I'm not a guy to rush to certain conclusions, so I'll just say that things aren't looking too promising for Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez at the moment. In case you haven't heard, Hernandez has a couple of gristly cases that are surrounding his life. Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has his own little situation to deal with too.
Because of the situations, various sites have begun to chronicle the moves that the club has made since the mid-to-late-2000s. The rolling of the dice by the Patriots has coincided with the time window that the team last won a Super Bowl. On Friday, ProFootballTalk had a nice write-up talking about all of the moves that New England has made of late. And, in retrospect, a lot of those have appeared to have blown up in their faces.
Sound familiar? If you've followed the Bengals in the Marvin Lewis era, it should.
Starting back in the mid-2000s, the Cincinnati Bengals became the poster children as the NFL's bad boys. A number of arrests and other off-field incidents led the team to become a punchline that exists even today, when their issues have subsided significantly. The two names that live in Bengals infamy the most are Chris Henry and Odell Thurman. Unfortunately, Henry lost his life back in 2009 after falling out of the back of a pickup truck that his then-fiancee was driving.
Most people scolded owner Mike Brown (AKA "The Redeemer") for making Cincinnati a safe haven for these troubled players. The Bengals weren't, and still aren't viewed as a franchise that has a solid enough foundation to provide a stable enough support system for these types of players. However, the Patriots and their foundation are viewed as one that can handle these players.
It's a funny thing, really. When the Bengals would take a chance on a troubled player with a late-round flyer, they were scoffed at. However, when the Patriots did a similar thing in the draft, they were applauded. Hernandez was one such flyer that New England took.
For the most part, the applause is and was earned--temporarily. As noted in the PFT article, these so-called "great moves" that the Patriots made have begun to turn borderline disastrous. But, because of the recent success of the team, the results get swept under the rug. Now, as more and more players are having issues--be it injury or otherwise--articles like the one from PFT are starting to question the philosophy in New England.
There are two things to note with these instances surrounding both the Patriots and the Bengals. The first is the air of arrogance that comes with continuing to take chances on these players. These owners and coaches believe that they have enough sway and power to keep these players in line and get them to produce. In college, these players have structure and more stringent schedules to adhere to--both in athletics and academics. It's the success of the team that breeds the arrogance. It tells them that because their roster is filled with talent, they can afford to select players with baggage. In fairness, a lot of moves that both teams made had their benefits on the field. But again, most of the time those benefits are temporary.
That is what brings me to my second point--the arrogance that the teams employ lead to only temporary dividends. Think back to the troubled players that both teams brought in. There only a few that had lengthy and productive careers with their teams. The roll of the dice that comes with these players is a bigger gamble than the front offices seem to recognize or admit.
For the most part, the Bengals have deviated their plan and have avoided a lot of these players in recent years. Maybe they recognize that they have been burned too many times. In this case, the Patriots would be wise to take a page out of the Bengals' organizational playbook.