Hey Gene Smith…Character’s Nice, But Winning’s Better

Posted: February 20, 2012 in Jacksonville Jaguars
Tags: , , ,

We hear a lot about how Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith is borderline obsessed with signing players of high character. Good for him. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by good people? People who practice good and responsible judgment in their daily lives? People who work hard? People of high moral standing? People who are unselfish and truly care about others?

I have absolutely no problem with anyone who aspires to such a high standard.

But when it comes to athletics compromise isn’t a dirty word. As Lou Holtz – or was it Bobby Bowden? –once said, “If good character won national championships, Army and Navy would hoist the trophy every year.”

I’m not suggesting Smith ignore character when signing free agents or drafting college players, but a dose of reality needs to be factored in the equation. I’d argue that any group of young men between the ages of 21 and 30 who have pockets full of money, plenty of free time and women seeking their attention will have more than its share of character issues.

Sadly, when it comes to playing in the NFL, talent is more important than helping little old ladies cross the street. Forty-yard dash times rank above visiting school children. Strength and quickness take precedent over being nice to fans and media.

Many of those who support Smith’s stance appreciate how his players represent our city. I’m all for that although I’ve always been confused by those who think a Jaguar player who misbehaves makes our city look bad.

Pro athletes don’t represent our city, or any city for the matter. They simply play for a team that is located where we live. The Cincinnati Bengals have a history of players getting into trouble with the law. Not once have I ever thought PacMan Jones’ antics, for example, meant Cincinnati was a bad place to live or the folks who lived there were a bunch of thugs.

I consider it a bonus when a city is identified with an athlete such as Peyton Manning or Tim Duncan.

All things equal, I much prefer it when athletes are both talented and good citizens. And, yes, there are plenty of them. The Jaguars have more than their share: Maurice Jones-Drew, Brad Meester, Montel Owens quickly come to mind.

And, in fairness to Smith, he knows this as well as anyone. He may not be as smart as he thinks he is, but he’s no dummy.

What’s my point? Simply this: With free agency about to start and the draft not that far off, I want Smith to find some wide receivers – and maybe a cornerback, a defensive end and an offensive tackle — who can play at a high level and not be all that concerned if they’ve been known to party too hard or tend to act like jerks on occasion.

Given a choice, I don’t want to take any of these players to meet my grandsons; I want them, for starters, to beat the hell out of the other teams in the AFC South.



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