There may not be a commensurate word to accurately describe the chaotic tumult that was David Irving’s Dallas Cowboys career.
No one – and I mean no one – could ever deny the man’s physical capabilities.
He was reminiscent of Ed “Too Tall” Jones for his basketball-like reach, and at 6’ 7” and 290 pounds, Irving possessed the speed to easily maneuver around – and girth to absolutely bulldoze through - opposing linemen when he exerted the full magnitude of his effort.
But for Irving, that exact concept was the constant plague that minimized his effectiveness as a gap-clogging playmaker.
He was originally signed by Kansas City as an undrafted free agent after a stint with the Iowa State Cyclones, but was subsequently waived after issues with his conditioning, plus a heavy loaded roster left the organization with no room for the budding, dexterous line-shifter.
Despite the setback, his size and potential was impossible to miss, and after scarce glimpses of his eye-popping film, Mr. Jones and his Cowboys came calling. They were able to ink a short-term deal with Irving slotted to fill in a backup’s spot left vacant by Davon Coleman.
But Irving had no plans to succumb to a minimized role on the bench, and for a man his size, microscopic positions in life are not something he’s accustomed to. His breakout outing came in a 30-16 romp over Green Bay in 2016, in which he led the charge for one of the rare instances the ‘Boys defense readily contained Aaron Rodgers. He was a hulking force to be reckoned with during the entirety of the contest, forming a closely-knit bond with Rodgers as he repeatedly showed his face in the backfield en route to three forced fumbles (recovered one) and a sack.
The performance, plus several more impactful showings, left enough of an impression in the front office’s mind to extend Irving’s tenure in D-Town, and they re-signed the California native to a one-year deal in 2017.
His time with the team was abruptly shortened soon thereafter.
Just months later, shocking news broke that Irving would be suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy. What appeared to be a major setback in his timeline, though, was flipped into a major comeback for Irving upon his return from abeyance, and he erupted out of the gates, posting seven sacks through eight starts.
A concussion in the ‘Boys twelfth matchup of the season vs. Washington cut his domination tirade short, but still, Dallas’ staff reserved lofty expectations for his progression after year two, and both sides reached another one-year agreement at the start of 2018.
It was a decision the Cowboys would soon come to regret.
Irving’s aforementioned substance usage began to balloon into countless contraventions – the first of which was announced on June 15 (another four-game episode), before the second placed an emphatic standstill to his playing days – an indefinite suspension barring NFL competition by the league’s commissioner after his third misdemeanor.
Irving responded to the decree by with his own consequential mic drop: by posting a video to YouTube announcing his resignation from football due to his opposition to the NFL’s drug stipulations – all the while smoking the banned substance on camera throughout the clip.
A year later, he was granted a second chance by the league that banished him with a conditional reinstatement, and went back to action the very next day after earning a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Irving’s playing time remained sparse in 2020’s COVID-riddled season however, and he split time between the big leagues and team’s practice squad throughout the campaign.
His name remained mostly unmentioned in most prominent free agent rumors, but just Tuesday, several outlets reported that he’d worked out for Indianapolis and their defensive coordinator, former Cowboys staff member Matt Eberflus.
It’s good news for a player who’s struggled mightily in his efforts to make a name for himself on the big stage. So far though, the Colts remain the only franchise who’ve reached out.
If he is able to make a comeback reminiscent of some of his fellow linemen brethren (Randy Gregory, Aldon Smith), Irving’s would be a nice redemption story.
Do you think he can carve out a substantial football career? Should the Cowboys give him a call?