacman” Jones was one of them.
What is the root cause of this? I’m glad you asked. It’s athletes with questionable behavior in their backgrounds, but loads of talent, being heavily recruited by many universities that are willing to turn a blind eye to the behavioral issues. Issues that started in high school I might add, due to the school’s intense desire to win causing them not to expect much academically from the student. The thought process seems to be that as long as he can come in and help us win the next few years and stay out of jail, we will overlook the rest.
Add to that the student athlete constantly being told how great he is, he soon begins to think he can do no wrong and that there is no trouble he can’t find a way out of, no matter how egregious. And that leads us back to Hernandez. He allegedly thought that because his “friend” Odin Lloyd was friendly with guys he had a problem with, he and his buddies could just go out and execute him and suffer no consequences. Fortunately for society though, athletic ability and intelligence are two different things, so this coddled athlete wasn’t smart enough to cover his tracks, though he really tried.
And despite the fact that Hernandez has been accused, but not convicted, destroying cell phones and security system hard drives, as well as summoning a home cleaning service before the authorities arrive, are all kind of obvious signs of guilt, don’t you think? Of course if he has gotten away with murder before, he might have assumed that he could again. Because word is that Hernandez is also being investigated for a double homicide that occurred in Boston last July.
The bottom line is, if your team signs the right kind of guys, they and the league are better for it.