Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Apologies and Mea Culpas

You don't do a mea culpa in the passive voice.

So for all of the fuss over Patriots owner Bob Kraft talking to the media over the Aaron Hernandez situation, there's plenty of meat there for a cynic. "I've been duped" isn't an admission of culpability, it's blaming the guy who duped you. Pulling out the letter that Hernandez wrote promising not to smoke pot if the Pats drafted him and talking about how polite he was, that's the sound of the organization absolving itself of responsibility. After all, how could they have known? He seemed so nice.
Except, of course, that everyone knew that Hernandez had been in and out of all sorts of trouble in college, and the Pats took him anyway, with their eyes open. After all, jerkwads are the new market inefficiency.
And the notion that the Pats didn't know what Hernandez did "outside the building"? Hard to believe, really, considering the level of scrutiny these teams put their draft picks through. Before the draft, teams talk to everyone on down to elementary school coaches. It's hard to believe that they stopped - the Spygate New England Patriots stopped - paying attention once Hernandez was on board.
Let us be clear. The reason the Patriots drafted Hernandez - in the 4th round - was that they thought he could help them win football games. They undoubtedly knew about his peccadilloes at Florida, and they drafted him because they thought he could help them win football games. They signed him to a  $40M contract extension because they thought he could help them win football games, and they sold lots of his jerseys because, lo and behold, he did help them win football games.
None of this should be surprising. And nobody, but nobody, should have been able to just look at Aaron Hernandez and say, "Hey, I'll bet that guy might murder someone."
But what the Patriots could have done, and almost certainly did, was look at Hernandez and say, "The benefit of employing that dude is worth the risk he's going to go off the rails, because he's going to help us win games." And if he stiffs a bar on a few drinks or punches a bouncer in the side of the head, hey, that's the chance you take. Winning those games is worth it. This is the league, after all, that gave Lawrence Phillips 4 shots because teams thought he could help them win football games. A guy whom teams think can help them win is going to get a lot of slack and a lot of second chances, up until the moment when he does something that even the NFL's spin machine can't bring him back from. A guy who doesn't have it any more, not so much.
But I'm sorry, I can't buy the notion that the Patriots were duped. I'm sure the Kraft family is upset. I don't think the Patriots were complicit in anything Hernandez did, and good on them for taking the salary cap hit (something that articles on the case are sure to note) to dump Hernandez immediately. But anyone who doesn't think they had a pretty good idea of who Aaron Hernandez was and went ahead and employed him anyway - because he could help them win games - is living in a happier world than I am.

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