Should character count in professional sports?
Why is it that coaches learn through their education to teach life lessons through the sport they coach and then at the professional level when millions of dollars are at stake the money is more important? There is a very simple solution to what is going on with the Johnny Manziel saga and the Cleveland Browns. Release or cut him from the team! It’s that simple! He has proven that all of the chances he has been given by the coaches, the front office, and the league are not something he wants. If his lively hood of playing the game of football for the money is taken away, he may shape up and become a productive citizen. However, the all mighty dollar wins again. The Browns organization is more concerned about making money or not getting something in return for the bad investment they made when they drafted him. The fact that they drafted him in the first round (22nd pick overall) was a mistake in the first place. When he was playing at Texas A&M and having the on/off field issues he was having should have been a clue that he had a sense of entitlement. In June of 2012 he was arrested and charged with carrying fake identification and fighting. In August of 2013 he was investigated by the NCAA for signing memorabilia in exchange for cash and suspended as a result. In January 2014 he declares for the NFL draft and is selected in the first round by the Browns. He has been on the decline since then and spiraling out of control.
Then there is a player like Tim Tebow that nobody in the NFL wants. A man of high character, class, and a consummate professional. He won a Heisman Trophy in 2007 while at Florida and was drafted in the first round (25th pick overall) by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He was their backup until the starter, Kyle Orton, was benched after a 1-4 start through five weeks of the 2011 season. Tebow replaced Orton before week seven and compiled an 8-5 record, including the playoffs and a six game winning streak from week 9-14 after replacing Orton. As the 2012 season approached the Broncos signed Peyton Manning and Tebow was traded to the New York Jets. His time in New York was brief and he was released in 2013. The New England Patriots signed him to a two-year contract and played in two preseason games and then released in August of 2013. Between 2013 and 2014 Tebow was working for ESPN as a college football analyst on the SEC Network. Most recently he had signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and then released after the fourth preseason game just before the start of the season.
Here we have an example of a player with questionable character and one of high character. The player with high character can’t play in the NFL and the one with questionable character issues continues to hang on. As a coach you always look for players that can be accountable, have great morals, treat people the way they expect to be treated, and so on. Many speculate that this isn’t something that counts in professional football. What kind of precedent is being set for young aspiring athletes that are hearing from their lower level coaches (youth, high school and college) that character and morals are important throughout life? At some point the hope is that some organization in professional football can make character a more important quality to have than trying to keep the star athlete out of trouble. People of character will WIN on the playing field and in life more often than people with questionable character.
Dr. Bret Simmermacher is the Chair of Sports Coaching at the USSA. He can be reached at <email@example.com>
November 30, 2015
Bret Simmermacher, DSM