Lately there has been increasing sentiment from around NFL circles that the Bucs should part ways with their talented young cornerback, Aqib Talib. Everyone has an opinion and a lot of them seem to say that the Buccaneers are a team that lacks organizational control and that the coaches are enablers and that they have to take a stance. Just this morning reports came out regarding Chris Hovan and his opinion on the situation.
The league likes to advance this image that things were purer in a previous day and era (similar to the Roman concept of Mos Maiorum). The older generation speaks as though there was this prevailing integrity inherent in the league during their time and that today’s NFL has lost that and somehow needs to get back to that. Just listen to Mark Schlereth get on his NFL soapbox at ESPN, and he’s not even that old. Listen to Mike Ditka, listen to Herm Edwards, there is almost this idea that teams should conduct themselves by this archaic, unwritten NFL Ethos.
That ethos has never existed. What I find interesting is that throughout the history of the league there are stories of selfish players and guys with criminal streaks helping great teams get to the top. No one ever calls them out. The MVP of Super Bowl I, Max McGee, violated the team’s curfew the night before and was hungover the day of the game, at one point saying to starter Boyd Dowler, “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape.” Nobody ever questions why Vince Lombardi didn’t sit him for violation of team rules.
As it stands Max McGee is woven into the fabric of NFL lore, the first MVP of the first Super Bowl. Today you’d listen to Mark Schlereth say that, “this is a guy who doesn’t get it.” The prevailing idea being that this is not how things are done in the NFL. Only that was 40-some years ago on Lombardi’s Packers.
The NFL loves to look back fondly on the Steelers teams of the 70′s, but according to at least one NFL coach, Jim Haslett, they were the fore-fathers of NFL Doping.
“That’s because it wasn’t illegal then,” Haslett said. “That was my point. You had so many people using them because they were legal. I talked about it to show how far our league has come. We have the best policy anywhere on steroids.”
“It started, really, in Pittsburgh. They got an advantage on a lot of football teams. They were so much stronger (in the) ’70s, late ’70s, early ’80s,” Haslett said Wednesday. “They’re the ones who kind of started it.”
Lawrence Taylor was notorious in NFL circles for his proclivities (cocaine and hookers, neither legal), yet nobody ever calls Bill Parcells an enabler. No, Bill Parcells won, so it was ok that he just looked the other way while LT destroyed his life and the ‘good name’ of the NFL. Bill Parcells won in the late 80′s and that excused quitting on New England in the 90′s and unimpressive tenures in Miami and Dallas this past decade. Winning negates all.
A lot of people don’t even remember that when the Ravens were on their Super Bowl run Ray Lewis was beating a murder allegation. Ten years later it’s hard to imagine what the Ravens would have been like if they had cut Lewis.
I’m pretty sure there’s about to be a documentary out on the “Cocaine Cowboys” of the early 90′s. Big D was rife with problems when Jimmy Johnson was winning titles, from Michael Irvin to Leon Lett to Nate Newton, no shortage of issues. Yet we love Jimmy, he spoon feeds us football on Sunday morning with Terry and Howie on Fox. He makes dandruff shampoo commercials and ads for natural male enhancement. But he’s not an enabler. He ran two of the dirtiest programs in football history (Miami in the 80′s, Dallas in the 90′s) and he’ll probably go to the Hall of Fame because he’s a winner.
That’s the real unwritten NFL Ethos. Everybody does what it takes to win, everybody. Including overlooking your own issues or telling another team to cut an elite talent because it makes them a lot worse. You don’t think that’s not at least a small motivation? The Bucs are a team that seriously need to address a lack of pass-rush (third fewest sacks in 2010), yet somehow still finished last year with the 7th ranked pass defense and feature one of the top five corners in football. You wouldn’t jump at a chance to get him out of Tampa if you’re another team?
Don’t buy into any talk of some higher NFL standard or some unwritten league ethos though, that’s a mixture of nostalgia and a PR campaign by Roger Goodell. In the NFL every team is out to lie, cheat and screw over every other team to gain any advantage they can and win. Just look at the NFL draft, listen to any GM talk. It’s the peak of BS-season. NFL GM’s can make politicians blush at points with their mastery in the performance and execution of the fine art of lying.
In the NFL you’re only wrong if you don’t win. Mike Tomlin isn’t an enabler or a a coach that lacks organizational control because he keeps winning. It doesn’t matter Big Ben is running amok, Tomlin is fine because he’s got the ring. Rodney Harrison isn’t a cheater, he’s a respected member of the media because he’s a winner. It doesn’t matter he got caught with PED’s, he did it on the Patriots while they were bringing home the hardware.
Whatever decision the Bucs make regarding Talib, I hope it’s because that’s the best move for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and not because someone talked them into some BS about ‘that’s how you win in the NFL is with character’. Because that’s just patently untrue. Sometimes character prevails in professional sports, and sometimes talent and ability do. Don’t get conned into thinking otherwise.
The only thing the Bucs need to worry about with regard to their decision on Talib is themselves. It’s very easy for other people to say the Bucs should cut an elite cover-corner when it’s not their team. But Aqib Talibs don’t just grow on trees. If the Bucs feel they’ve exhausted every avenue with Talib and he just cannot be relied on, so be it. But make that decision on its own merits and not because consensus, or anyone else says so.
Because at the end of the day the NFL only cares if you won.