Joe Mixon is a controversial player, and the Bengals aren’t hiding from it.
With the No. 48 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Cincinnati took the former Oklahoma Sooners running back in hopes he could become a superstar runner in this offense. The Bengals had been heavily linked to Mixon during the pre-draft process, and most expected him to come off the board on Day 2 of the draft, despite him clearly having first-round talent.
In 2016, Mixon ran for 1,274 yards on 6.8 yards per carry with 10 rushing touchdowns. He also had 37 catches for 538 receiving yards (14.5 avg.) and five more scores. The talent is clearly there, but it wasn’t enough to make anyone forget about an incident that occurred during his freshman year of college, just days after he turned 18, in which he punched and broke the jaw of a woman, a fellow OU student.
Mixon later received a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service, and mandated behavioral counseling. He was also suspended for the 2014 season before returning the following year. A full timeline of Mixon’s history can be read here.
That history was enough that many NFL teams had Mixon completely off their board, but not for Bengals owner Mike Brown. He’s willing to take a risk on Mixon, and on Friday, he released a statement to explain himself via the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Here is an excerpt of it:
In the NFL draft last Friday, the Cincinnati Bengals selected a very talented football player who did a terrible thing his freshman year at college.
Since the incident three years ago, Joe was suspended by the football team, pleaded guilty in court, and accepted the consequences of his actions. He later went on to become a good citizen in Norman, a popular teammate, a player respected by his coaches, and one of the most talented players in college football.
The Bengals take pride in our hometown and want to provide winning football on the field and successful players off the field. That is the reason we drafted Joe – he is a rare football talent, and his conduct over the past three years leads us to believe he can help us win football games and also become a productive member of this community.
In making our decision, we took a risk. In this case, the risk has an upside as well as a downside. We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati. We are going to do everything in our power to make this happen. Our hope is that time will prove that this opportunity is deserved, and perhaps – if given a chance – Joe can write a chapter in Cincinnati sports history that both he and Cincinnati can be proud of.
Mixon by all accounts has been trying to improve his reputation and his off-field behavior since that incident, so you can’t blame an NFL team for taking a chance in hoping he continues that in the pros. What he did was terrible, but the Bengals seem to believe it’s not indicative of who he is and that his past is in the past.
If Mixon can stay on the straight and narrow while being productive on the field, it will justify the Bengals’ selection of him. But if he has another off-field transgression, it will be a major stain on the franchise and Brown’s reputation; not that he cares.