Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent’s retirement a week ago somewhat cooled the seemingly universal condemnation of the team’s decision to keep the defensive tackle on their offseason roster. Brent is still awaiting his court date for intoxication manslaughter charges stemming from the December death of his friend and Cowboys practice squad player Jerry Brown.
Despite a growing fervor among the experts in the national media, the Cowboys stoically refused to cut Brent. Expert commentary on the matter ranged from cynical theories suggesting Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cares only about Brent’s talent, to unsourced “inside-the-organization” reports suggesting the staff might be turning on Jerry over the matter, to self-righteous condemnation for not cutting Brent the way the Patriots cut Aaron Hernandez (as if intoxication manslaughter has anything remotely in common with premeditated murder).
Expert speculation was gaining momentum on the way toward full-blown righteous outrage when Brent quashed the matter with his abrupt retirement. But it was nothing more than the same old lazy analysis from a national media that struggles to see past its dogma and cover the Cowboys fairly.
The truth is Brent’s roster spot was a non-story at worst, and at best it was a great human interest piece about nascent steps taken down the long, painful road of personal healing and redemption. The Cowboys told us they wouldn’t cut Brent. They told us exactly why. And their reasons were laudable. Head coach Jason Garrett laid it out very clearly the day after the crash:
“What we want to do as players, as coaches, as an entire organization is let (Brent) know that he should be supported everywhere he turns. That’s what we want to express to him. It’s a very challenging situation for him.”
What’s hard to understand about that? The reality is, two lives were destroyed on the morning of December 8, 2012, and the Cowboys are trying to save one of them.
It won’t be easy. Surely every day, Brent relives what he did. Leaving the bar; opening the car door; twisting the key in the ignition – fateful choices, seemingly inconsequential in the moment, that he wishes to God he could snatch back.
Many reading this have made similarly stupid choices at some point, but without the tragic consequences: There, but for the grace of God, go I. Brent killed his best friend; try for a moment to comprehend the guilt and self loathing. Imagine looking into the anguished face of your dead friend’s mother. Brent probably wishes he was dead, and Jerry Brown had lived. Walk a mile in his shoes – wouldn’t you wish that?