Gallant: Seahawks’ pass rush woes and Aldon Smith’s 3-sack day raises question about ‘The Code’
“Every man’s got to have a code.”
I’m not sure who said it best: The Wire’s Omar Little or Game of Thrones’ Sandor Clegane.
“PAWL, no one wants to go down your out-dated pop culture rabbit holes…”
NFL franchises have roster-building codes. Amassing talent is – and always has been – the priority. Over the last decade, knowing you can trust the players who represent their “brand” on and off the field has may be just as important.
The NFL had eventful years in 2013 and 2014 off the field. Aaron Hernandez’s murder of Odin Lloyd, the video of Ray Rice assaulting his fiancé, and the graphic images of Adrian Peterson’s child abuse made national news, not just SportsCenter blurbs. They were isolated incidents in a league approaching 2,000 players. But those headlines made teams more paranoid about player conduct than ever before.
Just one scandal could create nuclear fallout that a team could spend years trying to bury. Why else would you see an unnamed franchise hire a private investigator to follow Odell Beckham Jr. around during the 2018 offseason?
Of course, some teams look at codes more as… guidelines. Take the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones, who publicly said that the team has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Except for with Greg Hardy. Ezekiel Elliott. And most recently, Aldon Smith.
Here’s where things get awkward. After blasting through Duane Brown to take down Russell Wilson three times Sunday, Smith now leads the NFL with four sacks. The Seahawks, who have struggled over the past year to create any pressure, have just five sacks as a team through three games. And Smith, a 31-year-old former top 10 pick who’s bulked up to the size of Gregor Clegane, signed with Dallas this offseason for just $2 million.
You know where this conversation is going. Time to press pause. I’m not playing Captain Hindsight. In fact, I’m one of those soapbox-riding types that thinks it’s a privilege to play in the NFL. Talent’s great. But when you’ve been caught driving under the influence three times and involved in two domestic violence incidents in one month? Sorry. You’re out. Find a new career.
I’m just a simple caveman talk show host though. This isn’t a decision I get to make, even if I want to (again, NO). Nor is it one I must make.
No matter how many general managers across the league share my mindset, they live in a different world. It only takes one aggressive – or desperate – team builder to roll the dice on a pariah. If those dice land the right way, they can make the other 31 look bad. In the coming weeks, we’ll see a team gamble similarly with former Steelers, Raiders, and Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown. If Russell Wilson had his way, maybe it’d be the Seahawks.
Decisions like this aren’t always made easy by the off-the-field headlines Smith and Brown created. Sometimes, like in the case of free agent Earl Thomas (and Brown), it’s a matter of whether the guy’s talent is overshadowed by him being an awful teammate.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider clearly believe in giving guys second chances. It makes me wonder if they were interested in Smith, or if they’re giving any serious thought to Brown (HARD NO, THE WORST) or Thomas (no, but with all these injuries…). Their track record suggests they’d think long and hard about all three.
They traded for Marshawn Lynch after separate hit-and-run and gun charges. They traded for Percy Harvin, who’d thrown a weight at his head coach Brad Childress. They drafted Frank Clark, who was kicked off Michigan’s football team after an alleged domestic violence incident where no charges were pressed. They stood by Jarran Reed after a similar incident that eventually resulted in the NFL suspending him six games. And they gave Josh Gordon another chance last year despite a long history of issues with addiction. Assuming he’s ever reinstated by the NFL, they’ll give him another chance this year.
It wouldn’t have sat well with me if the Seahawks signed Aldon Smith. He’s already had way too many second chances. And the idea that Carroll and Schneider were interested in him at all is entirely based on speculation.
But given the guys above, you can’t entirely close the door on the possibility. And seeing as the Hawks are still struggling to get after the quarterback, I’d get it. Because after what we saw Sunday, they sure could use him.