Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Get Off the Hot Seat, Coaches Too Often Let Players Burn

Michael Vick has pled out to federal authorities and may spend as few as 6 months in jail (provided for good behavior), I am probably the only person in the country shrugging his shoulders about it. Yes, Roger Goodell will likely suspend Vick for the season following his jail time (there is no way he allows the suspension and jail time to run concurrently), and after that, no team will want to take a flier on a quarterback who was already on the fence. This is a Lawrence Phillips, with “potential” but little consistency, on or off the field. That was fine in Atlanta, if you have him you may as well try to develop him (especially after they gave up LeDainian Tomlinson for him in the draft way back when), but it won’t cut it for any other team.

But this punishment isn’t going to change the culture of the NFL. Whatever Goodell does (and he is doing an amazing job as commissioner), it will be like tying duct tape to a broken down Miata- it’ll hold it together but it won’t solve the problem. The problem does not lie with how the commissioner has handled things in the past or in the future; players won’t change their entire group of “friends” and “activities” because one or two players a year get suspended for the season. The rookie symposium’s inspiring speeches from upstanding players like Troy Vincent won’t make honorable men out of kids with millions of dollars in their pockets and little guidance or direction.

The league isn’t the problem. 117 Division 1-A schools’ coaches and administrators are the problem. An easily overlooked story might be Charlie Weis smoothing over the “lack of knowledge” that landed Jimmy Clausen in violation of the law while driving his 23 year old friend to buy two bottles of vodka, a case of beer, and a bottle of whiskey. Does Weis honestly think Clausen’s friend was going to drink all of that himself? Weis should be giving his quarterback a harsh lesson in judgment and that if he continues that behavior he will get in bigger trouble later. Another Irish quarterback, Demetrius Jones, recently had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge dropped after he borrowed a car in which pot “happened” to be in the ashtray.

The aftermath of the Miami-FIU brawl saw scattered one game suspensions for several players by Miami (for the game against ACC doormat North Carolina) on a team notorious for having more guns at practice than footballs. The one of the worst of these brawlers, Brandon Merriweather, was drafted in the first round by an organization in the Patriots that is supposed to be the classiest in the league.

College coaches are told to “win now” to preserve their jobs. The will keep their players on the field no matter how they conduct themselves. Larry Coker didn’t lose his job because he was running what was essentially a state prison team in Miami, he lost his job because he went 6-6 after several disappointing seasons. Michigan fans are fortunate that Lloyd holds his players accountable and tries to teach them that their behavior has serious consequences on their lives, but even Coach Carr’s players have been in a great deal of recent trouble with the law.

How is a player who is allowed to do whatever he wants on the college level with nothing but positive reinforcement supposed to suddenly reform when he gets to the NFL? No amount of punishment by the commissioner will change that behavior en masse. Michael Vick is a despicable person who deserves all the time he gets and more. He should never play in the NFL again. But he is far from the last player like Michael Vick we will see in the NFL, no matter how hard the law or the league comes down on him.

1 comment:

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