Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jeff Ireland versus Dez Bryant

As the NFL Draft concluded this past weekend, people begin to analyze what players went higher than expected and what players went lower than expected. Part of that analysis went into why a player slid up or down and what the scouts and team management believed helped or hampered the player. In some instances like the Broncos and Tim Tebow, their brash young coach determined he was drafting the college superstar with debatable pro prospects because he “fell in love with him” after meeting with him face-to-face. Other players slid down the draft board because they had shorter arms than the prototypical player at their position (Brian Bulaga). Then there were guys on opposite ends of the dreaded “character concern” issue that caused the players to slip – wide receiver Dez Bryant and safety Myron Rolle. Bryant was believed to be immature and undisciplined after a rough childhood and upbringing. Rolle was thought to have too much good character and the fear was that he was not dedicated enough to the sport because he took a year off to pursue a Rhode’s scholarship which only around 30 people in the entire world get a shot at. Here is a great and damning article on Rolle’s “fall” to the 6th round and what it says about the NFL and its decision makers.

A side note from that story was the question from the Tampa Bay coaching staff asking Rolle how it felt to “abandon” his teammates to pursue the prestigious scholarship. A ridiculous question, but nothing compared to the question Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant during their meeting at the scouting combine. It is known that Bryant had a difficult childhood and his mother had trouble with the law, including serving time for a drug charge. According a report from Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Ireland asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. The pundits have jumped up and down and are demanding some action be taken against Ireland for his insensitive question. I make the case that while the question is not the classiest move, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking it.

First and foremost, Ireland was likely looking see how Bryant would react to being asked an uncomfortable question. Would his temper and emotions get the best of him or could he keep his cool? In this post Tiger Woods/Ben Roethlisberger/Tiki Barber world that we all now live in, they will get pushed and prodded and asked extremely awkward questions from the regular media and the sensational journalists like TMZ or US Weekly. Teams have a right to know and understand whether their employees/players can handle that scrutiny and that pressure. Will they blow a gasket like Milton Bradley or Naomi Cambell? Or will they show poise like Tom Brady when it was known that he would be having a baby with Bridget Moynahan even though they had broken up?

Second, these players are about to be handed a gargantuan contract with a guarantee of nearly $20+ million. If you were about to sign a high profile client, employee or consultant, wouldn’t you want to know absolutely everything there is to know about that person? Don’t you want to make sure there are no other skeletons in the closet so that you’re not facing a Tiki Barber situation in the near future? (side note – Tiki is not getting nearly enough heaped on him for being a dirtbag, so I will continually use him rather than Tiger, Big Ben, Jesse James, or the other litany of unfaithful dudes) It is the equivalent of a background check by your employer before you get hired, only instead of hiring some company to do the research or dig for information he asked him straight up if it were true. (I do however recognize that such a question typically would not be legal for a potential employer to ask their employee in most work place interviews – usually covering your religion, sexual orientation, etc.)

Finally, the careers of these coaches and general managers are tied to the success, or lack of success, of the players that they draft. Remember Bobby Beathard? He led the Redskins to 3 Super Bowl titles in the 1980’s and early 1990’s before leading the Chargers to their first ever Super Bowl appearance in 1995. Yet he is best known as the guy who drafted mammoth bust Ryan Leaf for the San Diego Chargers (not to be confused with a mammoth bust like Helena Mattson in Ironman 2) in 1998 and has been out of the league since he “retired” in 2002 at age 62 (look at the ages of guys like Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, and Marv Levy before assuming it was a normal age to retire). The career prospects for Josh McDaniels are now squarely tied to the success of Tim Tebow in Denver and lack of success of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall outside of Denver. If those moves back fire, do you think another team is going to hire him to coach or run their franchise? These players hold the fate of these overly-caffeinated and stressed coaches and executives. So can you blame them for wanting to make absolute certain they know everything there is to know about the player, his background, and his ability to maintain his poise before relying upon the player to be a centerpiece of his success?

Could Jeff Ireland have handled the situation with more class by getting to the answer with more eloquent wording? Yes, most definitely. Could he have diffused the situation immediately by explaining to Bryant at the end of the session why he asked the question and apologize for possibly offending him? Again, most definitely. Did Ireland do any of this? Perhaps – we don’t know because we have only heard one side of the story. So don’t rush to judge a guy for being thorough and covering his own you-know-what, even if his method was not the best approach.

No comments:

Post a Comment