The NFL is a multi-billon dollar corporation. It’s the most popular sport in America by a wide margin right now. Every Sunday and Monday night, people are stuck to their couches watching football games. Even on Thursday night games, which have become the sloppiest, hardest to watch games of the week, people are still glued to their TVs. On the surface, you’d think the NFL has no problems, and all is well and good. If only that were the case.
Bullygate, the bullying and harassment involving the Miami Dolphins, Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, has been an absolute PR mess for the NFL. This story has captivated the country for the past week and a half, but at this point, it doesn’t seem like any criminal charges will be brought.
That would be a relief for the NFL, seeing as they don’t need any more of that. You would have to believe that Roger Goodell has been sitting in his office losing his mind trying to figure out how to “weather the storm” as Incognito put it. This storm may be bad, but the NFL has dealt with much worse, and will most likely have to put up with more in the future.
How could anyone forget the Mike Vick dog fighting saga, or Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub? Both these men, prominent stars in the league, spent time in jail for their crimes. Both topics were hot button issues throughout the country for months.
What about two-time Super Bowl Champ Big Ben Roethlisberger? Put aside the motorcycle incident that nearly cost him his life, and focus on the not one, but TWO sexual assault accusations against him. How could a man who has won two Super Bowls and played on the biggest stage of his life screw up like that?
Remember Josh Brent? He was the Cowboy charged with killing a teammate while driving drunk last year. It was a disgusting, terrible act, and Brent was back on the sidelines THAT WEEKEND cheering his team on. That is just awful.
How dos the NFL solve this massive image problem? The answer is simple: they can't.
And of course, we have the murder charge recently given to former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. If you haven’t heard about this case, then I'd like you to tell me what living under a rock is like. This is one of the biggest blows to the NFL's image and reputation it has ever had, and it’s the worst incident since the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the Rae Carruth case.
There have been 42 arrests of NFL players this year alone. That’s nearly an entire team. And I’m not even including the two Broncos executives, not players, who were arrested over the summer.
A lot of these charges were dropped, yes, but that’s beside the point. You have professional athletes running around at night making fools of themselves, and even worse, committing crimes that can bring harm to others. Those 42 players I mentioned are only the ones who got caught. Who knows what other players do on their free time when no cameras or coaches are around to keep them, somewhat, in line?
So how does the NFL solve this massive image problem? The answer is simple: they can't. They can’t control how these players are raised or whom they grow up with. They can keep certain people out of their locker rooms, but coaches and general managers can't control whom these men choose to hang around with. They also can’t control their beliefs and values.
When you draft a player, you can try as hard as you want to keep tabs on them and change their way of life if you’re an owner looking to protect your investment, but that can only take you so far. Some player’s identities are permanently shaped before they ever step on an NFL field.
5 For the Night
1. Replacements: The Dolphins have a big void to fill now that an entire side of their offensive line is gone due to Bullygate. At 4-4, the Dolphins are still very much in the playoff race. All things considered, Richie Incognito was a good football player, and it's going to be very tough to replace him. The same goes for Jonathan Martin. The Phins must try and find those replacements tonight.
2. Mike Glennon: Glennon had the best game of his young career last week against the vaunted Seahawks defense, going 17 for 23 with two touchdown passes. If the Bucs are looking to get their first victory tonight, they are going to need a strong performance from Glennon.
3. Mike James: With Doug Martin officially being placed on IR last week, the backfield now belongs to James. He also had a big game against Seattle last week, so the Bucs have high hopes that James can fill the large void left by Martin.
4. Mike Wallace vs. Darrell Revis: This should be a fairly interesting matchup. The Dolphins' deep threat isn’t having quite the year Miami expected him to have, but he has had some decent production. In tonight’s game, he should start out on the beaches of Revis Island, but if Brian Hartline starts acting like Wes Welker, Revis may have to switch over.
5. Joe Philbin: Nobody knows how or when this Bullygate scandal is going to end. The longer it goes on, the longer I wonder how long Philbin will remain the Miami coach. If the Dolphins go into a complete nosedive, I think it’ll be his head, and he’ll be gone before season's end. As a coach of an NFL team, something like this cannot happen on your watch.