For the past couple seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have built a reputation for giving problem and/or underperforming players a second chance. This offseason, free agents like defensive end Greg Hardy and veteran running back Darren McFadden have fallen into that category.
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Last year, this mindset seemed to benefit the Cowboys as former first round selection and twice-retired middle linebacker Rolando McClain was traded for and immediately began paying dividends on the field. But after a stellar first season, it appears now that the Cowboys organization is quickly growing frustrated with McClain and his issues. So much so that one analyst believes McClain will likely not be in the team’s future plans.
"“Rolando McClain is a real mystery because the vibes at Valley Ranch tell me of a growing frustrating level, Bob Sturm responded to a chat question that appear on the Dallas Morning News site on Friday. “They pulled this guy off his couch last summer, showed patience through camp last year, reaped the benefits of that in the fall (until he got too banged up) and were hoping that 2015 would now be that of a typical NFL player. Instead, it looks like his maintenance level will always be more than they wish to dedicate to a veteran and that will always affect him the most. It seems that the patience level and the question of whether it is worth the trouble is not the same now that Sean Lee is back. I would not assume he will be here all year at this point. He is so good, but at times, his name gets eye rolls from those on the inside.”"
Although there were murmurs of minor issues with McClain during the regular season last year, the Cowboys finishing the season with twelve wins and making the playoffs for the first time since 2009 seemed to have made all the drama worth it.
In fact, McClain recorded 81 total tackles, two interceptions and 1.0 sacks for the Cowboys in 2014. One of those interceptions helped seal Dallas’ improbable victory over the-then Super Bowl defending Seattle Seahawks in Washington. McClain played so well in his return, after sitting out a season of football, that he was even a contender for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Unfortunately, injuries and fatigue caused the fourth-year linebacker’s play to fade late into the season.
Then, red flags started to go up this offseason when McClain missed OTA’s to work on some personal business. He was also dealing with a knee injury, which required surgery in late May. But the biggest hurdle McClain has to overcome in Dallas is the four-game suspension he received earlier this month for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. This level of punishment is a result of a fourth failed drug test.
In my eyes, four failed tests means you have a serious problem. And in the Cowboys eyes, missing games due to a possible drug addiction has to be worrisome regardless of the numbers the player puts up. For McClain, who turns 26-years old this month, his chances of resurrecting his career in Dallas are certainly fading. He enters yet another season with the Cowboys having to prove his maturity level.
This latest misstep could mean Dallas will ultimately regret giving McClain a second chance. It simply depends on how the rest of the offseason unfolds for the mercurial linebacker.