Let's call this one a longshot. A very long, longshot. The Dallas Cowboys have traded for talented but troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, essentially hoping that some combination of coaches and players within the Cowboys organization can somehow unleash the potential of a player who was once a top-10 first-round pick who played for a demanding perfectionist in college, Nick Saban. And just maybe that is where the nexus of this recent move germinated. Saban was the head coach on the first coaching staff Jason Garrett was a part of, back in Miami in 2005. Saban was also McClain's coach back in Alabama.
I wouldn't be surprised if Garrett talked to Saban about McClain. Just recently, about two months ago, Saban was shocked that McClain retired again from the Ravens.
The 25-year old [McClain] met with Alabama coach Nick Saban before the Ravens workout.
"He was in a great state of mind and seemed like he was excited about going to play," Saban said Tuesday before the Crimson Caravan stop in Huntsville.
The eighth pick in the 2010 draft, McClain had been back in school at Alabama after deciding against playing with the Ravens last fall. Saban said he hasn't spoken with McClain since deciding to retire permanently.
"He'd been in Tuscaloosa and done a really good job in school," Saban said. "We just want the guy to be successful and want him to be happy. And anything we can do to help him, I think he knows we're there for him."
Later on, when he did retire for the second time, Saban had this to say.
"We talked about it when he did it (retired)," Saban said. "He knows when he's ready to talk about it again, which I think it's up to him to decide that, he's welcome to come and talk to me and I'd be happy to talk to him anytime about it."
McClain stated that his heart was no longer in football and that if football made him complete he would still be playing. At the time, he thought he was definitely done with playing football and even mentioned he might be interested in coaching. He was also trying to finish up his college degree and take care of his two kids.
In an interview at Alabama's Pro Day last month, McClain, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, said he'd been working out and was close to obtaining his degree. "Right now, I'm just focusing on finishing up my degree," he said. "I've been working out to stay in shape, but s---, I'm only 24. It's not hard to get out of shape. I don't know. Football is football. Right now, I don't have any plans."
In addition to his problems with retiring, McClain has faced arrests for various incidents ranging from a resisting arrest charge to illegally discharging a firearm and a menacing charge. That is a lot of baggage to be carrying around for such a young player.
His time in Oakland was very turbulent. He clashed with the coaching staff and basically begged to be shipped out after he essentially lost his job to another player. At the time, the Raiders coaching staff seem to imply that he kept making the same mistakes and wasn't learning from them.
Now you can see why the Cowboys got him so cheap. Despite his excellent college pedigree and his high draft pick status in 2010, he's essentially flamed out on the pro level, not only on the field, but off of it.
The Cowboys will have pulled off a miracle if they can resurrect McClain's career.