What happens when you lose all-world linebacker Sean Lee to another injury, this time for an entire season which hasn’t even begun yet?
Also factor in that just over a year ago you badly miscalculated the durability and overall value of a defensive front that you did nothing to bolster during the entire offseason.
Yeah, things can get a little dire when these scenarios emerge—one reason why good professional football franchises tend to avoid them—and it obviously can lead to highly questionable judgement.
I’ll keep this relatively short and simple:
In acquiring former University of Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain from the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday, Dalals Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is taking a walk down memory lane.
Remember Adam “Pac Man” Jones and defensive tackle Terry “Tank” Johnson in 2008?
How about defensive tackle Dimitrius Underwood back in 2000?
In other words, and without meaning to lump those just named players into the same exact category, sometimes it’s best to simply stay away from known problems. They seldom end up vanishing completely in favor of presenting tremendous opportunity.
McClain has problems that have to disappear completely.
According to Jon Machota of Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys have bet a sixth and seventh round pick in 2015 that those issues will do exactly that.
I’m always weary of players who aren’t certain they want to play football and also like to wave guns around. McClain has forged some history that makes his presence at Valley Ranch a potential liability in ways that may not be too beneficial. I know that the NFL has seen more than it’s share of strange player behavior over the last few decades and that there seems to be no limit as to how far things can go.
What about McClain’s history with the Crimson Tide under head coach Nick Saban, you ask?
Great question, and this is what makes this acquisition so intriguing, if not ill-advised.
Even if we assume that McClain is ready for football now—something he wasn’t just a few months ago—we still have no clue as to what exactly his 6’3”, 255 pound frame has to offer. The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2009) was out of the league in 2013. His frequent retirements as of late must make him a question mark when considering the long-term future.
Maybe Jones stipulated that so long as McClain is with the Cowboys, he’s not allowed to set foot onto Alabama soil. Originally from Athens, Alabama, McClain’s biggest problems seem to involve his being back on familiar turf, or simply being close to home.
I don’t know enough about McClain, the person, to know why he’s had the difficulties he’s had. I’m more aware of the fact that McClain was once the latest in a growing line of NFL-ready defenders groomed under Saban at Alabama. He was the eighth-overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft and earned that status following a most decorated career in Tuscaloosa.
Obviously the same kind of success and productivity didn’t translate immediately to the professional game, and I don’t know that this will suddenly begin with the Cowboys.
Factor in that McClain has been playing inside linebacker in 3-4 schemes for most of his post-high school career and all bets are off. Dallas is in the process of rebuilding a true 4-3 defensive front with both younger and better suited players for several positions.
What will be interesting, provided McClain can even make the team, is how exactly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli uses this soon-to-be 25 year-old. McClain seems a little large for what many 4-3 defenses rely on at linebacker, yet I have no clue as to where he’s at right now in terms of measurements.
It seems like all that time spent with the Crimson Tide in college and the Oakland Raiders and Ravens in the NFL makes McClain a somewhat questionable fit.
It is true that if McClain pans out it could mean good things for the Cowboys. This is a big “if”, however, and desperation can sometimes lead to drastic actions.
Again, good franchises find ways of avoiding this territory.