Josh Brent is back in jail following his second failed drug test while he is awaiting trial for intoxication manslaughter following last fall's tragic crash. Jay Ratliff was arrested for DUI last January. With the recent focus on criminal behavior in the NFL, driven by the growing investigation into multiple homicides linked to former New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, there is a lot of attention also coming to the Dallas Cowboys. The long-standing reputation Dallas has for players getting in trouble with the law makes it inevitable that self-styled witty commentators will come up with various ways to tie the Cowboys to Hernandez, like this droll bon mot that showed up on one of our comment threads.
Could everybody be completely, totally wrong? Take a look at this compilation of arrests of NFL players since 2000, courtesy of Imgur. It was created by a user on Reddit.com (his explanation and the conversation around the post can be found here.) He used a database that can be referenced here, and admits that while it's not 100% accurate, it's pretty close.
(Note: The original table at Imgur is not longer available, but the same information, in even more detail, is available here.)
Funny. Looks to me like you have to get past 22 other NFL teams before you come to the Cowboys. Compared to the teams at the top of this list, they have a good deal less than half the number of players arrested in this time period. Ironically, in sheer number of arrests, they are tied with the Patriots, which does show that quantity and quality are not the same thing.
But once again, the strange obsession that the rest of the NFL has with all things Cowboys is evident. Despite being in actuality one of the least likely teams over the past 13 years to have one of its players wind up in law enforcement custody, everyone still jumps to the conclusion that this is the kind of behavior that is typical of those who wear the Star. But reality is quite different. Of course, it is much easier to just keep repeating old stereotypes instead of dealing with difficult and confusing things like facts and data.
Now, these numbers in no way offer an excuse for any one player's bad actions. And a single event, like Brent's deadly drunken driving, the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, or the growing sinkhole of depravity that surrounds Hernandez, can be worse than a decade of run-ins and misdemeanors at some franchises. But no system can ever be devised to head off every single event that comes up (although in the cases of both Brent and Hernandez, hindsight would indicate that something might have been done to head those off).
Just because you can't stop all these events, however, is no reason to not try. I did notice something in the charts, and that was the months that the arrests happened. There are more arrests per month during the offseason than the regular season, which makes a lot of sense. Players are just more occupied while the preseason and season are going on. Idle time, relatively plentiful disposable income, and being surrounded by people who play to your ego are always a dangerous combination.
If you are a team trying to minimize these kinds of problems, all you can really do is avoid players with obvious red flags that would indicate they are likely to participate in violent acts or high risk activities and lifestyles, and try to bring in players that have a work ethic and approach to their job that will hopefully correlate to also staying out of trouble in their off time. While it does not always carry over, there is a good chance that a professional approach to the game of football and a desire to do everything you can to contribute to the team will lead a player to stay out of trouble and be careful about where he goes and what he does.
Yes. I am still pitching for the RKG. I just happen to think that approach, more often than not, works.
But the real moral of this story is: Don't believe everything you read. Unless you read it here, of course.
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