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Valentine's Views: Hernandez situation points out dilemma NFL teams face

The 'character' question is one NFL general managers constantly have to wrestle with.


The Aaron Hernandez situation is one that has to give pause to all NFL teams. There are, of course, many aspects to the Hernandez story more important than its football impact. I am not, however, a lawyer. Nor do I have any desire to sit in judgment of the young man.

What I am, of course, is a football writer. As such I have been thinking about the football impact of the arrest of Hernandez, a man with a troubled background, on murder charges.

All NFL teams face difficult "character" decisions when it comes to building their teams. No team in the league is made up of 53 perfectly angelic players. Every roster, including that of the New York Giants, is dotted with players who have had troubled backgrounds or have had varying degrees of trouble with the law.

Which risks to take and which to avoid is part of what an NFL general manager constantly has to decide. Talent evaluators have to do their best to figure out which players have likely learned from their mistakes and which ones are more likely to repeat them.

I don't envy them.

Several months ago former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo penned a piece headlined 'The Importance Of Football Character' for The Sideline View. It's a brilliant post on what teams look for and the factors that go into judging character. In light of the Hernandez situation it deserves to be highlighted now. Here is a snippet from Angelo under the sub-head 'Why Character Matters.'

Character is the barometer we use to gauge the risk & maintenance required of a player. The greater the character risk, the greater the chance the player will be a bust. Time is not an ally when the season starts and low character players have a way of taking time away from doing the things you need to be doing on a routine basis.
Always remember that you can buy talent, but you can't buy a locker room.... it has to be developed. History confirms that the teams who accumulate talent with little regard for a player's intangibles will LOSE. Team oriented attitudes - winning attitudes - can't manifest without players who have strong work ethics, a passion for what they do and the desire to be great. Nothing can withstand or sustain in this league without that type of resolve.

NFL GMs have to decide which character risks are worth taking, how many of these players with "character concerns" are too many to have in their locker room and how much rope to give these players. If you want to win you have to take risks, but they can backfire on you.

The Giants felt that sting when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg in 2008, pretty much shooting down the Giants chances of winning back-to-back Super Bowls at the same time. Plenty of other teams have been burned.

The character dilemma is one NFL GMs always wrestle with. From a football perspective, the Hernandez situation is likely only to make NFL teams even more cautious.

[Related: SB Nation's Complete Hernandez StoryStream]

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Non-Football Thoughts
  • I am just not sure what to make of the Brooklyn Nets these days. First, hiring a newbie head coach in Jason Kidd. Now, trading for a pair of graybeard future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Nets will undoubtedly be interesting. They will undoubtedly win their fair share of regular-season games. But, championship material? I think not. By the way, I love that trade from the Boston Celtics perspective. Boston added three first-round picks over the next several seasons, plus a good young player in Marshon Brooks. It will be a while before the Celtics are good again, but give Danny Ainge some credit.
  • Can you hit a baseball? If so, give New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman a call. The Yankees have been running a combo AAA/over the hill big leaguers lineup out there, and it's starting to show as they are fading in the American League East.