I’m not here to defend Richie Incognito. The information that has surfaced recently regarding his mistreatment of ex-teammate Jonathan Martin solidifies the fact that he is not a good person. Personally, I would want nothing to do with him under any circumstances.
Unless I ran an NFL franchise.
In that case, you have to consider whether signing the recently-suspended Incognito is the right decision for your football team. I’m sure GMs around the league are asking themselves that very question right now. That includes Bill Belichick, the acting general manager of the New England Patriots.
And he should be, because it is the right move.
For starters, can we stop acting like the voicemail Incognito left Martin is the most horrific thing we have ever heard? Anyone who has ever been in a locker room, or a high school for that matter, has heard all those words in similar (albeit crude) phraseology before. Granted, among teammates, it is usually done in jest.
But who’s to say Incognito actually meant to threaten Martin? Did Martin really believe that his teammate was going to slap his mother? Did he really believe that his teammate was going to kill him? The answer is almost certainly “no.”
I only know of one former NFL guy from whom I’d take a threat like that seriously. But that’s another story.
In this case, it’s a simple case of hazing and bullying being taken a little too far. Incognito is more of a jerk than your average NFL player, no doubt about it. But isn’t Jonathan Martin also far more soft than the average NFL player? Or any other NFL player for that matter? I am shocked that a guy who stormed out of the team cafeteria and disappeared when no one would sit with him made it to the NFL in the first place.
I think it’s safe to say that Incognito wouldn’t be able to torment just any teammate like that. Most players in this league have the mental fortitude to stand up to a bully like Incognito.
And he certainly wouldn’t be able to get away with it on the Patriots.
The Richie Incognito situation is just as much a problem with the Miami Dolphins organization as it is with the players themselves. A professional football team – from the executives to the coaches to the quarterback to the linemen to the kicker to the waterboys – spend day and night together for the better part of a year. You can’t keep secrets in that type of environment.
If someone is dealing with an injury, the trainers know about it and they tell the coaches and before long everyone knows. Similarly, if there’s beef between two offensive linemen, the teammates see it and hear it; the equipment guys see it and hear it; the trainers see it and hear it. Most often, the players would probably settle it themselves. If not, the coach will find out, and he needs to handle it. Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin obviously didn’t do his job.
If the New England Patriots do one thing, they do their jobs. And they do them well. If Richie Incognito started picking on a younger lineman on the Patriots, I’ve got to believe team leaders like Vince Wilfork, Tom Brady, and Logan Mankins are going to nip that in the bud the second they catch wind of it. If for whatever reason they don’t, Bill Belichick is going to hear about it long before Incognito has a chance to cause any serious harm.
Maybe Belichick cuts a player in that situation, maybe he gives him a second chance as long as it never happens again. Either way, the problem gets resolved quickly and efficiently. Richie Incognito’s streak of bullying would surely end.
So without the big, bad bully in the locker room, what are we left with? A Pro Bowl guard that is a little rough around the edges. To me, that sounds like the Patriots bread and butter.
So much of the Patriots’ organizational success can be attributed to taking chances on players with questionable backgrounds, and smoothing those edges. Right now the most valuable player on this team (outside of Tom Brady, of course) is Aqib Talib. The Patriots were able to acquire Talib for cheap because he had some character issues, much like Richie Incognito. Haven’t heard a peep from him since.
The Patriots aren’t in desperate need of an offensive guard, but Incognito could still make an impact. He would immediately replace Dan Connolly. Starting opposite Logan Mankins, the Patriots would have the best tandem of guards in the NFL.
Why would they pass that up? Because the softest guy in the NFL felt threatened by him in an unstable locker room? Probably not.
If the Miami Dolphins’ indefinite suspension of Incognito leads to an eventual release, which it likely will, the Patriots really ought to be there to snatch him up.