We all know about the criminal history of Adam "Pacman" Jones. In short, he’s an idiot. He’s been arrested numerous times, which to be honest, is less compelling to me than his judgment. He seems to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he seems to be easily agitated and quickly enraged. There’s a good argument that one feeds the other.
To be clear, he has not been accused or charged with shooting anyone. But he has been accused of some pretty heinous things: spitting in a woman’s face, attacking a stripper, being dumb enough to go to a strip club with $80,000 in cash and basically inciting the Las Vegas melee that lead to a security guard being paralyzed.
But if the Cowboys are really considering going down this road, a review of his talent in order.
Can Pacman help us?
That answer could be yes. Could be. The premise of this answer is based on his maturation from his rookie year to his second year in 2006. But this is a big if. He hasn’t played in a year. Football, like anything else, is a skill that can abandon you. People like Bo Jackson and Roger Staubach are the exception not the rule. So the assumption that Jones can return to form and be the player he was for the Tennessee Titans is a false one but one just has to look at Tank Johnson and Chris Henry to see it’s possible. They showed flashes of potential but time will tell if they return to form. The same could apply to Jones.
Here’s the allure of Jones. He’s a talented returner. This role has been filled by a bevy of people. Terrence Newman. Patrick "Fair Catch" Crayton. Miles Austin. Tyson Thompson. None of them are as accomplished as Jones is. Jones is also a physical, fast and playmaking cornerback. He’s short but he’s tenacious. He will lay the wood on any opposing receiver in his area.
Jones was the sixth pick taken in the 2005 NFL Draft. There were whispers of a bust because of his struggles in his rookie year. Still he had a return touchdown and 44 tackles with 10 pass deflections while starting 10 games. His second year he began to show returns on being such a high draft pick. His physical style produced 62 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, 12 deflections and four interceptions. More importantly, he scored four touchdowns -- one interception and three punt returns.
One of our big problems last year was our coverage. Jacques Reeves was either playing too soft in situations where he should’ve been more aggressive or he was being too aggressive and was getting beat. Anthony Henry to a lesser degree as well, although his transgressions – save the opening day bomb Plaxico caught against him – were less egregious. Add Roy Williams to the list. Hell, everyone not named Newman. A lot of that had to do with an inconsistent pass rush at times. Other times the game was out of reach so there was no need to take chances. But still it plagued us too many times.
Jones, judging from his body of work in 2006, would not have this problem. He gambles but he has the catch-up speed to make it for it. He’s not going to play 10 yards off of anyone because he doesn’t have to. And he’s not going to be passive. One of my biggest pet peeves about Reeves is that he seemed content to arrive when the ball got there and make the tackle. Jones isn’t doing that. He’s going to get there with a "boom!" He’s a vicious hitter and a playmaker. He doesn’t just want to make the tackle. He wants to get separation from the ball and the receiver or he wants to get his hands on the ball and take it the house.
ESPN’s Greg Garber did the definitive Pacman Jones article shortly after the strip club melee. Key quote:
On the field, he is a supremely gifted athlete, one of the best cover corners in the league. Jones -- not the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester -- had the league's best punt return average last season. He is searingly fast, uncommonly fearless. Off the field, that fearlessness, under duress, can translate to recklessness. Sometimes, he is the spoiled child described ... just as easily moved to joy as he is to anger.
The difference in Tennessee secondary was evident in 2006 with or without Jones. A telling passage from Garber:
Back on Nov. 5, the Titans played at Jacksonville without Jones, who'd been suspended for one game by Fisher after an incident at a Nashville nightclub in which he allegedly spit in the face of a female college student. Fisher called the episode "very disturbing." Tennessee lost to the Jaguars, 37-7. The assault charge against Jones was later dismissed by a Nashville judge, who cited inconsistencies in the alleged victim's testimony.
On Dec. 17, with Jones starting at right cornerback, the Titans beat Jacksonville 24-17 at home for their fifth straight victory. Jones scored the game's first touchdown, intercepting a David Garrard pass and returning it 83 yards. Later, he returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up a field goal. Late in the second half, he broke up Garrard's fourth-down pass to Matt Jones in the end zone.
This is the yin and yang, the dark and light, of Adam "Pacman" Jones. When he is good, he is very, very good. When he is bad, well ...
His skills are tailor-made for our weaknesses. As a football fan I’m intrigued by what he’d bring to our team. If we signed him, I’d support him. I’d be optimistic about his contributions on the field and hesitant about his actions off of them. We’ve gone down this route before with T.O., Tank, Dimitrius Underwood, and Alonzo Spellman. In that lot, Underwood tried to commit suicide, some still believe T.O. tried, Spellman spent 18 months in a federal prison and Tank spent time in jail on weapon charges. Now T.O.’s faux-suicide brouhaha was the only one of those incidents that happened while the player was a Cowboy and T.O. is a choirboy compared to the legal transgressions of Pacman. T.O. hasn't even been arrested. But you get the picture. We’ve dealt with a gambit of quirky personalities, malcontents and rap sheets in Dallas. Part of me thinks we could deal with Jones.
But that’s because it’s not my money and not my reputation on the line if I signed him. My perspective is entirely selfish: can he help my team? Which is odd because I probably wouldn’t even let Jones in my house. I certainly wouldn’t want him around my loved ones. Just being honest. And how in good faith can I disapprove of his judgment and still pull for him if he’s on my team? I don’t know. But I’m probably going to do it. That’s all I can tell you.
Jones was on the cusp of being a really good player before his suspension. If that same player – the tough as nails, quick, explosive gamebreaker – is still inside of him, he not only can help our team, he can improve it. That’s not the question though. The question is will his judgment allow that person to prosper?