Standing at 6’ 7”, David Irving might be the biggest conundrum on the Cowboys roster. Did the team strike gold after poaching him from the Kansas City Chief’s practice squad in 2015? Or is he just the next chapter of head-cases who can’t seem to get out of his own way in order to take the next step of being one of the better players in the league? Irving has flashed some incredible ability in his tenure in Dallas, but he just can’t seem to put it all together. His size and athleticism opens the door for him to be a special player, but Irving keeps trying to go back and shut it. And with the latest news of Irving being suspended four games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy, another dark cloud looms over such a promising career.
After many fans pounded the table (raises hand) for the team to protect his rights by slapping a first-round tender on him, the front office opted to go with a second-round tender instead. How could they dangle that carrot in front of 31 other teams? Clearly, Irving’s ability is greater than what you can find on Day 2 of the draft, right? Well, nobody took the bait, and the Cowboys saved $1.2 million ($2.9 M vs. $4.1 M) by going with the cheaper tender. In hindsight, it was clearly the smart move.
It was still puzzling why the team took that kind of a chance and it started making people question just how much they valued their playmaking defensive line monster. As the offseason progressed, so did the drama. It started with allegations of domestic violence from his own hacked twitter account. Those accusations were rescinded and Irving would win a custody battle of his daughter, so was all that much-a-do-about nothing to where we just get back to football? Well, we could, if Irving was around to play football. He didn’t participate in the voluntary OTA’s. The word on the street was that he was out of shape, but his absence may be attributed to personal issues still going on with him.
Regardless of the circumstances, Irving’s absence isn’t sitting well with people. The coaching staff can’t be pleased with what is going on, and on Thursday the teams defensive leader, Sean Lee, spoke out about him.
“It’s a shared sacrifice, all of us working together as a team. It’s big deal for all of us. He needs to be here on a more consistent basis,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “He can be a huge part of this team if he wants to be, but he’s got to show that commitment.”
The Cowboys’ players aren’t known for talking about their teammates in a negative light. This is something their head coach Jason Garrett has successfully instilled into their minds. So when it happens, it stands out, and the fact that it’s coming from such a well respected player on the team - you know it has merit.
Lee isn’t saying anything that isn’t true. This is the feeling many of us have about Irving, only Lee has a front row seat to how he conducts himself. If the Cowboys are going to be successful, they need guys on the field fighting for each other. All this outside interference keeping him from working to be a player that can help the team is just unacceptable.
Irving’s impact on the team is felt when he’s got his act together. Each year, he has shown improvement and he flashes more and more greatness. Last season, he had seven sacks in only eight games. It can’t be pleasing for him to see players like DeMarcus Lawrence and Zack Martin get a big bag of cash in 2018, when his level of play is equally impressive. But that’s just how the cookie crumbles when one makes the decisions he has made. It was his own actions that got him kicked out of college and caused him to go undrafted, to where he is now playing within the boundaries of the restricted free agent tender. It was his own actions that got him suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for testing positive for PEDs. And it’s his own actions that puts him in the every day situations he’s in, creating even more doubt about just how much the team can rely on him going forward. If he expects the team to commit to giving him a large sum of money, then he has to demonstrate he is someone they can count on every Sunday, not just some Sundays.
If Irving wants a better future, then he needs to get his act together. He needs to block out all the distractions and get his mind right. He needs to put the work in and do it consistently. Garrett tries to fill the roster with “RKG’s” so they have a better chance to maximize their potential. Irving is not a RKG and his potential is not being met. And it’s a frustrating thing to watch because we can see just how good he can be. But unless he can muster up an attitude adjustment, this will most likely be his last year in Dallas.